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ATD Blog

Is Sales Coaching Really Necessary?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013
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Sales leadership talks about it all the time. Sales consultants advocate it. Sales managers say they would like to do more of it—if they had the time. The “it” of course is sales coaching. 

Yet, if you nose around out there, you will often find less coaching is occurring than might be expected given all the voices of advocacy. Why is that? While there are a number places to lay blame, here is a breakdown of four of the more devilish reasons. 

  • Conflicting demands. Sales managers are the key to great coaching. Unfortunately, they get bogged down doing all sorts of administrative tasks. So…coaching gets put off until Friday, and then it never happens.   
  • Great numbers. You’ve seen it many times: Last quarter’s numbers were tabulated and they look good. So…the impetus to get serious about coaching tends to wane.  
  • Zombie ideas. Sometimes bad ideas just won’t die. In this case, notions keep coming back to life in the corporate culture like, “We already have an experienced sales team” or “We’ve already put in place a great sales training curriculum.” So…coaching is considered not a real necessity.
  • Seduction of new things. Sales leadership is often distracted by bright shiny objects, and they easily lose their attention and commitment to the coaching effort. So…coaching does not happen in a pervasive fashion without such leadership support.  

Although little coaching is occurring, many companies seem immobilized to do anything about it. This begs the questions: Does it really matter? Is sales coaching really a big deal? Is coaching a must-do priority?  

I believe the answer is Yes! to all of those questions.  

In today’s major account sales environment, a company cannot sustain a competitive advantage by product and service alone. A superior sales team is required. And the notion that a superior sales team can be maintained year after year without great sales managers doing a great job coaching is just not a viable proposition.    

But just in case you still need a few good reasons to convince someone that coaching is a good idea, try one of these. 

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Coaching shows leadership commitment. Coaching demonstrates that the top sales leadership is serious about providing support to developing the strength of the sales team. 

Coaches get smarter. If sales managers increase the time they spend in the field coaching on sales calls, they will get smarter about the sales team and the customer base. They will be better able to be an effective early warning system of changes in the market and what to do about them.  

Coaching leverages institutional knowledge. Think of the cumulative knowledge possessed by the sales managers in an organization. Coaching provides an effective and efficient tool for leveraging that knowledge to the rest of the sales team. Worse case: without coaching that knowledge is lost when a sales manager leaves the organization.  

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Coaching reinforces sales training. Research indicates that approximately 70 percent of the skills gained during sales training will be lost within three months without reinforcement. To be sure, coaching is the most effective method to reinforce the skills learned in sales training.  

Coaching grows the business. A better skilled sales team is an important piece of the puzzle for generating increased revenue and optimizing profits.  

So, is coaching really necessary? The answer is a resounding YES! Lots of good things happen when a company gets it right, and unfortunately, some bad things occur when it doesn’t.  

About the Author

For more than 30 years, Janet Spirer has worked with the Fortune 1000 to craft sales training programs that make a difference. Working with market leaders Janet has learned that today’s great sales force significantly differs from yesterday. Sales Horizons offers firms effective sales training programs affordably priced. Janet is the co-author of Parlez-Vous Business, to help sales people have smart business conversations with customers, as well as the Sales Training Connection blog.

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