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Informal vs. Formal: Sales Coaching Tips for Real-World Scenarios

Aug 16th, 2017

Sales coaching reinforces the knowledge sales reps have learned in sales training and prepares them for each and every buyer interaction. According to the Association for Talent Development, organizations that make continuous investments in training and reinforcement see over 50% higher net sales per employee.

Video-based coaching strategies – where reps practice material by recording video responses to coaching assignments or ‘challenges’ – allow sales leaders to validate that reps have mastered critical messaging, processes, systems, and more. But your sales coaching program can’t be one-size-fits-all. Depending on the scenario, you will need to utilize either informal or formal coaching techniques – and the most effective sales organizations have a healthy mix of both.

Using the Brainshark Video Coaching Quadrant as a guide, here are four real-world scenarios to use either formal or informal approaches to coaching.

Scenario #1: Your company is going through a merger or acquisition

Let’s say your company has recently acquired a competitor that owns unique technology that will make you a frontrunner in your industry.

In this scenario, it’s critical that all reps have consistent and accurate messaging. According to SiriusDecisions, 70% of mergers and acquisitions fail to meet business expectations. Don’t let your organization fall into this group.

Sales coaching tip: Time is of the essence with mergers and acquisitions. To make sure your newly combined sales force is message-ready, organize a formal, teamwide video-coaching challenge. This is also known as organizational mastery, where you’re testing the sales team as a whole to assess if they’ve mastered the material.

Each rep’s submission should then be assessed and scored by their manager and/or sales enablement team.

Scenario #2: Identifying best practices across the sales team

Every sales team has high-performers that stand out from the rest of the crowd. But how do you transfer critical knowledge and skills from those ‘A’ players to ‘B’ players?

Let’s say you are looking to teach reps how to navigate tough sales calls where the rep’s back is against the wall and they need a Hail Mary in the fourth quarter to pull it off. 

Have reps submit a video discussing a time when they achieved victory on a deal that was a tough close. Then, select the best video responses and use them as training for other reps.

Sales coaching tip: This type of informal, teamwide coaching will provide recognition to star players while doubling as training content for present and future sales reps. This form of coaching is also known as peer learning, where reps of all levels and generations can learn from each other’s tips and experiences through rep-generated videos.

Related: Peer Learning for Sales: Managing the Chaos

Scenario #3: Sales managers need leadership development

Some organizations believe that the best sales reps will make the most qualified sales managers, but the truth is that not everyone has the skills to lead. It takes hard work and experience to develop leadership skills, and it’s up to sales enablement to prepare sales managers to lead their teams.

A recent CSO Insights study found that sales manager enablement is often the missing piece of the puzzle in most sales enablement programs that are seeing less than satisfactory results.

Sales coaching tip: Initiate formal, individual video coaching with sales managers to ensure they have achieved individual mastery of the skills necessary to lead their team of reps.

Related: 3 Ways Sales Managers Can Make Time for Coaching

Scenario #4: Tough sales calls are becoming a pattern

Let’s say you have a sales rep who is a great performer, but lately you’ve noticed she’s been struggling on recent calls. Instead of handling price objections with the responses she learned in training, she is skirting around the questions and frustrating potential buyers.

Furthermore, she is failing to accurately demonstrate your value proposition in comparison to your competition. What should you do in this scenario?

Sales coaching tip: Informal, individual video coaching, also known as just-in-time learning, can help address this immediate need.