ATD Blog

Scaling Engagement and Learning With Sales Coaching

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The results of LearnCore’s recent survey, Employee Engagement and the Link to Learning, made one thing clear: everyone wants to be better at doing their job. Study after study shows the importance of employee engagement, and giving individuals the tools for success moves the needle faster. 

Great sales managers know highly engaged employees are more innovative and productive and that these factors contribute to bottom-line performance. Engaged employees are retained employees, reducing costs related to recruiting in highly competitive markets. Engaged sales reps are also better employees, fueling customer service wins and modeling productive behaviors. 

Keys to Employee Engagement

When sales reps have the tools they need to feel empowered, they can feel good about their current job and look forward to growth opportunities. One of the keys to successful employee engagement is articulating what a successful employee is, and communicating this clearly. Best-in-class firms do this through coaching at every level and empowering not just frontline employees, but their managers as well. 

  • Connect. Great coaches connect with their protégés, help find areas of improvement and share strategies on achieving results. Step one for any coach is to set expectations. Showcase what works and lead by example. This means meeting individuals on their level to understand their worldview in order to establish strategies for success.


  • Set Goals. The importance of setting simple, clear goals cannot be overstated. Clearly defined, written goals that are shared with peers create alignment, clarity, and job satisfaction. Following up on employee and team goals is also important, companies that revisit goals quarterly have threefold greater improvement in performance and retention than those that revisit goals yearly.


  • Develop an Action Plan, Together. Spending time to understand an individual’s current business and personal issues and jointly diagnose problems and possible strategies for change is important. Develop an action plan together that will help the individual achieve objectives. The best coaches ask leading questions that help the individuals frame issues for themselves, and then they provide constructive feedback on improvements.


  • Preparing for Coaching. Just like employee engagement is a two-way street, so is coaching. It’s up to both coach and individual to be prepared for a coaching session. Spending 15 minutes in quiet to think about and prepare for the upcoming dialogue is important. Review notes from previous coaching sessions and set an agenda for the call ahead.


  • Drills: Practice Makes Permanent. Developing a clear line of sight between action, goals and business outcomes will encourage action that contributes to employee engagement and the corresponding bottom line results. Focusing on the practical, tactical elements of execution over and over will help secure business outcomes. And this type of practice, or business tactical drilling, is just as important as focusing coaching sessions on the bigger picture.


  • Develop Confidence. Clear feedback from both coach and individual is a key element to a successful coaching relationship. The strategic nature of feedback and how it is appreciated stems from the firm’s culture—if the environment is accepting of a feedback loop, the process is much easier for both sides.

    Feedback itself is critical, but the quality of the feedback is even more important. The best coaches are discriminating regarding how they give feedback, as poorly delivered or un-strategic criticism can have an opposite effect of the intent. Good feedback is clear, relevant, non-evaluative, and positive. If feedback is seen as arrogate or dismissive, the individual can become less productive than before.


  • Post-Game (game-tape) Coaching. Sports teams from junior varsity to professional use game tape to learn about their strengths, weaknesses and gaps in performance. The same strategy is a best practice for training your team. Using a video capture tool to share pitches, responses to customer objections and best practices is important.


    Using a tool like LearnCore’s Pitch IQ, sales representatives can learn from top performers, upload their own video for feedback, and managers can ensure that messaging is consistent while identifying gaps. These gaps can then be addressed and tracked in the coaching environment. 

Tying it Together—and to the Bottom Line

A cooperative learning environment, combined with effective employee engagement practices started at the top, will lead to well-developed sales reps who are engaged and confident. As study after study shows, these engaged employees, armed with the right tools and a coach committed to their success will have a direct, positive, and sustained impact on the bottom line. 



About the Author

Vishal Shah is a co-founder of LearnCore, a learning technology that helps sales learn by doing. Leading Fortune 1,000 companies including LinkedIn, CDW and Pearson use LearnCore to power high stakes training initiatives. Vishal is also a co-founder of Catapult Chicago, a shared space for mid-stage start-ups. Vishal has been involved with early and mid-staged technology companies for several years in a number of capacities. Prior to founding LearnCore and Catapult Chicago, he worked at GrowthPoint Technology Partners, an investment bank in Palo Alto. Vishal was named to Chicago’s Tech 50 and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.

Be the first to comment
Sign In to Post a Comment
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.