A seemingly successful sales call can quickly be derailed if the salesperson uses the wrong word or asks the wrong question. As a result, sales managers need the tools and resources to coach their sales teams to success. Fortunately, technological innovations, such as call recording software and customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, are rapidly changing the sales landscape. These technologies have given salespeople and their managers the ability to systemize formerly human-driven tasks and uncover insights into what makes a successful salesperson.
If your organization has a sales force, chances are you can benefit from implementing technology in your sales coaching and management strategies. However, George Brontén, founder and CEO of sales enablement CRM company Membrain, warns that it is important to remember that sales coaching is, “by its very nature, one-on-one” and can only be “helped by technology,” not replaced by it. Let’s examine the impact and benefits of these innovative technologies and tips for responsibly and effectively implementing technology in your organization’s sales coaching strategies.
Uncovering Poor Habits
Call recording systems and artificial intelligence (AI) offer sales managers and reps the opportunity to review sales calls and distinguish words, phrases and moments in a conversation that may have altered the course of the sale. Matt Hayman, marketing manager of U.K.-based sales conversations intelligence company Refract.ai, says, “Not only is [the software] taking recordings of calls, it’s starting to draw out patterns of what seems to be working and what’s not working.” Refract’s platform identifies useful phrases and detrimental moments in sales calls and provides feedback for sales managers to use when coaching their team members.
Uncovering bad sales habits early is vital. Hayman shares that salespeople often fail to notice pivotal moments in conversations. “If they weren’t going back and reviewing those moments, they would continue bad habits throughout their career.” Brontén says one of the benefits of sales conversation intelligence software is the ability to monitor whether salespeople are “communicating value” to their potential clients. If they are not, sales managers can address the issue early, resulting in quick, successful behavioral change.
Structuring Coaching Efforts
Previously, sales managers only had sales results and data to consult when coaching their reps. However, the numbers don’t necessarily reveal the causes of failed sales calls. Hayman says, “Even if [sales coaches] have the data, they probably don’t have the time to spend going through that data.” Now, call recording systems and sales conversations intelligence software reveal actionable insights for sales managers to pass on to their teams. “That’s where artificial intelligence comes in and starts to identify particular themes that emerge amongst top performers versus the rest,” according to Hayman.
Hayman shares that, without technology, these insights and patterns are difficult to identify: “[Sales managers] don’t really get the sort of insight they need in order to both understand what’s happening but also to help get the best out of their staff, so in terms of coaching, they’re not armed with the information they need to effectively coach those reps in the first place.” However, with insights provided by technology, sales managers can build coaching strategies and clearly define goals and sub-goals for their salespeople. With a structured sales strategy and consistent coaching feedback, Brontén states salespeople will be able to “visualize how [they are] progressing toward [their] goals.”
Hayman notes that there is a tendency toward “complacency among organizations” due to the widespread belief that “top performers tend to carry the rest.” This belief results in a great deal of turnover for sales teams, because sales managers often invest less time and effort in average and below-average performers. Sales coaching technologies can reveal “examples of excellence” from top performers for the entire sales force to then integrate into the “daily workflow,” according to Brontén.
Investing in each salesperson’s professional growth and development shows employees that they are valued by their organization. Hayman’s advice to sales managers is to “consider your sales team an asset that you can help cultivate.” Additionally, supporting sales coaching with technology “demonstrates to [your] sales team that [you’re] serious about investing in their personal growth and their business growth,” Hayman says.
In a study published by Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations School, researchers confirmed “the economic benefits of coaching, which [have] a strong and significant impact on improving individual performance over time,” as well as the impact of technology on performance: “Technical processes influence performance, with greater automation associated with higher performance.”
With sales coaching technologies, Hayman believes we can “start to close the gap” between top performers and the rest by “distill[ing] and present[ing] a model” of excellent performance. Organizations can also use these models in onboarding, so new hires can start their new jobs with actionable coaching and a clear understanding of their sales objectives.
It’s important to remember that sales coaching can be systemized – not automated. According to Brontén, “True quality coaching is personalized, one-to-one. It’s based on trust, empathy and an eagerness to help the other person grow.” Challenges arise when you rely solely upon technology to take the reins on sales coaching. Salespeople are still human beings, and sales managers must strike a balance between using technology and personalized coaching tailored to members of the sales force.