As anyone knows who regularly reads my blog, I think the most important part of a sales manager’s job is the coaching they provide to sales reps. To make sure those conversations lead to lasting improvement more and bigger sales and aren’t dismissed as Monday morning quarterbacking, here are 7 essentials for better sales coaching conversations:

  1. Timely—Act as soon as you notice that the rep has failed to address a problem you’ve previously talked about with them. The longer you wait to address the issue, the harder it is to fix.
  2. Well planned—Think through specifically what you want to say for each part of the coaching discussion. Start by creating an opening for the rep to share their perspective first. Then ask yourself, “What is the underlying cause of this rep’s problem or skill gap? What are the options for change going forward?
  3. Behavior-oriented—Don’t criticize the person. Be very descriptive about what you’re seeing. When you describe your observation, be sure not to judge it. Act as if you are a news reporter. (Some salespeople are hypersensitive to criticism. Your goal is behavior change.) Also talk about the different behaviors you want to see going forward.
  4. Focused—Salespeople do have the gift of gab and many will use their verbal skills to sidestep uncomfortable situations. So make sure you don’t allow the conversation to be diverted. Stick to your talking points. If the person attempts to divert the conversation, bring them back to the behavior.
  5. Implementable—You need to provide the rep with a fair way to measure their own progress and to tell whether they have made the change you are requesting.
  6. Future-focused—The rep cannot change the past, they can only change the future. So don’t rehash grounds you’ve gone over multiple times already. Keep the discussion focused on what needs to change going forward.
  7. Put the shoe on their foot—Consider saying to them, “Put yourself in my shoes. Suppose you had a rep who was doing what you’re doing. How would you handle it if you were me?”

You can also apply these 7 essentials in any conversation with a rep, even when you’re doing a ride-along (or call-along). Download my “Observation Checklist” for a list of the specific sales behaviors you want to be watching for.

Kevin F. Davis, author of “The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness: 10 Essential Strategies for Leading Your Team to the Top.”

Kevin F. Davis is the author of “The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness: 10 Essential Strategies for Leading Your Team to the Top.” The book is available for purchase on