When it comes to improving your sales force, starting a coaching program is only half the battle.
The other (arguably more important) half is creating sales coaching buy-in among your team.
Fortunately, there’s a formula for generating buy-in among even your most stagnant reps — from sales executives to frontline managers to entry-level SDRs:
- Understand exactly what coaching is — and what it isn’t
- Allocate the right amount of time to coaching activities
- Follow a tried-and-true framework for your coaching sessions
- Motivate reps to be coached and advance in their careers
- Choose the right metrics for measuring coaching effectiveness
These topics were at the center of Kevin Dorsey’s presentation at MOMENTUM 2020. Dorsey is the Vice President of Inside Sales at PatientPop, an InsideSales Top 10 Sales Leader, and a Top 100 Sales Coach.
Read on for his thoughts on how to build sales coaching buy-in among your reps. Then, if you want to learn more, click here to watch the full recording.
What Exactly Is Sales Coaching?
A lot of people conflate sales coaching and training as two sides of the same coin. But in reality, they’re distinct, but important, elements of your sales methodology.
So what is coaching, exactly?
Dorsey’s definition is simple: If sales training is the transfer of knowledge, sales coaching is about enhancing selling skills that the salesperson already has.
For example, many managers think that deal reviews constitute effective coaching. But in reality, these are more like coaching session postmortems.
Coaching involves sitting on sales calls or reviewing call recordings, discussing with the rep what went well and what needs to improve, and helping them hone their selling skills. The end result should be more deals and revenue, but that comes later.
How to Allocate Your Sales Coaching Activities
When it comes to time management, Dorsey preached the 80-20 rule: 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your activities.
Specifically, these four areas are the most important time investments you can make:
- Call reviews
- Hiring (if you’re in a hiring spree)
“If 80 percent of your manager’s time is not in one of these four areas, then you’re costing yourself money,” he said.
There are plenty of areas where leaders can cut back to find that time to coach. One example that Dorsey gave involved closing deals. In most cases, the rep shouldn’t need your help to close deals.
“I’m not saying never step in, of course,” he said. “And I’m not saying that you shouldn’t give advice, and I’m not saying I won’t hop on a big call if it needs a little extra push. But then I use that big call as a coaching session, to break down what we did there and how we can do more of it.” If you always step in and do the rep’s job for them, you end up becoming a “super salesperson,” not a leader or coach.
As a leader, coaching should be your number one priority — because that’s what sets great sales organizations apart. “Did Kobe Bryant stop practicing?” Dorsey asked. “Did Michael Jordan stop practicing? Did Tom Brady stop practicing?” Likewise, you should always be coaching your reps, regardless of their experience or current skill level.
A Sales Coaching Framework for Sales Leadership
If you want your coaching results to be repeatable, you need to follow a tried-and-true framework in every coaching session. Dorsey’s process was borrowed from Keenan and based on the ski instructor’s framework:
- Observe your reps. Don’t be a micro-manager, but be aware of the little things. Watch, listen, and observe your reps’ behaviors.
- Describe their behaviors. Focus on what they did, not what they didn’t do. If you tell them what they didn’t do, that’s what their brains will focus on.
- Explain the results of those behaviors. Make sure the rep understands the impact — both positive and negative — of what they did. The goal here isn’t to beat them down, but to help them understand how their actions impacted the potential deal. Most importantly, you can help them identify how to improve for next time.
- Absorb and apply the lessons. The only way the reps can absorb the lessons you’re teaching is if they repeat it back to you. So watch them apply the lessons, correcting them when necessary, until they master the new skill.
Follow this framework, and you’ll start to see improvements not only among your individual reps, but also in your overall sales results.
How to Motivate Your Reps to Become Coachable
Motivation and coaching go hand in hand. But how do you motivate your reps to become more coachable?
One avenue that Dorsey feels is overemphasized: comp plans or incentives. “If salespeople were motivated by money, I would never need to talk about dials. I would never need to talk about coaching. My door would be knocking every single day with salespeople wanting a one-on-one.”
Motivation is a change in behavior. As the sales manager, part of your job is to find out what motivates each of the people you’re working with. And it’s not going to be the same thing for each person.
Some reps will prefer verbal encouragement, while others really like the high-five or handshake. Some are motivated by money, others by an increase in responsibility (like leading the next training session). The key is in the individual approach. Find out what makes each rep tick, and put together a motivation strategy accordingly.
Choose the Metrics Connected to Performance Improvement
If you were to approach your sales team and say “let’s double revenue,” would they have any idea exactly how to do that? Probably not.
While revenue and quota are important metrics, those aren’t actually what a sales coach should be looking at. Instead, watch those behavior-based metrics that lead to more revenue: call quality, talk-to-listen ratio, call duration, etc.
For example, a manager will say that they’re working with a rep on their show rate. But in reality, show rate isn’t what they’re working on — it’s the end result of what they’re working on. They’re actually working on their confirmation emails and next steps, which will then lead to a better show rate.
Alternatively, you could be focusing on the wrong metric for that rep. Let’s take the same example as above. You’re working on their show rate, but their connect rate is less than four percent. In that case, you’re focusing on the wrong thing.
“This is how you start to measure coaching,” Dorsey said. “It’s specific to a behavior and skill — that’s what we’re looking to change here.”
This post just scratches the surface of what Dorsey covered in his presentation. Here are some other nuggets you’ll get from the full recording:
- How to build a killer coaching culture
- How to “chunk” your practice sessions for maximum time efficiency
- The difference between direct and indirect coaching
- The hallmarks of a good sales enablement scorecard
- Finding the right amount of information to include in a coaching call
- Observing rep behaviors in a remote coaching environment
Click here to download the full webinar recording.