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    What is Sales Coaching?

    by Bill Eckstrom / September 21, 2018

    Sales Coaching And so the articles in HBR, Forbes, Inc., and Fast Company continue...

    Blogs in which consultants pontificate on the benefits of coaching in sales seems to have grown exponentially. Everywhere I turn there is something to hear or read on why sales coaching is so important. 

    We are not complaining here at the Institute, but rather pleased that coaching is getting more attention. Like most markets, the more attention they receive the more awareness there is to products and services offered within the market.  The challenge is to understand what sales coaching is and how it is best done. (Tweet this)

    Sales Coaching

    We have visited with companies who are doing “coaching training”, which involved training managers on how to do pipeline reviews and teach sales people how to forecast accurately. 

    Well guess what? Our research would show that a poor manager spending more time with sales people executing an activity (such as a pipeline review) can inhibit sales performance. Yes, organizations are unknowingly training managers on how to squelch their team’s performance. (Tweet this

    Quick note on our research:

    Through our coaching cloud software, we have tracked over 100,000 manager/sales person coaching interactions to date. We have surveyed nearly 10,000 sales people, front-line managers and executive sales leaders. Five days a week we are on the phone with sales leaders from across the world, teaching, educating, listening to challenges and successes. Does this mean we know it all?  Of course not, which is why we continue to research all levels of people in a sales department.

    Sales Coach vs. Sales Manager

    We use the word “coach” to not only describe activities, but also use it to describe the role.  Without going into detail, a coach better defines what it takes to continually grow a team of people.  Great coaches know how to lead, they know how to motivate, strategize, plan and manage (when appropriate). 

    Let’s now do a quick synopsis of the role of a coach and why coaching matters. 

    Why coach? 

    To create and sustain growth—it is that simple. The success of every coach should be measured by their ability to create and sustain growth. In sales it is an easy measurement—are numbers being hit over time.

    The goal of coaching

    To obtain discretionary effort from those on your team. To further understand what this means, think of this.  We know that sales people will still sell without a coach. So, the value a coach brings to a team of sales people is how much more is sold because of the coach.

    If a team of sales people can produce 10 million dollars without a coach, they should produce 14 million dollars with a coach. The 4 million differential is created by the discretionary effort the coach created via their actions and behaviors with the sales people (it is also the economic value of a coach).

    What is sales coaching? 
    Said another way, sales coaching is the act of improving the coaching ability of the manager, not the sales person. (Tweet this

    What should coaches do? 

    Here is where there are too many tasks and duties to mention, but what we have learned is there are five primary, high-growth activities a coach can execute that when done consistently and done well, create the most discretionary effort.  You can read about those activities here          

    And while those coaching activities shouldn’t be rocket science to any leader at any level, the key is knowing how often they occur and how well they are being executed. For example, most executive leaders will say their front-line managers are supposed to be doing one-to-one meetings with their sales people.  However, our research would indicate they are being held only 60% of the time and only 30% strongly believe their manager brings great value to the meetings.

    Every manager knows they should be joining sales people while on a sales call, but nobody tracks how often this is happening nor if the coach is providing feedback that will help the sales person sell more.  Plus, how often is the coach guilty of taking over the sales call? This is one of the biggest complaints we hear on our survey, and nobody knows because nobody is measuring.

    The attention to "coaching" in the sales market place is not only warranted, but long over-due. However, until sales departments stop treating it like a soft-skill and put some teeth behind coaching initiatives by measuring coaching quality and quantity, it will just be a nice to read article in a respected journal. 

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    Bill Eckstrom

    Bill Eckstrom

    William Eckstrom is the CEO and Founder of the EcSell Institute. Bill has spent his entire career in the sales management and leadership arena. In 2008, he founded the EcSell Institute to fill a void he witnessed and personally experienced in the sales leadership profession. He's went on to present a viral TEDx Talk and co-authored the best-selling book, "The Coaching Effect."