This is a guest post from Brian Trautschold, Co-founder and COO, Ambition
For years, sales pros have been told that data is king. In order to succeed in sales, you must be a data-driven manager, with a data-driven team, in a data-driven org. (Sound familiar?)
Of course, data’s just the starting point. To make it meaningful, we need insights from that data — otherwise, it’s just a bunch of raw numbers hanging out in spreadsheets. Fortunately, insights are easier than ever to uncover, thanks to new technologies that modern sales teams have access to.
But data and insights simply aren’t enough. 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 managers think of their 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.
If you’ve got insights up to your eyeballs, but you’re not leveraging them in your coaching program, then they’re worthless. (Harsh, but true.) But we’ve got you covered: here are five ways managers can put insights to work so they can actually change behaviors and move the needle for your 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.
Our mantra: automate what you can. As a manager, time is a hot commodity, so 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 tools in place, then accessing insights probably isn’t your problem. It’s figuring out which ones are meaningful and how to prioritize them.
All insights are not created equal. When you’re overwhelmed with information, it can be tempting to stay high level — but that’s not where the meat of your 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 to coach your team around. 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 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 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. 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. 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. 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 start coaching around efficiency metrics, 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) driving behavior change.
When it comes to your 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.