The 3 Biggest Obstacles Standing in the way of Excellent Sales Coaching
By Ariel Hitron, Second Nature AI
No matter what you’re selling, you need an effective sales team to discover your prospects’ needs, present possible solutions, answer questions, and close deals with new and existing customers. Like diamonds, however, natural born sellers are rare gems. If you rely on finding diamonds to build your sales team, you’ll be waiting an awfully long time, which is why every successful enterprise makes sales coaching a key part of its strategy.
Sales coaching is not without its own challenges. In an ideal world, sales employees would enthusiastically complete their sales coaching programs and emerge from them knowing how to pitch successfully and close deals.
In the less-than-ideal world we live in, enterprises get frustrated with their sales coaching attempts. Sales enablement teams are fed up with chasing sales reps to complete their training exercises, sales managers resent having to take the time out of their busy schedule to listen to recorded sessions or do one-on-one roleplays, and front line sales people dislike being nagged to check the boxes on sales certification programs.
It’s no surprise that some people wonder whether sales coaching is really worth the hassle.
Our new research on sales coaching, surveying 100 enterprise salespeople, sales enablement personnel, and marketing employees, confirmed that sales coaching really does work, but there are some serious obstacles to overcome to reach success, and you might need more of it than you realize. Before we get into the obstacles, let’s talk about what’s working.
3 ways that sales coaching drives results
It was very reassuring that our research proved beyond a doubt that sales coaching can make a significant impact on performance. 96% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with that statement, and only 3% felt that there was little connection between coaching and performance.
What’s more, we saw 3 main ways that sales coaching improves performance: by improving rep conversations, expanding sales pipelines, and pushing more deals and upsells.
Representatives hold better sales conversations
According to those surveyed, sales coaching has the biggest impact on qualitative issues like sales reps’ confidence levels and their ability to hold an effective sales conversation.
Over half of respondents noticed that sales employees were more confident after they have been coached, and almost as many commented that the quality of sales conversations had risen.
Sales enablement teams often discuss the challenge of teaching sales employees to sell solutions by their overall value add, rather than by simply listing features. They should take heart from the fact that 46% of participants said that sales coaching helped representatives to do a better job of selling by value rather than by features.
Sales pipelines expand
Almost half of the survey respondents said that sales coaching increased the number of deals in their pipeline, while around a third agreed that it brought more satisfied customers, and a quarter saw sales representatives selling a wider range of products.
All of these have a positive and provable impact on revenue. When reps sell a wider range of products, it broadens your sales pipeline, while having more deals in progress at any one time increases the number of deals you can close. Additionally, satisfied customers are likely to come back and buy from you again, increasing your loyal customer base.
Measurable sales figures rise
Although qualitative improvements like seller confidence lead the field, we also found that sales coaching has a measurable impact on the bottom line. Thirty-five per cent, or more than one-third, of people surveyed reported that deals increased in size thanks to sales coaching. Upsells also were affected, with 22% indicating an increase in upsells as a key impact of sales coaching.
Despite its popularity, companies aren’t doing enough sales coaching
You’d think that enterprises would be making sure to hold plenty of sales coaching opportunities, since it has so many positive effects. But our survey found that less than one-third of companies feel that they are coaching their salespeople enough today. 64% told us that they needed more sales coaching than they’re offering right now.
There are significant obstacles preventing them from offering the coaching they need, and our respondents were pretty clear-eyed about what they were.
The 3 main obstacles to successful sales coaching: time, knowledge, and tools
It’s one thing to know that you need more sales coaching, but it’s quite another to know how to achieve it. Just like everything, ramping up sales coaching is easier said than done. Our research revealed the three top obstacles holding today’s enterprises back from delivering the sales coaching they need: a lack of time, knowledge, and tools.
Obstacle #1: not enough time
In the vast majority of companies, sales managers bear responsibility for coaching employees. The trouble is that their time is finite and their to-do list often seems eternal, so they simply don’t have the time to do one-on-one role plays with sales employees, or even to review and respond to recorded sales rep pitches.
31% of survey participants said that sales managers lack the time to coach employees, and 22% pointed out the difficulty in giving or getting timely feedback. Another 20% said that sales training takes too long for sales representatives, who are under pressure to meet their quotas with “live” sales pitches.
The bigger the company, the bigger the problem. Managers at larger enterprises are generally responsible for more reps, making it far harder for them to spare time for training. 35% of participants at medium to large companies cited lack of manager time as an important obstacle to sales coaching, compared with only 23% of those at companies with under 50 sales professionals.
Obstacle #2: not enough training knowledge
By far the biggest issue holding companies back from running more sales coaching was the fact that few sales managers know how to run an effective sales training program. 51%, or more than half, of all our survey participants said that a lack of coaching knowledge was their main impediment.
You can’t blame sales managers, though. Most companies promote top sellers to manager status, but they rarely have enough time — with all the other responsibilities on their plates — to learn how to teach someone else to sell successfully.
Once again, the larger the organization, the more acute the problem. At companies with more than 50 salespeople, the number of respondents citing lack of manager knowledge rose to two-thirds, probably because when you have more sales managers it’s more likely that some of them won’t have the aptitude for teaching selling.
Obstacle #3: not enough (of the right) tools
On top of all this, most companies said that they don’t have the right tools for running sales training programs. Close to 40% of participants mentioned that they lack effective tools for sales coaching, although only 13% said that the cost of tools was an issue.
Finally, participants also mentioned the challenges of remote coaching (25%), distributed teams (20%), and reluctant sales employees who don’t want to take part in sales coaching (17%).
More (and better) sales coaching is within your grasp
It’s clear that sales coaching can increase revenue, but enterprises are still struggling to implement it in the right ways and amounts. As we all know, once you’ve identified the problems – in this case, lack of time, training knowledge, and tools – you can take steps to find the solution. It looks like enterprises need to search for better sales coaching tools that can help overcome the shortage of time and training know-how, and use them to create a new sales coaching strategy that will hopefully bring everyone to agree that you’re providing enough training time.
CEO, Second Nature AI