Deep down, don’t we all feel a need to be understood, to be seen as a unique individual with unique problems? And well, a few warm words with some constructive, useful advice from a wise friend can make a world of difference!
Yes, we’re still talking about sales.
What we’ve described above is sales coaching done right. Onboarding tutorials, product demos and training bootcamps go a long way - but often, not the whole way. Since sales is and always has been a people-game, our sales folks want to be heard and coached in a way that not only wins deals, but also keeps morale high.
In fact, as per Aberdeen Group, organizations that prepare and follow a consistent coaching framework witness a 27.9% improvement in their win rate. As a sales coach, you are expected to establish the consistency and the framework that ultimately improve the organization’s sales caliber and numbers.
To help you, we’ve outlined a sales coaching template below that will act as a framework for conducting productive coaching sessions with sales reps. It’s flexible enough to be tailored to individual needs, yet comes with sufficient details to give you and the rep a sense of structure and solidity. Both aspects are needed for coaching sessions to be truly effective.
Before we dive in however, it is important to make a distinction between sales coaching and sales training. The difference sets the tone for why a sales coaching session is structured and carried out the way it is.
Po-tay-to and po-tah-to? Nope
One of the biggest misconceptions about sales coaching is that it’s the same as sales training, or at least similar enough to not matter. That’s not really true, though. The crucial difference between training and coaching is that training focuses on the instructor delivering instruction, whereas coaching focuses on listening to the learner to understand the learning needs.
Sales training is typically used to teach skills, whereas sales coaching focuses on helping reps achieve short-term goals and performance milestones which are tied directly to their compensation plans.
So, sales training is:
- Teaching reps skills and giving them information to help them become capable salespersons
- Often conducted in a group with one instructor talking and giving “homework”
- Consists of activities suited to common sales environments and processes
In contrast, here is what sales coaching is:
Adjusting feedback based on reps unique strengths and weaknesses
One-on-one sessions with the salesperson as an active participant engaging in back and forth
Personalized exercises inspired from the rep’s day-to-day duties so they can learn in a hands-on manner
Training: Teaching a group of sales reps how to build pipelines and win new business.
Sales Coaching: Listening to a single rep and helping her improve her close rate by 30% through quality one-on-one coaching.
Training: Going over traditional “best practices” of cold calling with a group of reps.
Sales Coaching: Listening to a reps outbound call and providing advice on how they can improve the pitch based on performance and buyer's reactions.
A sales coaching template for all seasons
You might wonder: why have a sales coaching template when each session is with a different individual and is meant to cater to a different need?
A good question with a fairly straightforward answer – flying by the seat of your pants is not the way to run optimal coaching sessions.
Consider the question, ‘So, what have you been up to?’ On the surface, the question seems to fit the sales coaching bill: ask the rep, be prepared to listen and let them direct the conversation.
In reality, the question is a waste of time.
When the rep has to spend 30 minutes of a 1-hour coaching session recounting what happened in their week, there isn’t much time left to discuss concerns, questions and offer new strategies and techniques. 50% of the coaching session is over without adding anything useful to the rep’s repertoire.
A sales coaching template helps avoid these situations by ensuring that you know how to make a coaching session the best it can be. In short, it prepares you and by extension, your rep, for a productive and fruitful time.
Below, we share a sales coaching template that can act as an evergreen outline for your sales coaching calls.
Pre-session prep can include getting an update from the rep about how their week has been. This update can be in the form of a video or audio note and can be sent 24 hours before the session, so you have sufficient time to go through it. The update can include:
- Sales activities that the rep performed the previous week
- Hits and misses of the week
- Any new strategies or tactics implemented
Pre-session prep ALSO includes you setting up the session agenda, checking the reps activities and sales data and listening to their recent calls. Basically, it’s the coach’s time for homework.
During the session
Begin by acknowledging any wins the rep has had and asking about their mental health and wellbeing during the week. This will give you further information about how to tailor the conversation and what suggestions to make when the time comes.
Follow up by reviewing the updates they shared, including talking about how they felt:
- What wins made them proud?
- What misses felt especially hard?
- Which activities did they enjoy? Which ones made them feel like they were short?
- Out of the new strategies and techniques they might have implemented, were there any that they particularly leaned towards? What about the ones that did not seem to fit into their sales personality?
- What were their top learnings and impressions from each update they shared?
Once this is done, it’s time to ask the rep about their plans - both short and long term.
Questions can include:
- What’s on your plate in the coming week(s)/ month?
- How are you pacing yourself to meet set goals and objectives?
- What skills and strategies are you using to hit targets?
- What winning strategies and tactics from last week can you re-apply this week?
- Based on your recent wins and losses, what particular area do you need help with so you can more easily succeed? Increasing the quality of cold calls and emails? Practicing the lets-close-this-deal conversation? How to convert prospects into leads?
Based on the rep’s answers, help them to pick the optimal approach and allay any fears or doubts they might have. Sometimes, the rep might have a blind spot in certain areas. During those times, it will be upon you, as the coach, to draw their attention to a potential area of improvement so they aren’t held back because of it. Common scenarios where you would be required to pitch in as the coach include:
- Lack of product knowledge
- Lack of confidence
- A miscalculation of client motives and personality
- Incomplete or misdirected preparation for a client call
- Lack of motivation or interest in upskilling
If they seem to be struggling, suggest activities and readings and help them draw up a plan if they need it.
Once the sales coaching session is complete, make sure to follow up with the rep at least once in the week for an update on how they are doing and if they need help. Remind them that you are always available for counsel and support.
You can also share any resources you come across that can help them meet their current goals and targets.
Another crucial activity is to gather feedback on a regular basis. This can be either through audio notes once the rep has had time to integrate and implement, through a Google form, or at the start of a coaching session after a particular time period.
Dos and don'ts for your sales coaching template
Consider these unspoken agreements that you make with yourself as a sales manager to create a positive and encouraging environment for your sales rep.
Do: Encourage their individual sales flair
It can be easy to fall into the trap of coaching someone the way you yourself learned ‘back in the day.’ This approach usually fails since the person in front of you is not you. Trying to work in what worked you is not coaching; it’s cloning.
Don’t: Try to turn the rep into a mini-you
To make this work, you need to step up as a sales coach yourself. Keep your eyes and ears open for things that have worked for others. When you see a rep struggling, use this experience to offer options on how to proceed. As you get to know more of coachee’s individual strengths, weaknesses and inclinations, you can more confidently suggest approaches you know will work - even if it is outside your personal sales playbook.
Don’t: Spread both of yourselves too thin
Presenting information and advice like a buffet will only overwhelm the rep. Worst-case scenario, it leaves them feeling even more confused than they did before the sales coaching session.
Do: Go deep with only 1-2 issues
The best way to avoid this situation is to focus on 1-2 topics per session. You can even focus on the same topic(s) for consecutive sessions. That is completely fine and to be expected. Skills and confidence are not built over a week.
Don’t: Make a habit of rescheduling
Consistency and momentum are hard, but paramount to success. Rescheduling coaching sessions will undermine their importance and seriousness for both you and the rep. Worse, gaps in sessions mean issues keep piling up, which can overwhelm the both of you when you finally get to them
Do: Stick to the coaching schedule to maintain momentum
Avoid this by consistently showing up for sessions and highlighting the importance of doing the same to your rep. Follow a strict schedule and set an example for your coachee.
Don’t: Just hand over solutions
The overall aim of coaching sessions is to empower each individual sales rep. Part of this empowerment includes the ability to self-assess and self-direct both under and without pressure. Providing solutions to their problems instead of having the reps come up with them negates this part of the exercise.
Do: Help them come up solutions on their own
Instead of handing out answers and solutions like candy, teach reps how to ask themselves the right questions. Use examples and case studies to help you with this. Nudging questions like the following are extremely useful as well - Why do you think your approach did not work? Does the data agree that it hasn’t worked for you on an average in the past as well? What one aspect can you experiment with changing in order to get better results?
Don’t: Solely focus on poor-performing reps
Coaching underperforming reps while ignoring high and average performers will bring down the sales performance of the organization as a whole. Coaching sessions, in fact, should be used as a litmus test to determine if the sales environment and expectations are suited to a particular rep.
Do: Help the high and mediocre performers improve their game
Moreover, excluding high-performing reps because ‘they are already doing well’ and average reps because they are seemingly stagnant deprives the company of future sales success.
Top performers are the way they are because of their drive to learn and better- two traits that will make them easy to coach. Meanwhile. average performers are usually a good fit for the company and have some skills with room for growth. They can use actionable and personalized advice that pushes them to perform better.
A study by Harvard Business Review revealed that good-quality coaching can improve their performance by 19%. Even if the success rate is 6-8% on average, that’s 6-8% improvement across at least 50% of your workforce.
There’s power in ‘one at a time’
While sales coaching might seem like a slow process, its effectiveness cannot be downplayed. By focusing on reps individually, sales coaching ensures that each individual link in the organization’s chain of salespersons is as strong as it can be. When one rep becomes better, it opens the door to other reps becoming better through similar coaching sessions or through leading by example.
A sales coaching template can act as the foundation for this positive change by providing a framework for successful coaching sessions.
To support your reps in the field after making a sales coaching template for them, check out Wingman’s Real-time Sales Coaching Software.