Sales Coaching is a Field Sport

What am I missing? Tom asked. I have good salespeople and I spent a small fortune sending them through sales training. We have sales meetings every week and I track their activities on

Tom is not alone. According to the ASTD, US companies spend $20 billion every year on sales force development. Depending to who you listen to, 85% of that money is wasted … about $17 billion ($17,000,000,000) lost and gone forever! Within 90 days, only about 15% of the people trained still use the skills they were taught.

Why the low return on investment? Poor or ineffective training or content? Bad salespeople? No, none of these. Well, some salespeople are not trainable, but that’s another topic. Usually the reason for the failure is lack of follow up from sales management.

Now before you get in a tizzy or get all defensive, allow me to explain. Most sales managers and vice presidents of sales have good intentions. They want their salespeople to succeed. They have invested the time and money in training. What then is the problem?

Recent studies show 55% of all sales managers do not spend any measurable time working with their salespeople. I think the real number is much higher. The typical sales manager spends far too much time handling stuff that’s not going to have an immediate impact on sales … meetings, operational problems, HR issues, credit problems, inventory, stocking and shipping concerns, etc., etc. The list is endless.

The primary role of the sales manager is to generate the sales and profits the company needs through the sales force. Everything else is secondary. That means spending 80% of the time face-to-face with salespeople ..making joint calls, coaching, motivating and holding them accountable. You can’t do it sitting on your butt in the office. Coaching is a field sport.

There is no substitute for one-on-one time with your salespeople. When you spend time in the field you gain the following:

  • A chance to observe firsthand how your people perform … something you cannot get from a report.
  • An opportunity to coach while the situation is still fresh.
  • Rapport
  • Information you’d never get in a group meeting.
  • Firsthand knowledge about the market and your customers.

There is much more, but you get the idea. Do not fall into the trap of getting stuck in the office. That’s not where you belong. You belong in the field with your salespeople and you are far more effective there.

Lion Kraaijbeek, a real sales management expert who knows what he’s talking about, wrote a must read article on The Importance of Field Coaching.

Oliver Connolly coaches and mentors sales managers and vice presidents of sales. For more information please go to

I’d appreciate it if you share this with your friends or associates who manage salespeople. Many thanks!