This is the first in a two-part series about bringing your sales coaching into the twenty-first century. Check back later for part two.
This might shock you: According to research from Aberdeen Group, many sales managers still coach around old-school frameworks of emotion and gut instinct.
In fact, you might be one of those sales managers. But you should know that out of 1,200 companies surveyed, those that left the coaching process to managers only saw half of their reps hit or exceed quota. Companies with a formal coaching process had more than 60 percent of their reps at or exceeding quota.
Sales coaching improves sales performance – but only if you’re equipped with the best strategies, data and planning. Here’s how to turn your old-school sales coaching model into a modern sales performance machine.
How to update your sales coaching strategy
1. Invest in sales management training.
Top-performing salespeople often get promoted to become sales managers, whether or not they have prior experience in management. They might possess the right qualities for the role, but managing reps requires a different skill set than just being one.
Here’s where a lot of new sales managers struggle: Successful reps perform the day-to-day activities needed to close business intuitively. The right activities are obvious to them, but not to the rest of the team. And they don’t realize that until they start managing others.
This is where sales management training comes in. More than half of companies surveyed by Vantage Point Performance and The Sales Management Association reported that they invested less than half of their sales training budget in sales managers. But that same research also found that companies that allocate more than 50 percent of that budget to management training outperform their goal by 15 percent.
Clearly, sales management training improves sales performance. More than 80 percent of regular sales training content is typically lost after 90 days, but a well-trained sales manager reinforces important selling techniques through consistent sales coaching. Invest in training for new managers so that they know how.
2. Determine operating metrics.
Already using activity-based selling? You can skip this step.
If not, listen up: This step will turn your myriad sales metrics into instructive, predictive, key performance indicators.
The activity-based selling methodology says that sales is a cascading chain of activities that lead to a defined outcome. With this strategy, modern sales leaders measure, manage and motivate their teams around 3-4 operating metrics.
Here are four steps to define your key operating metrics. These metrics provide a strategic roadmap for your reps to close more business. They enable you to monitor and course-correct performance in real time. Used correctly, the metrics form a directional sales forecast that ties back to the controllable actions of your sales team.
Most importantly, operating metrics create objective data for you to coach sales reps around. Stop coaching reps based on your gut instinct. The same report from Aberdeen Group found that more data and less emotion in the coaching process provides more opportunities for “sales excellence.”
3. Schedule consistent one-on-one meetings.
Most sales managers understand that they should have one-on-one meetings. But those weekly sessions often turn into mere pipeline reviews or get rescheduled or canceled.
Believe it or not, less than 50 percent of sales leaders meet with reps to discuss sales pipeline on a weekly basis. One-on-one meetings should be sacred. Of course, the session will probably include a pipeline review. But it’s so much more than that.
During that time, you and your rep should talk about their pipeline, sales activities, what’s working and what’s not working. This time is for the sales rep to feel comfortable opening up and discussing what’s on their mind — personally or professionally.
Even if you feel like your reps are happy, healthy and successful, they still deserve a one-on-one to review the most important parts of their job: their sales activities (inputs) and their pipeline metrics (results). Every rep has room to improve. Make sure sure to have these regularly (weekly or every other week).
These are just the foundations for better coaching. Check back later for three frameworks to improve your coaching sessions and increase overall sales performance.