This post is from our guest contributor Shelley Cernel.
Shelley Cernel is the Senior Marketing Manager at KnowledgeTree. KnowledgeTree is a sales enablement tool that uses data science to get marketing’s content used by sales. She frequently writes on a variety of B2B sales and marketing topics, including social selling, sales productivity, and about the B2B buyer. Shelley holds a Masters of Science in Global Marketing.
With the pressure to hit higher sales goals than ever before, today’s sales managers are increasingly turning to new coaching techniques and technologies to help their teams drive revenue.
Sales coaching, in particular, can make a huge difference in sales rep performance, and sales managers who do not invest the time and resources into coaching are missing out on a valuable opportunity to develop their salesforce. But the B2B selling space has changed pretty significantly within the past five years alone, and traditional methods are no longer as effective as they once were.
Let’s take a look at what sales coaching means to the modern sales manager, why it’s important, and a few ways to see success.
What you need to know about sales coaching
Sales coaching can be defined as “the process of developing and accelerating sales rep performance by initiating enduring behavioral changes”. Sales coaching is not about micro-managing sales reps or attacking their processes and performance. Rather, it’s about finding actionable solutions to drive revenue and help your team develop professionally. And keep in mind that sales coaching doesn’t apply to just reps – your sales managers can also be coached on how to drive performance and on how to more effectively guide their teams.
Several recent studies have uncovered some telling data that supports the case for sales coaching:
- Reps who receive just 3 hours of coaching per month exceed their goals by 7%, boosting revenue by 25% and increasing close rate by 70%. (CEB)
- Sales coaching can increase sales productivity by 88%, yet 73% of sales managers spend less than 5% of their time coaching. (Altify)
- Only 1/3 of sales people meet or exceed quota, which means 2/3 of reps fail to reach their annual sales goals. (Aberdeen)
Every sales leader wants a productive, efficient, and effective sales team, and the data demonstrates what an impact sales coaching can have on the bottom line. But in today’s ever-evolving sales environment where change is the only constant, it needs to be a ‘must have’ activity rather than a ‘nice to have’ activity. And more importantly, sales coaching should be a proactive, not reactive, strategy.
5 sales coaching tips for the modern manager
The modern sales manager is faced with more unique challenges than those who came before him or her. These tips will help you guide your sales reps to success in this new era of selling.
1) Personalize your coaching
We all know that not every buyer is the same, but your sales reps aren’t identical either. Each has a unique skill set, different motivations, and varying levels of potential. First of all, you should be spending one-on-one time with each sales rep to understand their unique problems and challenges, as well as to learn from their best practices. According to Altify, this tactic has proven to be 10x more effective than en masse coaching sessions.
It’s important to note that these meetings should not just be update sessions where the rep reports back their activities – your sales dashboards should already be giving you this information. One-on-ones are your opportunity to identify areas for improvement, to motivate reps, and to provide support. Each rep should have a clear idea of what success looks like for them, a strategy for how to get there, and an understanding of how they will be held accountable.
2) Invest in effective sales technology
Companies are being forced to adapt in an ever-changing marketplace with increasingly informed buyers. Empower your sales team with the tools to help them do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. But don’t just throw every technology you find at your reps and expect immediate results. Carefully evaluate tools that can make an impact on the bottom line and have a plan for getting buy-in from your reps (otherwise the tech won’t get used or incorporated into sales processes).
Having sales enablement technology in your sales stack sets reps up for success by giving them the tools to help them do their job efficiently and effectively, to improve sales execution, to gain meaningful sales insights, and to drive revenue. With regards to sales coaching, a sales enablement tool allows management to push guidance to their reps when they need it most. Real-time help based on the specific sales situation lets reps know exactly what to say or do to progress the sale. And they receive the right content and messaging at the right time to advance prospects through the sales funnel.
3) Implement a productivity pipeline
Modern sales coaching means considering metrics above and beyond just revenue, such as conversion rates, contact rates, marketing collateral usage, sales cycle length, and deal response time. You want to measure those activities that are responsible for revenue increases. The productivity pipeline brings sales analytics and sales dashboards together to offer perspective on the efficiency and effectiveness of reps in driving revenue. Backward- and forward-looking insights enable leadership to identify where in the sales process to focus resources, as well as opportunities for improvement. For example, a sales rep with high conversion rates in the top of the funnel but lower conversion rates in the bottom of the funnel may need additional coaching on closing deals.
Additionally, dashboards can be used to visualize trends in sales rep activity. With this strategy, management can keep a pulse on who needs more guidance and opportunities for improvement, as well as replicate the behaviors of top performers to help the average reps improve.
4) Take a data-driven approach
Data is how you know what is working, areas to improve, and opportunities for new sales strategies. Taking a data-driven approach to sales coaching means having a clear understanding of key sales metrics and activities that signify success, as well as the ability to hold sales reps accountable.
Data-driven sales coaching uses technology to provide dynamic sales training content, to determine which training materials and content are most effective, and to outline best practice next-steps for sales reps. Tools such as sales playbooks allow sales leaders to provide their teams with just-in-time coaching and best practices to ensure they have what they need to advance the deal. Information such as talk tracks, training materials, kill sheets, and persona-based selling tips can be instantly accessible to reps for any given sales situation. The result is an increase in the number of engagements, shorter sales cycles, faster rep time-to-productivity, and higher net sales per rep.
5) Promote collaboration and feedback
The relationship between sales rep and sales manager should be a collaborative one built on trust and respect. Both parties should be able to speak openly and honestly and feel as if they are truly being heard. And constructive criticism and feedback should be a two-way street, as everybody in the organization should be working toward the same goal of closing deals and driving revenue, rather than fighting internal conflicts.
Lastly, it’s important that sales coaching is an ongoing process.
When 87% of training content is forgotten within weeks, a one-time session just won’t cut it. Further, the sales environment is constantly evolving, and the purchase process is increasingly more complex. Your sales team must be trained on the selling space, the buyer personas, and the products and be updated as these buckets of information change over time. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. A third-party consultant may be able to see the bigger picture and offer a new perspective to help you and your team learn, improve, and grow.
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