How to Design a Sales Coaching Framework

Sales coaching is an important issue for any ambitious sales leader. Let’s break it down and discuss how to design a sales coaching framework.

Imagine salespeople have to learn a new skill, for instance, how to apply newly developed value messages in different customer interactions. In this case of behavioural change, a training session can only be the beginning of a long journey. Lasting behaviour change requires ongoing reinforcement. This is where coaching comes into play. And sales managers. Frontline sales managers.

Coaching has to be structured to create results

In my book, co-authored with Byron Matthews, Sales Enablement – A Master Framework to Engage, Equip, and Empower a World-Class Sales Force, sales coaching is defined as a leadership skill to develop each salesperson’s full potential. To be effective with coaching, world-class performers leverage coaching frameworks.

As research showed over the years, sales coaching to be effective requires some structure. Approaches hat left coaching up to the managers ended up with results way below average performance results. Only formally implemented and structured coaching processed did move the needle, often in a two-digit manner. Ambitious sales leaders know immediately what a 9% better win rate would mean in their organization. They also know that their frontline sales managers’ ability to coach is a critical element to sustainable sales performance. And yes, they also know that a formal approach to coaching is the differentiating element to become world-class.

Here is an overview of critical components of a comprehensive sales coaching framework – the sales coaching areas. For more background, have a look at the book.

Sales Coaching Framework 101

The CSO Insights Sales Coaching Framework sits between the customer’s journey and the sales professionals’ journey (sales process). It requires that the customer’s journey has already been mapped to the organization’s sales process. For each gate on the customer’s side, there must be an equivalent step on the internal side. This mapping is a key prerequisite to creating a coaching framework and the related coaching assets such as coaching guidelines, questionnaires for various buying situations and coaching training sessions for sales managers. Our coaching framework consists of four coaching layers, each corresponding to a different coaching area.

Lead and Opportunity Coaching

The coach and sales professional examine a lead or opportunity to determine where it is along the customer’s journey and to identify activities that will keep the deal flowing through the funnel toward a successful conclusion. The earlier the coaching begins, the more valuable it is. In the awareness phase, sales managers can help the sales professionals get better at identifying and addressing opportunities, and they can coach them to develop and execute winning deal strategies. Plus, they can spot areas where the sales team needs to stop investing time and effort in deals that cannot be won or will require more resources than they are worth.

Funnel or Pipeline Coaching

focuses on the structure of a salesperson’s or the sales team’s funnel, identifying the most valuable deals that can be won and helping to manage risks and allocate resources accordingly. Funnel coaching also helps the salesperson understand how the shape of their funnel translates into quota attainment and determine how best to improve their funnel performance. During funnel coaching, the sales managers must assess the types of opportunities in the funnel, e.g., many small opportunities or fewer large volume deals, as well as the assumed close dates, stages, and risks of each opportunity. Most importantly, the coach must weigh the value of the opportunities against their probability of being won. Clearly, this coaching area builds on opportunity coaching and can only be successful if

Coaching on Skills and Behaviours

In today’s complex selling environments, customer behaviours are constantly changing. As a result, salespeople often must make significant changes to their selling skills and behaviours. For example, the transactional, product-oriented approach no longer works in many selling scenarios, and sales professionals must adopt a value-based approach that focuses on the customers’ business outcomes. This is an area where sales managers should work closely with the enablement teams. Creating value for prospects and customers requires tailored value messages that are tied to the customer’s journey phase, buyer roles and their business challenges and goals. Enablement’s job is to provide these value messages and the related training, but sales managers must also coach to reinforce what has been taught to ensure adoption. This requires coaching on leads and opportunity and coaching on improving the sales professional’s messaging skills.

Account Coaching

is often overlooked, but it is equally important if an account strategy is in place. It’s mainly about coaching on identifying new business opportunities within the account (lead identification) and mapping the account strategy to the current achievements within an account (also from a customer’s perspective) and making adjustments or changes to strategy, focus area, relationship development, etc. The frequency of account coaching sessions depends on your and your customers’ specific rhythm of the business.

Territory Coaching

is even more overlooked, but equally important in the case of a territory strategy. It’s more than saying “work your territory.” Instead, territory coaching is all about focus: focus on the right targets and customers, and the most relevant buyer roles. Also, in territory coaching, lead identification plays a key role. As soon as leads are qualified, they are coached by the overall lead and opportunity coaching process as mentioned above.

As soon as such a coaching framework is set up, the missing coaching assets for both, content (coaching guidelines, coaching questions, coaching learning content, etc.,) and training (that make up a strategic frontline sales manager development program), have to be designed, created and implemented. And then, it’s about your execution model to ensure that sales coaching will be properly implemented. But that’s a topic for another article.