Most sales leaders invest little time in sales coaching. But coaching is what makes the best sales leaders –and the best sales teams– stand apart.
Whether you’re a modern seller or a sales leader, having a great coach can make all the difference. According to Aberdeen Research, companies that provide real-time, deal-specific sales coaching increased revenue by 8.4% year-over-year – a 95% improvement over companies that don’t provide that level of coaching.
Everyone needs a great coach behind them.
I got my start in sales as a quota carrying sales representative for IBM. Even as a sales rookie, I could see the first- and second-line sales leader roles were among the toughest in the organization, with immense responsibility and pressure. For most sales leaders, this is a shift from the individual contributor role, where you are only responsible for your own sales territory and your own quota.
No matter your sales organization size or industry, you can use these seven sales coaching best practices. Think about which resonate the most with you, and which one or two you can put into practice.
Sales Coaching Best Practices
1. Prioritize Metrics.
The first sales coaching best practice is to prioritize sales metrics that are mission critical.
You can check this article for a full list of 11 sales development metrics, but here are a few to get you started.
Value metrics. Your time as sales leader and sales coach should focus on high-value current clients and prospects. Don’t spend time on unqualified opportunities.
Pipeline metrics. The health of your pipeline is critical to your team’s success. What is the balance of new opportunities coming in at the top of the funnel? How fast are they moving through? How many are qualified? Target your efforts on opportunities that are meaningful. Ask your team members to pull their own metrics to review during pipeline calls.
Financial metrics. Look at the top and bottom line. What is the growth potential in your current client base? How is your team performing? Are chronic under-performers dragging down morale and results?
Account Metrics. Do you know the top accounts in your team’s regions? Do your team members know which accounts are their best? Spend time with existing customers and grow within those.
Personal Metrics. This metric is often overlooked. Personal metrics go beyond annual performance reviews and quarterly business reviews; it gets to the heart of why your team members care and what will continue to drive them toward success. That goes for you, too. What motivates you and your team?
2. Establish Coaching Categories.
Categories put structure into your sales coaching conversations and help you know which discussions should take place when. Ask your team which categories are most important now, so you can help them move forward efficiently. Be a solution-oriented, positive force for your team, because they will mirror that back to you.
Here are some coaching categories to consider.
Deal coaching. Deal coaching helps your team to think strategically about their deals, qualifying opportunities, and their top and bottom lines.
Pipeline coaching. Do your teams truly understand their sales pipelines? What does it need to look like this quarter and next quarter? Can they talk to you about their pipelines with good business acumen? Too many sales professionals live in the “now,” but they should be thinking about what’s next.
Strategy coaching. Help your team members think big picture for their sales territory or sales plan. I wrote about this facet of sales and sales leadership in The Modern Seller. It comes under the entrepreneurial seller skillset of modern sellers – blending strategic and tactical abilities. Your role as a sales leader is to help your team members think strategically and empower them to then implement tactics to move their plan forward.
Personal productivity coaching. We all have a finite amount of time, energy, motivation, and discipline in a given day. The choices we make with those resources determine our level of success. For example, does your team set aside time for pipeline and sales prospecting work? Making the choice to put those on the back burner may not affect today, but will hurt in a quarter or two. Help them fine-tune their productivity, and pay attention to your own productivity, as well. As a sales leader, you should not spend much time on lower level, administrative activities that aren’t mission critical. That work does not make an impact on the organization, or on your personal leadership brand.
Mindset coaching. Our mindset drives our success. In my sales training and sales coaching engagements with clients, we look at “Sales DNA” in team assessments. Those are internal elements– how we think, the beliefs we have, the processes we use to make decisions.
Skill coaching. What skills do your sales team members need, and how can you help nurture them? This might involve helping the team find professional development opportunities. You can the gauge who on the team is proactive about building their skills, and who does not engage.
Most sales leaders invest little time in sales coaching. But coaching is what makes the best sales leaders –and the best sales teams– stand apart. @amyfranko #modernsellerClick to tweet
3. Leverage Data.
Data will help you be most effective as a leader. It is a critical part of our world as professional sellers. I coach my clients to use data for more success. This starts with making sure you have a solid CRM with strong accurate data that your team can use as a single source of truth.
Dashboards are also useful to aggregate the data. Because the average sales leader has a team of 8-10, a dashboard allows you to gauge overall performance at a glance, or drill down to analyze performance in specific areas.
4. Protect Your Personal Time and Energy.
This aspect of coaching often gets forgotten. Whether you are a frontline sales leader, VP, or chief revenue officer, protecting your time and energy is important. Let’s look at a few ways you can do this.
Use laser coaching approaches. In this approach, you may see back-to-back calls on your schedule or back-to-back coaching. That can be energy draining even if you love coaching. Laser coaching approaches can decrease the amount of time that you put aside for coaching. If you have 10 team members, you might currently spend 10 hours a week coaching. What if you reduce that time by 50 percent, and narrow your focus to helping each team member tackle specific problems?
Don’t allow the sales coaching time to transform into a complaint session. That can be draining. Set boundaries. You might just allow them to vent briefly, but then re-direct them to create a solution.
Block your time. Finally, one of my best productivity tools is time blocking. I use it for business-critical work like prospecting and thought leadership. Coaching can have time blocks, as well. Your team members should respect your time and your investment in them.
5. Avoid Upward Delegation.
Don’t become a dumping ground. Think about a time a team member came to you and said, “I need help with X.” I bet your instinct was to take it off their plate, and add it to yours, so they can focus on selling. But then we end up with a plate full of work from our team.
The best approach is to brainstorm with your team member, and ask, “What can be your next step in resolving this? Who can help you solve this?” Empower them to build the right relationships in your organization and strategically leverage them.
6. Develop Coaching Team Leads.
This sales coaching best practice is especially useful if you have a large team of 10 or more sales professionals. Who is showing leadership potential on your team, and can you tap them to help serve as a coach to their teammates? This not only helps you; it gives them the opportunity to develop new skills.
7. Invest in Your Own Coaching Skills.
The best investment you can make is in yourself. Many times we become coaches by default when we are promoted into a sales leadership role. Some of us have natural abilities. The rest of us need development.
Even if your organization doesn’t invest in your professional development, you should. Be a life-long learner. It’s up to you to build and own your career path. Look into a sales coaching certification, or work with an outside advisor. You will build your skills, and give your team a reason to have greater confidence and trust in you as their sales leader and coach.
If you want your team to sell more and increase their impact, start implementing these seven sales coaching best practices for better sales results.
Level Up Your Sales Coaching
Don’t let your competition get an advantage. We can help. If you want to know how to improve your sales coaching, or you’d like to bring in an outside perspective, let’s talk. Contact us to schedule time for a discovery conversation with Amy.