A Strong Sales Coaching Culture Must Be Data-Driven

Increased transparency and an engaged, motivated sales force are among the key benefits.

We’ve all seen it—the new sales hire on-boards quickly and blazes a trail to their first sale in record time. All seems promising until, after a few months, the rep is exhibiting difficulties absorbing highly technical product enhancements and shifting industry dynamics in the wake of key mergers and acquisitions. Their sales conversations falter, productivity levels drop, and manager expectations are downgraded. The once promising rep is now facing an uncertain future and team morale is slipping. If this scenario is increasingly playing itself out in your company, it’s time to take a hard look at how you’re supporting the development of your sales force and coaching them to success.

Crossing the Coaching Chasm

There’s no shortage of data supporting the need for sales coaching. Unfortunately, like keeping a New Year’s resolution, it’s easier said than done. The reasons are oft-repeated: Leadership just wants to see the numbers, and pressure to make the quarter preempts scheduled coaching sessions; sales managers lack the knowledge to coach effectively; and whatever coaching is conducted tends to focus more on the deals themselves instead of core competencies. Like any sales objection, these need to be addressed head on, and the answer lies in creating a culture where coaching is an intrinsic part of the sales structure, with data-driven insights making it possible to scale.

Objection 1: Sales leadership doesn’t prioritize coaching. Sales leaders shouldn’t just pay lip service to coaching but many do, according to a new study from the Sales Management Association (SMA) commissioned by Qstream. More than 100 sales leaders surveyed revealed that less than one-third have defined development programs for their sales managers. SMA’s director, Bob Kelly, points out that many on the leadership level are not incentivized to promote a coaching culture, which has led to this lack of prioritization. And those who aren’t investing in coaching are paying a price: high customer dissatisfaction, lost sales, low morale, and high turnover in their sales ranks. Yet those with a formal coaching process generated much stronger results (54 percent win rate) in comparison to informal coaching processes (46 percent win rate) or discretionary coaching (45 percent win rate), where the process is left up to the individual sales manager.

Coaching needs to go beyond supporting on-boarding phases. It’s a leadership imperative that requires a long-term commitment. Executives should lay out a plan with goals, execution strategies, and a coaching program timeline that includes mechanisms for accountability and rewards for those who deliver on the coaching promise. With data-driven technology that provides clear insights into the capabilities of the sales force, a customized coaching framework can more easily be developed and scaled. Next, leadership must define what good coaching looks like and ensure that it’s a collaborative effort. Beyond introducing, launching, and socializing this framework, leadership encourages a culture that ensures that all employees, at all levels, live up to their abilities. Once the vision and strategy are defined, the real work can begin.

Objection 2: Front-line sales managers lack the time, tools, and know-how to coach. With commitment and direction from the top, front-line managers will have the necessary mandate to devote time and resources to coach their reps. However, you’ll still find managers asking themselves “Now what?” Sales enablement leaders will tell you that there’s no shortage of sales managers out there who are fearful of admitting what they don’t know. A SiriusDecisions study last year showed that only 6 percent of sales managers were ready to coach and mentor new hires. This is where the cultural shift comes into play, requiring an open, honest environment where managers can openly learn who, how, and what to coach.

A data-driven approach can alleviate the fears of inexperienced coaches by providing insights into the real-time capabilities of their reps, setting a baseline for a targeted on-boarding program and proficiency measurement for sales skills that matter most moving forward. The data makes it clear where a rep is faltering (perhaps it’s a certain sales objection or lack of proficiency with the product platform) and provides recommended coaching actions, tips, and a timeline to help improve productivity. Data insights can help front-line managers tailor the actions to an individual’s skills gaps, leading to higher-quality engagement. Another benefit of a data-driven approach is that it removes personal judgment from the equation, making it easier on the coach to deliver coaching, and easier for the rep to accept it. Of course, to be successful, coaching needs to be viewed as not just for underperformers but as an ongoing initiative that benefits everyone, from the newest sales recruit to the established superstar. And a data-driven approach allows for that level of scalability.

Objection 3: Coaching too often focuses on deals rather than skills and competency. The urgency to meet forecasts finds many sales managers coaching the deal versus coaching competencies. While both approaches have their place, coaching defined competencies such as competitive positioning, negotiation skills, etc., can have the greatest long-term impact on sales team effectiveness. The addition of data insights can help a manager understand which competencies a rep is struggling with, thereby ensuring that they’re giving their reps the coaching they need to succeed, in the time they have available.

The result: a more knowledgeable, confident rep equipped to handle today’s evolving business environment where new products are rolled out at a fast and furious clip, regulations change, and new competitive threats emerge daily. Sales reps must be adaptable and armed with the right skill set to drive business amid all this change. Data-driven coaching solutions that help reps keep pace are invaluable not only to meeting forecasts but also to keeping reps engaged and motivated—a key factor in retaining top talent.

The Rewards of a Coaching Culture

Transparency is an important aspect of a successful corporate culture. Having set the tone, leadership will want to see the data that reflects which managers are coaching effectively and how revenue and sales rep satisfaction is impacted. Those who are actively contributing to the coaching culture should be rewarded, while those who are not should be held responsible. At its best, a data-driven coaching culture with commitment from all levels cultivates a sales force that is adaptable, aligned, and accountable.

Original story from www.destinationcrm.com



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