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As a sales leader, you’ve probably realized that coaching your reps can make a difference in their performance. However, you may not realize exactly how much of a difference it can make. According to the Corporate Executive Board Company, reps who receive just 3 hours of sales coaching per month exceed their goals by 7%, boosting revenue by 25% and increasing the average close rate by 70%.

But let’s be real: being a good sales coach is hard. That’s probably why 73% of sales managers admit to spending less than 5% of their time coaching – because perhaps the only thing worse than not coaching at all is coaching poorly. The worst kinds of sales coaching sessions can be categorized into three groups:

1) Instant Replays: These sessions occur when sales leaders waste 1:1s by asking reps to provide recaps of their recent activities and conversations. Rather than using the time to discuss strategies for improvement and provide value for the rep, the meeting is used to get the manager up to speed.

2) One-sided Conversations: Perhaps the most negative of all coaching tactics is to talk at a rep, rather than with him or her. During these “conversations,” managers spout off about all of the things they would have done differently if they were in the reps’ shoes, offering subjective feedback that serves mostly to stroke their own egos.

3) Performance Evaluations: One of the most important things to remember about coaching is that it is not a performance evaluation. 1:1s should never be spent rehashing everything a rep did right or wrong; rather, the time should be used to discover ways he or she can increase contract values, identify decision makers faster, etc.

If you want to avoid these types of sales coaching pitfalls at all costs, there is only one way to do it: data. Sales leaders who take a data-driven approach to coaching are able to provide constructive feedback that builds reps’ confidence and generates measurable results. Here’s how.

Agree on a Sales Process

A formalized sales process leads to a 65% increase in individual reps hitting their targets and an 88% increase in companies hitting their goals. That’s because a good sales process clearly outlines the exact steps reps need to take to move a lead further along at each stage of the sales pipeline.

For example, imagine a business with a sales pipeline composed of the following stages:
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A structured sales process might require reps to have an on-site meeting, provide a customer reference and receive verbal confirmation that they’ve made the short list of competitors before moving a deal from the Qualified to the Quote stage.

Sales coaching becomes much easier with a formalized sales process in place because, as reps capture the data necessary to complete each of these steps, managers are able to follow along with their activities and communications, eliminating the need for a play-by-play later on. In addition, a sales process provides a baseline for feedback around how to best accomplish and complete these key milestones.

For a complete breakdown of how to build a successful data-driven sales pipeline and process, download this free eBook.

Measure Together

As the famous saying goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Part of effective sales coaching means that you are helping your team grow and learn how to make better decisions on their own – not just telling them what to do.

One key way to achieve this is to take time in your 1:1s to analyze and examine sales reports together. This way, any discoveries that are made are the product of a joint effort, and any risk of offering subjective feedback is eliminated. Examples of sales reports that a coach might view with his or her reps include call and email outcomes, time to first action, sales goals and more.

To foster a truly data-driven sales culture, all reps should have access to the data they need to independently track progress and make smarter, more strategic decisions, even outside of 1:1s. Scientific sales leaders are choosing sales software that has the power to capture and process big data and provides real-time analytics plus robust permission controls. This way, reps are able “fish” on their own and get their hands on the reports they need when they need them.

Offer Actionable Insights

A recent study showed that 58% of sales reps feel as though sales tools are used more to monitor their performance than increase it. In truth, while many sales platforms promise deep insight into how to improve sales performance, the reality is that most are actually providing reports that simply describe sales results. If you want answers to basic questions such as, “are my reps performing according to plan?” these reports can give you a simple yes or no answer. Unfortunately, there’s not much “insight” to be gleaned from these types of surface-level observations.

In contrast, next-generation sales platforms not only enable managers to understand who’s hitting quota, but they also provide prescriptive sales insights that reveal the actions sales teams can take to achieve desired outcomes. Armed with these actionable, quantifiable insights, sales leaders can help reps understand how to scientifically improve their performance.

For example, with the knowledge that reducing time to first call to 17 minutes can significantly impact revenue, sales managers can work with reps on strategies to optimize efficiencies and reduce their time to first call to this amount of time. No performance evaluation, no subjectivity, just science.

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While sales coaching isn’t easy, data science and technology is evolving to help sales leaders take a much more data-driven and effective approach. If you’d like to learn more about how to put science at the center of your sales processes, check out this free eBook, How to Eliminate Sales Forecasting Fallacies with a Data-Driven Approach.