Today’s post is by Meghan Steiner, director of marketing at Richardson Sales Training. Meghan manages all demand generation and sales enablement efforts within the organization with the goal of creating new business opportunities.
Coaching presents a vital opportunity for managers to reinforce training and on-the-job learning with their direct reports. The problem for many companies is determining how best to integrate coaching programs into their organizations. They struggle with such questions as
- Who should coach, and what behaviors should they be encouraging?
- How can they implement coaching programs across the organization?
- Where should they target their efforts and resources to be most effective?
Training Industry, Inc., and Richardson teamed up to find out how organizations across industries are supporting sales coaching. In late 2015, respondents from 266 companies completed a confidential survey about their coaching programs. Nearly three-quarters of the respondents – 74 percent – said their programs were “very” or “somewhat” effective, and 51 percent of those who rated sales coaching as “very” effective also said they “always” used sales coaching in the past year.
Just as important, the research revealed the following seven best practices.
- Practice makes perfect
Effective coaching programs are frequent coaching programs. When coaching is implemented regularly, it becomes embedded in the organizational culture as a valued support network for individuals – who know they can turn to their coaches for support and guidance.
- Formalized structure
A formal sales coaching program structure establishes a set time for both the coach and the employee to meet, while tempering any uncertainty as to the form and function of the coaching dynamic. Leadership buy-in becomes easier with a structured approach because it supports the business through specific goals and objectives.
- Identify the right coaches
Companies with effective sales coaching programs use external professionals, leaders, and high performers as coaches. Designating who serves as coach – whether an internal or external candidate – is a critical component of any program.
- Prepare coaches for success
Coaches are responsible for directing employee behavior to improve performance. This means coaches must be well versed in what the company offers customers as well as possess deep knowledge of the sales process and linkages to business outcomes. They also need the tools and skills to coach their people effectively.
- Gamification of coaching
Adding game elements to coaching programs serves to increase employee engagement, while healthy competition and more public accountability promote adherence to the behaviors being coached.
- Support through multiple modalities
Coaching sessions should be only one of many touchpoints between a coach and employee. There are multiple delivery methods through which coaches can suggest further learning resources and tools employees can use as they take responsibility for developing proficiencies in targeted areas.
- Generational appropriateness
The most effective coaching programs address the different needs of employees, regardless of their age or experience – bridging the gap between sales training and field experience through the most appropriate means, whether virtual or face to face.
The respondents who completed the survey represent a range of industries, organizational sizes, functional areas, and job titles. What this indicates is the universal value of sales coaching in supporting behaviors that lead to better short-term results and long-term business outcomes.
Coaching is an interactive process, person to person, that reinforces training and enhances in-role performance. What is being managed in a coaching dynamic is not necessarily outcomes and results, but the behaviors and strategies that ultimately drive results. By implementing these best practices in sales coaching across the workforce, companies gain an effective structure for improving performance of individuals, teams, and the overall organization.