strong organizationally-driven coach- ing culture, managers have had to “go it alone” and coach based on their intuition and past (and potential- ly irrelevant) experience. In fact, 40% of sales reps report they work within a well-established coaching culture at their organization. Lastly, the other challenge sales managers face when coaching in a virtual environment is access to and knowledge of technologies to support virtual coaching. Gartner research shows that only 39% of sales managers effectively use technology to coach their reps. As more sales or- ganizations invest in sales training and coaching technologies, it will be criti- cal to ensure they have the infrastruc- ture in place to support and leverage the effective use of such technologies.

NEW COMPETENCIES TO COACH FOR IN A VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENT While additional competencies may emerge as sales organizations continue experimenting and learn- ing, sales leaders need to work with enablement teams or external training organizations to train both sellers and managers on at least three skills that are required to succeed with virtual selling today. Sales organizations first need to focus on what we call “virtual custom- er engagement.” This competency extends beyond in-meeting interac- tions, and includes everything from prospecting to consensus building to handling complex negotiations in virtual channels. From there, leaders need to introduce, develop, and train on digital dexterity – the ambition and ability to use technology to achieve business outcomes. Finally, sales organizations need to focus on data literacy – the ability to read, write, and communicate data in context.

LEADING COACHING INITIATIVES IN 2021 Virtual will continue to be a big part of sales organizations’ customer engage- ment strategy for years to come, so

sales leaders must acknowledge that this needs to be planned for appropri- ately. Have you done a “customer un- derstanding” exercise recently? Do you know how your customers’ preferences have changed as to how they want to engage with your teams? Sales leaders need to look at the trainings and tools currently in place. Do they specifically cover skills that are necessary for virtual selling? And are you enabling managers to ef- fectively use technology to bring sales coaching truly into the 21st century? For many sales organizations, it is past time to formalize the tools, processes, and trainings that teams


Believe It! A lot of people will tell you that a combination of knowledge and skill is the key to human achievement. Even with generous amounts of knowledge and skill, however, human achievement is still impossible without one other ingredient: belief. With- out belief, nothing will happen. Long before Columbus sailed to America, scientists had proven that the world was round, and we now know that more than a few people probably had circumnavigated the Earth before Columbus – but without knowing they had done so. Until the time of Columbus, however, many otherwise well-informed people believed the Earth was flat and, because of that widespread belief, it might as well have been flat for all those centuries. Then Columbus made his historic voyage and, from that time on, the im- possible gave way to the commonplace.

When I was a kid, Glenn Cunningham had come closer to running a

four-minute mile than anyone else. But Glenn Cunningham believed a four-minute mile was impossible. Coaches, doctors, anthropologists, and other athletes concurred until Dr. Roger Bannister disproved them all. Not too long after his achievement, it became commonplace for several people to run the mile in less than four minutes in a single race – yet lose to even faster runners. In the 1860s, Dr. I. P. Semmelweiss said that, if doctors simply washed

their hands, fewer women would die from what was then called “childbed fever.” Even in the face of solid evidence, though, the medical profession believed Dr. Semmelweiss was mistaken. They flatly refused to wash their hands and thus condemned their patients to needless suffering and death. If all things are possible to one who believes, isn’t it equally true that

nothing is possible to him who doesn’t believe? Although non-believers achieve things now and then, if they persist in their belief that something can’t be done, their subconscious minds will make them right.



will need for success during and after the pandemic. Sales leaders should start by assessing the current state of manager coaching and sellers’ experience with virtual selling to bet- ter understand where the gaps and opportunities exist. Leverage tools that allow you to adopt a data-driven approach to gauge areas of uncer- tainty around coaching and virtual selling. Using this data, sales organi- zations can then make more informed decisions regarding training initiatives and investments. 

Danielle McKinley is director of research at Gartner.

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