What is sales coaching?

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Every salesperson in your company represents an investment in your business' success. DePaul University has estimated that it costs approximately $115,000 to replace a sales representative, and that number has almost certainly gone up in the 10 years since that report came out.

Sales training is an important part of helping those reps to perform well, but it isn’t the end of the story. To help each rep reach their individual potential and excel, businesses need to offer quality sales coaching.

How are sales training and sales coaching different?

Sales training is topic-focused and much more of a one-way conversation. A sales trainer explains a particular skill or skill set, sometimes offering structured exercises to help the trainee practice.

A sales training program may target new hires or sales reps who need development in a particular area, perhaps an area of common weakness or something that’s related to a developing best practice. It may be one-on-one, but it’s just as likely to be a group endeavor.

Sales coaching, on the other hand, focuses on overall professional development. It’s an ongoing one-on-one process that’s customized to the needs of the individual sales rep.

Some sales organizations use coaching to bring up the performance of low achievers, but it can do much more than that. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, it often has the biggest impact on your middle-of-the-road reps.

These mid-performing reps understand the basics and have the potential to succeed. What they need is customized sales coaching that can help them capitalize on their strengths and improve on their weaknesses.

What are the responsibilities of a sales coach?

An effective coaching program helps each sales professional perform at their best. That needs to be every coach’s overarching goal, with the following objectives underlying it:

1. Develop each rep’s strengths and improve on their weaknesses

Even if your entire sales organization goes through the same training, each rep will have different strengths and weaknesses. The sales coach’s job is to identify what those are and use them to formulate goals for the coaching process.

2. Encourage reps to reflect on their sales performance

Unlike sales training, which has a pre-set agenda, sales coaching lets you work with a rep based on their current performance. The best way to do this is to record your team’s sales calls and have the sales manager go back through them:

  • On their own, to identify points for improvement and moments of greatness
  • ‌During the coaching conversation to review what the salesperson is doing well, where they’ve improved, and where there’s room for growth

The coach should always focus on how the individual sales rep relates to the caller. Encourage the rep to notice when they:

  • ‌Respond naturally to what the caller says, instead of trying to hit points in a script
  • ‌Allow natural pauses so the caller can think of questions and responses
  • ‌Take into account the caller’s sentiment and tone of voice

‌Another great technique is to use recordings of your best calls as examples — with the permission of the recorded salesperson, of course.

3. Put the rep in the driver’s seat

Sales training is teaching — telling sales reps what they should do and informing them when they’re doing it right or wrong. Coaching isn’t teaching. It’s about providing guidance and support so that the sales rep can learn to figure things out for themselves.

Coaching is about the rep’s professional development on an individual level. It’s about nurturing a team that can reflect on their own performance, notice in real-time when something’s going right or wrong, and adjust to make a good call better or recover a bad one.

4. Hold each rep accountable for their growth

Performance analysis and goal setting are just the beginning. A sales coach also needs to provide accountability so that reps continue working on their skills in between sessions.

At the beginning of every sales coaching session, the coach should ask about progress — whether the salesperson met their goals, as well as how they approached any challenges.

What are the top strategies for sales coaching?

An effective sales coaching model can turn an average-performing rep into a sales leader. These are the best practices that will help you get there.

Create specific, customized goals for each rep. Sales coaching is all about growth, so use your reps’ performance to set benchmarks for where you want them to be in the future. Whenever possible, use specific, time-based goals (by next month, by next week, etc.).

Develop the individual to develop the team. While coaches work individually with sales reps, one of their most important jobs is to develop the team as a whole. That means making sure that each rep sees themselves not as a self-contained entity, but as part of a group.

Embrace question-asking and self-evaluation. When a representative spends time reflecting on their own performance in coaching, they’re more likely to do the same on the floor.

Use sales reps’ past performance to help them improve. As much as possible, coaches should draw from recorded calls to help reps reflect on their performance and progress. Create a consistent coaching experience by comparing more recent calls to past ones, so the salesperson can track their progress.

To implement this kind of effective sales coaching, however, you need the right tools. CallRail lets you record all of your incoming and outgoing calls, and it saves those recordings so you can refer back to them at any time.

Call recording can transform your sales coaching process, and the best way to see how is to try it out. Schedule a 14-day free trial today and find out how CallRail can transform your sales strategy.