What if sales coaching was actually more than an acronym? What if sales coaching was more than call reviews, pipeline management, or action plans? Great news: that's actually (finally!) where sales coaching is headed. At Ambition, we're passionate about smart, effective sales coaching that has a measurable impact—and we talk about it a lot.
But to really understand the future of sales coaching, it's important to take a step back and understand the traditional coaching models, how sales coaching has evolved, and how we arrived at "modern-day" sales coaching. Even if some of these methodologies are slightly outdated (or in some cases, we'd argue, misguided), there are pros and cons to all of them.
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Traditional Sales Coaching Models
1. What is the GROW Sales Coaching Model?
GROW stands for Goals, Reality, Options, and Will. It boils down to asking these questions: “Where are you now?” (Reality) and “Where do you want to be?” (Goals). This coaching model prompts people to consider where they are, where they want to go, and what their options are to reach their peak potential, and what they’re willing to do to achieve it.
What doesn’t work about this model: Aside from the fact that this coaching model is not specific to sales teams and managing sales performance, there's no plan for showing your team how to get from where they are to where they want to be. The best coaching models should involve a specific, actionable plan for how to achieve the desired outcomes.
2. What is the GAINS Coaching Model?
The GAINS coaching model stands for Goal, Assessment, Ideas, Next Steps, and Support. This model is about giving constructive feedback to your team. You are to state the goal or expectation for the individual and then provide feedback on the actions of the rep (either commend or critique) how their behaviors impact the goal. Finally, you give next steps and find ways to support the behavior change.
What works about this model: The GAINS coaching model supports the concept of clear next steps to achieve the desired outcome and the idea of creating behavior changes to see a different, more desirable end result.
What doesn’t work about this model: In the GAINS coaching model, the leader or coach determines the goal and gives all of the directives dictating everything—i.e., what the end result should be and the path to get there—without seeking development for the reps to uncover these ideas for themselves. This directive style of coaching has been shown to be less effective than some developmental models, as it doesn’t invite reps to practice critical thinking or problem solving skills, which ultimately lead to positive and lasting behavior change.
3. What is the CIGAR Coaching Model?
The CIGAR coaching model is similar to the GROW model in that you acknowledge where you are now in your current reality and then where you want to be in the future. The acronym stands for Current Reality, Ideal, Gaps, Action, and Review. The concept is to identify the gaps that are preventing you from getting to where you want to be, take action to overcome and fill the gaps, then review to see how it went and adjust strategy from there.
What works about this model: The built-in review here is a great component to coaching. There is never a single sales strategy or coaching model that works forever. If there were, we wouldn’t even be discussing coaching models! Continuous review and development are an essential part of successful coaching.
What doesn’t work about this model: Similar to the GROW model, the CIGAR coaching model is not specific to sales. Plus, getting to the point of, say, "More monthly booked revenue" shouldn't rely on someone pointing out gaps like, “We need more enterprise deals,” or “Increase your meetings held to closed won ratio.” There needs to be specific coaching and teaching for how to actually accomplish those things.
Modern Sales Coaching Models
Modern-day sales coaching should be about more than reviewing calls or setting goals. And in order to actually be effective, it needs to happen consistently and regularly. Once a quarter is not enough. Truly impactful sales coaching models are process-oriented, consistent, and programmatic. They should be based on visible sales data. We need measurable outcomes that can be attributed to the work our sales managers and coaches are doing.
But we also need to remember the human element of coaching. Great coaches put people first and develop them into confident, high-performing reps who hit their goals. There's a culture shift to replace sales managers with sales coaches—but we aren’t always teaching our managers what good coaching looks like and how to do it. Managers are oftentimes left to the outdated and ineffective coaching models above. Here's a look at some modern-day plays specific for sales coaches.
1. Aligned AOR Sales Coaching Model
An aligned coaching model explores the continuous relationship of activities, objectives, and results. The whole concept of the alignment coaching model is to outline a clear set of activities and objectives that have been shown to produce the desired results. This data-driven approach will help you create a proven strategy that reps can still tailor to their individual selling styles. It is an ongoing, continuous coaching model where there are opportunities to coach every day, even as frequently as every hour. But it may not be how you have once thought of traditional coaching. This style of coaching doesn’t have to take place behind closed doors with a laptop open to every deal the rep has seen stall out or close:lost. This can look more like creating a competition when the daily leaderboard shows that your team is light on outbound call activity that you know is necessary to produce the objectives to close their deals.
What works about this model: This coaching model gives reps a playbook of sorts that they can pick up and run with. It is not ambiguous and reps can be measured on hustle with the number of activities they are completing. If you set a target of 100 phone calls, and you have a rep who consistently hits that number, you know they’re motivated and staying on track. If a rep isn’t hitting their objective goal of meetings set, then you know you need to work on the connects to meetings set ratio by helping that rep with their pitch, identifying the right buyer persona, or target fit. I’ll elaborate on this in the ARC Execution coaching model below.
What doesn’t work about this model: The downside to the AOR model is that there are no predefined activities and activity benchmarks for you already laid out. There will absolutely be a trial and error process in place for you to know if you want to focus more on phone calls or social selling. If you look at your historical data conversions, that will give you a starting place, but you will need to continuously make time to try new strategies and ideas. You can save yourself time by downloading our sales scorecard templates used by other amazing sales leaders.
2. ARC Execution Sales Coaching Model
The ARC Execution sales coaching model is about structured sessions with your individual reps and your team. ARC and Aligned AOR aren't mutually exclusive, but they can be used together as an integrated coaching strategy. The concept of the ARC Execution model is that you set aside individual time to review how your team and reps are performing on their activities, and how they’re converting to the objectives and results. Then, you can have more impactful coaching conversations focused on the conversion points and how you can empower reps to hit those goals.
What works about this model: The best thing about the ARC Execution model (when integrated with the AOR model) is that you're setting aside time to have human conversations, which are supported with data beyond just revenue booked. You're able to coach on selling skills and measure how activities do or don’t convert to desired objectives. There's also an opportunity to coach around softer sales skills, such as:
- How to advance SALs and opps through each stage of sales proces /funnel
- How to accurately forecast and commit opportunities
- How to upsell or not compete on price but something else
- Retention coaching around ensuring we are closing deals that are the right fit and have tenure
What doesn’t work about this model: The ARC execution model requires standing commitments on your calendar. Sales managers are some of the busiest people out there, and making time for consistent 1:1 sessions is tough. If you're willing and able to stick with it, you will absolutely see results improve; many sales articles tout these 1:1 sessions as the number-one performance driver for sales teams. However, if you’re an Ambition user, you’re empowered with automations that will save you hours of valuable time and free you up to prioritize these important conversations.
How to Implement Modern Sales Coaching Models
As we mentioned above, sales coaching is time consuming. But you can’t afford not to coach. Prioritizing rep and team development is essential to hitting and exceeding goals and will create a culture that retains top performers. Here are several tactics you can use to implement programmatic coaching models that drive results and maximize your time.
Utilize sales scorecards.
Sales scorecards help you easily track the activities and objectives concept outlined in the AOR Aligned coaching model. Providing your reps with the actual day-to-day plays is "step one" of being a successful sales coach.
Democratize access to data with leaderboards and automations.
When your whole team can see where they stand, they're more likely to perform better. Not because of big brother over their shoulder, but because of things like the psychology of “last place aversion” or generally being motivated by data visibility. Sales TVs and leaderboards are a common mechanism that top sales managers leverage to help improve visibility and performance. Visibility can go beyond TVs into automated, triggered alerts to Slack and email to help celebrate every single win or receive private privately alerts when a specific metric is deviated off track.
Prioritize 1:1 coaching sessions.
When managers are short on time, 1:1 coaching is often the first thing to go. It’s important to honor these sessions! This time can be directive or developmental. Directive coaching is an opportunity for managers to give reps direct feedback for improvement. This should be based on trackable performance data so both reps and managers can visualize progress, improvement, and measure the impact of the coaching.
Developmental sales coaching is more about asking questions and helping the rep develop their selling skills (as opposed to the manager giving them directive style feedback). The developmental style of sales coaching has been shown to be more effective.
Set goals and keep them visible.
Setting sales goals is something every sales manager does. But you need visible, accessible, real-time tracking to keep your team accountable to those goals. Every closed deal that pushes you toward your ARR goal should be celebrated and the impact on the goal should be highlighted. This is a very easy way to implement modern sales coaching tactics as a sales leader.
Run sales competitions and contests.
Sales competitions are part of almost every modern sales org in today’s time. As a sales coach, you can determine which competition style will be most effective in driving the behaviors that will help you achieve your team’s desired results. Here are 3 types of competitions you can run and some things to consider for each.
Team competitions: Should you find yourself managing different offices or locations or teams, it can be very effective to have teams compete against one another. The positive side to team competitions is that even if a rep is not competitive, they will likely go above and beyond so as to not let their team down. It also builds camaraderie and trust on the team.
Individual competitions: First-place finisher competitions, especially when paired with a great incentive, will drive the most performance. The rep who does the most MRR or the rep who books the most meetings, or any metric you currently want to see a lift in, is the perfect impetus for a quick competition. And not every great incentive has to cost an arm and a leg. There are plenty of free sales incentives that have been shown to improve performance.
Threshold prize competitions: Sometimes, sales coaches or managers find themselves in situations where the same rep is winning everything, which can crush the competitive atmosphere. To eliminate this, you can set a threshold-style competition where anyone who hits a certain threshold criteria wins. For example: a set number of booked meetings wins.
More Sales Coaching Models
The methods we've mentioned aren't even all of the coaching models you can implement for you and your team. Here are a few additional models (time for more acronyms!) and the breakdown of their basic methods.
CLEAR: Contracting, Listening, Exploring, Action, Review
STEER: Spot the opportunity, Tailor the intervention, Explain, Encourage, Review
ACHIEVE: Assess situation, Creative brainstorming, Hone goals, Initiate option generation, Evaluate options, Valid action plan, Encourage momentum
OSCAR: Outcome, Situation, Choices, Actions, Review
How do you measure effective sales coaching?
When you’re utilizing different coaching models, you want to ensure you track each and measure their success. Contrary to popular belief, sales coaching actually can be measured. Just like you measure your sales team on quantitative efforts like activities and qualitative metrics like objectives, the same can be done for the coaching itself.
- Quantitative sales coaching metrics
- Number of 1:1 check-ins
- Number of call reviews
- Number of competitions held
- Number of goals created
- Qualitative (attribution metrics)
- % lift of total sales activities
- % lift in connects to meetings set
- % lift in opportunities to closed:won deals
- % reps hitting quota (not just total team attainment)
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