October 1, 2019
Updated: November 30, 2020

Sales coaching at scale in 2019: How to improve performance across Sales teams

Successful Sales is a combination of art and science. Modern analytics platforms provide data at a breakneck pace that can galvanize the Sales process. But Sales is still about the perfection of communication, at its essence. That’s why Sales coaching is so important. 

The best way to approach the need for coaching among your Sales teams is to deliver it through a combination of methods. Direct personal coaching – through both group sessions and one-on-one conversations – is vital. But as a Sales manager, you’ll benefit greatly from balancing that with training visualizations and other exercises that staff can complete on their own. With dual tracks toward stronger Sales productivity – culminating in newfound success – every salesperson is primed to increase their performance metrics, further develop their existing strengths, and better understand potential weaknesses in their own methods.

Sales coaching of this kind is made possible with a versatile Sales enablement software, with specific functionality and modules dedicated to Sales training and coaching. So how do teams scale Sales coaching for maximum impact in 2019?

What’s the key to effective Sales coaching?

In a blog post for the Forbes Human Resources Council, Qualigence Group founder and CEO Stephen Lowisz defines coaching as “inspiring employees to perform discretionary effort” (the amount of effort above and beyond the minimum that a given worker is capable of producing). 

Another good way to explain Sales coaching is that it encourages workers to solve their own problems. 

Sales coaches accelerate the rate at which new sellers learn the fundamentals: effective communication; quick problem-solving; building trust with new, established and prospective clients; efficient lead generation; and so on. Leaders in this field must also provide every Sales rep under their wing with the training and foundational support that enables these associates to change their behaviors and improve their results. 

What works: A customized coaching model

It’s entirely fair to say that coaching sessions won’t easily bring out excellence in a mediocre employee. Those who are just doing the bare minimum to get by are not likely to ever truly find success in any discipline, whether it’s Sales, Marketing, or account management. As such, it’s best to focus Sales coaching training efforts on those with obvious talent that’s simply in need of refinement. Also pay close attention to people who are trying their best at all times, even when they’re failing. 

Any coaching framework an organization constructs will need to be built around the core competencies of existing staff relative to the business objectives. For instance, Sales managers and Sales coaches can only make do with the talent they have on staff at the moment (unless new hires are soon to be onboarded). And if sales reps skew toward one type of skill set (say, face-to-face presence) but away from an evolving, in-demand skills (like multichannel communication and software proficiency), then Sales training will likely need to be prominently centered around shifting reps’ strengths in the direction of what the company needs. In this case, it could mean more strategic, hands-on coaching with a focus on new technology or courses on Agile collaboration.

Additionally, Sales managers should regularly assess and audit their team’s strengths and weaknesses, and then build Sales strategies that not only serve the customer experience but also serve the reps themselves. In other words, align course creation, management, reporting, content, communication, and analytics in a way that speaks to the real-world work that reps will be doing, whether at a desk or in the field.

The critical value of visualization

As marketers know, the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than it does text. Any professional coaching process needs to be visualized.

We’re mostly visual learners. And our eyes process the information we most readily retain for future use more effectively than our ears, too.

Consider that “show, don’t tell” is an essential feature of storytelling in many mediums – and what really is the Sales cycle if not a form of storytelling? In this case, your organization and its products or services are the tale being told, not the quest of a superhero in a Hollywood blockbuster, and your customers or leads are the audience. 

If learning is best accomplished visually, a coaching or training program undertaken by a Sales manager should naturally incorporate visualization whenever appropriate. Charts and other imagery deliver information vital to the Sales coaching process in an efficient and effective manner. 

For example, you can illustrate a typical Sales interaction via a diagram of how it would unfold in scenarios of success and failure, or present charts that depict how current Sales targets for the organization are (or are not) being met. The latter is particularly notable due to its application of key performance indicator data. In essence, you’re using the science of Sales as a manager to help reps refine their ability to practice it as an art. Last but not least, Sales coaches can use video as an excellent medium for training content, one that reps can turn to quickly for critical insights into the sales process. 

Also, as the visualization design firm Visme pointed out, using visual tools in your Sales coaching and training can illustrate troublesome areas for a Sales rep, such as the need for alignment between Sales and Marketing departments. Instead of the Sales force blaming a period of deal-closing failure on leads that marketers brought in, a visualization of the proper alignment of Sales and Marketing can encourage members of each team to set aside the blame game and work together. 

Visualized models and activities are easily transferable to other departments as well. You don’t need to set up a 30-minute conversation with the account managers to discuss a simple concept the Sales team is working on. And you don’t need to email a lengthy industry white paper to get your point across. What if you communicated, instead, with a 90-second video or an interactive infographic that’s more digestible, accessible, and user friendly?

Using additional Sales coaching techniques

The twin pillars of Sales coaching and training described above – using visual learning and helping reps help themselves – can do a great deal. But for you as a manager, it will be prudent to use other techniques as well to solidify the best practices you hope to impart upon your reps. 

Consider the following:

1. Benchmarking and incentivization

Every Sales associate must meet certain quotas for the organization to generate sufficient revenue (and eventually profit). As such, it can be effective to benchmark team members’ performances through a monthly or quarterly competition. 

That said, adopting this method for training purposes as a Sales manager (or in your coaching program) requires having faith in your team to not use the contest as an opportunity to bully one another or develop petty grudges, which such games can unfortunately engender among the wrong people. If you’re concerned about this, it might be best to offer individual incentives rather than fostering intrapersonal competition.

Including Sales leaders and Sales managers in the benchmarking process, too, can foster a sense of community and egalitarianism. Everyone is working toward the same goal, regardless of company prestige, job title, or past experience.

2. Personalization

Each rep must receive training and coaching in accordance with their personalities and unique skill sets. You don’t want to be stuck pushing square pegs in round holes by acting on generalized expectations of what every seller should be. 

Because the sales process hinges heavily upon the smallest of details, like customer behavioral profiles or competitive advantages in the marketplace, leave no stone unturned when personalizing coaching for staff. Some sellers may learn best in bite-sized bursts or through hands-on applications. Others may respond more so to interactive learning modules while sitting at their desks. Regardless, their goals are your goals, too. Meet each salesperson on their terms, if possible, so that they’re performance and talent are appropriately coached toward high-level, long-term success.

3. Peer-to-peer coaching

If you have trust in the senior members of your Sales team, there’s no reason why they can’t be involved with coaching. Experienced Sales professionals can provide invaluable advice on the best Sales practices to novices in a way that may be more impactful than if it came directly from a manager or sales coach. 

This makes sense. Not all personalities mesh. Not all managers are best-suited to relay information in every single scenario. Having a senior team member, or even just the salesperson in the seat next to you, conduct a few training sessions can add a new dimension to the subject matter. It can also allows employees to swap tricks of the trade and helpful hints about how to navigate the workplace and their surely expanding portfolio.

The newfound coaches themselves – the peers now helping with some of the training tasks – may relish the chance to prove their worth to the company in a new light. Even if promotions or monetary gains aren’t immediately on the table, knowing that coaching opportunities are available could be incentive enough for top performers to lend a hand. As new career pathways are potentially opened up via peer-to-peer coaching, organizations will also benefit from the grooming of a new crop of future managers, directors, and executives. 

Peer-to-peer coaching is a business asset and a true incubator for internal staff engagement.

Ideal tools and resources for Sales coaching

Talented though you are as a Sales coach, you may not be able to develop every new Sales rep (and hone the skills of existing associates) as well as you’d like with basic tools. There’s only so much you can convey through PowerPoint decks. 

You should be able to turn to a comprehensive resource that can compartmentalize everything you need to be a successful coach and help your team master the sales process, and that’s exactly what Showpad Coach can offer. 

Showpad Coach represents the ideal sales enablement, coaching, and training platform through which you can arrange and deploy the essentials of your Sales curriculum, so that your team members are always ready to improve their Sales skills. Using the software provides the following opportunities:

  • Managers can prioritize their coaching and training priorities for each rep in an efficient, streamlined manner.
  • Reps can record their practice pitches for would-be Sales calls as videos for easy assessment by supervisors, and work on their problem-solving skills in individual exercises. 
  • Skills gaps are quickly identifiable via analytics-powered reporting, so coaches know exactly what they need to work on with particular sellers.
  • Coaches can scalably train their teams.
  • And more!

Contact Showpad today to learn more or request a demo