3 Ways Sales Management Can Coach and Develop Sales Reps

SBI conducts hundreds of field observations and interviews with sales reps and managers every quarter.  We call these Day in the Life Of, or Dilos.  There is a major theme consistent across most sales forces:  The Coaching and Developing of front line sales reps is suffering. To go deeper, download our 10th annual workbook, How to Make Your Number in 2017. Turn to the Sales Strategy section on pages 261 – 328 of the PDF workbook.


The frequency and quality of the coaching needs to improve.  The sales managers are holding the reps accountable to their activities and hitting their number.  But who is holding the manager accountable to the daily activities of coaching and development?  This is often a blind spot for sales leaders.


Sales rep coaching is one of the highest impact levers that sales management can pull to help increase productivity.  There are many items to coach on… Prospecting, Buyer Process, Deal Strategy, Key Account Management.  The list is endless.  Yet most Sales Managers don’t do it well.  In fact, some of them can’t really coach and develop.  They just don’t know how…


Proper Coaching and Developing Moves the Needle.  Some interesting data:


  • Three + hours a month coaching a rep one on one improves quota attainment over 22%
  • Rep coaching and developing improves close rate over 14%
  • Sales Turnover decreases up to 12%
  • Overall Sales Management quota attainment typically exceeds 67%


Sales Managers consistently ask me how to be an effective coach.  I often refer to the 3 Basic Steps:


  • Provide Immediate Feedback. Spontaneous Coaching is the most effective way to really help a sales rep become more productive.  And it can happen anywhere, anytime and anyplace.  When you have a great situation to coach and develop, stop what you are doing and use the time.  This informal coaching, usually on the telephone is irreplaceable.  Data shows that this in the moment coaching makes up 89 % of all coaching and developing.  Your sales reps don’t really learn much in class room training.  They learn it from you in the moment.


  • Positive Experiences First.  Don’t jump right into the bad stuff.  It will come up.  Make sure you lead with positives.  You have all heard this before.   But why?  Ken Blanchard and Keith Rosen have shown that the brain can listen and accept constructive criticism only when you have their best interest in mind.  You establish this ‘trust’ by citing examples of good and positive behavior.  Your subconscious brain likes the positive comments about you.  Your level of defensiveness and fear of rejection drop, and you actually listen more to the feedback in a constructive manner.  It’s effective and has shown results.  BUT, the positive feedback must be sincere.  Telling someone they look good today is not a positive comment (unless you are on a date or married-works anytime then).  Don’t have any positive comments….come on. You hired them didn’t you?


  • Specifics.  Details my friend wins the game. Telling someone they need to work on questioning skills and then NOT giving them a specific example of how they could improve leaves the coaching ‘in the cloud’. To make it real and actionable, you must cite specific details of when you OBSERVED this behavior. Coaching theory only works when you are learning how to coach.  Actual coaching requires details. And the more specific, the better. Oh, and use some job aids to help you.  Aids such as a Field Evaluation form, Opportunity and Compelling Event Assessment or a Call Plan.  They work and make your job easier. 


  • Observations.  (Ok, I threw in a fourth).  To my point about specifics, without seeing, hearing and listening to a sales rep you won’t be able to provide those specifics.  I have consistently advocated that a sales manager and sales rep need to interact every week with either a field ride to a customer or a one on one meeting.  These are the moments you observe. These are the times when you coach.  And these are the specifics that allow you to provide the feedback necessary to improve results. 


How to Make Your Number in 2017


Coaching and developing is a tricky business. It is the second most important item Sales Management can do.  (Hiring talent is the first). It starts with a sales rep the first day of work and it never ends.  Coaching can come at anytime, anyplace, anywhere. Pat Dolan, a successful sales manager at one of our large publishing services clients, tells me that some of the most productive coaching sessions happen early in the morning, well after 6 pm or on the weekends.  Coaching doesn’t necessary come in between 8 AM and 5 PM. It happens early and often (like voting in Chicago).  Follow the basic steps of coaching. It really is not that hard.


Outpacing your industry and competitors every month, quarter and year is difficult. Consider a visit to The Studio, SBI’s multimillion dollar, one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art executive briefing center. A visit to The Studio increases the probability of making your number because the sessions are built on the proven strength and stability of SBI, the industry leader in B2B sales and marketing.  



The Studio Executive Briefing Center


Photo Source: Chris Minor, Shutterstock

Clemson, SC – Clemson coach Brad Brownell tries to rally the troops during a timeout


Dan Perry

Intensely focused on helping sales and marketing leaders in B2B companies make their numbers at SBI.

Dan approaches the idea of making your number from a unique perspective. Like many SBI leaders, he has walked a mile in your shoes. He comes from the industry side and has had to make his number to be successful. Perhaps this is why it’s wise to rely on SBI’s evidence-based methodologies. Though SBI is certainly an execution-based firm, Dan only implements strategies and solutions for his clients after they have been verified with before-and-after data. This leads to adoption of sales programs in the field, rather than shelf-ware.

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