No sales professional comes to the job knowing everything they need to know to succeed. Everyone needs someone to show them the ropes and help them improve their performance. That is why you need to make coaching a sales team an ongoing commitment.
You can establish aggressive quotas and offer huge bonuses, but without the proper tools and training, even the best sales rep can’t reach their goals. That’s why you have to show them how it’s done and adopt a coaching strategy that motivates as well as trains.
There are so many reasons why you should be coaching a sales team:
- It improves employee satisfaction and retention. Ninety-two percent of professionals surveyed by Better Buys ranked career development as “important” or “very important,” and 42 percent wanted in-house programs.
- You get to share insight and intelligence, offering proven best practices that you can share with the entire sales team so that everybody wins.
- Coaching helps reps get more out of sales training. Only 10 percent of spoken information is retained after three days, and so coaching reinforces sales training.
- Most importantly of all, you make more money! Research shows that organizations with sales enablement programs, such as coaching, increase win rates by 15.3 percent.
However, to be a successful sales coach, you need a well-defined coaching strategy, including metrics to measure performance and a proven approach to coaching.
How Do You Measure Performance?
Before you can start coaching to improve sales performance, you need a performance baseline. What constitutes success? You can try to measure by close rates or customer increases, but those types of metrics are really out of the sales team’s control.
You need a performance measurement framework that you and your team can use to measure progress. I recommend the AOR approach:
- Activity — The only part of the sales process over which you have absolute control is your own activity. You can measure the level of activity, such as the number of emails sent or phone calls made, against results.
- Objectives — Activity is meaningless without purpose. The sales rep’s objective is to have their activity result in an engagement; a conversation that will lead to a sale.
- Results — The measurable results are the number of new contracts and the increase in revenue. Start with the desired results and work backward to determine the necessary objectives and the activities needed to achieve them.
The AOR framework makes it easier to assess performance. For example, a rep may have difficulty making cold calls, or a rep’s activity level may be high, but their average selling price is too low. When you identify the problem, you can then drill down to determine why you have it. When you have found the problem, you can use coaching to correct it.
Your sales reps also need the right tools to achieve their objectives, so you will also need to provide coaching around the sales stack. Improper or insufficient use of sales tools such as customer relationship management (CRM) software, sales management tools, call managers, scheduling software, and so on, will get in the way of success.
Coaching Is Not Supervising
Successfully applying the AOR framework to improve performance is a collaborative effort. Coaching a sales team is about open conversations and reviewing strengths and weaknesses to work toward a common goal—driving sales.
Too often, sales managers confuse supervising with coaching. It’s one thing to set quotas and key performance indicators (KPIs), but you also have to show the team how to reach those goals. Coaching isn’t about setting milestones or earning bonuses. It’s about showing reps how to get more out of their sales tools and how to apply new techniques that will make them more effective.
Every member of sales management needs to be able to coach reps, both as members of the team and as individuals. Effective coaching needs to be ongoing and focused. There are three critical components to successful sales coaching:
- Consistency — Coaching requires a commitment by all parties, so schedule regular coaching sessions and make that time sacrosanct. Committing to weekly coaching sessions shows reps that you take coaching seriously and are willing to provide support.
- Diagnosis — Coaching is not about lecturing or sharing your pearls of wisdom. The goal of sales coaching is to close the gap between potential and performance. That requires observing and identifying problems and attacking those shortfalls to effect positive change.
- Correction — Diagnosing the shortcomings of a sales rep or team is only the first step. You also need to have a plan of action to correct the problem. Developing a plan of action is a collaborative process wherein the coach works with the team to implement tactics.
Sales coaching is part art and part science, but if you can develop an effective coaching strategy, you can cultivate a sales culture that helps engage sales reps to increase performance and reduce turnover.
Measuring the Success of AOR Coaching
Successful AOR coaching should yield a number of business benefits, including more prospects, increased deal value, a higher close rate, and a shorter sales cycle. It also should yield additional benefits for your sales team:
- Lower attrition rate — Coaching promotes engagement, and when the sales team is engaged, attrition rates drop. According to CIO Insights, the attrition rate for the sales team drops 4.3 points for voluntary turnover and 4.5 points for involuntary turnover when reps are engaged. When the sales force is fully engaged, they also generate more revenue—up to a 6.5 percent increase in wins and a 7.2 percent increase in revenue.
- More qualified sales reps — Over time, your reps will need less coaching and will do their jobs more effectively. However, even when performance improves, you want to continue coaching to refine sales techniques and maintain forward momentum. Like any athlete, a sales rep needs to practice to improve performance.
- Higher-quality sales — In addition to refining your coaching strategy, you are refining your AOR framework as well. The result will be higher-quality customers, including more upselling and larger contracts.
- Greater personal satisfaction — The confidence that comes with coaching support and seeing coaching turn into sales success will promote a positive attitude that should carry over into all aspects of sales. Success breeds success.
Like it or not, coaching a sales team is part of every sales manager’s responsibility. Your role is not only to set the bar for sales performance, but also to provide the tools and training to exceed expectations.
Effective sales coaching is about empowering the sales team to perform and providing the metrics that allow them to track their own performance. If you can provide sales coaching that is even-handed, consistent, and tailored to each sales rep’s needs, you can measure the improvement in sales performance.