Sales Team Training & Development

Research backed sales coaching approaches to boost sales performance

Jonathan Hubbard
Jonathan Hubbard
March 1, 2024

Sales leaders from all industries use sales coaching to equip their talent with the right skills and abilities to effectively achieve sales success. It’s a no-brainer that sales coaching improves sales performance, however, coaching doesn’t come naturally to everyone.

Before you bring in a top sales coach, it’s best to look at your own sales coaching style and make improvements. In this article, we’ll provide five research-backed and expert sales coaching approaches to help your team improve sales results.

Sustain high sales performance with these research-backed sales coaching approaches

One size doesn’t fit all: adapt

Your lowest performing rep has just hit their target for the first time thanks to your one-on-one coaching. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said when you try the same approach on a top performer. Where did you go wrong?

It’s long been discussed that to improve sales results quickly, you’ll need to adapt your sales coaching approach to the individual. 

Adapting sales coaching style to the individual is a core finding from a 2015 Texas State University review and research paper. Key Takeaway: You should prioritize adjusting your approach to suit a rep’s character, what they need, what they like/dislike, how they like to communicate.

Some reps may need a show-not-tell approach. Some prefer hard critiques, others need softer words. Perhaps you could sit down for coffee to talk through a sales performance problem, or maybe a few chat messages will suffice. 

Before giving feedback, you’ll need rapport

Jamie is your longest standing rep, a close friend, and takes every critique with ease. In contrast, new rep Casey appears guarded whenever feedback is given. You’re just trying to help, but if feedback isn’t being taken on board positively, it’s hard to see how Casey’s sales performance will improve.

Defined as close harmonious relationships, rapport is essential for not only a great work culture, but great sales coaching. Without rapport, there is very little trust, and low chances of advice being taken to heart. No doubt you already have great relationships with your reps, but it takes time to build trust in all areas of any relationship- especially when it comes to criticism.

In 2019, researchers from California State University found that unless rapport existed between managers and reps, sales coaching effectiveness would be minimal at best. Key Takeaway: Rapport must exist for feedback to be taken seriously and for sales coaching initiatives to succeed.

Build more rapport with your reps by sharing perspectives, asking for their opinions, and empathizing with their experiences.

Coaching is good, sales mentoring is great

The logistics of coaching a large sales team can be unrealistic at the best of times. There’s only one you: there has to be a better way to spread knowledge and improve sales results!

Why not use your existing talent? Having top performers act as mentors can be a cost effective approach to quickly improving a newbie’s sales performance, or anyone who’s struggling.

A Kennesaw State University article discovered a strong link between sales mentoring and increased learning uptake in mentees. Additionally, they found that internal mentoring was more effective than external sales coaching. Key Takeaway: Reps will learn more from mentors than outside sales coaches.

What you can do: recognise your talent, work with them on a mentor role (perhaps help them manage their time or give an incentive), and pair them up with someone struggling.

There’s more than one way to get involved

Recently, you’ve been struggling to get your message across while coaching your reps. Perhaps using the same assessment and feedback approach is starting to get old: you need ideas.

Using role play and participating/observing reps in-the-field can be a great way to build better relationships within your team and proactively guide them towards higher sales performance.

A 2017 essay from the University of South Florida explained that unlike typical business coaching, sales coaching requires greater involvement from managers to facilitate learning: using role play or participation/observation. Key Takeaway: Draw conclusions and feedback based on a rep’s sales performance out in the field.

Ask yourself: what are some situations where your reps could find your presence helpful? You could try listening to a sales call on speaker, attending a new range presentation, or getting a rep to try their upselling skills out on you. 

Encourage the right sales activity and track it

While your top reps consistently exceed their targets, you can see others struggling to adopt the same sales-winning behavior. If you can’t find a way to change their behavior, there’ll be no time left to improve sales results before the quarter’s end.

Woven throughout sales and marketing, key performance indicators are metrics which can be used to drive sales performance when they’re tied to sales activities. 

According to Australian sales expert David McMurdo, activity KPIs guide sales behavior by identifying expected results, and where the results should come from. Example: you choose a target behavior (e.g. overall sales meetings), show reps exactly where they’ll get success (e.g. a particular category sector), and then benchmark sales performance against the activity (e.g. sales meetings per category sector.)

Look at using activity KPIs in your sales coaching strategy as a tool to define specific successful selling behaviors and set benchmarks. Afterall, what gets measured, gets done!

From the research, we can see that adapting to the individual, building rapport, using mentors, getting involved in the field, and activity KPIs are all viable approaches to beef up your sales coaching. Next time you’re needing to shake up your sales coaching approach, Would you like more free advice like this? Consider booking yourself into a Numerik webinar: where we get sales coaches in to share their approaches for sales success.

Sources we used in this article:

In order of appearance:


Badrinarayanan, V., Dixon, A., West, V.L. and Zank, G.M. (2015), "Professional sales coaching: an integrative review and research agenda", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 49 No. 7/8, pp. 1087-1113.

Nguyen, C.A., Artis, A.B., Plank, R.E., and Solomon, P.J. (2019), Dimensions of effective sales coaching: scale development and validation. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, Vol 39, No. 3, pp. 299-315. 

Bradford, S.K., Rutherford, B.N., and Friend, S.B. (2017), The impact of training, mentoring and coaching on personal learning in the sales environment. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, Vol 15, No. 1, pp. 133-151

Nguyen, C.A. (2017), Essays on Sales Coaching. Graduate Theses and Dissertations. University of South Florida Scholar Common

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