Coaching is a privilege, not a right.
Ultimately, the rep has to decide whether they want to develop themselves or not. The responsibility for that improvement rests on their shoulders.
However, as the sales manager, you also have an important part to play. You’re responsible for creating the environment and structures that enable and encourage reps to work toward self-improvement.
When you and the rep work together in tandem, then the sky’s the limit.
Here are some tangible ways that you, as the sales manager, can better empower your reps to own their performance improvement.
1. Document all learning objectives.
If your reps don’t have an end goal in mind, they’re not going to be able to put together a plan for improvement.
This starts all the way at the onboarding process. When new reps come on board at ExecVision, we have an extremely detailed spreadsheet that goes through everything they need to know in order to be prepared for their role.
These areas of expertise are incredibly granular, and include things like “how to talk to an executive assistant,” “how to gather information on an account,” “how to self-manage their activity,” etc.
But your reps shouldn’t stop learning just because they’ve finished onboarding. They need to continue growing their knowledge and expertise in these four areas:
- Your organization’s internal processes & systems
- Your products or services
- Your customers, their pain points, goals and frustrations, etc.
- Effective sales techniques & habits
Part of your job as the coach is to ensure that they’re setting goals for improvement that are focused and reasonable.
Your coaching plans should be focused because no one can master a hundred new skills at one time. Instead, you need to pick the one or two areas that will have the most impact, and focus all their effort and motivation on attacking those areas. Then, move on to something else.
These plans should also be reasonable. Sometimes, you’ll have a rep who overestimates what they can accomplish within a 30-60 day window. Or, you have someone who underestimates their own potential. In both cases, you have to be like a personal trainer, and help them set goals that stretch them, but are also attainable.
2. Provide call recordings for review.
When helping reps improve their call quality, a lot of sales managers will just ask them to shadow more experienced reps.
While shadowing has its place (more on that later), this is actually a very unproductive thing to do if you really want reps to get good at sales calls. The new rep is just sitting around, not actively engaging or working to improve.
Instead, you need to provide them with a library of call recordings for them to review at their own pace. This should include a mix of “best-of-the-best” calls from your top reps, as well as some flops so reps can see what not to do.
Ideally, someone will sit down with reps and walk through those calls, almost like a game tape. They’ll break down what’s happening on the call, and point out areas that the rep should pay special attention to.
The main goal of call recordings is to provide a solid example of what “good” looks like. When your reps understand that, they’re better able to see how much ground they have to make up before they get there.
3. Get experienced reps to shadow new reps.
Usually, when sales managers talk about “shadowing,” they’re referring to new reps sitting in and observing more experienced reps’ calls.
But the more effective approach is actually the inverse: have the new rep conduct the calls, and the experienced rep shadowing them, providing input and feedback and noting areas where they can improve.
The reason this approach works better is because people learn not by watching, but by doing.
Your new rep isn’t going to improve themselves if they’re passively watching other reps work. But when they actually start making calls, and have someone with experience guiding them along the way, they can actually put that advice into practice in real time.
There’s actually a neurological reason for this. Our brains are wired to purge information that we don’t think we need: it’s called the forgetting curve.
If we want to retain information or habits, we have to reinforce them again and again. Otherwise, our brain will just get rid of it.
By having someone shadow a new rep and correct them on certain behaviors, you’re forming new neural connections. Eventually, the good habit becomes second nature.
4. Be transparent about metrics.
If you want a culture where people are positive and productive, you need to provide full transparency into your metrics.
It seems like the opposite of this would be true. After all, if you broadcast everyone’s wins and losses, isn’t that going to serve to reinforce arrogance at the top and discourage those at the bottom?
In our experience, the opposite is true. When reps see who the high-performing reps are, they start to observe and emulate their behaviors. And when people see who the low-performing reps are, they step in and find ways to help them along.
This seems to go against a salesperson’s natural competitive DNA. But consider the adage: “faster alone, further together.”
If your reps really want to find big wins, they’re going to realize that by collaborating and making the whole team successful, they’re going to achieve more than anyone could on their own.
In this case, not only are you encouraging each rep to own their performance improvement, you’re encouraging the team to support each other along the way. This will result in an incredibly strong and profitable organization.