7 Reasons Why Your 2018 Sales Coaching Initiative Will Fail

2018 is shaping up to be the Year of Coaching. More and more sales thought leaders are coming to the conclusion that robust coaching programs can make a huge difference in win rate, quota attainment, and overall revenue. Coaching your sales team has become non-negotiable.

Knowing that you should create and maintain a coaching program is easier said than done.  While it is definitely something that has to be done, that doesn’t mean that every sales leader is ready or has the resources to make it happen.  To help, I have put together a list of common pitfalls—actions that will sabotage any coaching program.  

You won’t be consistent.  Don’t cancel a single scheduled coaching session. It sends the message that coaching isn’t important, it disturbs the cadence of your program and it invalidates goals that have been set with deadlines. Keeping to a schedule, on the other hand, shows your team that you are committed to their success and that you share in their efforts to achieve it.

  • Schedule sessions and stick to them.
  • Never cancel a session.
  • Starting a coaching program and then not seeing it through is worse than never starting it in the first place.

You won’t set achievable, activity-based goals.  Most leaders fall into the trap of setting goals around outcomes. Rather than set a goal of “10 new deals,” it’s far more constructive to create a goal around the activities that support that outcome.  For instance, you could set a goal to move 10 deals out of the proposal stage.  And if there are specific skills or activities associated with moving those deals, make those the goal.  In fact, if you are running a robust, dynamic coaching program, your reps should suggest their own goals, based on the improvements they want to make. Coachability is key here.

  • Ensure that the goals you set are measurable.
  • Set goals based on the activities and/or skills associated with your desired outcomes.
  • Collaborate with your reps to set goals that you both buy into.

You’ll focus on the wrong things. You’ve got to know what to coach your individual reps on.  You have to be relevant to them, to their needs. Don’t mix up your overall goals with those of the reps.  Your overall goals are strategic for the company.  Your reps’ goals should be tactical in support of those larger strategies.

  • Know your reps and their needs well enough to coach them on relevant things. A generic goal won’t get any traction with them.
  • Don’t focus on the past. Spend less than 10 minutes on what was. Spend your time on future concerns and your plans for addressing them.
  • Look to the “holy trinity” of indicators (# of starts, $ of opportunities, and velocity) to find areas for improvement. If the top of the funnel looks light, what are the activities and skills you can coach to help fill it? If a rep is slow, how can you help them move deals quicker? Find the gaps and help fill them.

You won’t coach the right people. “Move the middle” has become outdated. The fact is, you can help any segment of your team to level-up (move from one segment to the next) and make positive impact on your sales as a whole.  And it’s not just in revenue gains: engagement and turnover are affected at different rates and can represent

  • Segment your team.
  • Coach each group differently with the ultimate goal of moving each group up one category.
  • Don’t leave your Stars alone. Helping them to improve will make the biggest impact of any group.

You won’t level up as a leader. It’s just as important to intentionally improve your own skills as a coach as it is to get your team to improve. More efficient, focused coaching leads to better rapport and collaboration with your reps.

  • Spend a portion of your time becoming a better coach.
  • Concentrate your efforts where they will make the most difference for your team.

You won’t leverage your assets.  You should take advantage of everything at your disposal. That includes your LMS or other training tools and your reps themselves. Your most successful reps can be mentors. Where one rep is weak, another may be strong.

  • Take advantage of all your training materials.
  • Use video when possible. Make your own. Most people learn visually.
  • Use senior reps for ride-alongs and to jump in on difficult calls.

You’ll confuse coaching with training. Coaching is about reinforcing what your reps have already learned in training. It’s about a constant, measured approach to reinforcement. It isn’t about holding a pipeline review or a disciplinary meeting. Coaching is a one-on-one activity where current performance is assessed and enhanced.

Luckily, these pitfalls can be avoided with planning and commitment. A dedicated coach can build a program that anticipates challenges and is designed to overcome them. With each problem solved, your coaching program will become stronger and the results will follow. You can expect higher win rates, better quota attainment and an overall increase in sales revenue (see the CSO Insights study here).

It also helps to have a coaching technology in place to automate processes and find insights. Pinpointing an individual rep’s specific needs is much easier if you have a way to expose those needs and segmenting your team is a lot simpler if you have a good way to visualize the data. Good coaching technology will allow you to experiment with “what if” scenarios so that your reps can see what their efforts will achieve and you can get their buy-in on goals.  Segmenting your team is much easier if you can see your reps in groups based on their performance.  To that end, select a solution that will provide insights into a rep’s processes, comparing the rep with the team and assessing individual strengths and area for improvement.

With these things in mind, 2018 can be much more than the Year of Coaching, it can be the year that you establish and grow a complete, robust coaching program that enables intentional improvement and helps you and your reps to level-up.  That kind of program can truly change behaviors, companies and careers.

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