The vast majority of sales talent is usually developed in the field, since very few people are able to learn sales techniques simply through education. As a result, most businesses realise the importance of good quality sales training and do their best to deliver it through their own specialized training programs.
However, repeated studies have shown that training alone is not enough. Newly acquired skills need to be reinforced through coaching, which should be delivered continuously by sales managers and other sales leaders. So how can a company plan for effective sales coaching in order to achieve their sales goals?
The Importance of Coaching
Training is extremely effective in teaching salespeople new techniques, but old habits quickly resurface. A study carried out by the Xerox Corporation found that as much as 87 percent of desired skills change was lost without reinforcement through coaching. Essentially, that means 87 cents of every dollar spent on training is wasted.
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“Without coaching, very few people can maintain a newly acquired skill,” explains Neil Rackham, author of The Coaching Controversy. “Most salespeople try out the new skills for a few calls, find that they feel awkward [and] go back to their old ways. Coaching is the only cost-effective way to reinforce new behaviours.”
Creating a Coaching Culture
Having established the importance of coaching, it is similarly crucial to create a coaching culture within a company, which serves to make sure that any training is reinforced. Unfortunately, this type of sales culture is rare and a number of common problems exist, including:
- Sales managers and leaders who do not want to coach
- Sales managers and leaders who do not have time to coach
- Sales managers and leaders who do not have the necessary resources to deliver effective coaching
In order to create a positive coaching culture, it is important to reward those who deliver effective coaching, whether that be through recognition, internal awards, financial compensation or promotion. Similarly, it is paramount that leadership roles are only occupied by those with an interest and aptitude for coaching.
Many salespeople perform well in their roles, but have no interest in coaching, or no real ability to coach. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but these people should be kept where their strengths lie, as salespeople. Leadership positions should be assigned to people with the required attitude and skill set.
One of the most essential aspects of planning for more effective coaching is defining expectations and making sure that definition is understood by everyone in the organization. Sadly, it is extremely common for people within the same company to have vastly different opinions on what constitutes good coaching.
For example, a survey conducted by Scott Edinger found that sales leaders typically rate their coaching efforts and abilities highly; somewhere around the 80th percentile. Yet, the coaching efforts of those same sales leaders are rated much lower by their subordinates, who typically place them near the 40th percentile.
This lack of consensus can be attributed to the differing expectations among sales leaders and their subordinates. Planning for more effective coaching requires getting everyone on the same page.
A coach should be able to observe salespeople and provide feedback. They should also be able to help salespeople establish goals and assist them with techniques to reach those goals. Furthermore, they should be able to provide guidance, supply examples of best practice, offer motivation and reinforce lessons learned from training.
Once these duties have been clearly defined, it becomes a lot easier to implement an effective coaching strategy.
Author: Alison Brattle is a marketing manager at AchieveGlobal, a global sales training and leadership development firm based in the UK. It specializes in providing exceptional sales management training courses and helps organizations develop business strategies to achieve sales success. Alison enjoys sharing her insight and thoughts to provide better sales and leadership training.