Three Tips to Improve Your Sales Coaching Skills


By Julie Thomas

One of the challenges managers wrestle with is how to drive higher performance consistently throughout their sales organization. How do you successfully coach your team to stay on top of its game when, the reality is, coaching takes a great deal of time?

More importantly, why spend the time to coach? The answer to that is simple: because it works. Working with thousands of sales managers and sales leaders over the past 20 years, I’ve seen the measurable difference good coaching makes. According to Brainshark, companies that support coaching development improve sales objectives by as much as 19 percent.

If you had to drive sales results all by yourself, you’d run out of steam, quickly. You can’t play every position in the field for every game. Instead, you’ve been given the players – and sales coaching is the best mechanism to get your team up and running and scale the organization.

The topic of coaching is wide and deep. So, for now, here are three quick and easy tips to immediately improve your coaching approach.

  1. Focus on teaching. Managing is about delivering results. Coaching is about developing people. When you’re a sales manager, you’ve got to do both. To become a better coach, focus on teaching and giving instruction so your team members can further their skill set.

    If you expect it, you’ve got to inspect it. All the data and dashboards in the world won’t replace what you see and hear firsthand. You can’t coach a team if you don’t know what your people are doing in the game. So, observe them in the field and on the sales floor.

    If you inspect it, you’ve got to be able to role model all the skills you’re asking your reps to employ – day in and day out.

  2. Give ongoing feedback. In managing, we typically recognize only the results. In coaching, we recognize what happens to get to the results.

    Recognize the small wins that will lead to the big wins. Take note of the effort and a rep’s ability to be uncomfortable, as well as the results.

    The feedback needs to be instant, truthful, and specific. Discuss the impact of the behavior rather than just the results. Give two times as many positive comments for every negative constructive comment.

    Think of this feedback as a continual, two-way conversation rather than just quarterly or during annual review.

  3. Go for excellence. Great coaches want the team to be the best it can. They know how to tap into what motivates each team member and get them to do their personal best. This philosophy of rigor and positive attitude is what fuels their coaching.

    Be clear in your communications. It’s not about dominating the conversation; it’s about asking your reps good questions and listening to their responses. How did it go? What worked? What is your action plan?

    A great coach is also introspective. What are you doing to improve your coaching? Think about the uniqueness of your people. How’s your coaching relationship with each of them? What’s your coaching process? Take action and challenge yourself to be better.

To become a better coach, it doesn’t matter where you start. It only matters that you start.

thomas_julie_150x210Julie Thomas, president and CEO of ValueSelling Associates, is a business consultant, coach, facilitator, speaker, and author of ValueSelling: Driving Up Sales One Conversation at a Time. She has led ValueSelling Associates to become an award-winning, competency- and process-based training provider that measurably improves sales performance in B2B sales organizations around the world. Visit