Sales Coaching Lessons from Trish Bertuzzi's Book The Sales Development Playbook

Trish Bertuzzi recently released her book, The Sales Development Playbook, where she managed to give away all of the secrets on how to build, optimize, retain, and lead a world class sales development team. If you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know what the “sales development” function is or why you need one to accelerate your company growth, read Trish’s book or this blog I wrote on sales development to get up to speed. If you are one of the already enlightened, read on.

I’m not going to lavish praise on Trish and Matt Bertuzzi. They are getting lots of lavishing from all sorts of people who are way smarter and more influential than me like Jill Konrath, Ken Krogue, Bridget Gleason, and Kyle Porter. Bottom line is you need to buy 10 copies of this book, make every one of your senior executives read it, then do what Trish tells you to do. If you do, I promise you will get more sales, faster, than had you not.

The point of this article is to talk about Chapter 20 which is titled Coach to Improve, but might as well be titled Coach and You’ll Succeed OR Don’t Coach and You’ll Fail. Trish writes that “the benefits of coaching surpass anything else you can do – from compensation to gamification, to the beer cart on Friday afternoon. If you want a world-class team, you and your first line leaders need to provide world class coaching. No shortcuts. No excuses.”

What can you do to create a world class sales coaching program that focuses on the execution of cold calls, lead qualification calls, discovery calls, and all other varieties of sales development calls?

  1. Record your calls (but wait, isn’t that illegal?). Trish uses an awesome metaphor for why you want to record your calls. She says, “How often do you watch live TV? If you are a frequent DVR user, sitting through commercial after commercial can be excruciating. In coaching sitting side by side with a rep and listening to voicemail after voicemail is the equivalent of commercials.” “But wait,” you say, “isn’t that illegal?” The short answer is that there are a lot of ways to legally record calls that Trish discusses in the book. You can read up in this brief on the basics of call recording laws as well as this blog on practical advice for sales leaders on how to handle call recording laws. Trish and I share the same advice: consult a lawyer, but don’t take the first no as the truth. An examination of case law will frequently uncover that you can absolutely record calls legally without asking for consent in your State. And even if you can’t, there are lots of other options. As with any other legal matter, it’s all about mitigating risks.
  2. Block time in your calendar for sales call coaching. Trish tells of how Brandon O’Sullivan at GitHub schedules Tuesday and Thursday from 7:00-11:00 am in his calendar for coaching. Decide how much time you, personally, can dedicate to sales coaching and calendar it. I personally dedicate two hours per month to sales coaching for my outsourced appointment setting firm, Vorsight. Do you only have 30 minutes per week for coaching your reps? That’s great. Structure the program so that you maximize that 30 minutes with group coaching. Are you a second level leader or higher who manages Managers or manages Directors? You can spare one hour a month to listen to calls and provide feedback. Senior Executives: it is essential for you to hear the voice of the customer unfiltered. Trish suggests that you even make a few calls to prospects to understand how it is for your SDRs. I’ll be happy if you simply listen to a few recorded calls when you are sitting on airplanes, at the gym, or commuting to the office. You will learn more from listening to 30 minutes of real calls with real prospects than you will from 30 hours of spreadsheet analysis.
  3. Make it fun. Trish points out the dirty little secret in sales management that coaching can feel like a slog at times, so keeping it fun is really important. At Vorsight we do a best call of the month contest to combat that feeling of drudgery. Every month each of our 35 SDRs submits their top two calls to their Manager. The three Managers submit the top three calls from their teams to me, our Director of Training, and our CEO. The three of us select the best call of the month followed by several runners up. The winner gets a day of PTO. People get into it. They really think about which calls to submit which forces them to listen to their own calls and reflect. They use ExecVision to annotate their calls – what they did that was good and what they need to work on. Every call has forks in the road where the SDR can go down path A or path B. These key moments on every call separate top SDRs from everyone else. As a company we have dedicated to studying and learning from these forks in the road, these key moments in the call, in a fun way that people like.
  4. Share what’s working. In the book Trish writes, “Imagine the impact of a library of recorded calls. You’d have the ‘perfect calls’ to use as a model for new hires as well as individual snippets that display excellence in specific areas (e.g., call opening, objection handling, and closing). At Vorsight when we started the best call of the month contest our CEO, David Stillman, would announce the winner and runner up. But then no one played the calls for the team to hear. When I learned this I was like, “WHAT?!?!” How could you not share the best calls with annotations for everyone to see and hear? As a second-level leader I can only do two hours of call coaching per month. Sitting with a headset splitter or even doing small group coaching sessions would be a horribly unleveraged way to use my time. Instead I use one hour to listen to the top calls that the managers submitted to pick the winner and runners up. The second hour is used playing the calls for the entire team of 35 SDRs to see and hear. So imagine you are an SDR at Vorsight. Once a month you come in early, grab a bagel and coffee, then sit down with your pad and pen to learn from the best calls. In my role I break down the calls the way that a football coach breaks down game film. We play the call through speakers and project the timeline of the call on the wall. SDRs see key moments and tags marked on the call. I literally point to the moments or sections of the call that contain learning opportunities. I then ask the SDRs, “What did NAME do well?” and we go around. Then I ask, “What could NAME do better next time?” and we go around. The SDRs seem to love it and have fun. And sales productivity per person is higher than it’s ever been.
  5. Have your reps listen to their own calls and assess their own performance. Trish cites lessons from Jill Konrath on how people learn. Managers need to suspend judgement and instead ask the reps questions like, “If you could make one change to that call to make it better, what would it be?” Tom Snyder tells us the first rule of human communication, “People value more what they conclude for themselves than what they are told.” So reps who can come to their own conclusion on how to execute better sales calls will always get better faster than by you telling them. But at the same time if the rep doesn’t know, you’ll need to teach them and share some good call recordings with them. The first step to all of this improvement is listening. The great Howard Diamond once said, “Sales can be summarized in one word. Listening.” How can any sales rep succeed without listening the customer AND listening to themselves?

I could go on and on about this chapter of Trish’s book and best practices for a call coaching program. First thank you to the people who taught me these lessons including Lauren Bailey, Trish Bertuzzi, Howard Diamond, Steve De Marco, Jill Konrath, Ted Martin, Mike Pici, Mark Roberge, Mary Robinson, Tom Snyder, Peter Weyman and many others.

What are you doing to execute a world-class sales call coaching program? What’s working? What isn’t working? Comment below. I want to know!!

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Written by Steve Richard|ExecVision