Anyone who’s managed a sales team knows its members typically fall into one of three groups: high performers, mid-performers and low performers. What is up for debate, however, is why a given salesperson falls into a specific category. It’s the age-old debate of nature versus nurture: Some believe great salespeople are born that way, and others argue they are developed.
There’s no denying that some of the most successful sales reps are naturally gifted at what they do. They seem to be born with just the right mix of personality traits — confidence, empathy, and initiative — to be successful. Their managers can count on them to consistently hit or exceed their targets with seemingly little effort or intervention. But for the majority of sales reps, this isn’t the case.
Purposeful Coaching and Training Are Key to Sales Success
While innate personality traits can contribute to a sales rep’s success (or failure), they’re often just part of the puzzle. Most A-player sales reps have achieved this status thanks in large part to a commitment to purposeful training and coaching.
Successful sales reps make a commitment to learn and perfect the skills they need to do their job well. They recognize that learning isn’t a destination; it’s a journey. In order to continue to be successful, they must continue to learn. These reps are also open and receptive to coaching from their managers and their peers, recognizing that their feedback helps them improve their performance and reach their goals.
Successful reps also work for managers and organizations that believe in setting them up for success with effective training and coaching programs. Of course, it starts with a strong onboarding program that enables reps to quickly get up to speed on a company’s offerings, target markets and processes. Learning shouldn’t end there, but in far too many cases, it does.
In order to grow, organizations must provide their reps with opportunities to learn and practice the skills they need to deliver great experiences that win buyers. These opportunities should include continuous learning programs and training for sales managers on how to identify reps’ knowledge gaps and provide individualized coaching and constructive feedback.
Making training and coaching a priority is especially important now, when buyers have more information at their fingertips than ever before and do a lot of research before speaking with a salesperson. Buyers have high expectations for their selling experiences, and if a sales rep fumbles over a presentation or provides information that’s not relevant, the prospect will likely choose another company’s solution. Purposeful training and coaching are no longer optional — they’re critical to ensuring that reps are always ready to deliver great experiences that win buyers.
Digital Tools Are Necessary to Scale Training and Coaching
It’s become increasingly challenging for organizations to scale training and coaching. For starters, sales managers are tasked with leading large (often very large) teams. Recent Showpad research found that 46% of frontline sales managers lead teams with 11 or more employees, and 20% are responsible for teams with 20 or more. With such large teams, sales managers don’t have time to develop and deliver individualized learning and coaching plans that will help each of their team members succeed. However, individualized training and coaching is necessary, as each rep has different strengths and weaknesses and prefers different types of learning methods. A one-size-fits-all approach simply won’t suffice.
What’s more, the majority of sales managers oversee teams that are geographically dispersed. Showpad’s research found that 79% of frontline sales managers have at least one remote team member, with 12% reporting that their entire team works remotely. Working in the same office as team members allows for in-person onboarding, coaching and conversations. A sales manager can even join a rep during an in-person meeting or sit in on a sales call and then immediately provide feedback about what worked well and what didn’t. However, in-person coaching and feedback aren’t practical with a remote team, and those managers must find other ways to deliver effective training and coaching.
The Answer: Digital Training Platforms
Innovative organizations are adopting smart digital platforms that allow sales managers to deliver relevant, personalized training and coaching at scale — regardless of the size of their teams or where they are located.
The best digital platforms provide reps with personalized learning paths based on their experience, strengths and weaknesses. These paths might include a variety of learning methods, including short videos, assignments and quizzes, to engage the reps and appeal to different learning preferences. What’s more, sales managers can use digital platforms to quickly identify their reps’ problem areas and determine where they might need more coaching. And for sales managers with remote team members, digital training and coaching platforms enable reps to record their calls and then receive personalized feedback from their managers or peers.
So, are great sales reps born or made? Both. You may be fortunate enough to hire a sales rep or two who were born to sell. However, by making a commitment to purposeful training and coaching programs and adopting the right digital tools to scale them, your mid-performing reps can grow to be your star performers — and your organization’s revenue will continue to grow.