The annual sales kick-off is now an established fixture in the calendar and many of these events include tactical sales training sessions focusing on insights and new techniques to try in the new year.
But unless it is a kick start for an ongoing sales training plan then its impact will be diluted and a wasted opportunity.
Good salespeople appreciate the power of a strong ROI when pitching their own products and unsurprisingly there is a direct co-relation between coaching and sales success.
Managers at high-impact sales organizations (where > 75% of sales reps hit target) are more proficient at sales coaching and invest more time coaching their teams than managers at average sales organizations (where 25% – 75% of reps hit target) and low performing organizations (where < 25% of reps hit target).
Source: 5 Hallmarks of High Impact Sales Organizations report
Sales coaching focuses on helping AEs develop the skills, knowledge, and use of strategies to boost sales results. Based on this definition, it’s obvious why AEs benefit from coaching when developing sales skills alongside strong industry and product knowledge.
For sales coaching to be impactful it has to be iterative and personalized.
A high attention environment and individualized performance improvement prompts are key to turning the mid level players (who traditionally respond best to coaching) into sales superstars.
But despite companies spending over $20 billion a year on sales coaching, The Rain Group found that 85 to 90 percent of training fails within 120 days after its delivery. *1
This is because often sales coaching is sporadic and not re-enforced on a consistent basis, nor is it upgraded as circumstances and market knowledge changes.
Sales coaching tends to be prioritized on onboarding new hires and educating reps about the product, processes and tools. Certainly it is crucial for new reps to know the benefits of the product, how to use the sales stack, and how to log their activities and monitor their performance.
Yet, even with the proper training, both they and their colleagues easily forget what they’ve learned without the correct tools to nudge and prompt them.
Indeed one of the biggest problems of training is knowing how to apply what you’ve learned in real situations. Each circumstance is different and the true difficulty is knowing how to use what you’ve learned. For this either continual practice and mentoring, or else augmentation provide the solution.
The top sports coaches are experts at in-game management, able to adapt tactics immediately and switch positioning and personnel as circumstances demand as a match unfolds. And similarly the most effective sales leaders empower their reps by giving them the ongoing insight and tools they need for continued real-time development and improved business outcomes.
Indeed real-time coaching is so influential to sporting outcomes that it is banned in all tennis matches on the mens’ tour where it is forbidden for a player’s support team to even signal or shout out an instruction. The top players like Federer resisted calls to allow coaching as the ban gave them a huge advantage. The great champions through the years have often been the best problem solvers under pressure, which is part of the appeal of the ban for them as lesser players struggle to adapt.
So how can sales leaders use the immense power of real-time coaching to enable their AEs to solve problems, remove bottlenecks in the process and drive revenue growth?
What tools can they deploy to simultaneously coach a team of several AEs to reach the same desired level of success?
Sales dashboards that monitor individual and overall performance and assist with task management are key for coaching at scale, as well as conversation and email analytics platforms that can monitor and alert coaches in real-time if their attention is needed with a particular rep.
Clearly sales leaders can’t be on every sales call to say where it drifted away nor can they instantly check every email to confirm consistency of company messaging or explain why the tone is wrong or it is too wordy.
In a January 2021 survey of 248 sales leaders 76% said that not being physically present with their team has made it harder to observe and coach. *2
Therefore the goal should be to equip the team with a dynamic sales playbook at their fingertips. Buyers expect expertise and knowledge and AEs must have seamless access to all the relevant information so they can answer every question confidently, promptly and correctly.
Deals can be closed faster and conversion rates are higher with access to real-time shared cues that are akin to having the sales leader constantly by your side as a guide.
Sales leaders need support from their top performers. It is vital to analyze winning behaviors and understand what their A players do differently and enable them to share best practices with their colleagues. By identifying correlations between actions and deal outcomes and encouraging a collaborative culture it is possible to reinforce healthy behaviors across the entire team.