Has Sales Coaching Been Oversold? 8 months ago

The greatest economic impact expected from the sales leader is not to increase the size of the sale force and its operating expenses, but to ensure that every salesperson consistently improves their sales target attainment.

Converting just one salesperson with 60% average attainment over the past three years into 80%, then into 100% attainment every year, will have significant profitable economic impact.

In higher-value, complex sales there are lots of opportunities for costly mistakes and inefficiencies and Sales Coaching has been promoted over the last few years as a way to significantly improve the performance of the majority of the middle tier salespeople and moving them closer to achieving their annual sales targets.

Coaching has been introduced successfully in a large number of corporations who have invested in the required development and training for the coaches and then allocated the time and effort required to make sure the salespeople get the maximum benefit.

Unfortunately, the successful implementation of Coaching is not a given in every organization and although the benefits are certainly real – the time, cost and effort involved may have been underplayed. The practicalities of coaching sound deceptively simple to introduce and seem an easy fit with the interactions between sales leader and salesperson, but the realities can be very different.

The issues start from the sales leaders that have to deliver the coaching. Unless they are motivated and properly trained and then fully supported in the time and effort required to deliver the coaching, the effectiveness may be extremely diluted, or even prove counter-productive.

For the salesperson, unless the coaching is motivating and helps them to make changes that prove effective, they will become disillusioned and see the coaching sessions as a waste of their time. Indeed, unless the coaching is introduced in a positive and strategic way, the lack of interest in coaching may start even before the first coaching session.

The timescale for achieving effective change by Sales Coaching may have been overstated, or not clarified before the implementation, so it may be worthwhile looking at how long it’s likely to take to achieve any worthwhile improvements in performance.

The range of subjects that can be covered in one coaching session is going to be relatively small if the salesperson is going to be able to uncover more successful strategies for themselves. So what can be successfully translated into effective performance improvement from each session is also likely to be small and takes time to become embedded in the salesperson’s process.

Let’s assume the sales leader can have two coaching sessions per month with each salesperson and that it takes the salesperson only two sessions to start making incremental improvements. With these limitations in mind, then it’s still likely to take 12 – 18 months for the salesperson to make significant and habit forming performance improvements that will affect their annual sales targets, say moving from 60% to 80%. More coaching sessions would accelerate the process, but might affect available selling time thereby negating the benefits.

Quality time with the salesperson is the biggest challenge for most sales leaders when it comes to sales coaching, so what can be done to increase coaching time without having to either increase the number of coaches, or take away selling time from the salesperson?

The logical answer would appear be the use of technology to deliver coaching whenever the salesperson needs it. This could accelerate sales coaching to a point where significant improvement could be achieved in just a few months. This would also enable the sales leader to identify and focus on key areas of support for each of their team at their regular coaching sessions.

Accelerated Sales Coaching may just be the answer we’re all looking for.

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