Abstract graphic of circles, dots, triangles, and lines on a blue background

8 Tips to deliver personalized sales coaching

What is sales coaching?

The subject of sales coaching is often a controversial one. A quick internet search will be enough to give you many, often contrasting definitions, and among all the different terminology – sales training, sales coaching, sales mentoring, etc. – it is easy to get confused. In this article, we will shed some light on the matter and offer guidance on how to deliver effective, personalized sales coaching.

What is the difference between coaching, training, and mentoring?

Gartner defines sales training as “the process by which a company trains the front-line commercial staff to drive engagement, effectiveness and ongoing development”. Sales training is the general guidance a sales team receives regarding selling techniques, the specific products or services they need to sell, the target segment(s), company values and culture, and so on. It is normally done as part of the onboarding of new sales reps and whenever there is new information to share with sellers: for example, an update on products/services, a change in company values or market positioning, new selling techniques, etc.

Sales coaching normally comes after training and analyzes how sellers implement in practice the theories they’ve learned during their training. Sales coaching aims at identifying best practices to share and reinforce company-wide, as well as areas of improvement to work on, in order to achieve certain goals. Effective sales coaching is based on data; it analyzes the sales process and its results to find out what’s working and what isn’t. It should also be customized to fit the specific objectives a company intends to achieve and, by monitoring the corresponding metrics, it can be delivered at the point of need, offering a unique advantage compared to sales training.

Sales mentoring is normally done on a one-to-one basis by an experienced seller or sales manager. It focuses on individual sellers and teaches them how to improve in specific areas they might be struggling with, or what steps to take to progress in their career. While sales coaching is mostly based on company goals, sales mentoring focuses on the individual seller’s goals.

Who are the sales coaches and what do they do?

Depending on the size and set-up of a business, sales coaching can be done internally (sometimes, in smaller companies, by sales managers or sales leaders), or it can be necessary to hire external, qualified sales coaches. Rather than teaching generalized strategies, sales coaches work together with sales managers and sales reps to identify unique trouble spots and plan a strategy for improvement.

In other words, sales coaches analyze a sales team’s unique way of selling and customize their teaching accordingly to deliver personalized sales coaching.

Whether internal or external, sales coaches should have a clear understanding of the goals the company intends to achieve and work in alignment with sales management. If there is no communication between sales coaches and sales managers, sellers might get different directions from them and will not know which ones to follow.

Why is sales coaching important?

Harvard Business Review claims that no other productivity investment comes close to coaching in improving sellers’ performance. Yet, research by Gartner shows that only 40% of sellers report they work within a well-established coaching culture at their organization. In these difficult times, with the looming threat of an economic recession, companies are limiting their expenses, and many don’t see sales coaching as something worth investing in – or at least it’s not in their top priorities.

However, effective, personalized sales coaching can bring several benefits to an organization, such as:

  • Improved productivity of the sales team – According to Harvard Business Review, the best-quality coaching can improve performance up to 19% in the core performers.
  • Higher number and value of deals closed – Coaching improves the skills and techniques of sales reps, thus maximizing their chances of selling and up-selling.
  • Better customer experience – Sellers who are well prepared are able to answer customers’ questions, advise them effectively, and meet their expectations.
  • Increased employee retention – Clear guidance and the knowledge that the company is investing time and resources in sellers’ professional development are incentives for employees to stay with the company.

Delivering effective sales coaching doesn’t have to be difficult. We have listed below a few tips that can help you offer great-quality, personalized sales coaching that improves the performance of your sales team.

How to deliver effective, personalized sales coaching

1. Let data be your guide

  1. Let data be your guide

One of the main differences between sales training and sales coaching is that the latter is based on data. Sales coaches utilize performance data to tailor their coaching to the specific sales team and their way of working. Analyzing the company’s sales process and sellers’ performance against the company’s goals enables coaches to identify the techniques and practices that give the best results, as well as behaviors that need to be avoided or changed in order to improve sales results.

2. Upgrade your tech stack with coaching tools

It might be worth investing in sales coaching tools that help both with tracking performance and with teaching new skills and techniques. You can find dedicated sales coaching software or more generic sales tools, such as sales enablement platforms, that include sales training and coaching features. Do your research to find out which one suits your needs best but, in general, a sales coaching platform should include:

  • A content library where all teaching materials can be stored and easily accessed by sellers when needed
  • Calls/meeting recording capabilities for coaching and research purposes
  • Automatic data collection from meetings, ideally with integrations to your CRM
  • Possibility to customize coaching plans according to sellers’ specific needs
  • Automatic reporting and analytics tools
  • Possibility of tracking progress towards goals

3. Listen before you teach

It is important to speak with the sales team and listen to their concerns, goals, and aspirations, so you can provide them with the personalized coaching they need. Especially for external coaches, it is important to learn about the company and its goals and challenges, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the sales team, and customers’ needs and pain points. Well-prepared coaches who actively listen to sellers demonstrate empathy and earn trust and respect. Letting sellers set their own goals is also a great way to increase motivation – make sure, of course, that those goals are aligned with the company’s!

4. Find the right balance between correcting and praising

Personalized sales coaching – when done well – should boost the motivation of the sales teams, which in itself helps improve performance. Correcting bad practices and mistakes without being critical can be difficult, but if you don’t find the right balance you risk bringing down sellers’ morale, thus damaging their performance and increasing the risk of employees’ churn. For the same reason, it is equally important to praise sellers when they get good results. A study from the American Psychological Association found that feeling valued at work improves people’s well-being and performance.

5. There is no 'one-size-fits-all' coaching technique

Each salesperson has unique strengths, weaknesses, learning styles and preferences. What works well for one salesperson may not work as effectively for another. Therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach to coaching is not ideal. Using an array of various teaching techniques enables you to identify what works best for each seller, which will make them feel valued and respected as individuals. Moreover, by varying coaching techniques, coaches can also keep salespeople engaged and motivated.

6. Align with sales management

As already highlighted above, sales coaches and sales managers should align their coaching efforts to ensure that the sales team is working together effectively and efficiently towards common goals. Sales coaches should work closely with sales managers to understand the organization’s overall sales strategy, goals, and objectives. By aligning their coaching efforts with the sales manager’s priorities, coaches can provide personalized sales coaching that helps salespeople to achieve their goals and contribute to the overall success of the team.

When sales managers and sales coaches are on the same page, sellers receive consistent direction and support from both.

7. Make coaching an ongoing process

By aligning their coaching efforts, sales coaches and sales managers can create a culture of continuous learning and improvement that drives sales success. Make coaching a continuous process by monitoring sellers’ progress to ensure they keep developing their skills and reach their goals. Keeping a close eye on your sales team will enable you to identify trends and patterns in their way of working that help you to shape your teachings accordingly to provide personalized sales coaching.

8. Analyze metrics to measure success

Like any business strategy, sales coaching requires the analysis of key performance indicators to measure its effectiveness. The measuring stage is crucial as it gives useful insights on which techniques are working best, and it should be done on a regular basis to enable coaches to act in a timely manner and provide support when it’s most needed.

The metrics to track can be varied and depend on the company goals, but here are a few to consider:

  1. Sales performance metrics: e.g., revenue generated, deals closed, size of deals, sales cycle length, quota attainment, number and frequency of up-sells.
  2. Coaching engagement metrics: e.g., number of sessions completed, attendance rates, participants’ feedback.
  3. Employee satisfaction metrics: e.g., retention rates, employees’ feedback, eNPS.
  4. ROI metrics: e.g., cost of coaching compared to revenue generated.

Final thoughts

Sales coaching is the continuous teaching and guidance of a sales team in order to refine their skills, improve performance and productivity, and help them achieve goals.

To be effective, sales coaching should be based on objective data and customized to fit the unique needs, goals, and selling process of the specific sales team.

Successful, personalized sales coaching brings many benefits to a company, including greater productivity of the sales team, higher revenue, improved customer experience, and increased employee retention.

There are lots of tools and software that can facilitate the implementation of continuous sales coaching. Prezentor interactive presentations, for example, let you incorporate sales training in pitch decks and keep sellers educated.

Learn how Carl Ras trained their sellers to be able to answer all questions during meetings.