By now it’s no secret that proper sales coaching is crucial to the success of a sales team. In fact, experts say that “the most important role of the manager is that of sales coach.” Implementing sales coaching within your organization can bring dramatic improvements in performance. But, sometimes it is easier said than done. To help you effectively coach your team, we’ve compiled the biggest sales coaching mistakes you must avoid making.
1. Sharing the “What” but not Coaching the “How”
One of the most common coaching mistakes occurs when managers toss their reps a target number and expect them to reach it. If you fail to provide a specific path to a goal, reps will either create their own methods or disregard it completely. When setting a goal, you must share both how to accomplish it and the reasoning behind it. This not only builds a foundation for reaching the goal faster, it provides specific, coachable steps to take.
For example, if you ask your team upsell five accounts by the end of the month, create guidelines around what accounts to look at, determine the contacts to engage, provide direction on types of conversations to have, and how to handle possible objections.
2. Not Defining Key Behaviors
Fundamentally, any sales process is a series of controllable events that lead to a specific outcome. You can make a major coaching mistake if you don’t define each and every activity within this series. If you don’t, reps will attempt to create their own process, which causes inconsistent performance, missed opportunities, and varying sales tactics as each rep focuses on what he/she deems important at the time.
Imagine if an NFL team took to the field only knowing they had to score, but with no specific play to follow. It would be complete chaos. Every player would go a different direction, each with their own play in mind. The most likely outcome would be something akin to the Jets’ infamous Butt Fumble.
As the sales coach, you should the examine previous wins and structure a specific, actionable sales process. You can use a similar method when targeting accounts. One rep may only sign a few large accounts, while another signs a high volume of small accounts. They both hit goal, but which contributes more value to your organization? You need to define and reward the desirable activities.
3. Treating Every Rep the Same
Yes, sales coaching involves actual coaching, and it must be done on an individual basis to properly optimize team performance. Many sales coaches implement general strategies and benchmarks at a team level. But you must consider the individual abilities of each rep. An NFL coach looking to improve his kicker’s performance would never ask the entire team to participate in his training; each position works within their own specific skillset.
To discover the strengths and weaknesses of each team member, hold conversational one-on-one meetings to discover the strengths and weaknesses of each team member. Only then can you work with them to employ their strengths while improving their limitations.
4. Not Reviewing Priorities
Particularly in small or quick-moving companies, organizational goals and strategies can shift unexpectedly. It’s a mistake to not keep your sales team consistently informed of company happenings. As part of your coaching, create a regular (preferably once a week) meeting to quickly review products/features, marketing strategies, and positioning to ensure everyone is working towards the same goal.
5. Focusing on the Negatives
While learning from mistakes is undeniably important, a good sales coach doesn’t solely focus on what needs to be improved. Instead, highlight the wins and reinforce the positives. Especially in sales, much can be learned from wins, and it’s important to share and learn from the successes. Look for patterns to improve your sales process. Since most of the real selling takes place on the phone, sales call recordings can be especially powerful. By using a tool to record calls, you can hear first-hand how a rep worked a deal, dealt with rejections, and handled negotiations.
Furthermore, an emphasis on the negative can degrade company culture, demotivate employees, and lead to high turnover. Imagine a World Series team without the champagne in the locker room. Not much fun, right?
6. Measuring Anything and Everything
Tools to collect and analyze data have transformed sales. They now allow us to truly understand and improve our teams. However, many sales managers make the mistake of monitoring anything and everything simply because they can. This leads to clouded vision and a lack of visibility into what actually matters. To properly coach a sales team, select only the metrics that directly contribute to the achievement of your goals. Find the factors that define behaviors you want to reinforce and link them to rewards. These factors can include lead response time, number of calls made, time of day, calls to connect ratio, and more.
7. Focusing only on the Quantitative
By now it’s a fact that a salesperson’s success largely depends on the number of calls made and meetings had. But, what is said during those calls and meetings is also very important. It’s relatively simple to drive a high number of calls or send hundreds of emails and not gain anything without an emphasis on a quality conversations. Again, call recordings can help you coach the qualitative actions your reps are taking in order to improve performance.
8. Not Being Consistent
One of the biggest, yet most easily avoidable sales coaching mistakes is a lack of consistency. You should ensure that you don’t only coach your team when you feel there is a need. Sales coaching is an ongoing process of constant improvement. Your education and training programs should be linear and focus only on improving one or two factors at a time. After those have been improved, you can move to the next metric you want to coach.