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What is Sales Coaching?

Today most businesses' (large and small) first exposure to 'bottom-line' coaching (other than executive coaching for senior management), is the introduction of sales coaching. Performance sales coaching is relatively easy to introduce, control and monitor, and generates immediate measurable results

Coaching in sales is working on an individual basis to make step-by-step, measurable improvements to performance and motivation. Coaching can reach the parts other training methods can't. In sales coaching the coach can also share the sales manager's burden, freeing his time to achieve company targets and objectives. Meanwhile, the coach works with the sales team to unlock their potential, provide support and guidance to resolve issues and facilitate inter-team communication.

Sales Skills Coaching:
Sales is a high skill, high demand job. Being on top in sales means having success in a balanced life without stress. Sales Skills coaching provides focused sales strategies for you and your team. It can also reveal if low sales are the result of current sales strategies and company goals that are inconsistent with one another, or if you require sales management training.

An effective sales strategy comes not just from sales activities, but also from how you approach potential clients. If you want to sell consistently and increase your revenues, you may have to refine the way you engage clients throughout the entire sales process. That's where Sales Coaching also comes in.

To achieve success, a sales person needs: - Advanced Selling Skills and Inner Resources. Knowing how to sell is not enough. Success comes from within. The salesperson needs to: build the internal resources to succeed; eliminate the roadblocks to success; eliminate procrastination, fear, guilt, stress and replace them with confidence and resourcefulness.

Sales Training combined with Coaching can provide ways to enhance performance and maintain a balanced life.

Personal Coaching:
True success always includes matters of the heart and matters of the spirit. Customized coaching power sessions as you need them, either over the phone or face to face can enhance success in all parts of life. They are short, highly focused sessions ranging from fifteen minutes to one hour. Whether the problem is building a strategy or building the inner resources to be more effective, these sessions can make changes fast.

Sales Coaching sessions should be custom designed to fit your organization -- high end sales or the basics, be it:

  • personal development to build personal resources or to eliminate roadblocks
  • advanced goal-setting or balanced life
Group Sales Coaching:
Professional sales is a high performance job. You have to be in top form to win. These group sessions get you there and help keep you there ie: at least ten - half day or one day workshops over twelve months allowing the participants to practice what they have learnt in the training and personal coaching sessions.
Some results with Sales Skills Coaching can include:
  • Clarify sales objectives into manageable, realistic goals.
  • Refine existing strategies and/or create new strategies.
  • Develop new sales skills.
  • Discuss specific challenges for individuals or an entire sales team.
  • Eliminate unrealistic barriers that may be preventing you from success.
  • Prioritize activities into revenue-generating activities.
  • Remove the roadblocks to success
  • Clarify goals that are achievable
  • Build the confidence to win
  • Eliminate procrastination
  • Practice advanced selling techniques that improve your productivity
  • Learn advanced rapport building secrets
  • Learn the power of language
The 3 Steps to establishing a successful Sales Coaching Program:

First, the organization should examine the personnel available to complete the coaching project. Coaching is much more than a series of learning sessions and requires a specific skills set as well as an experienced, credentialed team. Some of the "people" questions your organization should ask are:
  • Does your staff have the required technical and coaching project management knowledge/skills and time to complete the project?
  • Do you have a committed, trained and well-briefed development team with defined roles?
  • Do you have full support from all corporate stakeholders?

Successful coaching development requires a proven, efficient process for "resourcing" the appropriate practices and protocols. This process must include time for analysis, design, user testing, review, and revision. Without carefully designing a process that includes these and other necessary steps, you significantly decrease your chances of coaching success. Some of the "process" questions your organization should ask are:

  • Do you have a realistic project schedule?
  • Do you have a detailed project blueprint?
  • Do you have a clear list of project requirements?
  • Do you have a proven, written training development process for the key players?

Finally, do you have all the technical parts and pieces to make your coaching effort actually work? Successful coaching requires a complex mix of proven validated assessment instruments, coaching tools and techniques, and support back-up. Without these, the best-designed coaching program can become dead on arrival. Some of the "parts" questions that your organization should ask are:

  • Do you have the coaching technical infrastructure and behavioral change tools to meet your coaching requirements?
  • Do your end users/coaches have access to the necessary technical information and hardware?
  • Does your coaching program manager and team have the necessary coaching project management and measurement tools?
  • Is 'technical coaching support' available to the program manager and coaches?

- How to be a successful Sales Coach:

1.  Put yourself in the position of each individual team member. Be prepared to see and understand the world from their
2.  Listen actively. Understand what is 'true for them', what motivates and interests them, what bores or demotivates them
3.  Be prepared to make changes to your own style and approach as a result of what you learn.
4.  Remember these three words: - respect, empathy and objectivity. Bring these to your coaching sessions - every time
5.  Book diary time and a special meeting room for each coaching session. Ensure there are no interruptions.
6.  Let the coachee do 80% of the talking, prompted by your carefully considered questions
7.  Use open questions to understand, probe, challenge and develop ideas. Use closed questions to pin down agreement and
     next actions
8.  Identify specific areas for change and agree how the salesperson will modify their behavior. 
9.  Create a clear and definitive development plan to build on strengths and address developmental needs
10. Establish agreed upon metrics to measure the 3 P's: personal, professional and performance growth.


-Case Study 1: MidWest Finance Group
The Senior Managers of the
MidWest Finance Group responsible for the sales and marketing teams within the organisation were assisted in designing a coaching programme which would enable them: to adopt a 'Transformational Leadership' approach; be more 'Emotionally Literate' to the consequences of their leadership style; improve their cross functional effectiveness -as a team and individually; to develop an awareness of their team members’ behavioural style and strengths, and address areas which may be causing them to under-perform. 

The programme employed team and one-to-one coaching sessions. Prior to the workshops, the participants underwent individual assessment and took part in a 360 Degree Appraisal. This data help define the structure of the programme and provided benchmark information which was used to guage the results of the overall programme as well as individual changes in performance and behaviour.

The programme was conducted over a twelve month period commencing with an education programme on
performance coaching. All results were statisically measured and directly correlated back to bottom-line performance/productivity gains. The programme met all set goals and has since been adopted as the core platform for ongoing management and staff training development.  

-Case Study 2: Premium Insurance
In a continually changing market, regularly evaluating and improving employee performance and productivity has become more than an administrative detail - it is now a key business strategy. Today most businesses (large and small) first exposure to 'bottom-line' coaching (other than executive coaching for senior management) is the introduction of performance coaching in their sales departments. Performance sales coaching is relatively easy to introduce, control and monitor, and generates immediate measurable results

A new breed of performance coaching development systems promises to solve many of the problems of training-based review systems and support best practices that result in greater productivity and employee satisfaction. These systems lead managers through the performance review process of measuring key behavioral aspects that critically impact upon the successful execution of professional skills. Importantly, it helps them with the most difficult part of a review - putting their assessments and action plans into a development vehicle that works. This just-in-time approach via regular one-to-one or small group coaching/learning is widely regarded as more effective than traditional occasional "classroom" training. It ultimately results in greater productivity because managers become coaches as they work with employees on developing the skill sets most in need of growing. By giving managers HR expertise and coaching tools to help them track and evaluate performance, the coaching-based performance management system removes many of the barriers that have traditionally undermined the ongoing development of their people. Coaching based development programs also enable organizations to: audit their human capital base; measure operational performance to provide the platform for ongoing improvement; and gain an understanding of employee value for ongoing strategic modeling and planning

Premium Insurance, a leading player in the motor insurance market, needed to improve its internal processes, skills and service levels in order to compete  effectively. Premium wanted results that would be lasting and realized quickly. Working closely to the brief as co-developed with the in-house project management team, an external Coaching Group devised an innovative approach that resulted in the complete redesign of Premium's Customer Strategy. It introduced a Sales Agent Performance Management Development schedule. The group's program of consultation with management and the agents themselves resulted in a system which automatically produced weekly agent skills reports, and which summarized individual performance on an agreed set of defined performance indicators. Team leaders and agents alike could now see on a weekly basis not only how they performed on key outcome measurements, such as sales calls handled, schedule adherence, policies sold, sales conversion rate, cross-selling of other products - but more significantly, the Team leaders could now easily identify and monitor the behavioral strengths and weaknesses of each agent in the execution of their sales skills and use this as a basis for individual behavioral coaching. The system also facilitated the introduction of a fair and motivating performance-based reward system based on the Weekly Skills Report. The experience so far with the system has been that: staff morale has improved as agents have more visibility and control over their performance; sales performance has radically improved - with average weekly sales up by 50%.

-Case Study 3:  Fast-Track Pharmaceutical Sales Results
The pharmaceutical sales division of one of the world’s largest healthcare organizations discovered that successful sales strategies are not simply some magical mix of sales savvy and landing the right territory. Behavior-based coaching methods provided this organization with the platform to consistently achieving targeted results. 

The large sales force of this globally competitive pharmaceutical division faced multiple business issues, one of which was wide variance in individual sales representative, director and division management performance. Because the performance disparity was so great profitable opportunities were being bypassed because neither management, nor sales personnel were able to operate to their fullest potentials. Management wanted to know how to raise poor performance to average, how to make average performance exceptional, and how to continually develop and inspire top performers. The goal was how to create an ongoing cycle of improvement until every individual reached and sustained optimal performance levels.


Behavioral-Based Coaching -Solution Implemented
Assessment help pinpoint the behaviors over which reps and managers had control, and those which actually had a real impact on securing the sale and extending the sales relationship for each particular situation. A set of customized sales techniques that acknowledged such factors were established. Coaches accompanied sales reps and managers on field trips and were able to pinpoint best practices and observe customer environments. Salespeople learned to delineate and then practice those activities that added greatest value for the customer. At the same time, sales managers learned the activities that encompassed necessary coaching, development, and support of critical behaviors. After using a new set of enhanced personal skills, one sales representative stated, “I’m working just as hard, but I’m now focusing on the things that I can influence: the critical actions that drive results.”

Some Results of the Behavioral-Based Coaching Program

  • Following implementation of behavior-based coaching, this group was voted best sales division in the organization for the past two years.
  • All groups that implemented behavior-based coaching methods improved. One division went from being 52nd out of 55 in sales of a key product, to 1st.
  • Sales managers evolved from critics to coaches; and subsequently, culture evolved from that of subordinating to supportive.
  • Sales representatives identified factors of control via behavior action plans and, consequently, realized influence over individual accountability.
  • Sales representatives built action plans to sign-up Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners. Their plans included key behaviors, how to track progress, and the rewards for meeting their goal. The sign-up rate went from 20% to 80% within one year.
  • Strategic selling defined customer-centric sales techniques and value-added, long-term sales/customer relationships.
  • Territorial realities were managed with customized and thus profitable sales approaches.
        -Edited Extracts from Next Generation Pharmaceutical Magazine

For more information on Behavioral Change coaching and tools see: Change Tools

Note: One of the first ever published case studies (1958) on the effect of coaching was on individual sales performance enhancement. The case study involved the coach working with the Sales Training Director and included the sales staff receiving regular group coaching sessions focusing on team building. The program objectives of higher sales, greater team motivation and reduced staff turnover were all met. 


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