Thanks to automated systems, over-crowded inboxes, and saturated markets, the field of sales has become more competitive than ever. It’s increasingly difficult for sales representatives to catch the attention of a prospect and turn an opportunity into a close. With all of this in mind, how can you be sure that your salespeople continuously improve their selling practices and maintain their edge?
The answer may be simpler than expected. Think back to the last time you added a new sales rep to your team and what their onboarding process looked like. After introducing your new rep to your company’s mission and sales objectives, you probably dove into refining their sales skills. With methods like sales call shadowing and role-playing exercises, it’s easy to turn a fresh salesperson into a seasoned pro.
Here’s where sales managers run into issues: just because the onboarding process has ended, doesn’t mean that sales coaching practices should, too.
The Benefits of Continued Sales Coaching
Sales coaching enables the evaluation of sales reps’ skills, knowledge, and readiness, and provides the opportunity for feedback and continuous improvement. CSO Insights offers a formal definition of sales coaching:
“Sales coaching is a leadership skill that develops each salesperson’s full potential. Sales managers use their domain expertise along with social, communication, and questioning skills to facilitate conversations with their team members that allow them to discover areas for improvement and possibilities to break through to new levels of success. When coaching skills exceed expectations, 94.8% of sales reps meet quota. When coaching skills need improvement, the number of sales reps meeting their quota drops to 84.5%.”
According to HBR, by offering improved sales coaching to middle-tier sales representatives, organizations might expect to see 19% better long-term performance. Consistent and effective coaching techniques can also improve motivation and confidence and subsequently raise employee retention rates.
So, why doesn’t every organization choose to implement continuous sales coaching? The Sales Readiness Group (SRG) drills it down to four common reasons, citing that managers:
- Don’t understand the benefits of sales coaching.
- Don’t feel they have enough time.
- Are concerned about hurting their sales reps’ confidence.
- Are not sure how to coach.
Jumping Back into Sales Coaching
As we discussed earlier, there are serious and organizational and financial benefits of investing in sales coaching practices. Though coaching might come at the cost of money and time, it’s a beneficial (and highly necessary) step in the long run. And while coaches are justified in not wanting to hurt their sales reps’ confidence, they actually may be hurting their reps even more by refusing to invest in their professional growth and development. That’s because, when executed correctly, sales coaching serves to elevate what’s working well and curve what’s not.
This still leaves the question of where and how to get started with sales coaching. Before diving in, it may help to understand the roles you should perform as a sales coach. The RAIN Group suggests you start by defining goals for your sales associates, giving them a tangible reason to want to improve and excel. Just remember to keep these goals reasonable, as they may have a more negative than positive effect if too lofty.
You can’t just give your reps goals and expect them to immediately achieve, though. You must also help your salespeople build the appropriate habits to execute their goals and provide advice and guidance when they’ve hit a roadblock. Further, sales reps must understand that your coaching objectives are not just meant to benefit you and the company’s immediate financial objectives. Communicate to your team that the purpose of sales coaching is to help them down the road, and enable them to take ownership of their own development potential.
There’s one last role that’s not to be overlooked: find ways to motivate your salespeople on an individual basis. Don’t assume that everyone is primarily money-motivated. Instead, find the right balance of financial compensation, recognition, and various extrinsic motivation to encourage your reps to meet (and exceed) their quotas.
The Sales Coaching Process
Now to the actual coaching part: to get the ball rolling, Hubspot suggests a few different observation methods that you can try in combination. There are some of the same observation methods that you may have followed in your sales rep onboarding process: shadow client meetings and phone calls, and review some of their phone calls and client emails. Throughout these processes, be sure to pinpoint where you think they performed well, and where you think there was room for improvement. You should also allow some room for dialogue by setting up regular check-ins where you ask your reps what they think they’re doing well, where they think they could improve, and what steps they want to take to elevate their performance.
Hubspot also recommends leaning on hard data to drive coaching conversations. By tracking various conversion rates, you can pinpoint which part of the sales cycle is causing your rep to falter and begin coaching around that particular area. Additionally, you can recruit your top-performing sales reps to those on your team who may need a little guidance. For example, do you have a rep who’s great at prospecting, but whose close is just not quite there? You can recruit your top-performing sales reps to those on your team who may need a little more guidance. Connect them with a rep who’s great at closing so they can observe and try new methods to close their skill gap.
“Coaching gives you an opportunity to share best practices.” - Hubspot
At no point in the coaching process should you tell your sales reps exactly what to do, nor should you reiterate the same advice to every sales rep you coach. In a constructive manner, help them see where they can improve. From there, provide insight and resources to guide them, but let them experiment to figure out what works best with their unique style of selling.
Though we’ve provided guidance for performing more effective sales coaching practices, you may still be wondering where you’ll find the time to regularly perform these tasks. When managing any size team of sales reps, it can be challenging to find the time to regularly shadow, assess, and dissect individual performance. Fortunately, we have a solution for that.
Vosaic is a cloud-based platform that allows users to record and upload videos, annotate those videos for self-reflection, and share those videos for peer and supervisor feedback. As a sales manager, especially if you’re coaching a remote team, you could ask your reps to record a client call or a peer role play and have them upload the video to Vosaic and share it with you. From there, you can mark up the video with customized criteria to denote successful and unsuccessful moments. You can also select positive pieces from each video to create a highlight clip to share with the rest of your team.
The best news? We offer a free trial period, so you can see for yourself, risk-free, the benefit Vosaic can provide your team.