The simple answer is yes. And probably more than you think.
When we measured coaching effectiveness as part of a multiyear Sales Academy delivered at a leading multinational telecoms company, what we learned spoke volumes about the value of sales coaching:
- When managers met or exceeded the standards for coaching, the average sales performance of their teams was 95% of stretch targets
- When managers achieved between 50 and 100% of their coaching target, average sales performance was 56%
- When managers achieved less than 50% of their coaching target, the average sales performance was 47%
Clearly, the quality and frequency of sales coaching interventions has a significant impact on sales. Interestingly, however, the impact of sales coaching may not be uniform across all salespeople. According to research by the Sales Executive Council, both the bottom 10% of sales forces and the top 10% demonstrate minimal performance gains from coaching. The real benefit, they note, is in the middle. That’s where effective coaching can improve results by up to 19%.
If sales coaching works, why doesn’t everyone do it?
According to the Sales Management Association, 73% of sales managers spend less than 5% of their time coaching. Given the impact on sales performance, the fact that nearly three-quarters of sales managers are failing to coach should be a major concern to today’s sales organizations.
But why don’t they do it? Nearly half (47%) told the Sales Management Association that they don’t know how to coach. More than a quarter (26%) said they don’t have enough time, and another 23% said they don’t value coaching.
What about your sales managers? Are they among the few who coach consistently and effectively? Or are they avoiding it due to a lack of skills or inability/unwillingness to make the time for it? Considering the strong connection between coaching and sales results, training your sales managers on effective coaching skills and behaviors should be a priority.
How to get long-term results from sales coaching training
Even when sales managers receive training on how to coach, it doesn’t always solve the problem. In our experience, there are four key areas that need to be addressed to get long-term results from the training:
- Don’t treat training and coaching as isolated events. If sales managers aren’t being evaluated or held accountable for applying what they’ve learned and adhering to coaching standards and expectations, they’re likely not going to do it. To make coaching part of the manager’s daily behaviour, use real-time survey and reporting tools to measure the frequency and quality of coaching, and incentivize your sales managers to hit quality and frequency targets. It’s also a good idea to have an experienced coach observe the manager early on to provide feedback and support.
- Make sure the training is sales-focused. Generic coaching sessions will leave managers ill-equipped to help their team members solve the kinds of sales challenges they face on a daily basis. Effective sales coaching focuses on coaching in the sales context. It should integrate the coaching techniques with your sales methodology and apply your key sales tools and processes to client situations.
- Start with the sales leaders. Most sales managers will replicate the behaviors of their leaders, so if the managers themselves receive no coaching, they are unlikely to provide it to their teams. Likewise, if leaders deprioritize or cancel coaching sessions, managers will feel encouraged to do the same. Sales leaders need to lead by example, knowing that their own coaching behaviors will have a ripple effect on sales performance throughout the sales organization.
- Emphasize both formal and informal coaching. Coaching needs to be part of the flow of manager-team member meetings and interactions, not just limited to scheduled (e.g., monthly) coaching sessions. That means the training should focus on developing sales managers who are looking for and taking advantage of every opportunity to coach.
Coaching shouldn’t always be about finding an hour to sit down with a team member for a detailed coaching conversation. Every time managers speak to their salespeople, they have the opportunity to coach them.
Over time, good sales coaching has a multiplier effect on each team member’s sales performance. There is nothing else you can do that is essentially so low cost and makes such a sustainable impact on a sales team and the business’s results.