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Sales Coaching – Informal, Infrequent, Ineffective?

Sales Coaching – Informal, Infrequent, Ineffective?

76% of companies identify that sales coaching is important to their success and yet research indicates that it is poorly implemented – it is mostly informal, infrequent and…. unfortunately…..ineffective.

Informal, infrequent, ineffective – 63% of organisations follow a random approach to coaching (CSO Insights, 2019) and a similar percent of companies are not holding managers accountable for coaching (Sales Management Association, SMA, 2018) which means that largely it just isn’t taking place.

A whopping 76% of organisations studied say that managers are spending too little time on coaching – less than 5 hours per week (Sales Management Association, 2018). In fact, managers appear to be spending twice as much time on administrative activities than they do on coaching (CSO Insights, 2019). Whilst we might have expected coaching hours to increase during lockdown there is increasing evidence that suggests this is not so – managers claim they are now spending their days on internal virtual calls.

62% of companies identified that their coaching was either ineffective or only somewhat effective. Sales managers believe that they are coaching when in fact they are telling reps what to do and whilst managers score themselves highly on coaching ability, salespeople score them low (HBR, 2018).

You can’t really blame sales managers though – 74% of companies studied did not train managers in coaching skills (Richardson, 2016) and very few organisations include coaching capability in their selection criteria when hiring managers (SMA, 2018).

Coaching has far reaching effect

Coaching is noted to increase sales performance and productivity, resulting in higher win rates and quota attainment (CSO Insights, 2019), improves employee engagement and work satisfaction (Gallup, 2018), and increases employee retention and loyalty (CoachHub, 2020), especially amongst the millennial population (UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, 2018).

Sales coaching has most impact on performance when it is aligned to your sales process and activities. Ideally coaching is tailored to each individual salesperson and should cover areas such as customer dialogue skills, pipeline growth and funnel management, opportunity scorecard reviews, account management and expansion, and territory optimisation. There are numerous technology-based sales enablement systems that have coaching modules supported by AI that can provide data to managers on where coaching is optimally focused at an individual level.

 Use the checklist below to determine if portfolio companies have the makings of a coaching culture:

  1. There is a clearly articulated sales process mapped to the buying process. Managers coach to opportunities using the stages in the sales process
  2. Both leading and lagging indicators of success are defined. Managers leverage these indicators to identify coaching requirements and drive the coaching dialogue
  3. Managers use an opportunity scorecard to determine likelihood of success of winning deals and coach to support salespeople to close
  4. Managers review data on individual pipeline funnels and coach on how to build the best shaped funnel to maximise performance
  5. Sales enablement tools have been created that support the manager to coach and enable the salesperson to self-coach
  6. There is a robust Onboarding programme for the 1st 90 days of a salesperson joining the organisation which includes manager coaching
  7. Managers joint call and observe salespeople with customers and provide feedback on skills and process
  8. There are processes and tools for identifying the skill requirements and gaps of sales team members. Coaching is integral to the development process
  9. Managers follow up with salespeople following training and create a process for helping each salesperson apply and embed skills into sales behaviours
  10. Coaching is an integral part of a managers’ objectives and performance goals
  11. Recognise when to bring in external coaches


Build a best practice coaching programme

Develop a best practice coaching programme with the following activities:

  1. Ensure leaders are committed to the value that coaching brings in achieving corporate goals and endorse and role model coaching
  2. Deliver coaching throughout the whole of the organisation, not just to the “chosen few” or underperformers, and promote a culture of continuous feedback
  3. Write into individual goals a requirement for team member coaching, evaluate coaching behaviour at performance reviews and link this to recognition and remuneration
  4. Provide training to leaders and managers to develop high quality coaching skills
  5. Support coaching with workplace enablement tools that facilitate the coaching process and empower individuals to self-coach
  6. Share the responsibility for, and encourage, peer coaching – partner exemplars with less experienced team members
  7. Recognise where coaching is best delivered with external resources and leverage their coaching expertise
  8. Measure the ROI of coaching programmes – track what coaching is taking place and the value that it brings in terms of performance, engagement, retention and perception of the organisation as a trusted and valued place to work.


Don’t forget to coach the coaches – leaders benefit from coaching too!