Our job as sales leaders is to remain objective when it comes to sales performance. We use metrics—activity, quality, and results—to measure success.
And when we coach a sales rep on a specific skill or behavior, we expect them to make progress. However, that progress isn’t always obvious, at least until the rep is booking more meetings, closing more deals, and bringing in more revenue.
So how do you measure the positive behavior changes that have the biggest impact on a salesperson’s results while remaining objective?
Before we get started, though, let’s do a brief overview of what behaviors drive sales success.
Sales Behaviors the Drive Reps’ Success
A study by people analytics software, VoloMetrix, published in the Harvard Business Review, found that success in selling is highly correlated with three factors:
- Giving your time to customers and prospects
- Developing a network of connections
- Spending time and getting attention from your manager and other senior executives in your own organization
(A quick side note – These findings correlate with various trends we’ve been noticing as well. For one, praise and recognition from higher-level leadership have a massive impact on reps – More on that in just a moment.)
But let’s go deeper, and analyze specific behaviors that affect the three factors above.
Listening and Asking Questions
Strong listening skills is one of the factors that sets top-performing reps apart. They give prospects and clients their time by actively listening and learning about their problems. Top reps also ask probing questions to help prospects open up and reveal more about the challenges they face.
In doing so, they not only qualify their leads, they build connections and trust that wins the sale.
Today, reps must truly stand out to get noticed and convince prospects to engage with them. One way to achieve this is by going above and beyond, and coming up with creative ideas that make their outreach or customer engagement break through the clutter, such as using highly personalized pre-call/email research or common connections to capture attention.
Top reps aim beyond just the immediate sale. They focus on a creating relationship with the customer, building trust, boosting credibility, and nurturing those connections. Relationships create repeat business, referrals, and more.
Fact: not every rep wants to change their ways. Training, coaching, and instilling change are some of the biggest challenges sales leaders face regularly. Having said that, top salespeople thrive because they are willing to learn. They improve skills, develop new techniques to use when selling, and generally refine what they know to drive higher performance.
Even subtle changes in any of the above areas can make a tremendous difference to a company’s sales performance.
Why Identifying Behavior Change is a Massive Challenge for Sales Leaders
It’s a common scenario. A manager has been so hyper-focused on revenue goals and activity metrics that they overlook a rep’s efforts to become better at active listening. Or, that a rep is coming in early and staying late to listen to their peers’ cold calls to help them craft better introductions. This, unfortunately, might deter the rep’s efforts in return. Not seeing their efforts noticed can result in discouragement and burnout, eventually.
However, there is a bigger underlying problem at play. Many of those behavior changes are simply too subtle for managers and leaders to notice. In fact, they may be so minute—like a rep using their formal name or full name in their introduction—that they are easily overlooked.
In many instances, leaders fail to notice the correlation between a rep’s minute behavior changes and their sudden spike in performance. They’re left with no clue why the rep is suddenly doing better.
Instead, they offer a “Keep doing what you’re doing” as coaching feedback. And that may be fine for a short while, but it’s specific praise for tiny behavior changes which makes the greatest difference in how we perform.
Recognition and Praise are Powerful Motivators
A paper published in the Journal of Marketing, “The Effect of Effort on Sales Performance,” reveals that praise enhances both performance and job satisfaction. This means it’s a powerful tool not only for driving revenue, but also for reducing costs associated with human capital management. In fact, research by McKinsey discovered that organizations with recognition practices in place are 12 times more likely to have strong business outcomes.
Yet too few managers have the tools and resources they need to give remarkable recognition. In a study, the Aberdeen Group found that only 14% of companies aid managers in recognition efforts.
Sales leaders need to prioritize praise and recognition both as managers and executives. Acknowledging even the smallest change in behavior can provide the boost a sales rep needs to meet their quota. But you need to be able to first recognize it before you can take action. Below are some tips on how to spot subtle behavior changes in your reps.
How to Identify Subtle Behavior Changes
We’ll admit that there is a bit of a Catch-22 when it comes to recognizing subtle behavior changes. You don’t want to come off as big brother, right?
Instead, you have to a) know what to look for and b) have good timing. To let you in on a secret, a structured sales coaching program makes this incredibly simple.
If you haven’t developed a coaching program or want to start small, there are two things you have to do:
1. Regularly check in with your reps. Ask how they think that call they were just on went. Find out what had them soaring this week or got them down. Don’t rely on your CRM reports to tell you what’s going on out on the floor.
The best sales managers use check-in conversations to find out what behavior or skill a rep may be working on improving themselves. Those are the things you should try to observe and dish out the high-fives for.
2. Become aware of the differences in how each rep executes. This awareness will help you spot new patterns in their behavior, good and bad. You can also use this knowledge to point reps in the right direction on good sales behavior to emulate.
Now, all of this can be done analog. But there is a lot of tech that provides data and insights that make spotting new behavior relatively easy. Case in point: conversation intelligence technology that analyzes customer-facing conversations.
Pair conversation insights with sales performance data and you’ve got what you need for a strong sales coaching program. This offers the greatest level of visibility into minute behavior change.
Although many of the positive behavior changes that lead to sales success are subtle, they are equally as important as your sales training when it comes to driving long-term growth.
Being a great sales leader requires a keen eye on metrics, activity, and behavior. And a great sales coach knows how to push and pull reps in the right direction to get results. When a sales organization has a 360-view across all of these facets, they have an unfair advantage that will increase their market share and drive revenue.