This is a guest post from Brian Trautschold, Co-founder and COO, Ambition
Data-Driven Sales Coaching
For years, sales pros have been told that data is king. In order to succeed in sales and have an effective sales coaching strategy, you must be a data-driven manager, with a data-driven team, in a data-driven org. (Sound familiar?)
Of course, data is just the starting point. To have a meaningful and data-driven sales coaching strategy, we need insights from that data — otherwise, it’s just a bunch of raw numbers hanging out in spreadsheets. Fortunately, sales insights are easier than ever to uncover, thanks to new technologies that modern sales teams have access to.
How to Improve Sales Rep Performance Through Sales Coaching
But data and insights simply aren’t enough when talking about how to improve sales rep performance. The real challenge is turning all of that information into action. And most sales managers know, that’s a whole lot easier said than done — because it’s something that can’t ever be automated. It takes human-to-human interaction.
This is where consistent, strategic sales coaching comes in. Smart sales coaches and managers think of their sales coaching programs as an opportunity to turn insights into action; in other words, they use data as a jumping-off point to drive positive performance change.
5 Ways to Improve Sales Coaching Strategies
If you’ve got insights up to your eyeballs, but you’re not leveraging them in your sales coaching program, then they’re worthless. (Harsh, but true.) But we’ve got you covered: here are five ways managers can utilize data-driven sales coaching and improve sales coaching efforts across their team.
- Shore up your tech stack: We’re taking a step back and starting with the obvious here: you can’t turn insights into action if you don’t have (good) insights. These days, a CRM isn’t enough; that’s your data, but where are your insights coming from? Sure, sales managers could spend time trying to organize, analyze and translate spreadsheet reports into something meaningful. But that won’t leave any hours to actually, you know, manage. This is why sales coaching tools are an integral part to any sales coaching strategy.
Our mantra: automate what you can. As a manager, time is a hot commodity, so sales coaching tools that can automate — and visualize! — valuable sales insights that you can’t otherwise access are typically worth exploring.
- Leverage the right insights: If you’ve got the right sales coaching tools in place, then accessing insights probably isn’t your problem. To improve sales coaching efforts, you probably need to figure out which sales insights are meaningful and how to prioritize them.
All insights are not created equal when it comes to sales coaching. If you’re overwhelmed with information, it can be tempting to stay high level — but that’s not where the meat of your sales insights lie. Too often, we see sales managers paying attention to lagging indicators like opportunities created or deals won — which are incredibly important, but they don’t give you anything specific on how to improve sales rep performance. Plus, by the time those lagging indicators raise a red flag, it’s often too late to do anything about it.
Be sure you’re taking advantage of sales insights that tell a story around leading indicators of success. For example: maybe your reps are killing their email targets, but they’re not hitting their call targets this month — and thanks to the sales insights you’ve got, you know that calls actually lead to more meetings set. That’s great! It’s not too late to spin up a sales contest to increase calls or to spend some 1:1 sessions focused on getting your reps more comfortable on the phone.
- Identify (and coach around) skill gaps: It can be easy to have a more-is-more mentality when thinking of how to improve sales rep performance. But more activities don’t always equal more closed deals. You need to know where reps may be spinning their wheels — that is, putting in the hustle but not seeing the results.
The solution: Take advantage of efficiency insights that tell you where your people’s strengths and weaknesses lie. It’s not just about making the most calls or setting the most meetings. Of course, that’s important when trying to improve sales coaching efforts. But it’s equally important to look at ratios like call connects to meetings set: when your reps get someone on the phone, are they successfully closing a meeting? Or demos held to opps created: are their demos actually effective?
These kinds of insights are low-hanging fruit and can often hold the answer on how to improve sales rep performance in your organization. Assuming you’ve got the right tools in place, they’re easy to find, and they take the guesswork out of sales coaching by highlighting exactly which skills need work. Bonus: as you adopt a data-driven sales coaching strategy, you can continue to look at those numbers to determine whether your coaching efforts are actually driving behavior change, or if you need to take a different approach.
- Prioritize visibility: Don’t hide performance insights from your team: share the wealth! Transparency is so important on your sales floor — from building trust to creating alignment to (ultimately) addressing the question of how to improve sales coaching efforts.
When it comes to your sales coaching sessions, there should never be any surprises. Give your reps the same access to their individual performance insights that you have. This saves time, as you’re not having to run through reports that could easily have been shared ahead of time. Plus, it takes the emotion out of your meetings — numbers don’t lie! Most importantly, it gives reps the chance to reflect, take initiative and proactively come up with solutions, which is a huge confidence builder.
Of course, visibility goes beyond your 1:1s. Use your TVs and leaderboards to visualize and broadcast performance insights, so everyone on your team knows exactly where they stand and how they’re progressing against their goals. Not only does this set the stage for real-time coaching, but it also brings a new level of accountability and motivation to your sales floor.
- Get buy-in: Look, change is hard. And for some people, it can be stressful or upsetting, even if they fully understand the reasoning behind it. It’s never a bad idea to get buy-in from more seasoned or influential reps, who can help to set an example for the rest of the team and even identify peer-to-peer coaching opportunities. If team or organizational change feels collaborative — like everyone’s in it together — it’s always going to make for a smoother transition.
It’s also helpful to explain what’s in it for the individual reps. How will your team personally benefit from the changes you’re coaching around? For example:“Based on this data, I know if we change X process, every rep should reliably close Y more deals this quarter. What would that look like in commission for you?”
Tap into that benefit from the get-go so that even when change feels uncomfortable, your reps will have a vested interest in staying the course.
Keep in mind, even if you do all the right things, you can’t change behavior with a set-it-and-forget-it mentality. It’s easy to fall back into familiar habits — which means your powerful insights (or your time and efforts) could all be for naught. So: make sure you’re continuously checking in on progress and revisiting the behaviors you wish to see by reinforcing them during 1:1 sessions and publicly recognizing positive change when you see it playing out on your sales floor. You should be constantly evaluating and looking to improve sales coaching efforts across your entire organization.