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The new rise of sales coaching

  • Feb 22, 2024
  • 4 minutes

Sales performance coaching has seen a real uptick in interest lately, with global Google searches for the term “sales coaching” increasing by 15% over the past year (and at the time of writing, a 34% increase in the last week!). 

As a life-long sales coaching advocate, I’m filled with hope and excitement seeing this.

It points to a new demand for quality coaching in sales teams - but what's driving this trend, and how can we as sales leaders capitalize on it?

What is sales coaching?

Before diving into the reasons behind the rise of sales coaching, let's define what exactly sales coaching is. Sales coaching is a process of ongoing feedback, and mentoring provided to reps by their sales leaders and managers. It involves observing sales interactions, providing constructive feedback, asking open-ended questions that provoke the rep to think and helping salespeople continually improve their skills.

The goals of sales coaching are to:

  • Enhance sales skills and knowledge
  • Improve sales behaviors and habits
  • Boost salesperson confidence and motivation
  • Increase sales performance

When done consistently and effectively, coaching helps salespeople reach their full potential. But you need to know what it is - as sales coaching is very different to sales training. In a recent call with a customer, they explained they thought they’d been coaching their team for years, but once they began working with us, they realized they “hadn’t coached a day in [their] life”!

Why sales teams need coaching

With the evolution of new technologies and buying processes, selling has become more complex than ever. Sales teams need strong, frequent coaching to:

  • Master evolving sales strategies for today's buyer journey
  • Stay sharp and prevent bad habits from forming
  • Adapt to changing products, markets, and customer needs
  • Overcome obstacles, objections, and rejections
  • Strengthen consultative selling and relationship-building skills

Continuous coaching helps keep skills fresh, improves team performance, and drives better sales results over time.

The recent rise in demand for sales coaching

If sales coaching has been around since the dawn of selling - and that’s a long time - what explains the renewed interest in sales coaching today?

I believe a few key factors are likely driving this trend.

#1 Budget restrictions mean managers are spending less on sales tools and considering alternative or cheaper ways to achieve their goals. Investing in sales coaching can pay dividends, even with just a few hours per week. I reckon reduced budgets have inspired the minds of a wave of sales leaders who have never prioritized sales coaching, but are now looking to it as a viable strategy to improve team performance.

#2 Sales leaders finally realized the importance of coaching. Coaching may have fallen by the wayside in recent years as managers got busy with administrative tasks. Equally, in a rollercoaster few years around the pandemic, many markets saw a boom in sales, meaning team skills didn't necessarily have to be as sharp to hit targets. As markets normalize, sales requires heightened skills and qualities in our reps.

#3 The rise of conversation intelligence (CI), which has tripled in monthly Google searches since 2020. As CI tools become more widely adopted, sales managers and reps have greater insight into their conversation performance. Coaching is needed to turn those insights into changed behaviors and improved results.

#4 Younger salespeople expect development. Millennial and Gen Z reps crave skills training and professional growth from their managers. They demand development in all areas of their life and in work, that means sales coaching. A recent survey by MySalesCoach found 82% of SDRs want more coaching, so the numbers speak for themselves.

How to begin sales coaching your team

So how can managers ease into sales coaching to meet this new demand?

For managers who have never taken a coaching approach, becoming a sales coach may feel daunting. Here are some tips to ease into the transition:

  • First, remember that definition - sales coaching is not the same as sales training so get clear on where the lines are.

  • Start small. Don't overhaul your management style overnight and put in sessions every day. Try coaching one rep on a specific skill each week.

  • Focus on asking questions, not giving advice. Draw out insights instead of lecturing.

  • Let reps share weaknesses and goals. Make it a two-way dialogue.

  • Use data to pinpoint opportunities. CI tools, call recordings, CRM data, and metrics can identify coaching areas.

  • Measure progress and results. Track coaching effectiveness based on salesperson performance.

  • Get feedback from reps. Ask for input on how your coaching is helping (or not).

How to coach your sales team

One incredibly important lesson I will share with any first-time sales coach is this: you cannot coach a rep that doesn’t want to be coached.

It is impossible. 

Coaching is about movement - from where the rep is now in terms of skills and knowledge, towards where you and they want to be. But it's not what happens in the coaching conversation that makes the difference, it's the movement that happens after.

If someone isn't open to coaching, it's pointless. So check that there is an appetite for coaching in your team. Are they wanting coaching? And are they ready to be coached? Ie, are they knowledgeable enough? Coaching can only happen when people have fundamental knowledge. If they don’t, you need to train first.

Start with those who will value and want the coaching. Open up the conversation by sharing feedback, before you move on to coaching - maybe as a team exercise. 

Salespeople are status driven, the longer they have been doing something the higher their self-given status. And if your team is new to coaching, this will be something you need to overcome. Group feedback equalizes everyone allowing them to become more open and to take accountability for the feedback they receive.

Quality, not quantity

Another important note here is that quality coaching matters more than the quantity of coaching. Lots can come from coaching just one call recording as the skills and knowledge learned will creep into other calls from that one session. Keep your coaching straightforward, with a short list of things for you and your rep to focus on. 

My parting message here is this; there is a huge opportunity for sales managers and leaders right now. Capitalise on this ambitious and inquisitive workforce who are eager to learn and develop, do not let your own nervousness about coaching hold you back. 

If you're sitting there not knowing where to start, I have never watched back a call and had no feedback to give. So just listen to a call as a starting point. Don’t know which call?

Pick the most recent, the learning begins now. 

Shelley Lavery is the CRO and Co-Founder of Jiminny, the leading conversation intelligence and sales coaching platform that helps companies maximize their revenue. With over a decade of experience in coaching B2B sales teams, Shelley was previously Group SVP of Sales at Reward Gateway now leading the conversation intelligence discussion with expertise and insight.

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