For any sales organization, coaching is an essential component of success. Leaders must ensure their teams utilize the best practices to take advantage of opportunities. From a haphazard, random coaching approach to an informal approach that lacked a specific agenda to a formalized process, in which coaching is regularly scheduled and follows prescribed activities, coaching has evolved. Today, the formal approach, combined with sales enablement—the specific selling tools organizations provide their reps—is known as dynamic coaching and yields the best results. In addition, leading organizations also employ their KPIs to create a robust coaching methodology to maximize sales output. Within this framework, here are several tips managers can use to identify coaching opportunities:
- Number/Length of Calls and Emails
While the number of calls tells you the sales rep’s activity, the length of each presents a coaching opportunity. Calls with a shorter average duration compared to the rest of the team can indicate the rep is not sufficiently engaging the client. As a result, their effort may not yield the desired results. Here, managers must ascertain what reps say in their initial contact. Do they make a positive impression and pique interest? Does the rep sound engaging and ask the type of questions that earn the right for deeper conversation? Whatever the cause, managers should recognize the opportunity to enable reps to have better, more meaningful conversations.
- Lead-to-Opportunity & Opportunity-to-Deal Conversion Rates
If managers notice an unusually high number of opportunities without the close rate significantly improving, that is typically a clear indicator that something is amiss. Of course, a number of factors can account for this, such as poorly defined guidelines or an ineffective sales process that leaves much of the decision-making process up to the sales rep:
- What criteria must a lead meet to become qualified?
- What milestones must your sales rep and their clients meet to advance an opportunity stage?
- Have you established organization and role-specific opportunity conversion criteria against which to compare your rep’s performance?
To identify coaching opportunities, these two conversion rates only paint part of the picture. Analyze the average age of the opportunities, the number of activities that support each client engagement, and look for anomalies that contradict your benchmark data.
- Focus on Middle Performers
In any sales organization, the top-and-bottom 20 percent of sales reps are least likely to benefit from coaching. Let’s face it, for coaching to be successful, reps must do all that they can on their own to achieve success. Of course, motivation can be a factor, and it’s incumbent on managers to determine which reps need a pep talk or prescribed coaching process. However, an organization’s top performers are already successful. Other than tips and pointers, they are not likely to benefit from coaching. Bottom performing reps are probably not doing enough with the tools and training you have already provided. This leaves the middle 60 percent who will most likely get the most from coaching. Managers should devote their time and resources to move this group into the top-performing bucket.
- Real-Time Feedback
Coaching in real-time, as the reps make their calls and engage with prospects, can be very beneficial. This lets managers see what the reps do and say when interacting. It also provides the chance to offer tips, make corrections, and provide positive reinforcement, such as a smile or nod, when the rep is doing the right things. It can be difficult to impart these things after a call. The immediacy of real-time coaching lets reps employ coaching on the spot, try new things, and course correct when a tactic does not work. This may seem like trial by fire, and it can be intimidating at first, but most reps soon enjoy the process and benefit from the additional interaction with their manager.
In addition to real-time coaching, debriefing after the fact lets reps relax and reflect on their performance. Here, managers should let the reps speak about their perception of a call or engagement. This gives reps the opportunity to explain how they utilize their best practices and lets them see for themselves things they could have done differently. Managers should use this to assess a rep’s knowledge of their engagement skills and identify areas in which the rep has misunderstood a directive or fallen into bad habits. It also gives managers a chance to specifically address the rep’s self-assessment and create a coaching strategy geared around the rep’s performance.
In conjunction with real-time coaching and debriefing, role-play provides reps an opportunity to engage in scenarios that could lead to different outcomes. As they work through the scenarios, sales managers can take on different buyer personas to assess a rep’s decision-making skills and ability to think on their feet, and they can provide feedback in a real-world setting that is relevant to their reps.
Sales organizations have come a long way from the early days of random coaching. Today, the best managers know general coaching initiatives are not enough for reps to engage modern, better-informed buyers. Instead, organizations need a specific and detailed coaching process, tied to their enablement and utilizing their KPI, to provide reps a blueprint of best practices to engage customers and build rapport. Far from merely addressing problem areas, coaching can let reps explore new ways to meet their prospect’s needs. To get the most from their reps, effective managers must constantly identify specific coaching opportunities that maximize a rep’s potential to be the best sales professionals they can be. For more on being an effective sales leader, download our white paper How to be a High-Performing Sales Leader in Today’s Marketplace.