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How Do Sales Professionals REALLY Feel About Coaching?

May 02nd, 2017


There’s plenty of research available today that shows both the high value of sales coaching (the majority of executives believe it’s the most important role sales managers play) and the struggle many have to do so consistently and effectively (77% of companies feel they don’t provide enough coaching to salespeople).

Numbers like these certainly paint an impactful picture of the state of sales coaching at today’s B2B organizations – but there’s still more to the story. Beyond the numbers, what do sales professionals really think about the coaching that goes on (or doesn’t go on) at their companies?

Sales strategist and author Dave Brock (@davidabrock) recently posed a question to LinkedIn to learn more about the real frequency of coaching: “Salespeople: Be honest – on average, how much time does your manager spend coaching you each week?”

The comments that followed were varied and fascinating, shedding light on an even more detailed story about the real world of B2B sales coaching. Here are some examples.

Unfortunately, even some seasoned sales veterans have witnessed very little coaching at all over the course of their careers:

“Over a 27-year sales career, 80% of my sales managers did 0 coaching, with the other 20% it was minimal and <1 hour per month (at best).”

Why is this the case? Unsurprisingly, lack of time and other management priorities are viewed as big contributors:

“As a seller, I received very little coaching – most of the feedback I was ever given was tell vs ask. In my current and recent roles, I do see more Sales Managers wanting to LEAD – but often busy work gets in the way of working with their people. Frustrating and sad at the same time.”

“Corporations are putting so much pressure on Sales Managers to make numbers and not enough time on training and making coaching a criteria when hiring managers. Managers should realize that good coaching is an investment.”

Others were less kind on the above point:

“Maybe a good follow up question to this would be – what pointless/administrative/non-revenue contributing tasks do they spend time doing instead?”

Interestingly, some believe that even when coaching does occur, reps may not realize it’s happening:

“Here is another perspective… do all salespeople admit to or recognize coaching moments or experiences? And if they are truly good coaching experiences – should they be obvious? Thought provoking or just me being a [Devil’s] advocate?”

“Back when I was an outside rep, I would say [my manager] spent 1-2 hours a week doing coaching activities. Really it wasn’t until I was managing people that I realized [some of the] questions he asked me that I thought he should have known the answers to were most likely him just reinforcing positive accomplishments, As the years have [passed], I very much appreciate how much coaching both he and [others] gave me regularly with sales practices and approaching problems.”

The good news is not everyone struggles with effective coaching. Some sales professionals work at places where it’s a core part of their selling culture – both manager-led and peer-driven:

“Each one of our reps spends an hour a week with our coach. The time is invaluable. We also spend an hour a week as a group to optimize our process. In an ideal world, we’d spend more time on both, but you know… we’ve got deals to close!”

Finally, there was also recognition that improving rep performance though coaching takes nuance; an understanding of the areas individual need to not only improve on, but master:

“How much time should there be for coaching, depends on the sales rep. Some will need more than others. It is not just about coaching but improvement and insight. [In my] experience many times the reps were given the standard coaching and a few tips to work on. The focus was not on a specific area. A solution, to implement an effective coaching log and truly track the areas that need improvement and follow up to see if they have worked towards mastering those points. Each touch point should be recorded and measured to really identify areas or skills needed to help each sales rep reach their goals and targets.”

Clearly, there are a lot of different thoughts and opinions about the quality of sales coaching that goes on at many companies. So let’s keep the conversation going that Dave started here: On average, how much time does your manager (or you) spend coaching you each week?

Sound off in the comments below. For details on how technology can help simplify and streamline the coaching process, check out this exclusive eBook: Choosing the Right Sales Coaching Solution.