4 Biggest Traps to Avoid for Increased Sales Coaching ROI

1 Jul 24

Industry research shows that consistent sales coaching can dramatically improve the performance of sales teams, driving up revenue by over 20%.

Industry research shows that consistent sales coaching can dramatically improve the performance of sales teams, driving up revenue by over 20%. With such potential benefits, it is no wonder that many sales organizations recommend that their front-line sales managers spend between 25% - 40% of their time on sales coaching. However, many managers are seeing mediocre results from coaching despite their best efforts. Let’s consider four common coaching challenges negatively impacting coaching effectiveness and how to overcome them.

1. Giving All Reps an Equal Amount of Coaching Time

Coaching a sales team is not about treating everyone equally. It is about achieving results.

Given the time pressures most typical sales managers face, they must be ruthlessly efficient about allocating coaching time and understand that some sales reps will produce better returns on investments of coaching time than other reps. To do this, consider the two key factors for estimating ROI for coaching: a rep’s skill level and “coachability.”

With regards to skill level, the highest sales coaching ROI is with sales reps with “medium” skills, while the highest ROI from coaching comes from moving to the middle. Ideally, a sales manager should spend about 60% of their coaching time with these “medium” sales reps, and 25% of their coaching time with high-skilled reps. Finally, sales managers should only spend 15% of their coaching time with low-skill reps, with newly hired sales reps being an exception.

2. Coaching the Wrong Sales Reps

Skill levels are one important dimension to consider when allocating your coaching time among your sales time. Another factor is a rep’s “coachability” or receptivity to your coaching efforts.

A rep’s coachability can be determined by asking questions such as:

  • Are they receptive to new ideas?
  • Is there a desire to improve?
  • Are they passionate about their work?

Sales reps with low coachability produce low ROIs on your coaching time. Accordingly, you should allocate coaching time for reps with low coachability and increase it for reps with high coachability. While there is no magic formula for improving coachability, it is fair to ask, “Why is this person not receptive to change, and what can I do to increase their receptivity?” It may also be appropriate to examine your approach and style for this individual.

3. Not Devoting Enough Time to Coaching

Sales managers are responsible for a range of tasks, including managing a sales pipeline, coaching their team, forecasting, hiring new sales representatives, strategic planning, and sales administration. In many cases, they are also asked to carry sales quotas or held responsible for a target list of accounts.

Additionally, sales managers face the challenge of managing sales representatives who are typically independent, strong-willed, and sometimes have little day-to-day contact with their managers. With all of these demands on their time, it is no wonder that sales managers can feel overwhelmed.

Many sales managers are too busy “putting out fires” to coach their teams. The problem these sales managers have is not lack of time but mindset: They view their primary role as being the chief problem solver of their team. Every time a sales rep has a problem or needs help dealing with a prospect or customer, these sales managers roll up their sleeves and jump in to help.

This “firefighter” approach in the long term is counter-productive. Instead of spending so much time putting out fires, sales managers should take a step back and spend more time coaching and developing their sales teams. That way, their sales teams can then solve their own problems.

4. Wasting Time on Ineffective Coaching Methods

Most frontline sales managers started their careers as successful sales representatives who were then promoted into management. Companies tend to assume that successful sales representatives will make successful sales managers. However, this is a flawed assumption.

Think about professional sports where many great players ended up being mediocre coaches. Likewise, great sales representatives often have a hard time making the transition to management. The key challenge for sales managers is that coaching requires a different set of skills than selling.

The good news here is that sales coaching is a skill that can be learned, practiced, and perfected. However, it is the responsibility of the sales organization to make sales coaching a priority and then provide managers with the skills and tools they need to be successful.

For best results, sales organizations should view skills development as one component of an overall coaching system that includes:

  • Creating a coaching culture
  • Implementing a coaching process
  • Developing the coaching skills of the managers
  • Using metrics to measure success and hold sales managers accountable.


To avoid common sales coaching pitfalls, start by prioritizing sales coaching time. Low-skill reps might need less guidance, while top performers can benefit from strategic bursts of coaching to push them even further. Then, identify who is eager to learn and adjust your approach for those who seem resistant.

While coaching your team, ditch the “firefighter” mentality, constantly acting as the team's emergency responder is a recipe for burnout. Instead, invest your energy in proactive coaching that empowers your team to tackle challenges on their own.

Finally, remember that great salespeople don't magically morph into stellar coaches. Mastering the art of coaching requires dedication and practice. Lean on your sales organization's coaching system, hone your methods through training and feedback, and track your progress to see what works best.


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