What is the key to coaching a successful sales team?

By
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June 1, 2024

As a sales manager, having a conversation with a team member about why they aren’t meeting their goals is never fun. It’s never easy telling sales reps they haven’t met their quota- asking them to pull up their socks and meet their goals. Alas, it is absolutely necessary.

The key to coaching successful sales teams requires an emphasis on the how rather than the what. A good coach demonstrates how things are to be done and what success looks like.

A Gartner research article states that relevant and accurate sales coaching helps improve sales performance by at least 8%.

How is “showing” more effective than telling?

Let's be honest: achieving positive results while coaching salespeople is neither immediate nor simple. Not only must sales managers make it a top priority, but they must also devote a considerable amount of time to it.

It is common for sales managers to sit down with the underperforming salesperson and tell them about missed targets. A typical response would be that the salesperson is trying their best and is trying to turn things around.

While this conversation fulfills the most basic requirements, it is unlikely to resolve the issue or improve performance. The salesperson may be encouraged by the sales manager's vigor and enthusiasm. But, more often than not, the salesperson does not leave with the necessary information (or tools) to improve.

What's the reason? 

The sales manager instructed the salesperson on what to do but not how to complete the task.

Like any other problem, the best way to begin is by identifying the problem. What is the best way to identify issues? 

In this case, by Observing the actions of a salesperson. For this type of on-field coaching, a manager usually goes on customer calls with a salesperson to watch how the salesperson performs during the call.

Once the areas of improvement are identified, the manager or coach can then sit with the salesperson to

  1. Help identify and agree on the areas that need improvement
  2. Create an action plan 
  3. Start working on an action plan together.

This usually means the sales manager or coach would have to show the exact steps and actions the salesperson should take to ensure the identified areas are worked up correctly.

This can be achieved in a multitude of ways; here are a few that usually makes sense

Role-playing

the observed calls is another form of showing where you demonstrate to your team the common scenarios, predict what could be common inquiries, hurdles, etc., and show them how to handle such complex situations. Role-playing can be performed one-on-one or as a group exercise as well.

Listening to peer calls

Another good way to show and tell how a salesperson can improve their own process and conversations is by looking at what other high-performing sales folks are doing and listening to their calls. 

Important tips for successful coaching

The most effective sales coaches are results-oriented, highly ambitious, creative, and quick to make decisions. They are committed to the success of others through effective communication, instruction, and encouragement. Let's examine effective tips for a successful coaching strategy.

Record and analyze sales calls

Salespeople usually learned the tricks of the trade by shadowing more experienced people. It’s inefficient and incompatible with remote/virtual sales teams. Implementing a sales recording and analysis tool such as MeetRecord provides sales reps with the guidance and coaching necessary to improve sales calls. You can analyze sales call conversations, track keywords to identify market trends, and share successful calls to coach existing representatives and expedite the onboarding of new representatives.

Encourage self-analysis

When conducting post-call debriefs, skill assessments, or coaching during one-on-ones, it is imperative that the salesperson self-analyze. As a sales manager, you may spend 1-2 days per month with each salesperson.

Given this discrepancy, the goal is to motivate sales reps to analyze their own performance and set self-improvement goals. Two things are crucial. First, avoid giving input immediately. Relax, and let the salesperson self-evaluate. Second, prepare open-ended questions to guide the reps' self-evaluation. 

Some questions could be:

  • What were your greatest victories in the past week/quarter?
  • What were your greatest obstacles, and where did they originate?
  • How did you overcome difficulties in closing sales?
  • What have you learned from your victories and defeats?
  • What occurred during recent calls that did not go as planned? What would you change the next time around

Help the salesperson set their own targets

This is consistent with self-assessment. Effective sales coaches allow their reps to determine their own areas of concentration. During your one-on-ones, ask each representative if there is a key topic they want to concentrate on, and then follow their advice (recommending adjustments as needed to ensure their goals align with the company's). This increases the drive to improve, as the representative is making the commitment.

Target one area of improvement at a time

Work with the salesperson to improve one area at a time, rather than numerous areas concurrently, for effective sales coaching. With the former, there is intense concentration and measurable development. The latter results in stalled-out representatives who are being pulled in too many directions.

Encourage the salesperson to build an action plan

Open exploration during one-on-ones generates an environment in which a sales representative can reveal strategies for achieving their objectives. To formalize this, have the sales representative compose an action plan that integrates these strategies. 

This plan should include a schedule and measures that can be taken to achieve the intended outcome. Here, putting pen to paper has a dual effect. First, it compels the sales representative to carefully consider their strategy. Second, it clarifies their thinking and solidifies their resolve to act.

Provide professional learning and development opportunities

LinkedIn found that 94% of employees would stay longer if their firm invested in their careers. Everyone gains when companies engage in employee development. Productivity and engagement rise. Professional development includes book clubs, seminars, internal training, and courses. If course reimbursement or sponsorship is an option, make that known to the reps.

Adopt peer-to-peer coaching

Peer-to-peer learning can be an excellent means of supplementing your coaching efforts and reinforcing great practices on your team; therefore, you should support peer-learning sessions that complement your individual coaching sessions. According to one survey, more than half of sales representatives rely on their peers to improve their skills.

Be approachable

Adopt an open-door policy, whether in the office or on an office messaging platform such as Slack. Encourage your sales representatives to come to you with questions or issues. Ensure people are aware of your online status, so they do not hesitate to ask you a question. Allow them to seek assistance by contacting your representatives outside of coaching sessions. Having a technological alternative to the open-door policy is critical for virtual or remote teams.

Real-time data as the basis for setting coaching goals

When it comes to coaching, data is your ally. Before entering a coaching session, using real-time data on sales efforts, pipeline, and deal status brings you up to speed. This helps you to stop wasting precious time talking about ‘what’s up with this deal" and dig right into the exact procedures, and techniques reps need to drive deals forward.

Conclusion

Effective sales coaching requires daily staff involvement, continual training, and consistent feedback. The finest coaches are involved in their teams' day-to-day interactions and provide feedback at every opportunity.

By adhering to the list of established practices, you will be able to keep employees motivated and eager to improve, despite the presence of obstacles. Open-mindedness, patience, and planning are required to lead a team to excellence; the rest will follow as you connect with sales reps and gain more work experience.

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