Most businesses are being pushed to the limit to meet revenue goals in today’s macroeconomic climate. Teams have to do more with less — lower budgets and lower headcounts.
Sales teams, in particular, are feeling this challenge with high rep turnover. According to an Allego study, only 60% of sales hires stay with a company for at least six months. Whether it be from The Great Resignation, “quiet quitting” or layoffs, the battle to retain top talent toughens every day.
Sales leaders have to change tactics if they want to turn the tide on turnover. Securing reps for the long haul starts during the onboarding phase with the goal of reducing time to revenue. And to reduce churn amongst existing reps, it’s imperative to empower them with a rewarding sales experience and opportunities for growth.
In both cases, improving sales coaching techniques through the combined use of artificial intelligence (AI), automation and data is a powerful way both front-line managers and executives can address these challenges and keep reps engaged far beyond day one.
The Importance of Honing Sales Coaching Techniques
Sales coaching helps to build a culture of continuous learning and development (L&D), which encourages reps to stay and grow their careers with the organization. The majority of high-performing companies use sales coaching as a way to increase employee satisfaction.
These companies are also retaining higher-performing reps, adding to the bottom-line boost. According to a McKinsey & Company survey, when sales managers spend more than half their time coaching, their organizations are nearly 1.4x more likely to be outperformers.
Best Practices for a Successful Sales Coaching Strategy
OK, so implementing a sales coaching program offers plenty of benefits, but where should sales leaders start? To build a great sales coaching program, consider these key steps.
1. Choose data over intuition.
Sales coaching has traditionally relied heavily on the manager’s intuition — much like sales forecasting. However, this approach limits coaches to anecdotal evidence from their perspective, supplemented only by self-reporting from their reps.
In contrast, modern sales coaches incorporate accurate and current activity data — such as calls made, emails sent and meetings held — to inform their decisions and provide more targeted recommendations when assessing reps during one-on-ones, deal reviews and more.
Curating and presenting activity data via virtual dashboards and other powerful visualizations lets sales coaches pivot and adjust plans quickly if feedback suggests they should. For instance, suppose a coach has directed their reps to multi-thread their deals, incorporating multiple personas and departments into their pitches to enhance customer buy-in. They could then capture historical data and present it in easily consumable formats (e.g., infographics, brief reports, charts) to show how multi-threading increases win rates to convince resistant reps to adopt this approach.
2. Develop a sales playbook.
Top-notch sales teams have plays they practice and perfect so they can perform flawlessly under pressure. Like any sports coach, sales coaches can draw on proven plays from their playbook to guide reps toward selling success.
Being prepared for any scenario is imperative in today’s economic environment, making sales playbooks more critical than ever before — especially when they’re aligned to certain industries, product categories and other commonalities. It can help refine the sales cycle and lead to more closed deals.
You might begin with the basics, such as crafting a strong elevator pitch that reps can practice, hone and deliver to help set a confident tone during the initial sales call. From there, advance toward leveraging opportunity scorecards that align with your selected sales qualification methodology. Whether your team has standardized sales processes like budget, authority, need and timing (BANT) or another methodology, reinforcing it and assessing a deal’s trajectory is paramount to pipeline hygiene, forecast accuracy and many other activities.
(Bonus points will be awarded if these scorecards can be completed where reps already live and breathe — the customer relationship management (CRM) system.)
3. Include everyone on the team.
Tapping once again into the sports analogy, even top-performing athletes benefit from coaching. In sales, it’s no different.
Training top performers lets sales coaches refine their skills and develop better plays to share with the entire team. This approach can improve the outcomes of underperforming reps while enabling your all-stars to excel even further. Ultimately, coaching should focus on moving the entire range of performance up, rather than just closing the gap between top and bottom performers.
4. Lead, don’t lag.
Too often, sales coaches focus on lagging metrics — average deal size, number of deals won — but these can’t help shape future outcomes, as they’re akin to looking into the rearview mirror.
Best-in-class sales organizations turn toward leading indicators like the number of meetings booked or the percentage of opportunities where the economic buyer has been engaged, as these data points can be correlated to the number of closed/won opportunities and other previous sales outcomes.
In other words, with these metrics, sales coaches have data-driven guideposts to know what volume of activities — with which stakeholders, and at which sales stage — have generated success in the past and can be applied to an existing opportunity.
One way to stay atop leading indicators is through regular meetings with sales reps. However, this can prove both time and operationally expensive. Automatically collecting and surfacing similar data points — through the use of self-service dashboards — can save far more time and expense, and point extended team members from revenue operations to the metrics that matter most.
Do More With Better-coached Reps
The need to do more with less isn’t going anywhere. But with high-quality sales coaching, your reps won’t either. The modern coaching approach (incorporating activity data, leading indicators and analytics) helps coaches build a solid playbook. Focus on improving the entire sales team, especially your top performers, and you can drive better results while retaining — and improving — your top reps.