Increasingly, sales coaching has become one of the most important skills of effective sales leaders. Statics by BrainShark found that dynamic coaching programs help 10% more salespeople achieve their quote and can increase win rates by 27.9%. It benefits both the firm and the individual, with findings indicating positively correlations with motivation, job satisfaction and job performance of the salesperson. Fostering an environment that encourages two way communication, respect and active listening. Thus enhances buyer-seller interactions. Finally, sales is a stressful and competitive environment. Through showing that they “care”, sales leaders can help their inexperienced sales people cope with anxiety and avoid pitfalls with coaching.
Building a Sales Culture
Coaching sales culture accelerates changes and is a powerful way to nurture sales representatives. Unfortunately, it is often viewed as one of the most unpleasant tasks or one of a lower priority. According to a study by Brainshark, 47% of sales managers spend less than 30 minutes a week coaching their rep. Some reasons for the negative connotation include the fear to reveal one’s weaknesses, and being directly responsible for their salesperson’s poor performance after coaching. Thus, the critical first step to motivate coaching is for everyone to understand why coaching is encouraged from the top down. Management or board must first see a link between coaching and the business strategy. Have the ability to allocate budget and resources and focus on long-term performance rather than short term results.
Additionally, remove any negative connotation associated with coaching. It is very powerful when sales leaders share their experiences of being coached, what they have learned and the feedback they receive. Being coached doesn’t equate to bad performance, even CEOs from large international firms receive coaching to keep up with the constant changing external environment. Coaching is encouraged because the organization wants everyone to succeed. Successful coaching helps sales representatives develop or enhance the ability to draw conclusions, evaluate other opinions, consider other things, and have their own thought process to achieve their goals.
The goals of coaching sessions is to directly or indirectly drive sales performance. This includes teaching sales representatives new selling knowledge, tools, skill or ability. Collaborate with them to solve problems, establish goals and inspire the salesperson to perform. Whether the goal may be, sales leaders tend to have good intentions when coaching. However, good intentions doesn’t always equate to good results. To better understand what occurs when sales leader coaches, it is important to have a set of coaching KPIs or metrics to measure success. If a coaching session is conducted weekly, weekly goals should be clear with sales reps understanding exactly the roadblocks to his/her goal and what s/he needs to do in order to reach these goals. Ensure that frameworks, data and tools are provided to your sales leaders to follow. Tools could include questions to ask saving leaders time and best practices. Sometimes, it is more effective to avoid giving answers right away. Rather, present the advice in the form of a question so they can come up with a solution of their own. As such, helping sales rep develop confidence levels and be more accepting to implement the solution.
Coaching is a two way communication. The individual characteristics of the sales representative involved in training also affects the result. To begin with, some sales representatives are more coachable, meaning they are more open than others in seeking, receiving and using external resources and practices than others. Sales leaders are likely to reduce coaching if s/he perceives the salesperson as not coachable, or resistant to coaching. Other than personality traits, it is important to note that sales managers can influence sales rep’s coachability. A salesperson may be more open to coaching knowing that the sales leader truly wishes to help enhance their performance. Apart from coachability, sales representatives have different preferences for communication. Some prefer their leader to tell them how it is while others prefer to be more involved in finding a solution.
For better results, Sales leaders can adapt their coaching practices based on the sales representative’s age, career stage and readiness for change. Coaching a top performer is different than motivating an underperforming sales representative to do better. For sales leaders, it is good practice to always explain the cause of coaching, current organizational developments, metrics and focus areas. To back up recommendations, draw on objective data rather than subjective knowledge to prove certain procedures or practices are more likely to win.
Finally, understand the sales representative’s motivation. Is it money or career development? An effective coaching session is one that leaves sales reps driven to implement recommendations, improve and become more optimistic about their future performance. Coaching shouldn’t be limited to from top down. It is important to encourage coaching amongst sales rep and monitor how they learn from each other.
Surfacing coaching blindspots
Sales leaders need to identify blindspots to bridge the gap for their sales representatives. In order to do this, it is critical to monitor performance daily as opposed to only doing so at yearly performance reviews. This way, sales leaders can provide ongoing feedback, both positive and negative. Encouraging positive behaviours while preventing someone from going astray. Given that there may be hundreds of sales reps and remote working environments. Ts vital for leaders to understand the amount of visuality that they have. In other words, having the ability to see the number of calls ghosted by each sales rep and current open deals. One possible deal warning is sales representatives having three and less active connections, with signals the need for a one on one meeting.
Measure the impact of coaching
One important metric to measuring success is the percentage of teams that hit quota. Measure the percentage of quota for each team before and after training. Be mindful however, to not focus exclusively on superstars and low performers. In many cases, there is a normal statistical distribution with low performers on one end and high performers on the other. This results in leaving the majority of sales representatives at the middle of the bell curve. Sales leaders may gain a higher return on investment of their time on the average player. Considering most rep fall in the average range, bridging the gaps of knowledge, skill, and experience so average players can work towards their full potential will improve performance. One additional benefit from moving to the middle is that the top and bottom performers are also pushed to perform better. In particular top performers that keep their sales number just high enough to stand out at the top but had not delivered their full capacity.
Apart from measuring percentage of quota, other metrics to measure performance are size of the deal, conversion rate by stage and the speed of deal time. Since every organization and sales team has different strategic goals, it is important to collect feedback and monitor engagement levels from coaching sessions to find the correct success metrics for the team.
The purpose of coaching is equipping sales representatives with tools, knowledge, opportunities so they can become more effective. While most organizations recognize the importance of training, the overall sales coaching may not be effective. This paper discussed the importance of assigning proper coaching framework, metrics and accessing blindspots to create a coaching culture that can benefit both the organization and the individual in performance.