The 3 Types of Sales Coaching: Self, Peer and Leader-Led

Boxer and coach

The word coach is defined as giving “instruction or advice to in the capacity of a coach.” Interestingly, its roots are traced back to the other meaning of coach – the horse-drawn carriage variety. Wikipedia aptly sums up coaching’s origin like this:

“The first use of the term ‘coach’ in connection with an instructor or trainer arose around 1830 in Oxford University slang for a tutor who ‘carried’ a student through an exam. The word ‘coaching’ thus identified a process used to transport people from where they are to where they want to be. The first use of the term in relation to sports came in 1861.”

Today, our understanding of the word has evolved. In sales, we typically think of coaching as sales leaders mentoring their teams – but experienced sales professionals can benefit from coaching too. Even the most elite athletes in the world still have coaches after breaking records. 

While leaders can and do play an important role, coaching can take a variety of formats.

1. Self-coaching

A prizefighter can learn valuable lessons by watching a video of their previous match. It provides another perspective of the match – without the noise or adrenaline. It’s a chance to pinpoint what worked – and what didn’t. 

This is effectively self-coaching and it can be a powerful tool in sales. Individual sales reps that spend just 3-4 hours per month listening back to sales calls tend to improve their win rate by 5.5%

The key to self-coaching is to approach it with an open mind and balance. For example, you’ve got to be honest with yourself about what you did well and what you didn’t to make improvements. Yet, you must also avoid being overly self-critical – especially when listening back to a call that didn’t go as well as you had hoped.  

Technology can help bring a level of objectivity to self-coaching. Platforms like Jiminny use artificial intelligence (AI) to analyse your call recordings and provide metrics such as:

  • a ratio that describes how many minutes you talk versus listen;
  • the number of questions you ask;
  • the speed at which you talk;
  • your longest monologue; and
  • what we call patience – how long between when you stop and start talking again.

One sales rep we spoke with recently was shocked to learn that she talked 55% of the time on her average sales call. She wanted to listen more and so the AI gave her a metric and a clear goal to work toward – all on her own.

2. Peer coaching

Some sales teams pick one sales call recording to review each week. They listen to the call and come together in a team meeting to talk about what they think went well and what needs improvement. It’s a collaborative effort all done in the spirit of helping each other. We call this approach “self-coaching with accountability.” 

Other teams we’ve spoken with do this a little differently. For example, one team will share snippets from call recordings with each other for review and feedback. We’ve also heard from other sales teams where individual reps will share specific points in a call and ask peers for feedback.  

All of these are examples of peer coaching. Some companies establish peer-coaching as a formal process, while others gravitate towards informal. All these methods have utility – what works best usually comes down to culture and leadership style. However, in our observation, a formal process is usually better for teams that are just getting started with peer coaching. 

Conversation intelligence (CI) has a supporting role to play in peer coaching too. The platform provides a place to leave comments and qualitative remarks at specific points in a call. For example, when a prospect raises a sales objection at a certain point in the recording, a peer might share how they overcame a specific sales objection. 

Some companies take this to a higher level of sophistication and set up a scoring framework. Team members can ask their peers to score and rate their calls within the CI platform. Over time, an individual sales rep can work on the lessons learned and see their scores improve. 

3. Leader-led coaching

Leader-led coaching is the type of coaching that’s probably most familiar. It’s often a one-to-one session between a leader and a team member or a direct report. 

We’ve conducted many workshops for facilitating this type of coaching. Some of the tips we’ve learned along the way for making the most of these sessions include the following:

First, make sure the person you are coaching has a role in your coaching session. For example, if you are reviewing a specific call recording, ask the person you are coaching what they think went well and what needs to be improved before sharing your viewpoint. 

Second, don’t dwell on the negative. If coaching sessions turn into a tough critique – this can have the opposite of the intended effect. A good rule of thumb is to offer both a few compliments and a few constructive criticisms. 

Finally, limit the number of points you want to raise. People can only absorb so much information in a single session, so choose just a few points that you think are most important. 

* * *

While there are best practices in coaching, sales leaders should be encouraged to experiment with variations and innovative hybrid formats. If you need help getting started and are an existing Jiminny customer, you should know we offer training sessions on coaching. Talk to your customer success manager to learn more.

Try Jiminny for free for 14 days. We'll get you set up and in touch with a member of the customer success team for all the support you need.

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