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An Alarming Percentage of Companies Don’t Use Sales Coaching

Wednesday, August 15, 2018
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About three years ago, I bought a keyboard with the aspiration to relearn piano after a 15-year “break.” I practiced about four times before the keyboard and its bench became the largest decorative items in my home. Alas, most people I talk to have some form of music, art, or exercise equipment that was acquired with the best intentions, only to collect dust.

Fast-forward to earlier this year, when I recommitted to my hobby. I signed up for piano lessons. At first, I was skeptical about how much I could really get out of just 25 minutes a week with my instructor, but the difference in my learning curve has been incredible. Such is the power of a coach.

Ask any sales leader about their stance on coaching and you’re likely to hear “it’s essential.” Plenty of sales enablement leaders will tell you, “It’s my top priority.” That’s why I was shocked to learn from the forthcoming ATD Research report, Sales Coaching: Building a Successful Sales Force, that only 62 percent of organizations use sales coaching. Excuse me; that means that 38 percent of organizations do not use sales coaching—at all!

As I learned from my piano endeavor, the only way progress and improvement can happen is with a commitment to a schedule. The same can be said of coaching; it must be on the calendar. A large majority of coaches (43 percent) cite scheduling conflicts and time constraints as the biggest challenges in delivering effective sales coaching.

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There’s a big opportunity for sales enablement to help. With every new initiative, we must work with frontline managers and coaches to prioritize coaching and pave the way for it to fit into the weekly calendar easily. Sales enablement should design a plan that outlines how to coach to the material, whom to coach, and when to coach them. More important, manager input should be incorporated along the way so that the plan is flexible enough to accommodate different managers’ styles and commitments, and so that it avoids overloading managers with too many coaching responsibilities.

Think about the categories of activities taking up managers’ time on a weekly basis: Often they are asked to provide strategic help on deals, sometimes even damage control. When the numbers aren’t looking good against the goal, they can spend a lot of time digging into data to find out where they went wrong. The majority of “coachees” receive just one to four hours of coaching per month. How many hours of these time-consuming manager activities could be reduced with a consistent coaching program that produces a more skilled sales force? It’s a balance worth achieving.

Unsurprisingly, the data tell us that that top-performing organizations are significantly more likely to use sales coaching. For the 38 percent who don’t use sales coaching, the friction is surely in the implementation. Creating a culture of coaching doesn’t happen overnight. It can start with a commitment to scheduling a manageable cadence of coaching sessions—but the results are undeniable.

Check out the infographic for more insights into the state of sales coaching, and join me at the ATD SELL Conference for a deeper dive into sales coaching best practices. Mark Crofton, Global VP of Sales Coaching at SAP, will be leading a session on using data in coaching and what coaching sessions look like in a successful environment.

About the Author

As the senior content manager for the sales enablement topic at ATD, Jenna’s mission is to strengthen and cultivate the Sales Enablement Community worldwide: individuals who are uniquely positioned to equip salespeople with the actionable tools, coaching and resources they need to be successful.

Jenna has spent the past eight years in the sales enablement world, training more than 1,000 sales professionals and coaching reps and managers to success. She has served as a quota-carrying seller, trainer, coach, manager and company executive.

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