Sales coaching is a relatively new concept and can be a bamboozling concept for most people. Is some slightly overweight guy going to blow a whistle in my ear when I don’t make a sale?
For most businesses owners coaching is rightly looked at with concern as to whether it will actually make a difference. Can a 1hour weekly session really make a difference for your business.
In this article we will explore:
- What is sales coaching?
- Is it a good fit for your business?
- how do you find the best one for you?
- What are the alternatives to sales coaching?
- Do you need a sales coaching or a sales manager?
What is sales coaching?
A sales coach is someone with specific expertise or experience in sales who can help you or sales people improve the number of sales you make.
In business there are lots of things that can improve sales, but how you or your sales people engage with other people during a sales conversation is really important. If you in a business which is investing heavily in lead generation, sales coaching can help you get high conversion rates.
This typically comes from helping improve the actual sales team. It has been shown that sales person can become rusty if they do not do a sales call within 12 hours. So this is where sales training is encouraged every day. be clearer in the way they communicate, and ensuring that they are in position to get things moving al
Great sales coaches will help you design a sales process which will reduce the friction you may experience from a customer, and will help you design and implement training for your team.
Why is it important?
Sales coaching is probably one of the biggest missed opportunity in business today.
Naturally the most common use of the word coach is within a sporting context. In this environment coaches will:
- Provide direction to the athlete
- Create specific training plans
- Talk and debrief performances with the athlete
- Identify strengths and weakness of the athlete
- Create strateiges which work with the abilities of the athlete
- Work as an extension of the Owner / Team Manager to ensure specific skills are developed
- Provide support and care for an athlete
- Design a strategy to beat a competitor
Why would you use a coach, rather than go it alone?
In business, especially when a business is bootstrapping an entrepreneur or a small team will likely have low resources so going it alone without sales coaching is always very attractive.
It is possible to use online videos and books (as discussed in more detail below) to help fix sales challenges and these can be really helpful.
If you are not in a position to invest in sales coaching, simply modelling your approaches, or reaching out to competitors to study how they do things are low cost, and highly effective ways to increase results.
Sales coaching in its entity is designed to be deliver so it is specific to the exact needs of your business.
Each business can have its intacies and often it is difficult for an entreprenuer to see their “blind spots”. This makes it very difficult to “coach yourself”. Dan Pena, a serial entrpreneur and Master Coach, says it is impossible to become a high performer on your own.
He specifically notes the importance of mentors which in many ways is what a sales coach also provides to either an entrepreneur or a sales person / team more widely.
The most common reason for not engaging a sales coach are:
- Concerns about quality
- Suitability for your business / industry
- Not able to find one in your area
Common pitfalls with sales coaching:
Most businesses only invest in sales coaching when sales are not coming in, and are looking to improve sales.
This approach however is like a AFL team only training when they lose.
If they did that, there results would be inconsistent and naturally be more likely to increase the chances of losing more regualrly.
Sales coaching is probably most effective to deploy when your business is winning, or is generating revenue, as it provides time to inbed practices, and creates a culture of continuous improvement which is a foundation for growing a business successfully.
Embedding a strong culture of improvement and high performacne will also help you counter act down turns in your industry and keep your work force more motivated, for longer, and increase output even when times are good.
Can I just read a book?
According to amazon there are hundreds of books written on the topic of selling (https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Books-Sales-Selling/zgbs/books/2712/ref=zg_bs_pg_2?_encoding=UTF8&pg=2). The value of the books is undeniable and these can be a great way to pick up hints, tips and tricks about increasing sales, and sales people should be encouraged to read widely about their field.
Sales Coaching allows you to access information in a more timely, and more relevant fashion, especially if this coaching is delivered live. This is because the specifics of your business, and the details of your wider strategy can be factored in.
It also prevents having to spend hours reading to find the information, so for entrepreneurs and startups who are busy with 101 other things, it can be a particularly effective way to speed up the results you want to realise from your team.
Who can benefit from sales coaching?
Most business can benefit from extra sales, however coaching is typically suited to scenarios who have a sales conversation with a customer (for example: where human interaction is required or utilised).
If you have a business which is a fully digital approach then a Digital Sales Specialist or a Digital Marketing specialist is more suited to assist. This is because Sales Coaching typically focuses on the human interactions between two people / group of people.
What results does sales coaching produce
The specific result that you realise from sales coaching is highly dependant on the focus and outcomes that you want to see.
Key results of sales coaching are:
- Identify how to communicate and clarify the portrayal of the customer:
This result is achieve by helping the company change the way they talk about a product. It is common for most companies to talk about what their product is and how it works rather than focusing on the RESULT your product will produce
- Implement a sales process which works:
Non-sales people who try to sell typically think that the best information will simply sell a product. This may be true for low value sales, however as soon as you increase the price or work on higher value deals these needs change. Selling and helping a client identify the differences and needs of your business become therefore far more important.
- Increase the number of sales that you make:
If you are having sales conversations, or your team are having sales conversations, it is common that the sales people do next to no practice of those conversations. This means that they tend to only practice on your potential clients rather than getting the sloppy mistake done before the call. By helping sales people practice before going on to a call this can have a dramatic impact on the results which your sales team produce
- Improve the culture of your sales team
Sales teams stereotypically operate with a cut throat and aggressive culture as the commission structure often incenitvised this behaviour. Equally, if you have recurring clients, it is easy for sales people to become lazy or maybe they have a large account which means they are less encouraged to go and chase clients. Coaching can help create high performance sales cultures
- Help you overcome mental challenges or blockages you have around sales
Selling is 90% mental, and coaching is a proven way to help unblock concerns or worries you have about sales.
- Save your money, and help you reward you team smarter
Sales coaches often have a diverse experience of industries and get exposure to the smallest and largest companies in the world. This makes them uniquely positioned to be able to implement creative payment structures which can save businesses money, increase productivity, and improve team satisfaction.
How does sales coaching work?
There are different methodologies but most courses follow a similar concept:
- Step 1 : Understand: learn about your business
- Step 2: Diagnose: work out the major issues, and the key things in the sales process which can be cahnges or fixed
- Step 3: Train: this is where new skills or new approaches are fleshed out. This could be for example adopting a new sales script, or to help sales people overcome objections in different ways
- Step 4: Embed: this is typically the most critical part as new behaviours can be difficult to adopt when they are unfamiliar. This section is where the
- Step 5: Learn & Repeat: Once you apply the new approaches in the market you will get real world feedback. As you get this feedback data the sales coach will then repeat Steps 1 – 5.
Sales Coaching is often a combination of taught material, developing new skills through practice, as well as mindset shifts.
These changes are made through coaching conversations (usually 1-on-1) or in a small group environment.
To really embed and have the results of Sales Coaching pay off long term it is important to have the people being coach to on goingly train and develop their skills with repetition.
A common myth about coaching is that once you have had a coaching session then you are “fixed”. This is like the same as saying that once you have had a shower once, you never need to shower again.
Put simply, the best results, just like with showering is that you repeat these behaviours again and again on a daily basis.
What are the key skills you can develop through sales coaching?
When working on sales coaching you will find that you will get feedback and an external perspective on how you come across during your sales interactions.
Some of the most common skills they develop are:
- Improved ability to communicate in a way which grabs people’s attentions
- Increased ability to handle the stress of sales
- Stronger mindset
- Stronger ability to influence another person to do something
- More focused on results
- Change in behaviour towards sales behaviour which delivers results for the team
- Increased ability to overcome or handle objections and overcome concerns presented by a buyer
- Increase self confidance
- Increased enjoyment at work as their skills improve and producing results becomes easier
- Improved ability to listen to others
- Improved ability to identify the needs and wants of other people
- Increased work ethic
- Increased ability to make complicated things in a simple way
- Expanded comfort zone
- Improved mindset about tackling new challenges
- Increase likeability of people
What are the major problems with sales coaching?
There are 2 main areas where sales coaching. These are:
- The Sales Coach:
These days it is difficult to identify or work out who are the best sales coaches out there. The internet has seen a huge variety of sales coaches come out of the woodwork, and it can be difficult to work out who are the best people for your company.
For tips on this see how to select the right Sales Coach for your business <<LINK TO SECTION ON PAGE>>
- The Person being Coached
Coaching is a very personal thing, and takes a commitment to change and improvement from both the Coach and the Coachee (the person being coached). It can be difficult for Coachee’s to hear feedback especially when the sales person may think they are doing things well.
Mindset plays a huge part in the success of coaching arrangements. A good Sales Coach will be able to impact that however and have strategies to help train this in their coachee.
- Your team:
Often if you are bringing in a sales coach to help your sales team, individuals can respond in different ways. Some employees react badly to a sales coach as sometimes they may feel threatened or worried.
Sales people are often outgoing people, with large egos. Having a sales coach (who may be considered as an expert) sales people can often become competitive and want to prove the sales coach is wrong.
Because of these risks managing the introduction of coach to a team is really important, and is critical to focus on confirming that the sales coach is there to support and help the whole team make more money rather than to tell the sales people they are wrong or to find fault
Is sales coaching the right fit for me?
Is it worth the investment?
Should I hire a Sales Coach or a Sales Manager?
Is every sales the coach the same?
Unfortunately not. Some coaches focus on training the mass market (so sales people who work in large corporates and bigger institutions.
Others provide more boutique services, and others are simply brand new and so lack experience.
Whilst age is less important, the only way to assess a sales coach is on the results that they have achieved for their clients.
What if my competitors have used the sames sales coach?
Sales Coaching is becoming increasingly popular, especially as new start up businesses are starting up and many of these people have little or no experience in sales.
When you meet with a Sales Coach you should ask whether they have worked with any companies similar to yours, and whether there are any conflicts of interest. Sales Coaches have strict guidelines and agreements about confidentiality within companies so in some cases they may not be able to work with your company for certain periods.
Working with a Sales Coach who has worked with a competitor can be very useful however, especially as this can give you great insight into how your competitors are selling their products and services.
Are their privacy issues?
Typically no, however it is important to be mindful that Sales Coaches do work with different companies. If you are concerned about privacy raise this with the Sales Coach before you start working with them. This way you can ensure any contract that you draw up with them will ensure you privacy is protected.
If I want to become a sales coach what should I do?
For people who want to become a slaes coach it is often best to build up your experience by coaching friends or contacts you have for little or no money. This way you can develop your skill set and better understand the challenges that you face when coaching.
Sales coaching can be a stressful career as you are often under a high amount of pressure to produce results quickly, and working with people who may or may not want to actually work with you (especially if you are starting to work with full sales teams)
Once you have developed a track record you are then in a position to help other clients, and your can look to find other businesses who are looking to achieve similar results to what you have achieved with other businesses.
Can a Sales Coach help me with Marketing as well?
How does a Business coach vary from a sales coach?
How to select a Sales Coach for your business:
- Look at a someone who has success either in your industry or across multiple sectors
Selling is often similar (because people are involved) across multiple different industries. Whilst they may not have experience in your sector this can work in your favour depending on the results you are looking to achieve, and whether you are trying to escape the “industry norms” of your own sector
- Proven Track Record: it is important for a sales coach to be able to show how they have success time and time again. Remember when hiring a Sales Coach that there are multiple reason to why sales can go up and down, so do not be shy about asking about how they created those results in detail.
- Testimonials: request or ensure you read the testamonials of the sales coach. It is easy to say they have worked with lots of people. Are these people shown on their website. Naturally, due to the nature of business not all companies want to disclose that they have been working with a specific coach for privacy reasons. Good Sales Coaches will have a number of clients that you can speak with, and talk about their experience.
- Likeability: It is important that you and your team like and respond well to the coach you engage with. Personalities are really important and getting a coach which gels with your team is important for all parties (coach, coachees and the business results)
- Be prepared for change: good sales coaches are people who have a track record of success, and so are high performing leaders in their industry. Theyre ability to produce results is dependent on you providing clear direction to the Coach, and ensuring your team know that you stand behind the track record of the Coach.
How do I get my team on board with a new sales coach?
Some sales people can respond badly to a sales coach, because sales people have traditionally large egos, or can feel threatened by outside input. This is especially if a sales person does not have experience of working with a coach.
Experienced coaches will be able to overcome and deal with these issues early on in an engagement,
Step 1 – ask: which area of sales they would like to improve?
Step 2 – ask: what have they done to solve this challenge?
Step 3 – ask them if they would be open to bringing in a specialist to help solve this or come up with some new material.
Then bring in the Sales Coach for a trial.
How much should I pay for sales coaching:
- Flat Fee: depending on the nature of work a flat fee for sales coaching can make sense, and can sometimes be delivered on an hour by hour basis. Sales coaching varies depending on sector and experience but typically goes from $400 up to $2,000 an hour.
- Base Fee + Commission: this structure can work well for longer engagements, where a longer time commitment is required to help build up to results. Typically Sales Coaches are comfortable with commission arrangements so will be willing to make a deal with you. Often the more experienced a Sales Coach, this is often a less prefered route because a Sales Coach is being asked to carry a large amount of the risk on whether the company or the sales team actually follow their advice.
- Coaching Programme : This is where you may buy a package of coaching services which might be a set of 10 – 20 coaching sessions. Due to the consistancy this can often work out better than a hourly rate.
- Online Package: for smaller companies or