ATD Blog

3 Keys to Effective Sales Coaching

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Truly effective sales coaching must align with the real-world priorities of your sales managers. So, what is the top priority for sales managers? Hitting their sales targets, of course!

How do you ensure that the coaching training you provide your sales managers aligns with what matters most? Let’s look at three key skills that are needed to successfully connect the dots between sales coaching and meeting revenue targets.

Identify the Selling Activities That Matter Most

Before a sales manager can become an effective coach, they need to become an expert at answering the question, “What should my sellers be doing to meet quota?” High-impact sales activities lead to the accomplishment of specific sales objectives, which ultimately leads to the attainment of desired business results—yet none of these components are addressed in typical coaching models. The first order of business is for sales managers to learn how to set the right direction for seller effort, which means defining which activities have the highest impact on sales results. This, in turn, influences the agenda and discussion topics for sales coaching conversations. Coaching then becomes a sales manager’s tool for helping sellers prioritize their effort around the activities that most closely align with meeting quotas.

Point Sales Coaching at Those Activities

Selling is not a one-size-fits-all affair. Neither is sales coaching. Managers must be trained to select the right type of coaching based on the key activities of the sellers they manage. If sellers must obtain more new accounts to meet a quota, the coaching should target account prioritization and prospecting. However, if sellers must grow existing accounts, sales coaching should target up-selling and cross-selling activities within existing accounts. The more the coaching conversation is tailored to the seller activities that lead to quota, the more likely a seller is to reach their goal. Without this clarity of direction, the sales coaching conversation may revolve around a host of topics that may seem relevant but have little impact on actual seller performance.

Establish a Formal Coaching Rhythm

What sales managers and sellers discuss during a sales coaching session is important, but coaching will not happen unless sales managers are trained to create a rhythm that works for both busy sales managers and sellers. A sales management rhythm must be based on a holistic view of the priorities of sales managers; then, sales leaders, trainers, and sales managers can work together to develop a framework and management rhythm that allots sufficient sales coaching attention to the sellers. An effective sales management rhythm prioritizes coaching effort, leaving room for coaching that is relevant and actionable within the manager’s real world. Dedicating time to have a meaningful and deep conversation about key activities is a common practice of high-performing managers, but more is not always better when it comes to sales coaching. One hour of highly effective sales coaching per month will often yield better results than two or three hours of ad-hoc directives given in 10-minute increments. Focus matters.


When you add these three skills to your sales coaching training program, your sales managers will be better equipped to successfully connect the dots between how effective sales coaching leads to higher sales performance and bigger bottom-line results. It usually doesn’t take long for sales managers to see that, when properly done, sales coaching is their best tool for helping sellers meet quotas.

Want to learn more? Join me May 8 at the ATD 2018 International Conference & Exposition for the session, Sales Coaching in the CRM Era: Goodbye Acronyms, Hello Sales Processes.

About the Author

Michelle Vazzana is CEO at Vantage Point Performance, a global sales management training and development firm. Vazzana is also co-author of Cracking the Sales Management Code. She is a sought-after speaker on the topic of sales management and leadership and has more than 28 years of successful sales and management experience.

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