Coaching the sales reps is mostly a sales manager’s responsibility. But between hiring new recruits, driving the sales strategy, and tracking sales goals—sales managers barely have enough time left for coaching reps.
Oftentimes, it’s not so much about the lack of time or other priorities taking over the coaching duties. The reality is that the average sales manager can’t have 100% coverage on coaching their reps because of the many nuances that go into it.
At Avoma, we talk to several sales managers every day who come to us to evaluate Avoma for coaching their teams. Out of all the challenges they have around not being able to coach their teams effectively, the following problems are most common across the board.
Coaching is a time-intensive chore
Our research shows that sales managers review less than 1% of all sales calls—mostly due to lack of time and misplaced priorities.
Think of a typical B2B SaaS organization that’s on its way to hitting $50 million ARR in its sixth year. A growing company like that often has 2–3 sales managers and 4–5 SDRs and AEs reporting under them. The team size isn’t overwhelming by any means, but the process to coach each rep is what makes coaching a shifting priority.
First, the sales manager has to thoroughly listen to all sales calls run by each of their reps. A typical discovery and demo call is 30 minutes long and reps usually take at least 4-5 sales calls daily.
Even if the sales manager listens to each call at 2X speed, they have to carve out 60 minutes every day to listen to all sales calls. But that’s not where it ends.
Most sales managers don’t listen to all calls every day—and the ones they do, they don’t necessarily have a system to pick which one needs their attention.
They prioritize their call listening time based on how they feel on that particular day, a sales rep’s recent performance, or an account’s revenue potential.
Essentially, it’s a random order of prioritization that’s a hit-or-miss at best. It’s very likely that they might overlook the call that actually needs their attention—or a rep who really needs coaching.
Oh, and the managers aren’t always objective in reviewing a sales call. More often than not, they attach their cognitive and emotional biases, their stereotype for certain types of accounts, or other heuristics (mental shortcuts) that come into play subconsciously.
Their opinions and gut instincts can be useful in a lot of situations, but most sales reps can benefit when the coaching is free of any personal prejudices.
New reps shadowing senior reps doesn’t cut it anymore
It’s surprising that in today’s world of remote selling, most B2B sales teams still practice the conventional way of onboarding and coaching new reps.
It's a widespread norm for most B2B companies to have a new or less experienced sales rep shadow senior reps on sales calls during the training period.
Sales orgs prefer new reps to shadow senior reps because the former can watch and learn from the pros in action. It gives them insights into how to interact with prospects, handle objections, or get a next-step commitment.
While shadowing experts is certainly helpful in many cases—it's not always a practical solution due to time constraints, the difference in working styles, and the manual redundancies that come with it.
In most cases, shadowing more experienced reps limits the possibility for new recruits to access coaching resources on their own. It deprives them of crucial data that they can use to speed up their ramp-up process or coach themselves at their own pace.
For instance, the new reps might have to go through an approval cycle to access battle cards or might need the senior reps to show them how to access past call logs, use Sales Navigator, or take effective call notes during a sales meeting.
Instead of helping new reps feel welcomed or enabling them to start on their own, shadowing senior reps creates unnecessary hierarchies and knowledge silos within the team. It slows down the ramp-up process for new and ambitious sales reps who can hit the ground running if they have access to a more effective coaching process.
The tragedy is, the market for sales tech is one of the most crowded software segments—and most sales teams use some software to manage their coaching workflow. But it hardly helps the sales managers overcome the said problems or coach their teams effectively.
But tools are secondary. Sales teams today need to take a step back and evaluate the culture of coaching to make it more effective.
The 5 stages of the sales coaching maturity curve
In the modern B2B SaaS environment, most sales tools are focused on solving the problems of reps, and not managers.
Sales managers face three major problems:
- Given the limited time, they cannot listen to every single sales call and coach accordingly
- The sales calls they randomly select to listen to and offer feedback, may not be the calls that really need attention
- The subjectivity that goes into evaluating the performance of a sales call
At Avoma, we have had our fair share of challenges when onboarding and coaching new reps. But, over the years we’ve also understood that sales coaching at organizations follows a maturity curve.
Sales teams vary from having an entirely manual coaching flow to being completely automated by AI.
You need to build a culture of continuous learning through sales coaching. The learning and coaching culture you build largely depends on where your organization stands in the maturity curve.
Here are the five stages of sales coaching maturity:
Stage 1: Manually selecting sales calls to listen to
Most young sales orgs have a manual way to handle their sales workflows—they take notes manually, maintain customer data on spreadsheets, and manually pick and choose the sales calls to listen to, using call recording software or a meeting assistant. It’s the nature of seed-stage companies to not invest heavily in technologies because they are yet to figure out what processes work best for them.
At this stage, many companies don’t even have a sales coaching program, to begin with. And if they do, they don’t have a dedicated sales manager to run the coaching sessions effectively.
As a result, the companies have a coaching initiative that’s ineffective and unscalable. Most reps are left to fend for themselves and train themselves to achieve the goals set for them.
Stage 2: Creating playlists to listen to specific types of sales calls
Sales orgs start investing in coaching programs once they have aggressive sales goals set for them (e.g. Series A funding) and start hiring more reps in their teams. At this stage, they start using tools that can help them move with speed.
Most startups don’t skimp on procuring sales enablement and sales engagement tools like Outreach or Salesloft close deals faster. Today, the large majority of B2B SaaS companies use a meeting recording tool to facilitate their sales coaching goals.
But most meeting recording tools are limited to offering you playback of past recordings—they lack out-of-the-box coaching functionalities. A few conversation intelligence software do offer coaching insights that can be used in training sales reps.
We know a few companies at this stage that use the playlists feature that meeting assistants offer to organize sales calls based on the types of calls such as demos, discovery, or follow-ups.
While using playlists is a slightly better process to have more control over the kinds of calls a sales manager wants to listen to, it still doesn’t solve two key issues:
- The call/meeting chosen by the sales manager to listen into, is still random and might not be a call that needs attention and coaching
- The coaching offered by the manager based on the call recording, is subjective and therefore can be different when heard by different sales managers.
Stage 3: Using objective scorecards for coaching
More mature sales orgs realize that keeping prejudices out of your call reviews and coaching is tough—especially because personal biases dampen our judgment at the subconscious level. To combat this problem, they set objective performance criteria to review calls.
They establish evaluation criteria and define performance parameters for different types of sales conversations and use Scorecards offered by an advanced conversation intelligence and sales coaching tool like Avoma.
In case you are wondering what objective scoring means—you can clearly define what a specific score means (i.e. what it means if someone scored you 3/5 for a specific parameter).
You can additionally leave an asynchronous comment on how they can improve on those parameters on their next call.
While this stage of coaching maturity removes the subjectivity in coaching, it still doesn’t solve the problem of selecting the right calls that need attention and coaching help. If you have a team of 10 AEs who handle 5-6 demos a day, it’s practically impossible for the sales manager to listen to all the calls.
Stage 4: Enabling peer-to-peer coaching
Sales organizations in this stage of maturity don’t stop with top-down reviews. These organizations ensure that scoring the meeting and offering feedback isn’t only restricted to sales managers alone, but is open for peer-level feedback across the organization.
We have often noticed that sales reps are the first to notice the skill gaps they want to fill. Therefore these organizations encourage proactive review requests, i.e., reps can voluntarily request scores from specific people in your organization to get specific feedback and speed up their learning.
Stage 5: Automating sales coaching using AI
At the final stage of the coaching maturity curve, sales teams shed most of their manual processes and embrace artificial intelligence to make their coaching faster, more effective, and self-sustaining.
Based on our interactions with sales teams that we talk to, very few companies have arrived at this stage of the maturity curve—despite all the hype around Generative AI-powered sales tools.
Many sales teams that are using AI-powered sales tools use them for narrow use cases like automating their email writing, prospecting, and forecasting. There’s a huge opportunity for sales teams to use AI to double their coaching effectiveness.
Companies in the stage 5 maturity stage use AI to get 100% coaching coverage on all the calls and meetings across the board. There aren’t many conversation intelligence platforms or meeting assistant tools that offer an AI Coaching Assistant.
Avoma is the first and only conversation intelligence software that does this at this point.
Avoma’s AI Coaching Assistant solves two major problems:
- AI takes the first pass at scoring all the calls on the defined evaluation parameters, so the sales managers need not choose calls to review randomly. They can always prioritize the calls that need their attention the most!
- Because AI has already scored the calls, sales managers know the exact areas to coach the reps on.
Hope the maturity stages help you assess where you stand today and what it would take to advance further.
Link coaching activities and metrics to your KPIs
Coaching is just like any other sales activity that yields more results if you measure it. To make the most out of your coaching, you have to see coaching activities in relation to your sales metrics and KPIs.
If you don’t measure your coaching against your business metrics, you will never know its impact on your sales performance. Measuring is the only way for you to validate that coaching is, in fact, helping you increase revenue. If it’s not, it becomes a wasted opportunity that leads you nowhere.
There are several ways you can measure the impact of sales coaching effectiveness:
- Increased rep productivity and competency
- Better team performance and pipeline coverage
- Number of reps applying the coaching feedback
- Shorter sales cycle and higher quota attainment
- Improved lead conversion rate and sales velocity
- Sustained improvement in time spent on selling activities
If coaching helps you improve these metrics, it’s proof that sales coaching is working for your organization and has a bigger potential to help you level up your sales performance. If you can see your coaching contributing to the above metrics, you have to re-evaluate your existing coaching technique and identify an approach that leads you to better revenue potential.
AI-assisted coaching can be a game-changer in helping you crush through your sales performance. It makes your coaching program faster, more autonomous, and more continuous. Sign up with Avoma to test-drive AI Coaching Assistant to improve your sales coaching and performance.