5 Sales Coaching Myths That Need To Be Busted
In a lot of ways, the title of “sales manager” is a misnomer. Sure, you own the team’s number. But you really own a lot more than that.
Leading your team is really all about coaching. Putting out fires, training and teaching on the fly, developing talent and figuring out how to inspire your teammates to succeed. On the best sales teams we work with, the most effective managers are the ones who think of themselves as coaches.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of managers out there who are trying to be the best coaches they can be, but they’re struggling due to outdated best practices and plain old misinformation about what a good sales coaching program looks like.
It’s time to set the record straight—and we’re starting by busting the top 5 sales-coaching myths that, somehow, still persist in the sales world. Do any of these sound familiar?
Myth: Spend Time with Your Bottom Performers Because They’ve Got More Room to Improve
Too many sales leaders focus their coaching efforts primarily on their teams’ top and bottom performers (i.e., only 30% of their sales team). That leaves out a whole lot of reps, with a whole lot of revenue potential.
Surprise: the meat of your organization is in the middle. Should you work to remove roadblocks for your top reps so they can fly? Yes. Should you be clear, transparent and focused on areas to improve for your lower performers? Of course.
But a modest increase in effectiveness or output from the majority of your team will deliver the greatest rewards. The key is connecting the dots with data-driven coaching and motivating across a wide spectrum to get full-team engagement.
Pro tip: smart sales coaches use role-based sales scorecards to make it clear what activities to prioritize and conversion rates you expect—and to hold your reps accountable to the benchmarks that you set.
Myth: Weekly Check-Ins Are All You Need to Keep Your Team on Track
If you’ve got weekly 1:1s in place at your sales org, that’s great—you’re leaps and bounds ahead of the game. But it doesn’t mean your coaching is going to be impactful.
If you’re only coaching in your weekly check-ins, not throughout the rest of the week, then it’s way too easy for your 1:1s to turn into simple pipeline management.
The most effective sales managers are the ones who coach like it’s their job—continuously, in real-time. That allows you to recognize your people the second they score a win, or to course correct and get them back on track when they fail, which they inevitably will.
Again, that makes it absolutely imperative to leverage data and automated insights however you can, so you never miss an opportunity to coach in a way that actually changes the behavior of your reps and improves their performance.
Myth: Your 1:1s Should Focus on Constructive Feedback
1:1s are not mini-performance reviews. In fact, your reps should be leading the 1:1s. Let them do most of the talking. If you’re continuously coaching throughout the week (see above), and you send them the right questions ahead of time, then you’ll go into the meeting equipped with any context you might need to have a productive dialogue.
Adopting a developmental style of coaching makes it really easy to prevent your 1:1 from being a waste of time. Instead of directive-style feedback, development sales coaching is all about asking questions and giving reps space to develop their selling skills. Developmental coaching revolves around three question types:
- Observation: Observation questions ask the rep to make observations about a call or email that you both have reviewed. Open-ended prompts like, “What do you think you did well?” or, “What did you hear that you thought was noteworthy?” will help you determine if your reps are monitoring the correct behaviors
- Reflection: Reflection questions encourage your rep to reflect on the things they observed and draw conclusions based on those observations
- Application: Application questions combine the concepts reps learned in the coaching session with self-learning and homework, so they can actively improve
Myth: As a Manager, Your Job Is to Resolve the Problems Your Reps Are Struggling With
You should be approaching sales coaching with a “teaching to fish” mentality. Of course, you want to offer insight and expertise to your reps. Be a sounding board, and help to troubleshoot. You never want your reps to feel like they’re helpless or deserted.
But if you’re constantly jumping in and saving the day—you’re actually doing your reps a disservice.
That’s why putting together an action plan is such a critical part of your 1:1s. It puts your reps in control of the situation, and they’ve got clearly defined next steps to navigate the challenges they’re facing. Bonus: when they succeed, they’ll be able to “own” their wins. There’s no substitute for that kind of confidence.
Myth: It’s Impossible to Truly Measure Your Impact as a Coach
This is, perhaps, the biggest sales coaching myth of all. Because the truth is, when it comes to measuring, if there’s a will, there’s a way. You do have to get a little creative: a single activity metric isn’t going to tell the whole story—but to be fair, that’s true for every kind of performance measurement, for any role.
Measuring success as a sales coach is incredibly important for you, your team and your company. The most obvious benefit is that you can prove and communicate your value as a sales manager. But it goes way beyond that: if you’re tracking what’s working (and what’s not), versus throwing stuff up against the wall and seeing what sticks, then you’re going to help your team accomplish their short- and long-term goals at an exponentially faster rate. And when that happens, everyone wins.
So, how do you do it? Just like you measure your sales team on quantitative efforts like activities and qualitative metrics like objectives, the same can be done for coaching itself.
Quantitative sales coaching metrics
- Number of 1:1 check-ins
- Number of call reviews
- Number of competitions held
- Number of goals created
Qualitative attribution metrics
- % lift of total sales activities
- % lift in connects to meetings set
- % lift in opportunities to closed:won deals
- % reps hitting quota (not just total team attainment)
At the end of the day, sales management and sales coaching should—in theory—be synonymous. In practice? Well, we’re getting there. Part of the work is just saying no to “status quo” coaching practices. And if you’re ever in doubt, remember what defines a truly elite sales coach.
The cream of the crop are the ones who constantly seek out best practices, employ techniques and pull levers that:
- Build culture and fire up their reps to sell
- Increase visibility into performance, so that everyone knows where they stand
- Hold reps accountable to the right metrics and benchmarks
- Recognize wins and course-correct—in real-time
Intercom’s Head of Global Sales Ops, Jeff Serlin, outlines how sales ops can make an impact on your business, what the team should look like and keys to success.
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