How To Start & Grow Your Business

Boosting Sales Performance – The Missing Link

Mike Schultz
Jan 14th, 2015
  • Estimated reading time: 4 min read
  • Hummy's

    1Coaching is a long term way to increase performance. 2Sales coaching "isn't just talking more". 3A structured process for rep/manager feedback is best.
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Sales Training

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Most leaders agree that the opportunity to improve sales performance and get their teams selling more is tremendous, but they often don’t know how to get their teams to actually sell more.

Companies often start with more training, more tools, and greater incentives. These help, but there’s a missing link that can make everything more effective.

The missing link can be the key for sellers to:

  • Maximize sales wins for their most important opportunities
  • Fill the pipeline with new opportunities
  • Maximize sales in key accounts
  • Focus their time on the most important activities
  • Develop skills, knowledge, and attributes to get to the next level of performance
  • Keep sales activity and motivation at the highest levels sustainable
  • And the missing link is…coaching.

According to Aberdeen Group, best-in-class companies are significantly more likely to provide coaching skills training to sales managers than others (73% of best-in-class companies compared to only 49% of all others).[1]

Sales coaching, however, isn’t just talking more. Often companies just “add more check-ins” and call it coaching, but this doesn’t have much of an impact.

Getting sales coaching right starts with the realization that sales coaching, as a discipline, is not the same as other popular forms of coaching such as personal-effectiveness and executive coaching.

Executive coaching can be inspiring and transformative over the long term, but it is neither directive nor immediate enough to be effective for sales.

Habit and personal-effectiveness coaching can bring helpful action planning, rhythm, and motivation to the coaching process, but many habit and personal-effectiveness coaches are not knowledgeable about selling, so they often aren’t taken seriously by salespeople.

That brings us back to sales managers. When (if!) they coach, they often focus exclusively on helping sellers win opportunities. Even then, they are frequently neither systematic nor rigorous about it. And they miss the opportunity to focus, motivate, and develop sellers so they can truly achieve top performance.

The most successful sales teams have a structured process for sales managers to communicate with reps and provide feedback (84% best in class / 47% laggards).[2]

When we work with our clients at RAIN Group, we implement a sales coaching system that follows a structured process. After implementing our system, our clients have reported between a 25% to 40% increase in sales activity, leads generated, average deal size, and close ratios. But numbers like these fail to tell the story that individual cases bring alive:

  • One management consulting firm coachee struggled to grow his practice for four years. As a direct result of coaching, he soon realized multimillion-dollar practice growth and was able to add five new people to his team.
  • A human resources firm increased the number of prospect meetings set by over 500% a short time after starting coaching.
  • A major engineering firm increased the size of one of its strategic accounts from $250,000 to $3.5 million in a several-year period, and it grew its strategic accounts 110% overall. During the same period, the rest of its accounts (whose account managers did not participate in the coaching and training process) grew at only 4%.
  • A municipal contractor was being terminated from a multi-year contract and was ready to accept the loss without a fight. In a coaching discussion, we strategized how to save the contract by communicating the return on investment realized. As a result, the RFP was rescinded, and the client retained a revenue stream that will yield over $2.5 million.
  • How to do sales coaching well is a topic for another blog post (you can start by reading this one: 5 Keys to Successful Sales Coaching). When done well, sales coaching is the one thing that can dramatically boost overall sales performance

[1] Peter Ostrow, “Sales Training and Sales Coaching: How Best-in-Class Companies Are Using Education and Skills Development and Coaching to Achieve Better Results Year over Year,” Aberdeen Group, 3:18, July 2, 2014

[2] Peter Ostrow, “Keeping PACE with Best Practices in Sales Performance Management (Aberdeen Group, 2013).

This article was written by Mike Schultz and published on Selling Fearlessly by Robert Terson.

Mike Schultz is President of RAIN Group, a sales consulting and sales training company. He helps companies around the world to unleash the sales potential of their teams. Mike is author of the Wall Street Journal bestselling Rainmaking Conversations: Influence, Persuade and Sell in Any Situation, co-author of the recently released Insight Selling: Surprising Research on What Sales Winners Do Differently,  and publisher of Follow Mike on Twitter at @Mike_Schultz.

Robert Terson of is author of “Selling Fearlessly: A Master Salesman’s Secrets For the One-Call-Close Salesperson.” He retired from a successful career in ad sales and now devotes his time to consulting and training sales professionals.