Sales pros and pundits alike love to draw parallels between the business of selling and the world of sports, and in both spheres, technology is, quite literally, changing the game. Even the sport of boxing, which has seen little change in the hundreds of years since the first professional match was conducted, is feeling the impact of technology. Beginning with the recent Summer Olympics in Brazil, we now have coaches utilizing mobile-enabled sensors, placed in a boxer’s gloves, to get data on metrics ranging from strike intensity to reaction speed – all of which are invisible to the naked eye.
Technology is having an equally revolutionary impact on sales coaching, providing detailed, real-time data insights into a sales rep’s performance. And, like boxing, the insights go far beyond what’s obvious to the naked eye (or your CRM system), like number of calls made, or number of deals closed. Larry Reeves of AA-ISP and Patrick Gunn, VP of International Sales for Qstream, addressed the importance of building a successful sales coaching culture and the potential impact of data on sales coaching in a recent webinar.
Can You Really Afford Not to Coach?
First, it must be established that the creation of a formal coaching program is vital to the success of your sales team. For those who would argue it’s too costly or too time-consuming, consider this: SiriusDecisions reports an average rep turnover rate of 33%. That high percentage has a negative impact on morale, as well as the bottom line. There are the high costs of recruitment, onboarding, training and certification, as well as the hidden costs of uncovered territories and lost sales productivity. Stemming high turnover rates involves more than restructuring your compensation model, as money is rarely the sole reason reps leave. Research shows that access to management is a critical factor in the job satisfaction of both millennials and high-performing reps. Reps want and expect coaching, and performance feedback figures prominently in why high performers choose a new organization.
While classroom training still has a role in certain sales environments, asynchronous, mobile-friendly, self-paced learning is on the rise, and according to SiriusDecisions’ data, it works.
Unfortunately, while sales leaders may claim to be in favor of coaching, they often fail to create a culture and the infrastructure to support it.
Establishing a Formal Coaching Program
Here, according to SiriusDecisions, are the steps that should be taken by key stakeholders to establish an effective coaching program.
1. Work with sales leadership and enablement to develop coaching dashboards that align a variety of critical KPIs and measure each rep against them. Sales ops can capture leading, learning and lagging indicators and create dashboards that help reps understand how they are doing, give front-line managers perspective on where reps need additional coaching support, and provide a roll-up view for sales leadership.
This dashboard helps determine what coaching actions should be conducted to improve overall performance. With customized categories and KPIs, it requires an agreed upon view of what “good” looks like and how each category works together. When evaluating a rep, it’s also important to group individuals by cohort to allow front-line managers to analyze and coach individuals based upon similarity of tenure, role and organization assignment.
2. Outline and secure agreement from sales leadership and enablement on a formalized coaching cadence. Ensure that all actions are two-way, with the rep’s success owned by both the manager and the rep, and foster a culture that encourages reps to ask for help. Follow-up actions should be sorted into short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals. It’s also helpful to identify patterns of similar actions that can be incorporated into ongoing training. With Qstream, for example, a manager can easily aggregate the output of multiple coaching sessions to identify knowledge gaps, say around the topic of pricing, and then launch a Qstream on pricing tiers and competitive pricing to reinforce the critical information.
1. Define and measure competency-based metrics to be included in all three phases of the sales talent lifecycle: attracting, onboarding, and optimizing the quantity and quality of ongoing sales contributions to the bottom line. Sales competencies – the requirements around knowledge, skills, and process necessary to get a sales job done – are the foundation of any successful sales enablement program. They must be clearly defined and shared throughout the career of the rep: from hiring, to onboarding, to ongoing development. Once established, managers observe their reps, either virtually or in-person, and measure them against these defined competencies.
2. Develop the training programs needed to ensure that field coaches and front-line managers can coach. Companies can create an organizational toolkit to support coaching with these three steps:
- Identify a formal, manager/rep conversation cadence so that reps located at headquarters don’t get more manager coaching time than remotely located reps.
- Leverage technology, like video coaching, to deliver just-in-time coaching in a field environment, cultivating self-paced learning for distributed teams.
- Record and make accessible counseling and coaching activities to assess improvement over time.
Develop an organizational culture within the sales team that leads to a successful coaching program. Companies must commit to a coaching culture that fosters trust and learning between managers and reps. Managers can gain a rep’s trust by conducting conversational interactions and creating lots of opportunities for listening rather than telling. And learning should be infused into all stages of the sales cycle. By leveraging a sales capability platform like Qstream, managers can easily measure and manage their reps’ capabilities on an individual basis, regardless of the team’s size, ensuring a data-driven, non-punitive approach. Connecting coaching to career development is also important. Reps who are receptive to coaching, and managers who actively coach, should be rewarded for their commitment. A successful sales coaching culture not only results in satisfied reps and managers, but also happy and loyal customers.
Leveraging Qstream’s Data-Driven Approach to Coaching
Qstream’s sales capabilities platform offers a data-driven coaching framework that leverages data to help front-line managers understand who and when to coach. This framework combats the lack of data objectivity and scalable processes around coaching. In essence, it takes away the reliance on gut instinct. With Qstream, sales teams can combine data-rich insights, both qualitative and quantitative, by blending knowledge and skills data, field and recorded observations, competency ratings, and even CRM data, to transform front-line managers into effective coaches.
Interested in how our coaching framework can elevate the efforts of your sales team? Request a demo to learn more.