The Pillars of Effective Sales Coaching

August 23, 2019

Shawn Parrotte

Effective coaching is vital to sales team success. Yet so many sales leaders miss the mark on effective. Often, it’s for one reason: They confuse coaching with training.

“While coaching and training are complementary processes,'' says sales coaching expert, Matt Cameron, “they are distinctly different approaches to helping reps learn and improve.”

In This Episode #

In this episode of the B2B Sales Show, Grace Tyson sits down with Matt Cameron talk sales coaching.

Cameron, who is the founder of SaaSy Sales Management, a firm that helps high-growth companies develop SaaS sales leadership, says coaches who wear their “training hat” in interactions with reps aren’t likely to make the positive impact they aim for. A sales coach’s job isn’t to tell reps what to do, he emphasizes: “it is to enable them to do their job better than you ever could” by helping them to “self-identify opportunities for improvement.”

In sports, a coach stands on the field and calls out plays; a trainer outlines the specific moves in a play and then drills that play. And in sales, a coach empowers reps to figure out, with some guidance, the next best steps to success. A trainer, meanwhile, essentially says, “Do this”.

Cameron shared these and many other insights with Sales Manager, Grace Tyson, for a recent episode of The B2B Sales Show, which focused on the topic of sales coaching. Here are a few more highlights from their discussion:

  • “Random acts of coaching” is how Cameron describes the state of sales coaching in many organizations today. Because sales leaders are so time-strapped, they try to cram in coaching wherever they can, including during ride-alongs and in one-on-ones.

    The result: rushed efforts, lack of a cohesive theme for coaching, and prescriptive advice that does not inspire reps or help them to improve.
  • Deal-centric coaching results in little or no focus on capability development for reps, Cameron says. It’s essential for sales leaders to think more about “building capacity” in their team instead of trying to be the superhero who swoops in at the last minute to help bring every deal over the finish line.

    The result: Coaching reps late in the deal can result in overlooking missteps made earlier in the process that could risk sales success.
  • Data-driven insights on sales behavior are essential for creating more focused and meaningful coaching, according to Cameron. Coaches (i.e., very busy sales leaders) need to be able to quickly assess what reps are doing in sales calls. Cameron notes that the platform allows coaches to inspect calls very closely to understand what reps are saying — and how.

    The result:
    Technologies like Conversation Intelligence provides insight on how reps are delivering on-point messaging, asking open-ended questions, and letting customers do most of the talking.
  • Objective peer feedback is invaluable for evaluating sales coaching effectiveness, according to Cameron. If you’re a sales coach struggling to help a rep improve, your coaching style could be the culprit — not the rep’s perceived resistance to your efforts. An adjustment of your approach to ensure you’re coaching, and not training, can make all the difference.

    The result:Motivating reps to raise the bar on their performance — especially tenured employees who have already mastered core skills and don’t need to be trained.

There is, of course, still a time and place for training rather than coaching. If a rep needs to learn the ropes or is truly struggling to understand something, then being prescriptive is appropriate, according to Cameron. The trick is knowing when to pivot between techniques.

Key takeaway: Whether you’re training or coaching, make sure to spend your time helping reps to improve by focusing on things that can move the needle long-term.

Listen Here #

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