Using Tailored Post-Program Sales Coaching to Get Results from Sales Training
If you read this blog or know much about Richardson Sales Performance, you know we’re advocates of implementing sales training effectively to change behaviors, achieve desired business results, and deliver a return on the training investment. (Otherwise, why bother, right?)
Developing a full-scale learning system with a well-led and managed change plan is the most effective way to do that. Are you ready for a shocker? One of the most important post-training tools in such a system is sales coaching.
Big surprise? Yeah, probably not. Yet…
Sales Coaching is underutilized
… as much as we all seem to recognize the power of sales coaching for training transfer and sales performance improvement, research consistently shows that we underutilize it.
- A Nightingale Conant study reported that 67.21% of managers are not doing or sporadically do sales coaching/development and 52.34% of sales managers say they don’t have the time or are too busy to develop and coach their sales teams.
- According to the Objective Management Group, Inc., only 15% of all sales managers spend as much as 25% of their time on coaching and the time they do spend on coaching is generally ineffective.
- The Sales Management Association has reported that front-line sales managers spent only 26% of their time, or an average of 3 hours per rep per month, managing performance (which includes expectation setting, performance monitoring, coaching and development).
There’s uncertainty about how to reinforce training programs
Aside from the organizational obstacles (meaning: how we bog our sales managers down with non-essential duties that interfere with the primary task of improving the sales performance of their reps), and challenges with coaching in general, I’ve heard a lot of feedback over the years from sales managers, saying they simply don’t know how to most effectively reinforce training content and coach to specific programs.
Fortunately, this is not a difficult problem to solve, organizationally. It does, however, require advance thought and action to prepare your sales coaches. (I’ve rarely seen it happen on its own, except with perhaps the top 4 or 5 percent of sales coaches.) The coaching itself isn’t different than any other good developmental coaching session. In this case, the thoughtful and very specific preparation is what makes the difference.
Framework for reinforcing training
The steps are:
- Understand the content and prepare to reinforce it (before training)
- Plan to support post-program application (before training)
- Establish a diagnostic evidence chain to prepare for coaching (before training)
- Conduct gap analysis (after training)
- Coach to close the gaps (after training)
Let’s look at these 5 steps more closely.
STEP 1: Understand the content and prepare to reinforce it
- Identify the expected knowledge to be retained
- Identify the performance support to be used
- Identify the expected behaviors (observable)
- Review participant action plans (the bridge from program learning to post-program action)
– Activities: Learning reinforcement plans, if any
– Activities: Application/Actions to be taken to use content
In this step, managers should attend the program (with or before their reps, whenever possible), and also work with the training team and their reps, to clearly understand content, identify expectations, and review student/rep post-program action plans developed at the end of the course.
STEP 2: Plan to support post-program application
- Establish verifiable outcomes
– Leading indicators
– Verifiable evidence: objective or anecdotal
– Improve confidence
– Capture customer reactions
- Document expected results (including any expected improvement)
- Establish meeting/coaching schedule
- Plan to communicate expectations and schedule coaching sessions
STEP 3: Establish a diagnostic evidence chain to prepare for coaching
Common elements include:
- Program knowledge
- Discussion about sales activities, customer interactions, and outcomes
- Use of performance support
- Observed behaviors
- Review of verifiable outcomes (leading indicators)
- Review of sales results (reporting/lag indicators)
STEP 4: Conduct gap analysis
Follow the diagnostic evidence chain to:
- Test or verbally question the required knowledge or watch for other evidence of knowledge retention of key content
- Confirm that planned activity has been completed, and to what degree of effectiveness
- Verify that appropriate performance is being used, and used correctly
- Observe behaviors related to program content (observe firsthand: listen to calls, make field visits)
- Obtain client feedback, as appropriate
- Review verifiable outcomes and results
STEP 5: Coach to close the gaps
- Conduct a developmental coaching session, per our Sales Coaching book or our developmental sales coaching program, Coaching for Results.
I won’t detail the developmental sales coaching methods since that’s not the point of this post, but I do want to provide some additional reading, if interested:
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