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Posted by Brian Lambert on August 24, 2011
Why does sales coaching continue to be an important sales enablement trend? Perhaps it's because salespeople learn new skills through mutually beneficial relationships with individual coaches. If you think about it, sales coaches can come from many parts of the organization and include sales managers, sales trainers, sales engineers, and in some cases from product marketers. When sales enablement professionals effectively support tailored sales coaching conversations between coaches and reps, salespeople learn faster, converse more confidently with their customers, and achieve specific sales objectives, like gaining access to the right buyers or building a winning business case.
If you think about it, the role of a sales coach is challenging. Sales coaches must process many different content inputs from across the organization, package those inputs (in their head), and then deliver content through an effective sales coaching conversation to one salesperson at a time. And, sales coaches must make sure they treat everyone uniquely, so they maximize their sales coaching impact. Sales Enablement professionals need a strategy, a methodology, and tools to effectively enable their sales coaches to implement and sustain high-quality coaching conversations that help salespeople achieve sales objectives.
In order to make sales coaching successful, Sales Enablement pros need a clear definition. The definition should drive specific sales coaching behavior while at the same time clearly defining the business reason why sales coaching is important. The definition should serve as a clear design point for sales coaching success.
For example, Forrester defines sales coaching as:
The iterative and collaborative process of accelerating salesperson performance by creating lasting behavior change through one-on-one conversations that are relevant, developmental, and motivational.
Over the past 6 months, I have been diving more deeply into what it takes to support this definition of sales coaching. At an individual level becoming a great coach means linking individual performance improvement to strategic business objectives. At an organizational level, a great sales coaching strategy includes three distinct phases. These three phases are required to ensure consistently tailored sales coaching conversations.
Pillar 1: Prioritize
In this phase, coaches take stock of the reps they are responsible for coaching. To do that, you need to understand the behaviors they need to coach as well as the business objectives they need to support. Key actions include assessing performance, defining behaviors, setting goals, determining sales coaching priorities, and identifying the most appropriate sales coaching style to use with each seller.
Pillar 2: Facilitate
In this phase, coaches facilitate a tailored coaching conversation. For this, you need to determine who to coach, how to observe the seller in real time, and how to facilitate a tailored sales coaching conversation. Additionally, coaches need to document the coaching interaction and, finally, track each individual rep’s progress toward specific goals.
Pillar 3: Continuously improve
In this phase, coaches need to adjust and refine their approach. To be successful, you must identify ways to reach individual sellers in a more clear relevant way. Great coaches revisit long-term development needs of their reps in relation to the business objectives and sales strategy set forth by the sales leadership team.
Despite the need for these three pillars, it's hard to find all three in play in most organizations. While some sales enablement and sales training leaders focus on pillar 2 and help their sales managers engage in coaching conversations, they don't focus on providing the right content and tools to help coaches prioritize.
So perhaps it's time to take stock, and make a call -- do you have all three pillars in place? If not, do your sales coaching conversations flourish?
Share you feedback with me. I am still gathering research inputs into this important topic.
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