Every sales organization wants to bring in more revenue.
There are many ways to make that happen, each with varying degrees of success. You can create more products, hire more sales reps, even increase your pricing.
But there’s an often overlooked tactic that can prove much more cost efficient: improve the reps themselves.
This is why successful sales organizations understand the value of sales coaching programs. If you can coach the rep to close certain skill gaps, you can increase the amount of revenue per rep.
This not only helps your bottom line, but also the rep (especially if you’ve got a competitive comp plan).
There are other benefits that come from a sales coaching program:
- Maintain consistency among your sales force
- Avoid burnout & improve retention
- Improving morale among your whole team
- Focusing your activities on the things that actually bring in revenue
But building a coaching program doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to inculcate certain values across your team. Effective sales coaching also requires a certain degree of intelligence that you need to gather from call recordings, emails, and other records in your CRM.
Generally, there are three phases an organization goes through as they progress toward that ultimate goal: having a fully permeated coaching culture.
This article will walk through each of those phases to help you see where your organization currently stands, and what you need to do to get to the next level.
Phase One: Coaching Reinforces Training
During this early phase, most sales organizations are focusing just on the basics: cold calling, generating pipeline, and winning deals.
As you work to increase your revenue, you may try hiring more reps, implementing new processes, investing in marketing, or working to improve rep performance, both individually and as a team.
Thus, your organization may start to prioritize sales training. This could include:
- Sales methodologies
- Pipeline management
- Conversation tips and sales motions
- How to cold call/email
But teaching reps new information so they can improve their performance is one thing. Getting them to retain, internalize, and consistently implement it is something else.
This is where coaching comes in, and it’s a completely different exercise than sales training.
Training is giving reps new information, while coaching is helping them act on the information they already have.
That’s why at this phase of maturity, sales coaching exists almost primarily to reinforce training objectives and learnings. Here are some of the things you’ll notice in this phase.
You start seeing individual challenges that each rep faces.
If your focus is on implementing training materials across the organization, your coaching efforts will likely take a one-size-fits-all approach. You’re measuring one metric: whether the rep is implementing the training materials in their day-to-day practices.
However, each of your reps has different strengths and weaknesses.
For example, some salespeople need help improving their activity levels. Others need to improve their qualifying calls. Some need to do a better job setting up next steps, while others need to really step up their closing game.
Each of the reps in these examples need a very different kind of coaching. Thus, you’ll quickly find that each rep needs a more tailored approach.
You start to focus on “moving the needle.”
Ultimately, sales success comes down to one thing: how much money does the rep bring in? That will quickly become a higher priority than whether or not they’re implementing the training materials.
Once that becomes your focus, your coaching activities will naturally tailor themselves to uncovering the areas where reps are succeeding (or failing) and, ideally, fixing key performance gaps:
- One-to-one meetings between the rep and the coach, preferably multiple times per month
- Performance management sessions where the coach reviews the key areas of improvement or skill gaps, and the two set expectations for future activities and growth goals
- Rep practice or role play sessions where the coach takes on the role of a prospect and helps the rep practice their cold calls, demos, closing calls, etc.
- Pipeline management meetings to review where deals currently stand and what can be done to move them over the finish line
Additionally, at this point you’ll probably engage in live listening on sales calls. These can be as simple as the coach standing over the rep’s shoulder or joining via Zoom.
Live listening is a major step forward in terms of coaching rep performance. After all, sales calls are the place where deals move forward (or backward). If you can help reps improve their calls, their overall performance is going to naturally improve.
You see live listening reach its maximum potential.
As you scale your sales organization, live listening starts to become more and more of a challenge — especially if you have a large team.
Getting prospects to agree to a time for a call is challenging enough. Adding in another person whose schedule you have to work around makes it that much more difficult. And the last thing that any coach wants to do is get in the way of a potential deal.
Call recording is a helpful solution to this problem. This way, you can review reps’ calls on your own time.
Generally, there are some legal hurdles when it comes to call recording, depending on your state. We’ve put together a primer on call recording laws to help you out.
Phase Two: Conversation Data Shifts Focus to Accelerating Sales
Once you start recording and reviewing sales calls, your coaching program reaches a new level of maturity.
Most importantly, your core focus shifts from implementing training learnings to accelerating sales. Coaching reviews are more diagnostic and require buy-in from both sides.
Here are some of the key attributes of coaching programs that focus on conversation data as a tool for accelerating sales.
You look to the recordings to identify skill gaps.
As a coach, when you have access to reps’ call recordings, you have full transparency into their performance: both good and bad.
You can then start correlating activities to success, learning what works and what doesn’t. It’s at this point that a rep’s skill gaps will become clear.
Note that there are some skill gaps you won’t be able to uncover from just listening to call recordings. If a rep is having trouble with their sales activity, follow up, or closing deals, it won’t be obvious from a recording. This is where good CRM data is invaluable.
But what call recordings can do is go beyond the what and dive into the why. You can see why reps are doing well (or not) and tailor your coaching approach to help them improve.
By the way, here’s a webinar recording where we walk through how to spot skill gaps in existing sales reports.
You start to score reps to track performance improvement.
If you want to systematize your process and create rigorous, repeatable methods for improving rep performance across the board, you need to establish quantitative metrics for success.
Generally when we think of key performance indicators (KPIs) in sales, we’re looking at lagging indicators like revenue or activity reports. But there’s another element that matters here: the quality of a particular rep’s actions.
This is where rep scorecards come in. List the various attributes you would like to see your reps implement while on a call:
- Understanding the customer story
- Explaining your product or service
- Unearthing needs, problems, and pain points
- Asking for their business
- Establishing next steps/scheduling the next meeting
These can be scored on a scale of 0 to 10, given an A through F letter grade, or whatever system works best for your business. The point is that you’re giving an objective grade to a rep based on their performance on the call.
Here’s a tip: when you see a rep struggling in several areas on their scorecard, don’t jump to fix everything that’s wrong. Start with a single skill gap. Work on that, and once the rep demonstrates satisfactory performance, move on to the next one.
You adopt an asynchronous approach to coaching.
As you start recording calls, live listening becomes less common within the organization, for many of the reasons we mentioned earlier. Instead, reps are coached asynchronously.
Asynchronous coaching is simple: the rep records the call, the coach reviews the recording, and then both come together to discuss what works, what doesn’t, and what needs to be improved.
There are a number of specific advantages that make asynchronous coaching a compelling option:
- No need to block out hours upon hours to sit in on your teams’ calls
- No need to watch the entire call if you don’t need to (focus on the beginning, end, or anywhere in between)
- You can prepare 1-2 key areas where you can help the rep improve, maximizing the efficiency of your meetings
- You can keep your coaching program going strong whether you’re in the office or in a remote environment!
We have an eBook dedicated to helping sales organizations increase conversation quality as they enter this stage. Click here to check it out.
Phase Three: Coaching Culture Emerges with Technology in its DNA
The emergence of a coaching culture often doesn’t happen overnight. Nor is it accidental.
It only happens after you’ve invested time, energy, and resources in building it.
This is where a much larger shift in your organization will start taking place:
- Reps will start asking for coaching as they see the impact it has on their revenue (and commissions!)
- As reps become more enthusiastic about coaching, some may decide to volunteer as peer mentors and coaches
- Coaching becomes not just something you do, but a core part of who you are as an organization
And this is where the final, fundamental transformation of your sales organization takes place. You no longer have just a coaching program.
You have a coaching culture.
This distinction is the difference between an organization that’s good, and one that’s great.
(If you’re wondering where you fall on this spectrum, check out this quiz: Do You Have a Coaching Program or a Coaching Culture?)
You see reps owning their own growth.
In a coaching program, reps participate in coaching because it’s expected. In a coaching culture, reps participate because they want to own their personal and team growth.
This is where behavior change really starts to happen. All of the science and research shows that no one changes their behavior because someone else wants them to. They do it because they want to.
In a coaching culture, you’re leveraging this powerful reality to bring behavior change across your entire organization. Here are some things you’ll start to see at this stage:
- Reps and leaders alike are bought into the idea of continual improvement
- Coaching sessions, call reviews, and scorecards are commonplace
- There’s mutual accountability between the coach and the rep; the coach guides the rep toward improvement, and the rep implements the suggested changes and owns their own development
As reps own their own growth, the coaching culture truly “sticks” within the organization.
Conversation data is critical to your organization’s success.
Once a coaching culture is in place, having conversation data drawn from your sales call recordings is no longer just a nice thing to have. It’s critical to your success.
There are plenty of benefits that come from having a data-backed way to track the success of your coaching program. Here are a few common ones:
- Measuring how much coaching is happening across the organization
- Measuring how much coaching an individual team or rep is receiving
- Measuring the kinds of coaching that are taking place (call coaching, deal reviews, pipeline reviews, professional development, etc.)
Your coaching culture permeates the sales organization.
But what does it mean for a coaching culture to permeate the sales organization? What does that look like in practice?
For starters, the entire team believes in coaching. They see it as a positive part of the job, not a negative or even neutral part.
Because of this, managers hire for coachability.
It starts with self-motivation, where reps proactively review call recordings each week for self-discovery and awareness. This is where having repositories of call, email, and chat recordings and best practices come in handy. These are excellent tools to aid in self-guided learning.
But it quickly leads to both vertical and horizontal collaboration. Reps are able to ask their managers and leaders for feedback on calls and emails. They can also go to each other for help, unprompted by the higher-ups.
However, this isn’t an entirely unstructured situation. Managers and leaders are responsible for setting clear, consistent coaching cadences. Every rep should receive at least one hour of coaching each week; more if they need it.
Most importantly, your organization targets specific skill gaps with your coaching efforts. Coaching is a tool that gets you closer to your revenue goals, and that’s exactly what you’ll see in this final phase.
So How Can ExecVision Help?
ExecVision is perfectly positioned to help you gather the intelligence you need, regardless of which phase you’re currently in.
Our platform is divided into two offerings: Coaching Intelligence, and Coaching Intelligence Connected.
Coaching Intelligence facilitates both synchronous and asynchronous coaching activities, including 1-on-1s, live listening, performance management sessions, role play, and more. With this offering, you can input your data directly into the platform and use it to build scorecards, reports, dashboards, and other tools to help you quickly see where each of your reps stand.
Coaching Intelligence Connected includes all Coaching Intelligence functionality, but takes it to the next level. The platform ingests and analyzes call recordings and web conferences through direct integrations, surfacing specific insights through our advanced back-end AI.
Both of these solutions help you better analyze and manage each rep’s performance, with the goal of giving you the insights you need to more effectively coach them.
If you’re interested in learning more about what ExecVision has to offer, click here to get started now.