The Sales Coaching Mistake That Everyone Is Making

by Chris Kontes | May 14th, 2019

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The single most common sales question we get at Balto is “Where should we focus our coaching energy?”

Based on Balto’s data from over 17 million sales calls, sales coaching should focus on training the portions of sales calls that happen most often instead of the portions where reps struggle the most.

Yet many managers do the reverse. They listen for glaring errors and then train on them, regardless of the frequency with which they occur. The numbers don’t lie: in tracking millions of calls, the first few seconds of the call have a HUGE impact compared to the rest of the call.

This makes intuitive sense – first impressions are crucial – but it also has to do with a fact that is so obvious it’s easy to forget.

By definition, the beginning of a call happens on the highest frequency of calls. As a result, sales coaching aimed at improving call introductions usually has an ROI far and above any other focus area. 

Here’s a Hypothetical Sales Coaching Scenario:

A sales team is terrible at handling objections to their company’s pricing. Truly, truly awful. Whenever a customer objects to price, these sales reps only manage to overcome the objection 1% of the time.

Naturally, their sales managers hear reps struggling through pricing objections and decide to coach on them, which seems reasonable.

Through continuous training and resources, the company’s sales leadership manages to get reps to effectively handle 70% of pricing objections. That’s a 69-point improvement (6900%) – a seriously impressive jump!

But results don’t improve much at all.


Because pricing objections only happen on 7% of calls (roughly the average we see at Balto).

So even if sales managers spend an infinite amount of time and resources helping reps overcome pricing objections, they can only improve overall call performance by 7 points, and that’s assuming every rep goes from terrible to world class, which we all know doesn’t happen. Usually, it’s not even close.

Now let’s say those managers coach on introductions – the first 3 seconds of the call. Over 90% of calls make it through the first three seconds.

In our hypothetical scenario, let’s imagine reps were delivering effective introductions on 50% of their calls. Then, one of the sales managers conducted a single, 45-minute training that increased the percentage of effective introductions from 50% to 57%. The training wasn’t a big investment, just a quick lunch-and-learn with the sales team that produced seemingly marginal results.

But this 7 point increase did more for the organization than the entire pricing initiative because it affected a MUCH higher volume of calls.

The Math:

Pricing objections: 69 point improvement * 7% of all calls = 4.83% of calls improved

Introductions: 7 point improvement * 90% of all calls = 6.3% of calls improved

This means that coaching on introductions, which reps were doing a pretty good job of in the first place, produced a 30.4% bigger impact on the team’s calls than coaching on pricing objections, even though the team saw a 69-point improvement from the pricing training.

Of course, this is a dramatized example. When reps struggle with openers, these numbers are often much, much further apart. Depending on an organization’s size, this discrepancy can work out to millions of dollars.

It’s easy for managers to listen for glaring errors and then coach on them, but that’s often a dangerous mistake.

Interested in reading more? Check out “How to Make a Great Cold Call”