Supporting Sales Reps with Hybrid Coaching

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Coaching serves as the backbone to improving sales rep behavior. Without it, showcasing skills in the field can become guesswork, and reps can struggle to be agile alongside shifting markets or customer needs. In essence, coaching provides a strong foundation to reinforce specific tools, resources, and skills. Especially amid change and uncertainty, sales reps are seeking a sense of stability, and effective coaching can provide just that.

Still, coaching has fundamentally evolved over the past year. Organic and in-the-moment coaching between meetings or calls is less accessible in virtual settings, and many programs as a result have shifted to become more formal and structured.

As the business world transitions back into in-person environments while also carrying forward many of the practices of virtual work, enablement must ask what hybrid coaching will look like going forward. Using the lessons learned from both virtual and in-person coaching, practitioners can discover how to best support reps through hybrid coaching initiatives. As norms continue to transform for many businesses, enablement must prioritize effective coaching to support reps through change so that they can better serve the needs of customers. By finding balance between mediums within coaching strategies, reps can be supported in any environment.

Here are three crucial tips to supporting sales reps with hybrid coaching.

Make Coaching Digestible

The transitions and changes within the sales process can, understandably, be overwhelming to manage for sales reps. Creating digestible coaching creates a more seamless learning experience for reps, as opposed to being bombarded with information.

The key to digestible coaching is breaking up sessions, whatever the format might be, into smaller chunks, and to consistently repeat the skill being taught.

“When you’re building out your coaching plan, think about how you can deliver that same information in repeatable digestible chunks and serve them up in different ways,” said Kathryn Baker, director of sales enablement at Conexiom. “Whether that be through live training, through the technology that you have available, through on-demand resources, through certifications, repetition is your best friend.”

With consistent session lengths and repetition, there is a virtuous cycle created that utilizes feedback to foster improvement. Each time a rep repeats the skill or lesson and receives feedback from their coaches or managers, they are motivated to perfect the skill at hand, as opposed to being discouraged by failure. When reps are able to consistently hear what is working and what is not working, they can consistently improve each time they put the skill into practice.

A common challenge to creating digestible coaching is miscommunication regarding priorities. Since sales reps are being asked to change a lot within their sales process and methodology, it is important to grasp that everything cannot change at once. By aligning with the top priorities and goals of sales leaders, coaching plans can be built to effectively focus on one goal at a time in alignment with their strategic initiatives.

Instill a Coaching Culture

A company-wide culture that values coaching is essential to the success of hybrid coaching. When coaching becomes a mechanism to drive success, reps will be more eager to take part and engage on a meaningful level.

“If your teams, the direct sellers or frontline managers, don’t see value in the coaching that is coming from enablement, it becomes white noise that they sort of ignore,” said Baker. “That is the worst thing that could ever happen to any of us in an enablement capacity.”

One part of a healthy coaching culture is avoiding an unnecessary emphasis on productivity. When work environments first shifted to virtual workplaces, the world went into a hyper-productive state with back-to-back meetings and strenuous hours. A healthy coaching culture is contingent on establishing ground rules for what coaching looks like at a practice or skill-set level.

To effectively instill a coaching culture within an organization, it is vital to note that coaching is not one-size-fits-all. Different reps will require different coaching, as their skill sets might be different. Rather than assuming all reps need the exact same coaching, it is more efficient to tailor coaching to individual needs. With prescriptive coaching, sales reps receive the specific guidance they need as opposed to a general and impersonal lesson.

“Deliver materials and coaching opportunities that help [reps] get better at their craft,” said Baker.

Another key component to creating a coaching culture is investing in the mindset of sales reps prior to focusing on specific skills. Before reps can effectively learn the skills they need to, they must have an established mindset that sets them up for success throughout their learning experience.

“I can tell you what I believe that a lot of people got wrong early on,” said John Dougan, senior director of global sales delivery and coaching at Workday. “They didn’t invest in the mindset of their people, whether that’s drive, willpower, resilience, confidence, motivation, or determination.”

Without the right mindset, reps will struggle to invest the necessary time and effort into coaching to make substantial progress. To help encourage this attitude toward coaching, it is important that reps have the flexibility to learn within the time frame that works for them, without being confined by an overloaded schedule. When the nature of coaching becomes a source of motivation for reps rather than viewed as an obstacle, reps can more effectively and efficiently master skills.

Utilize Data and Technology

Both technology and data-driven feedback play a large part in fostering a supportive coaching environment in the hybrid era.

Tools such as revenue intelligence have proven to be fundamental to collaborating and empowering managers to coach virtually. Revenue intelligence tools provide insight that leaders can use to inform decisions, give a closer look into what is moving the needs on revenue goals, and help enablement plan initiatives and effectively refine efforts. In fact, the State of Sales Enablement Report 2021 found that when leveraged effectively, revenue intelligence tools are correlated with a 9-percentage-point improvement in quota attainment.

Similarly, enablement can utilize data gathered virtually and in person to better inform their hybrid coaching programs. Using data as a tool to measure growth and effectiveness directly shows coaches and managers where reps are succeeding and where reps might need extra support through coaching. When teams use data as a focal point, it demonstrates to leaders and stakeholders the inherent value of coaching and the positive impacts it has on the organization.

“We are obsessed with making sure we’re looking at those data points weekly,” said Dina Berger, senior director of sales enablement at Cision. “My team reports around that. If that’s how we’re measuring, then we have a better opportunity to grow our teams. We have a better opportunity to prove to our leadership that enablement is making that impact.”

When leaders see coaching as an important tool to drive success, their feedback can be implemented to format coaching strategies that drive strategic impact against core go-to-market initiatives in a hybrid work environment.

“Coaching is the mechanism to extract the best you possibly can from where your people are today,” said Dougan. “But also, it’s the best mechanism for reinforcement of so many of the initiatives and efforts that we’re putting out there. If you don’t have a coaching culture, then take it on yourself to speak it into existence. Because once people start speaking about coaching, they really talk about the strategy behind it.”

Amid the turbulence of shifting environments, effective hybrid coaching arms sales reps with the specific tools they need to perform successfully in any environment. Making the coaching process enjoyable and comfortable for reps through a mix of in-person and virtual techniques, driving toward an organizational culture that values coaching, and utilizing tools to create positive feedback cycles are fundamental aspects to fostering successful hybrid coaching initiatives.

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