How to Coach Your Salespeople to Their Skill Level

As a sales manager, sales coaching is one of the most effective activities you can engage in. Sales managers have started spending a great deal more time coaching as research shows that it provides the highest return for each minute invested.

Unfortunately, most sales managers simply create a one size fits all strategy for coaching. This is ineffective since coaching rarely has any effect if it isn’t targeted properly. Most managers spend their time with the very best and the very worst reps — and very little time in-between. If you want to be effective, not only do you have to provide coaching to all of your reps, you need to understand the nuances of coaching reps to their skill level.

Below, you’ll find general guidelines on how to coach salespeople of various skill levels. Keep in mind that not every person is the same, and even two people of the same skill level might require a slightly different coaching regiment.

Skill level: Brand new hires

Coaching a new sales rep is similar to rolling a pair of dice — you can only guess at the results you’re going to get. Since you’re not sure what your salesperson’s strengths, weaknesses, and skill level are yet, it’s important to spend as much time in front of them as you possibly can.

It’s also important to be extremely hands-on with your new hires since this is when habits are going to form. Bad habits are extremely hard to break, so you want to make sure to nip them in the bud. Keep new sales folk on strict schedules, such as instituting mandatory cold calling during busy hours. Once they start pulling their weight you can pull the reigns back and allow them a bit more freedom with their day.

Skill level: The strugglers

When you’re trying to lead somebody who’s struggling with their sales career, the key is finding out exactly what’s holding them back from success. You’ll want to pull them aside and see what they believe is the most difficult part of their job, and what they believe their own weaknesses are. You might be surprised to find out that they’re struggling with something you thought they were quite competent in.

Once you’ve identified their key opportunities for success, you need to draw up an improvement plan and tackle them one at a time. If you try to handle too much at once, they could get overwhelmed and mentally check out. It’s much better to take it slow and focus on incremental, constant improvement.

Another good technique is finding a high performer to pair them with. Try to find somebody that they have a good rapport or a natural chemistry with so that they’ll feel comfortable picking their brain and learning from them as they go.

Skill level: Your all-star team

If your sales team is like most business teams, the majority of your output comes from a small percentage of high performers. For example, a survey conducted by Personnel Psychology found that the top five percent of employees generated almost a quarter of their company’s total output. Because of this, it’s critical to coach your top performers properly.

One of the hardest things a sales leader has to do is recognizing when it’s time to let your team do its own thing. For high performers, this is especially true. They’re already succeeding through their own innate ability and drive, so avoid tinkering too much with a winning formula. Instead, give them the freedom to do their job as they see fit. Remove any obstacles to success that you can. If for whatever reason performance begins to slip, you can always recalibrate.

Perhaps most importantly, you want to involve them in the overall sales process as much as possible. They’re selling for you every single day, so they know what’s working and what isn’t. You’ll often get some of your best ideas simply by listening closely to your best employees.

Skill level: Somewhere in the middle

An average salesperson can be a bit more difficult to coach, especially when you’re not sure if you should be more hands-on or more hands-off. You simply need to keep this in mind — an average salesperson is an all-star with something holding them back. Your job, then, is to review their performance, talk to them, or do whatever you can to unlock their full potential. Once you’ve identified one or two key weaknesses, work on them individually the same way you would with a weaker performer.

Coaching a diverse sales team is difficult, but if you don’t have your pipeline full of interested leads all your effort is going to be fruitless. Make sure to take the time to tailor your efforts to each salesperson’s own strengths and weaknesses, and you’ll see improvements across the board.


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Danny Wong

Danny Wong

Danny Wong is a marketing consultant, sales strategist, and writer. He is a member of the marketing team at Tenfold, which provides a seamless click-to-dial solution for high-performance sales teams. Connect with him on Twitter @dannywong1190.

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