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The New Revolution in Sales Coaching

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Written by Mike Schultz
President, RAIN Group

Most leaders agree the opportunity to improve sales performance through coaching is tremendous, including:

  • Maximizing sales wins for their most important opportunities
  • Filling the pipeline with new, qualified opportunities
  • Maximizing sales to key accounts
  • Focusing sellers’ time on the most important activities
  • Developing skills, knowledge, and attributes to get to the next level of performance
  • Keeping sales activities and motivation at the highest sustainable level

These leaders are turning to coaching because coaching is an increasingly popular—and increasingly proven—method of improving performance.

The International Coach Federation (ICF) estimates the number of professional business coaches worldwide has grown from 2,100 in 1999 to over 50,000 today. And for good reason: coaching inspires strong financial results.

The majority of companies (86%) indicate their company has at least made their investment back. In fact, almost one-fifth (19%) indicate an ROI of at least 50x the initial investment, while a further 28% see an ROI of 10-49x the investment. The median company return is 700%, indicating that a company can typically expect a return of 7x the initial investment in coaching.

Unfortunately, while companies are enjoying success with business coaching in general, sales coaching is often a major disappointment.

Commonly, we see sales managers and leaders who:

  • Don't have the time to coach
  • Aren't comfortable coaching
  • Aren't sure what a sales coach is supposed to do
  • Don't have strong coaching conversation skills
  • Don't establish a consistent rhythm of coaching conversations
  • Don't have the tools and resources to help them make coaching a success
  • Try to apply general business coaching to sales and it doesn't work

Indeed, coaching is often not a part of sales management at all.

It shouldn't be like this.

Effective sales coaching starts with the realization that sales coaching, as a discipline, is not the same as other popular forms of coaching, such as personal-effectiveness and executive coaching.

Executive coaching can be inspiring and transformative over the long-term, but it is neither directive nor immediate enough to be effective for sales in the short-term.

Habit and personal-effectiveness coaching can bring helpful action planning, rhythm, and motivation to the coaching process, but many habit and personal-effectiveness coaches are not knowledgeable about selling. Thus, they often aren't taken seriously by sellers.

This brings us back to sales managers. When (if!) they coach, they often focus exclusively on helping sellers win opportunities. Even then, they are frequently neither systematic nor rigorous about it. When this happens, they miss the opportunity to focus, motivate, and develop sellers so they can truly achieve top performance.

The ideal scenario for sales coaching is an intersection of three types:

Ideal Sales Coaching Scenario
Download: The 5 Roles of High-Performing Sales Coaches

The New Revolution in Sales Coaching

Several years ago, RAIN Group began an experiment. Our hypothesis was that by applying a coaching process and method designed specifically for sales, our clients would see a dramatic improvement in their sales results. We crafted the process, implemented the system, and refined it over time based on the results achieved by our clients.

While we had success with sales coaching previously, after we designed and implemented this coaching system, our clients report between a 25% to 40% increase in sales activity, leads generated, average deal size, and close ratios.

But numbers like these fail to tell the story that individual cases bring alive:

  • A large telecommunications company generated $100,000,000 in additional pipeline after implementing RAIN Group’s Extreme Productivity Challenge 90-day coaching program.
  • A human resources firm increased the number of prospect meetings set by just over 500% a short time after starting coaching.
  • A major engineering firm increased the size of one of its strategic accounts by 14x in a several-year period, and it grew its strategic accounts 110% overall. During the same period, the rest of its accounts (whose account managers did not participate in a coaching and training process) grew by only 4%.
  • One of the world's largest accounting firms put a set of partners through our Extreme Productivity Challenge program with a 90-day intensive coaching process. They generated a 16x return on investment in 4 months as measured by additional new business won.

Over the years, we've learned there are three critical components to sales coaching success.

Sales coaching works when the coach:

  1. Plays five roles in the coaching process
  2. Establishes a regular rhythm and frequency to the coaching process, employing specific strategies along the way to inspire top performance
  3. Leads masterful coaching conversations

Attend to these three critical components and you can implement successful sales coaching in your organization and maximize sales performance. If you're not sure how to get started, RAIN Group's RAIN Sales Coaching program can help give your leaders the skills and techniques they need to help their team succeed.

When done well, sales coaching produces excellent results consistently. While it draws from practices in other coaching disciplines, sales coaching has its own characteristics and rhythm that make it stand apart as a distinct field.

White Paper: The 5 Roles of High-Performing Sales Coaches White Paper

Topics: Sales Management