The Most Common Misconceptions About Sales Coaching

March 16, 2017 | Lauren Brousell
The Most Common Misconceptions About Sales Coaching

If you want to run a marathon, you can’t expect to get great results unless you train properly. The same goes for sales readiness. In order for reps to perform at the top of their game, they must be trained and then coached to reinforce and eventually master their sales material. However, only 15% of organizations have the right amount of sales coaching in place, as reported by The Sales Management Association. This could be in part because these companies don’t know what good coaching looks like or they have perceptions about coaching that are inaccurate.

To clear the air on sales coaching, we’ve gathered some of the most common perceptions and explained why they aren’t valid.

Results happen overnight

Sales professionals that think sales coaching is something that happens overnight have the wrong idea. Sales coaching is a practice that takes time, effort and dedication, as well as structure and process. The sales enablement department is responsible for driving these efforts, but sales managers and reps need to grab the baton and do their part as well. It takes time and commitment to see real results, improvements in behavior, and better overall performance across teams.

Heather Cole, research director of sales enablement strategies at SiriusDecisions, says there’s a big difference between knowledge and execution of sales coaching. “Knowing how to coach is one thing – actually doing it is another. If your organization does not have a culture of accountability around sales coaching, coaching will be inconsistent in quantity and quality.”

It’s a one-and-done process

Technically, it’s true that one session of sales coaching can solve a problem. But that’s not how a truly effective sales coaching program operates. Sales coaching must be a regular part of the sales training and learning process that reps go through – and it must be continuous. Managers should create virtual assignments or ‘challenges’ for reps to complete, such as recording a 30-second elevator pitch. These should be created and assigned to reps according to a schedule or curriculum that enables reps to move from reinforcement to mastery – so they’re ready for primetime.

It happens organically

Since managers and reps already spend so much time together, sales coaching should happen organically, right? But it doesn’t always happen that way – and it won’t unless sales enablement, managers and reps work together to make sure the right type and amount of coaching take place.

Sales enablement should work with managers to make sure there’s agreement on how the coaching process will take place and what will be involved, including how technology will be used. Managers and reps can still have one-on-one meetings to go over performance and other issues, but coaching should be its own separate practice where reps work on specific skills and practice applying the knowledge they’ve learned.

It only needs to happen between the manager and rep

Yes, sales coaching definitely needs to take place between managers and the reps that are their direct reports. But sometimes, unexpectedly great coaching can happen among reps in a peer-to-peer fashion. That’s why effective coaching programs include both manager-to-rep coaching and peer-to-peer coaching.

Peer-to-peer coaching can happen in several ways. Specific coaching challenges can be created where peers evaluate each other and provide feedback, in lieu of or in addition to managers doing so. Peer-to-peer collaboration can also take place within the leaderboard or simply by having reps informally review each other’s challenge responses in order to take away new tips and ideas. This method can be especially helpful for B and C players to see how A players respond to challenges.

Unlike other aspects of sales, it does not require technology

Most salespeople can agree that the CRM is a critical technology tool for their teams to have a single record of truth and  keep the trains running on time. What some may not realize is that a sales coaching tool is very similar. A sales coaching tool helps sales enablement and managers create, assign and keep track of coaching challenges. It also allows both home and remote sales teams to participate in a seamless way. For example, using a video-based sales coaching tool allows reps to respond to a challenge by recording a video on their computer or smartphone camera, then  send and receive feedback, all within the same tool.

Sales enablement and managers are able to look at their team’s body of work within the coaching tool and make important judgment calls, including which material needs more reinforcement and which has been mastered by reps. The tool also creates a library that anyone in sales can use for learning or reference.

Managers have the experience to coach

Sales managers got to the management level because they have experience and achieved success as a rep. Does that mean they will make a great sales coach? Not necessarily. But it’s critical that they dedicate time to becoming good coaches. According to Forbes Insights, 74% of leading companies say coaching is the most important role front-line sales managers play.

Managers need to learn the company’s coaching methodology and goals. They also need to be up to speed on how to use the coaching technology, while collaborating with sales enablement, product marketing and other departments to make sure they’re testing reps on the right material in the right ways. Norman Behar, CEO of Sales Readiness Group says managers need to make coaching all about the reps. "Sales coaching is about helping, supporting, monitoring, and facilitating. It’s not about telling salespeople what to do."

A-players don’t need coaching

B and C players need coaching so they can be on their way to becoming A players. But A players aren’t perfect, they still need coaching just as much as every other rep. Coaching is in place to help reps reinforce and master new material and to practice material that will prepare them for specific situations that the sales organization foresees as a potential challenge or critical to business goals.

All reps need coaching in order to continuously succeed at their jobs – no matter what their current level of performance is.

Want to learn more? Check out how Brainshark helps sales managers coach reps to mastery.

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