April 27, 2020

Find the Gaps in Your Sales Coaching Approach

By Kristen McCrae

As a former sales manager myself, I empathize with the unique responsibilities that come with managing salespeople  – personality management, product updates, customer interactions, and quota attainment, to name a few. For me, this meant sales coaching often landed on the back burner.

Sales coaching data almost always shows two common trends: a clear correlation between coaching and sales performance, and the neglected state of sales coaching within most organizations. So why don’t we do it more?

A Sustainable Sales Coaching Program
Creating a successful, sustainable coaching program is not as simple as flipping a switch. It’s a process that requires you to first consider your organization’s current state. As a sales enablement professional or as the program leader, where are your gaps when considering the five elements of a sustainable coaching program?

#1: Coaching framework: How will you “structure” your coaching conversations and align your coaches in their strategy? Will you utilize sales coaching models like GROW or OSKAR, or will you develop your own?

#2: Coaching cadence: How often will your sales managers coach? Who else will contribute? From my research and experience, organizations with best-in-class coaching programs ask their leaders to spend 40 to 60 percent of their work week coaching. Can this ask be incorporated into OKRs? What barriers will get in the way? How can we rethink, reallocate, and restructure the way managers spend their time, so they actually have time for coaching?

#3: Coaching competency: How are you measuring the competency of each coach? Improvement in coaching quality – simply from below average to above average – can mean a 6-8 percent increase in performance across 50 percent of your sales force, according to Harvard Business Review.

#4: Coaching measurements: How will you track and document coaching? What accountability measures will be built into your program?

#5: Coaching effectiveness: When you compare time spent coaching with sales KPIs, rep by rep, over a specific month, which coaches are generating the biggest coaching ROI? What can you learn from them?

Before filling these gaps, observe the current state, ask questions, and seek to understand the barriers. Empathize and put yourself in your customers’ shoes before creating solutions. And, throughout your assessment, evaluate whether your organization has a strong coaching culture or feedback culture.

The Difference between Sales Coaching and Feedback
I will be the first to say that, when I was a sales manager – even when I thought I was coaching – I was actually giving feedback. Feedback is corrective; it’s about what happened in the past, and is typically one-directional. Coaching is different; it’s a developmental dialogue involving introspection, motivation, and inspiration surrounding a challenge or goal.

When I think back to the most impactful, meaningful interactions I’ve had in my career – the experiences I still remember candidly to this day – I was experiencing great coaching.

If we enable experiences like these to happen more often by identifying gaps, building solutions, and empowering managers to deliver high-quality coaching more often, what impact could this have on your organization? On your people and their engagement? On your outcomes?

As former Intuit board chairman Bill Campbell (and business coach to Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Eric Schmidt, Steve Jobs, and others) has said, “The path to success in a fast-moving, highly competitive, technology-driven business world is to form high-performing teams and give them the resources and freedom to do great things. And an essential component of high-performing teams is a leader who is both a savvy manager and a caring coach.”

Happy coaching to all.

Kristen McCrae is a sales enablement practitioner, speaker, and evangelist. She currently works at Intuit. Connect with her on Linkedin.