Building a Coaching Culture Part 4–Keeping it Alive

This is the final part of our Coaching Culture series - If you missed our earlier posts, we encourage you to read through the earlier posts that build up to this one:

As you know, coaching cultures are not infomercial ovens that promises you can just “Set it and forget it!” Keeping your coaching culture alive requires time and effort. If you neglect it, it will slip right back to where it started–the back burner.

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to enforce and maintain your new culture, this becomes increasingly difficult until you reach a tipping point where your new coach culture takes on a life of its own. Until that point, your coaching culture is at the mercy of the individuals in your organization, for example, you’ll hire new reps. You’ll bring on or promote up new managers. Your sales team, if all goes well, will grow. All along the way, you have to be intentional about taking steps to keep the integrity of your coaching culture and informing/reinforcing the integrity of your new culture.

Here are a few things that we’ve discovered to make a coaching culture stick:

Focus On Who Your Bringing Into Your Organization

‘Culture fit’ is a checkbox in nearly all hiring processes. Take that box very seriously now that coaching has been embedded in your culture. New hires need to be coachable. Know how to spot candidates that are coachable, those who may need some coaxing to warm up to it, and the red flags that someone may be coaching-resistant.

Once you have made a hire, it’s important to make them aware of your coaching culture in a direct way. Make it known that the culture exists and what exactly that means for members of the organization.

This is even more important for those who are promoted into a your organization or into a management role. Misaligned management is one of the fastest ways to destroy your coaching culture. We suggest having regular manager training sessions to ensure that your managers are impacting and adding to your coaching culture instead of working against it. If you bring in a manager that doesn’t directly report to you, make sure that you empower them to own the coaching culture just as much as you do.

Define and Check-In on What ‘Good’ Looks Like

Misalignment on what ‘good’ looks like can happen to anyone, including managers and reps who work side-by-side every day. That’s why it’s critical to regularly check in and make sure everyone’s still on the same page.

For managers, check what they’re coaching reps on once or twice a quarter. Observe the terms and phrases they use and make sure managers are still ‘speaking the same language’. One or two outliers with individual reps might be okay, but if they’re coaching the team differently from the other managers, it’s going to require action.

With reps, making sure they know what a ‘good’ call looks like is a bit easier. Get the team together for monthly best practice or Call of the Month sessions and go over what made those calls so good. Borrow a page from Blanche at SalesLoft’s playbook and spontaneously ask each rep to write down the different parts of a call. Review answers and see if anyone needs refresher training (and don’t be surprised when they do, 87% of sales training is forgotten within 30 days).

As your coaching culture develops you will begin to notice that everyone will begin adopting a similar vernacular or language that is unique to your sales organization. This is something you should encourage. You should also be aware that as your organization evolves, so will your sales coaching culture. It’s important to embrace that and when you see it happening take a moment to adjust expectations and even the definition of your coaching culture.

Coaching Should be Universally Accepted Regardless of Title

This is something straight from ExecVision Co-Founder Steve Richard. Encourage your sales team to do peer:peer coaching and coach your/the management team’s calls. Even if you’re at the top of the ladder, there is still plenty to learn and improve on. It’s beneficial for everyone–you get a new perspective on your calls, your reps learn how to identify and gauge what ‘good’ sounds like in practice, and everyone has a stronger relationship because of it.

Blur the lines between coaches and those who get coached. No one should be ‘untouchable’ unless it’s for specific reasons like security. The only difference between coaching reps and coaching sales leaders should be the level of the discussion. For reps, you can put focus on specific skills within a call. Managers and sales leaders should take the discussion to the next level and look at the bigger picture i.e. how this call impacted the deal.

Remember that at the end of the day a sales coaching culture is built on two things, the desire to learn and transparency.

Pay Attention to the Metrics and Benchmark!

Remember those one or two things you wanted to get out of building a coaching culture? Track them. Measure the impact of coaching on your team’s performance. Look outside of the items you focused on — we suggest taking the time to benchmark the following metrics and check back on them quarterly:

  • The average number of meetings set per month (as a whole and per rep)
  • New hire ramp time
  • Conversion rates
  • Deal progression
  • Team turn over

It may take time to begin to see the full ROI of a coaching culture which is why it’s so important to look at the metrics. The metrics will also tell you if you need to tweak something in the process, i.e. if a rep isn’t progressing, are they being coached too much? Too little? Enough, but it’s not sticking?

Celebrate Success

If you want coaching culture to stick, celebrate its success. Congratulate reps when you see them moving up the leaderboard. Praise managers when their team sees an overall lift in performance.

If you aren’t regularly giving praise to your team in a public manner, make sure you start. Use their individual success stories to motivate the rest of the team. When someone sees their hard work is paying off AND they get recognized for it, it’s going to make an impact.

Stay Consistent

Two of the biggest struggles every sale leader faces are holding everyone accountable and creating consistency. You can’t let off the gas as soon as performance is improving and coaching is happening on a regular basis.

It may seem a bit morbid, but have a succession plan in place for keeping coaching embedded in the culture if the people who built it aren’t there. How do you create new coaching champions? Who helps hold everyone accountable for their part of the coaching process? What do you do to create consistency as the company grows or the buying process changes?

If You Build It, They Will Coach

Building a coaching culture isn’t easy, but it’s highly rewarding and has an impact on nearly every area of sales.

How have you built or will you build your coaching culture? Share your experiences in the comments.

sales managers working together