As a former product manager, product marketer, and marketing leader for a looong time, I’ve spent the last 15+ years working closely with sales teams and partnering with enablement to put onboarding and development programs in place to arm sales teams with the right message, tools, and selling approach to win. I’ve seen this work well and not so well. One of the things that I’ve seen inhibit sales team performance and growth is a lack of effective, ongoing rep coaching and development. All the training and certifications in the world won’t work if they aren’t followed up with continuous, consistent, and effective coaching.

The sales manager/rep 1:1 coaching sessions are one of the most important interactions to help grow and develop reps. Coaching is cited as the most important role a frontline manager plays, by 74% of leading companies. 

Yet, so many companies are not executing effective coaching programs or doing much true coaching at all. Note: deal coaching and pipeline reviews are just a portion of a holistic, effective coaching practice. According to the Sales Readiness Group, sales managers should spend between 25% and 40% of their time coaching. That’s 10-16 hours a week, yet according to the Sales Management Association, 73% of managers spend less than 5% (<2 hours/week) of their time coaching. Our frontline managers (the force multiplier for our revenue orgs) are just not coaching enough. Why? Let’s break down some of the most common reasons managers don’t spend enough time coaching their people.

Common Excuses for Not Coaching

  1. Don’t have time to coach. Sales managers are often managing 6-10 reps, many at different stages of their tenure with the company, and every rep varies in their coaching needs. Sales managers wear a bunch of other hats—helping with deals, forecasting for leadership, data gathering, reporting, hiring, and onboarding new reps, etc. It’s hard to find the time to coach, and the scope of the job can be overwhelming.

    Pro Tip: Empower your managers with the data and reports (rep activity and performance metrics, scorecards, and dashboards) they need to inform coaching conversations. Automate this to save managers time from manually pulling this together to give them time back to coach.
  2. Don’t know how to coach. Many sales managers are in their first leadership role and as much as 58% of them have received zero management training. With no training on how to manage or coach, it’s hard to expect our managers to know how to do it effectively.

    Pro Tip: Frontline managers are a force multiplier for your organization. Just because they were your top sales rep doesn’t mean they know how to manage other sellers. Invest in management training to make sure they are ready for this new role and understand the importance of coaching as one of the key hats they wear.
  3. No standardized coaching framework/process. Many companies haven’t invested in developing standardized coaching processes. With no training and no coaching process, it’s no wonder many managers struggle with or deprioritize coaching.

    Pro Tip: Sales leadership and enablement should create standardized coaching programs for both ongoing regular development (weekly 1:1 and/or group coaching sessions) and programmatic coaching (onboarding, new to role, skills development).
  4. No consistency and accountability. Even where coaching programs have been developed, they are often poorly adopted across the organization. Leaders only have limited ability to track whether coaching is happening or ways to hold managers accountable.

    Pro Tip: Invest in tools and processes for managers to formally document their coaching conversations, measure the effectiveness of coaching, and set the expectations and accountability for consistent coaching.

How to Conduct More Effective Coaching Sessions

  1. Create a regular cadence—weekly or bi-weekly (Do NOT cancel/skip these. They’re important.)
  2. Create a standard agenda and topics you want to cover, with the ability to add one-off topics. Leverage coaching best practice questions. For example, take a look at the 1:1 coaching questions below. Click here for other great coaching templates. 
    1. How are you doing? 
      1. What are you most excited about outside of work?
      2. What are your highlights and lowlights from this past week?
    2. What is the one deal/opportunity or topic you’d like to focus on this week?
      1. What do you like about this opp?
      2. What are you struggling with?
    3. How can I help you win?
    4. On a scale of 1-10, how confident are you that you’ll hit your targets this month?
    5. What roadblocks do you have that I can help you with?
    6. What else would you like to discuss this week?
  3. Have rep fill out a coaching template in advance (better yet, use Coaching Orchestration with Ambition)
  4. Make sure the conversation/coaching is informed by metrics (could be Salesforce reports or other metrics tool like Ambition Performance Intelligence)
    1. Review progress on metrics from week to week
  5. Create action items and follow-up
    1. Review action items from previous week(s)
  6. Link action items or agenda topics to: 
    • Rep’s best call of the week and toughest call
    • ‘Best of’ call recordings from top performers from your web conf and/or conversation intelligence tool (Zoom, Gong, etc.)
    • Include key content links from enablement tools (Seismic, Showpad, Guru, etc.)—standard pitch deck, competitive battle card, objection handling, demo script, etc.
    • Include skills training on discovery, negotiation, objection handling, etc.—content from your learning library or LMS (Lessonly, Brainshark)

As leaders, we all know the importance of coaching our teams. We’d like to think that our frontline managers are providing consistent and effective coaching for their reps. But in the back of our minds, we wonder if it’s happening at all, and even if it is, we still question if it’s being done consistently and effectively. Revenue leaders like us need to make sure we are making it a priority for our teams and automating some of the manual administrative tasks that eat into their time and prevent them from having the time to coach. We’ve also got to give them the tools, processes, and training they need to deliver it. We need to make sure leadership is holding managers accountable and have some mechanism to see that it’s happening and measure its effectiveness. Ambition helps companies from the Fortune 500 to start-ups transform the way their teams are coaching from sporadic and inconsistent to structured, programmatic Coaching Orchestration.

Other Coaching Resources from Ambition

External Sources on Coaching and Manager/Rep Development

  1. Infographic: New managers aren’t getting the training they need.
    Source:  Leading with Trust 
  2. Does it really matter if your sales people are being coached?
  3. 7 Sales Coaching Statistics All Sales Leaders Need to See
    Source: The Center for Sales Strategy
  4. Accelerate your managers’ success with a transformative management training program
    Source: Ken Blanchard
  5. Top-Performing Organizations Prioritize Sales Enablement, Says Forbes Insights/Brainshark Report

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