Sales Coaching: Improve Sales Conversations And Avoid Common Mistakes

Coaching is one of the most effective ways to improve the conversations salespeople have. Indeed, the recent CSO Insights 2017 Sales Manager Enablement Report found that companies with a dynamic sales coaching strategy achieve average win rates of 59.1 percent, compared to 41.7 percent among those with an informal approach.

Although there are many different aspects that make up a sales coaching strategy, teaching salespeople how to converse with prospects and avoid common pitfalls is one of the top priorities. In this article, we look at some of the ways coaches can help to steer their teams in the right direction.

Doing Your Homework

One of the first things coaches should do to try to improve the sales effectiveness of their team is to emphasise the importance of doing homework on prospects and going into conversations with some existing knowledge of their needs, wants, challenges and opportunities.

If a salesperson goes into a conversation with no existing knowledge, and has to ask what a business does, or what a customer is looking for, it puts them at a disadvantage and they will look unprofessional (especially compared to the competition). They will not be able to devise a basic game plan and their attempts to solve a problem for the prospect may even seem disingenuous.

Instead, salespeople should be taught to carry out some specific research ahead of time, which will allow them to understand the prospect’s company current situation, challenges, offering as well as main competitors. It is also crucial to find out essential information about the persons who will be in the meeting, their roles and who is making final decisions. On another note, salespeople should also communicate with other departments in the organisation, in order to find out about any past dealings with the prospects. Once they have this essential knowledge, it becomes much easier to form a preliminary strategy and guide a conversation in a mutually beneficial direction.

Educating Customers

Another common mistake, which can hinder sales effectiveness, is a failure to properly educate customers about how products and services work, and what the potential results of using them are. Instead, there often is an incorrect assumption that customers will be entering discussions from a position of existing knowledge.

This need to educate is even more important in the United Kingdom than in the United States, where customers tend to be further along the buying cycle before speaking to reps. Therefore, coaching efforts need to address this and sales staff need to be guided towards working with marketing to deliver consistent, educational messages.

“In the UK there is still a reliance on the salesperson to educate customers, rather than trying to make sense of the vast amount information in the market,” says Lee Bartlett in an interview with CSO Insights. “In the US this is not the case, and customers typically seek the price and little else.”

Ditching the Sales Script

Finally, it is important to coach salespeople to think on their feet and adapt to what is being said to them, rather than relying on a script to guide them through sales conversations. If you accept that no two customers or clients are the same, it should also stand to reason that no two sales conversations should be the same either.

Scripted conversations are easy for customers to detect and, as Aja Frost from Hubspot points out, sticking rigidly to a script can cause sales reps to lose credibility when they fail to naturally respond to what a prospect has to say.

Instead, you should coach your sales reps to carry out some preliminary research, have a basic outline of where they want the conversation to go, but genuinely listen to what each customer has to say, rather than forcing the conversation to adhere to a script. Doing this allows salespeople to sound more credible, genuine and less self-interested.


A significant part of achieving success in sales is avoiding common mistakes and having the right conversations. For sales coaches, the key challenge is to teach reps to put the work in, do their research, serve as educators and have genuine conversations, rather than reverting to a set sales script.

Miller Heiman Group’s Be Ready Workshops and events feature appearances from expert speakers, who cover a wide range of sales enablement topics, including training and coaching. You can find out more information about all of the upcoming events, and register your own attendance, by clicking here.