B2B Sales Coaching: A Refresher on Best Practices

January 7, 2021
Contributor: Rupal Bhandari

Out of all the functions in a B2B business, the sales team has the most critical facetime with potential customers. Thus, it is critical to provide each B2B salesperson with sales coaching to ensure success in complex B2B sales environments.

Sales teams are responsible for gauging sales opportunities, understanding client needs, driving their purchase discussions, providing demos and handholding clients until the sale has been made. With one wrong sentence or one unanswered question, a sale could fall through. 

Given the people-facing nature of the job, consistent sales coaching could make a big difference in the effectiveness and efficiency of each sales representative as well as the sales team on the whole. However, many companies fail to coach their sales teams effectively because they train their sales executives only briefly or leave them on their own to figure out essentials such as buyer personas, communication best practices and objection handling. Instead, sales coaching should be a consistent, continuous and critical part of the B2B salesperson's everyday job.

What is sales coaching?

Sales coaching is a process that provides each sales rep with individualized guidance on multiple facets of B2B selling, including time management, conversations with clients and product pitches.

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How to provide more effective B2B sales coaching

B2B sales coaching typically involves a three-step process: Conducting a sales audit, identifying areas of improvement and building a development framework. 
 

Step 1: Conduct a sales audit

A sales audit is a comprehensive, systematic and periodic analysis of the performance of the sales team as a whole and an individual sales rep in detail. 

According to the 2019 Gartner Sales Dashboard Survey, gross revenue is used by 67% of sales leaders to track organizational performance and aggregate sales funnel metrics are used by 56% of sales leaders. At the sales rep level, revenue per sales rep is used by 55% of sales leaders to audit performance (full report available to Gartner clients only).

For sales coaching to be effective, however, the metrics mentioned above are just the start. Closing rates per rep, customer face time or the number of appointments made are other measurements that can be used to audit individual reps’ performance. Each of these metrics is presented here on the grid below.

To conduct a sales audit, it is important to consider each of those metrics and identify the ones for which reliable data is available. Then, scour all sales data to clean and present the corresponding data on each metric. 
 

Step 2: Identify areas of improvement

After teams clean and present data on each sales metric, it is time to analyze them to identify opportunities for improvement. Look for any outliers on the higher or lower ends, analyze each separately and identify why they stand out. 

At the sales team level, high-value, high-use metrics such as sales volume, win-loss rate and average deal size make good starting points for analysis. At the individual sales rep level, high-value, high-use metrics such as revenue per rep, closing rates per rep or volume of opportunities at different stages of the sales funnel offer strong starting points. 

However, for sales coaching to be effective, it is important to also dig into metrics such as customer-facing time per rep, call preparation time per rep and renewal/retention rate per rep. An analysis of those metrics for each sales rep helps to identify stronger and weaker skills and establish a base from which the sales coach can work. 
 

Step 3: Build a framework for development 

Successful creation of a sales development framework depends entirely on the areas of improvement identified in step 2. It doesn’t matter if the sales reps have tremendous experience or have already completed preliminary sales and product training. The focus of the framework, and of the sales coaching process overall, should be on working with each rep to make them better. For that reason, the sales development framework also must be iterative and flexible. 

Once teams identify areas of improvement, it is important to build a development framework for each of them. Look for answers to questions like:

  • Is the team spending too much time on smaller-size deals? 
  • Does the team need better lead qualification processes that account for deal size? 
  • Do some reps get stuck with client retention? 

Spend time with each sales rep to understand their individual challenges with the lead qualification and nurturing processes.

Here are some good places to start:

  • Set aside a few hours per week for managers to spend with sales reps.   

  • Introduce call monitoring (managers listen in on a few sales calls for each rep) to identify possible mistakes. Coach sales reps who spend too much time on non-customer-facing activities such as call prep or time management.

  • Train sales reps on B2B buyer personas or experience to help them better identify customers’ position in the buyer journey and the appropriate talk track or sales positioning based on that placement.

Does sales coaching end?

The short answer: No. 

Sales coaching is an ongoing part of the B2B sales process, at the team as well as the individual sales rep levels. That is why it is important to conduct periodic sales audits and follow through and update any areas of improvement or development frameworks.

Keep these tips in mind to make sales coaching effective in your organization:

  • Collect multiple examples of the behaviors or mistakes that must be fixed. 

  • Understand how each sales rep likes to be coached and adjust feedback to their individual style.

  • Ensure sales reps know that coaching is a two-way conversation, happening separately from the training that entails only one-way communication. 

Lastly, ensure that B2B sales coaching continues to evolve, and adjusts to changing market contexts such as a global pandemic, to help the business achieve and maintain long-term stability. 
 

Rupal Bhandari

Rupal Bhandari covers sales and account management markets. She received her master’s degree from the University of Delhi, India, and has created content for some of the world’s leading technology products and companies. Connect with Rupal on LinkedIn.

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