Cohesive Training & Coaching That Impacts Seller Performance – Soirée, San Francisco
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Mario Martinez: Good afternoon, everyone. Good afternoon. I love it. Fantastic. Well, you guys are here and we are the only thing stopping you from drinks. How would you like to have some drinks later on this afternoon? That was absolutely pathetic. How would you like to have some drinks later on this afternoon? Ah, fantastic. Well, I’m excited to be here with you guys today. My name is Mario Martinez, Jr. and I am the CEO and founder of Vengresso. We are a digital sales training company. All of you guys in the room are here for a nice, wonderful treat.
Anna Cockell: I’m Anna. I’m the head of enablement at Envoy. We’re a visitor registration platform, best known for our iPods sign-in tool.
Robert Koehler: Hello. I’m Robert Koehler. I’m the director of sales effectiveness for Compass. I report to the chief revenue officer. Compass is a real estate company and the number one independent brokerage in the U.S.
Giorgia Ortiz: Hi everyone. I am Giorgia and I’m the head of sales enablement at Lever.
Kevin Doddrell: My name is Kevin. I’m a partner at Revenue Storm. We are a sales executive consultancy firm. I lead the coaching practice.
Bryan Naas: Hi everyone, I’m Bryan Naas. I head up sales enablement at Lessonly. Lessonly is a sales training software.
MM: We’re here to talk about sales coaching and training. And how many of you have sales training and coaching enablement programs in your organization today? Raise your hand. Fantastic. How many of you want to make it better? Raise your hand. And how many of you struggle with your sellers listening to what it is that you asked them to do? Raise your hand. Okay. We’ve established that we all have the same problem. So, today we’re going to be having a series of questions that we’re going to go through and we’re going to get some of your peers, their responses and their thoughts. And then we’re going to leave it open for about 15 minutes worth of Q&A. So, make sure you write down your questions because we’ll give you an opportunity to be able to ask those questions at the end. Does that sound fair? Alright. Very good.
So, one of the first things that we want to talk about, to our panelists here, is I think we can all agree that it is important to have a sales training and coaching program that goes hand-in-hand. I think we all agree that that’s necessary. But talk about the impact of having a cohesive sales training and coaching program.
AC: I think that the impact of having this cohesive training and coaching program that I’ve seen is that it makes training really stick. So, if you’re just going in and you’re planning a big training initiative, maybe it’s one day and maybe it’s an ongoing training and you don’t have the coaching built in, there is no mechanism to make sure that the repetition is there, that the reps are kind of getting that follow-up that they need. And so the impact that I’ve seen is that I can walk away from a training knowing that they’re going to get the follow-up that they need.
MM: Good. Bryan?
BN: Yeah, I agree. And it’s really a lot about performance. So, as you are delivering your sales training, even if you do certifications, at some point, they have to take that out into the field and do it with your customers and prospects. And that coaching is what allows us to sync it back to their development, right? So, if you’ve got that cohesive training and coaching plan in place, your managers know what they need to coach on to take it back into your program and make sure you’re getting the performance that you want to make sure your reps are developing in the areas that they need to develop in.
MM: Robert, Kevin or Giorgia, initial thoughts that you have.
GO: I think it also validates the time that the reps spend with us. A lot of times they feel like there’s always new initiatives and they learn something and it’s either not reinforced or it’s not measured, and so even if they complain about it, the reality is if they’re going to spend time there with us, the fact that they are then coached, they’re certified afterwards, or mentored on that particular thing, even if it’s just something short. I think that reinforces that the time that they spent was indeed valuable. So, even from their perspective, I think it’s helpful.
RK: Yeah. Mario, I find it’s an accelerant to whatever result we’re trying to get, whether it’s greater growth or accelerate time to sale. The mantra I like to use with my own team is we’re not delivering one time training events. Our goal is to deliver long-term programs. A long-term program implies reinforcement of which coaching is a key element.
MM: Yeah. Kevin?
KD: I think that sort of taking what everyone’s said here, training bridges a knowledge gap, right? Knowledge by itself does not change human behavior. I’m a motorcycle rider and I read lots of motorcycle books. It doesn’t make me a good motorcycle rider. Trust me, it doesn’t. And so it’s the coaching which bridges the execution gap. So, it’s only by putting it into action like that. And then the whole thing comes down that human beings change behavior on emotion, which is another whole subject in itself.
MM: Yeah, that’s a very valid point. By a show of hands, how many of you feel that behavior change is a problem with your sellers? Raise your hand. Behavioral change. So, you do a training program, you launch something, and then they walk out of the room, they’re all pumped up, and then the next day, what do they start doing? Same thing. I think the basis of what we’re talking about here is that you have to implement both. You can’t just say, let’s go ahead and do a one-day, two-day training or a three month long training program and then subsequently turn around and not reinforce that with the coaching to ensure behavioral change. And we’re going to come to how do we make that behavioral change? And I think that’s an important topic that we’ll cover in just a little bit. Let me go to another question here. When we think about training and coaching, sometimes there are different needs for different reps depending on levels, experience, depending on even roles as well. Well, what do you think are some of the best ways or methods to execute this? And let’s start with you, Robert, and then Giorgia.
RK: In terms of having different performers at different levels, I’ll start with the basics of doing the needs analysis, which is a fancy way of doing discovery for your training audience to figure out where everybody is. That’s really important. For instance, I had a situation just last week where we did the needs analysis and I realized the sellers were in so many different spots. The first part of our performance solution to just solve for the challenge could not address all of the behaviors. I gave them a long-term plan. But I said for the short-term initial training, we’re going to focus on the spectrum of behaviors. So, that’s the first way we do it.
Blended learning is really important to get people at different aspects and provide that coaching input. So, with a senior seller from having them do a short practice on a some sort of LMS or onboarding thing, and we can give them input based on their performance, which may be for a three-year tenured seller, much more advanced than someone who’s been on board for three months.
MM: Good. Giorgia?
GO: Building on what Robert said, I’ll go one step back and in fact, my team that I did it with is right over there. Sally and Brianna, raise your hand. There they are. We’re not together anymore, but it was wonderful when we were, but a total let down. That’s my team, but we’re not together. We came to understand that in order for us to really understand how our folks were onboarding, in order for them to be coached, we needed to first identify, what are the competencies that are indicative of what good selling looks like here, where we’re at? And so once we had those, five competencies, and I’m not talking about like HR-heavy competence things, but things like demo skills and the ability to identify and build a champion. You can kind of map them out actually to the skills level. Once you have that, then it’s about calibrating with the managers on, well, what does good discovery look like?
What happened is once we came up with these competencies initially, when we first put them out, the managers, honestly, were guessing between one to five. But what started happening was they were now observing their reps through a different lens, more through a framework. And so those numbers started to get more real, and they started to have more meaningful conversations. Then once you have these competencies, with every new initiative that comes out, it’s almost like you get to level-set. They may have been a five at demo skills, and now you’ve come up with a whole new platform. Everybody starts again.
I found that just the simple basics of what it takes to be a successful seller at your company, come up with five of them and then track. And then sometimes you’ve got to reiterate. But that helps the managers who are in the field doing the work, coaching and observing, because we can’t be there. It really gives them that framework and lens and helps them. And that’s really what I see a lot of what we need to do is truly support the frontline sales managers whose job it is to be there. Because we can’t be.
BN: Yeah. I think that guidance and support is so important, but I think another layer to that as well is empowering the reps to own their own development as well. Especially as you talk about personalization. One thing we’ve started doing is at the beginning of every quarter, we have that skills matrix and we ask every rep to decide on a skill that they self-realize, a skill that they need to work on. They put a plan together with their manager and we help support them in that and help, “Hey, here’s some resources that you can use and here’s how we’re going to help track that.” But that rep empowerment and having them take ownership of that skill that they want to develop is such an important part of that personalization.
GO: It has to be transparent and you have to have the rep and the manager both agree that this is where they’re at and if there’s discrepancies, that’s great. That’s a great conversation to have to bring alignment between the rep and that sales manager. So, I agree with you. 100% transparency is the only way to do it.
MM: Anna or Kevin?
KD: I’ll just add something as a little overlay. The core responsibility of a sales coach is to grow your people, right? To grow the individuals by definition, that means that you’re trying to get them to take the risk to do something different in front of a client or a customer or a prospect. So when you think about that, right? How do you get a salesperson to take the risk to do something different tomorrow than what they did yesterday? I think it comes down to two things. It comes down to insight. So, a coach’s responsibility is to bring insight, thought leadership. And the second thing is it comes back to the human being again, to inspire them to have the confidence to go out and do something different. So, if your coaches had that mantra that my whole responsibility is to bring insight and inspiration so that the reps are prepared to do something different tomorrow than yesterday, it’s sort of quite a nice foundation for them to think about that core principles.
BN: Totally. And don’t forget about the practice of allowing them to say the words out loud, do it, and role play so that the first time they’re saying those words isn’t in front of a customer.
MM: Anna, any thoughts there?
AC: I think I just agree with what everybody has already said.
MM: Fair enough. One of the big challenges that we see is, when it comes to competencies — and Giorgia, you talked about this — is you’ve got demo skills, you’ve got prospecting skills, you’ve got relationship to close skills. You have all these different even negotiation skills, right? How do you figure out what’s the right skill set that you train and coach on first? If you’ve got multiple different competencies, what’s the best method to be able to figure that out?
GO: I can tell you what we did initially when we came up with the competencies that were originally designed for onboarding. If you think about it, their ability to message or prospect, right? So if it’s prospecting, messaging, qualification, demo skills, and then champion building in terms of a person’s growth or experience. You kind of mapped that to their onboarding. Now, people coming in from different industries may excel in one area over the other, and that’s why the transparency is so incredibly important with these competencies, because then it’s right there. If in the first three months, specifically with the soundboarding example, they’re supposed to be focusing on prospecting, then those are the things that you want them to fundamentally get good at to reduce their feeling of risk of trying something new. And then once you build their courage in that area, they can then move on to the next, and then I think it’s the same as reps row in their career as well.
Those competencies of what it takes to be a good salesperson. You’re at a level, let’s say it’s one to five, but that’s at a green belt level, five. As you excel and you go more into enterprise selling or strategic selling, your ability to do demonstrations now has to be more nuanced than a person that’s just coming out of a boot camp. So, the competencies themselves may stay the same, but the expertise with which they are executed now begins to evolve. That’s where the relationship between the sales manager and the sales rep is so incredibly important.
This framework just enables us to go deeper and deeper. Then for us, it makes it a lot easier to target so that when you do your assessment, everybody’s calibrated on the same things. Otherwise an assessment can be all over the place and you won’t have any really good themes to go after too many where you can’t really make a big impact.
AC: I would just add to that as well. I think I love the idea of setting out these core competencies for onboarding. We certainly do that and then extend them into the ongoing learning, but for us as well, just aligning with the leadership so that whatever the goals are for this quarter, this year, making sure that we’re really hitting those. Otherwise, I’ve found that it’s hard to get the managers to really buy into doing that reinforcement. So, I think the two couples together is important for us.
MM: Giorgia and Anna, you both mentioned something, which I want to hone in on, regarding frontline sales managers. How many times have you rolled out a training program? And let’s start with the top. Your most senior sales leader. He or she, the CRO or CSO is not engaged in the program. Raise your hand if you’ve had that happen where they’re not engaged in the program. High meaning they are, they are not going through the on demand training, the live training, the actual coaching they’re sitting in and going through that. Raise your hand if you have that situation. They’re not going through it there. Okay, so about half the room. Then as you go down the layers, frontline sales managers. How many of the frontline sales managers are telling the reps you have to do this, but they themselves are not doing it? Raise your hand if you have a situation. Okay, so we all have the same exact problem. And this is an interesting scenario here. So the question is, we all have roadblocks to getting frontline sales managers and even senior leaders involved in the coaching process. I’m involved in the training process. We do not want a do as I say, not as I do approach. You’ll agree. So, to the panel, how have you addressed this specific issue at your organization when rolling out, whether it’s a training competency and a coaching program, to get leadership involved from the frontline all the way through to whoever leads the sales organization?
RK: A couple of things. The first one is I look at why isn’t more coaching happening? And for me, I think there’s four reasons why managers and leaders don’t coach. One, you don’t have leadership support. I’ll get back to that in a minute too. You don’t have the time. Three, you lack the knowledge. Or four, some companies they don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. And those are the four reasons.
So, first you’ve got to assess them. And our company, for instance, Compass, we realized by talking to the frontline sales managers, the biggest issue that we had to solve for first before we could get to anything else was lack of time. So, we focused a whole theme for a quarter and how to free up time from firefighting to proactive, intentional coaching.
Quick comment on leadership. You’ve got to talk in their language and the metrics that matter to them. Training, consumption or completion will not resonate at all with some leaders. And to something that Giorgia said earlier, how many of you work in high-growth startups? Okay, so I want to make a quick comment, which also ties in the last question in the leadership, that for high-growth startups, I love competencies. I love matrices. I love rubrics. I love research. I can be very wonkish that way and I’d be very careful about using those words with some of your leaders and your sales managers. As soon as I say competency to some sales managers, I have lost the room. And if I say rubric, all hell breaks loose.
GO: I agree with you. The key is not to sound like trainers.
RK: With leaders, just to close it up, in a startup, we’ve got four major stages. Where do you think the biggest gap is, leaders, regional directors? Where do you think the biggest gap is, frontline sales managers? Where do you think the biggest gap is? That way down-and-dirty needs analysis could take three days to do that. And if you get some consensus, boom, you can drill into that phase and then drill into the sub skills needed versus some competencies. And the first thing they think in their mind is, “Oh, you’re about to do a three month organizational design treatment.”
MM: Good point. Kevin?
KD: We get called into more than several organizations, and you guys probably do too, where they’ll say, “we’ve just invested $1 million” or whatever, and all this training and great certification programs, and everyone’s got their badges, but there’s been no revenue increase. We sort of start off with that scenario. What we’ve learned from experience, both good and bad, because we’ve screwed up some situations as well, is don’t start any training with your reps or your sales people until you’ve captured the hearts and the minds of the first-line sales leadership. And they have to feel as though they are on a mission to something. I made this with a global sales VP last week of a $4 billion organization. And he told me the same thing. I said, “what have you painted as the vision for your sales organization?” And he said, “I haven’t, I just chased them for numbers every week.” And you’ll be surprised at how often it happens.
So, unless you’ve captured the hearts of your first-line salespeople and they believe that they’re on a mission of chain, and they are set to go on that vision, then it’s the time to start training your sales people and filling in the knowledge and filling in the coaching. But I think this industry may include, when you look at the money that’s invested in salespeople versus first-line sales leadership, it is incredible. Now, I know what it was like when I first became a first-line sales manager at the age of 22. It was a train wreck. It was an absolute train wreck. 80 months of train wreck. Right? Because it’s the most difficult job in the industry because you’re dealing with all sorts of competing things. Be a coach and do the numbers, deal with my issues, get the credit checks done. It’s like chaos. So guys, inspire your first-line sales managers. Then fill it in underneath.
BN: Yeah. I love what you’re saying there, and I’ve been burned on it many times in the past in two different ways. One, ignoring my frontline sales manager, just saying, “Hey, we’re rolling out this coaching program. Go do it.” Also, in just treating them like a rep, right? And just saying, “Hey, here’s what we’re doing. I’m telling you beforehand, that’s enough.” Right? And what I’ve learned over time is you have to treat them differently and you have to provide the coaching for them to better coach their reps. Remember, we all deal with the manager who was the top sales rep and probably doesn’t know how to coach. We have to coach them to do that.
AC: I agree with a lot of what was already said. I think getting that buy-in from the leadership is so important just early on to kind of avoid those roadblocks. And even if you can’t avoid them, just identifying them early on. One thing that we do right now is every quarter we have what we call decision day. So, I get in a room with all of the sales leaders and my team is laughing at me because they hear about it all the time. We really want to map out what are the priorities for the next quarter. As we’re kind of discussing that, we hash it out. We have a very honest conversation. Things are just thrown out there that maybe don’t get acted on, but at least I’m aware. And so I’m in the room kind of listening, absorbing all of that, and then I’m able to kind of train or plan our training according to what those goals are and what those needs are. And that has helped a lot in terms of, I can kind of skip over the roadblocks and go right to alignment.
MM: One of the things that we’ve seen as well, as we’ve launched programs to many different organizations in terms of getting the frontline managers involved, there’s the carrot and there’s the stick. Especially if you’re using an outside sales training organization to help assist you, they don’t have the stick. They have the carrot. So, you’ve got to have your programs that are designed to be able to create the rewards, create the recognition programs. And then you’ve gotta be willing to be able to work with the sales leadership to pull the plug. A great example is we recently rolled out a large proof of concept for an organization, and we had about 50% of the sellers and sales leaders that decided that they were not going to do what they needed to do. And so, we gave the leadership an option, and that was, we recommend that you pull the plug, send a message to the sales organization. They loved it. They pulled the plug.
Then they did an all-hands call with our organization and with all the sales managers, and they said, “listen, this big chunk of people got pulled, yanked, who’s ready to be able to take their business to the next level? You all can volunteer and whoever’s ready, you’ll get the skill set, training, and development.” It was like you got made as an example, but also the other folks were like, Holy crap. Now there’s an opportunity, and the other half that was really excelling at this, all were showing progress. And they’re like, well, what are these guys thinking? What happened? You’ve got to use that carrot and stick approach and you’ve got to be willing to pull the plug and basically say, “look, you don’t want it. That’s no problem. Absolutely no problem. You can do what you do and be successful. Otherwise we’re going to go and try to make these other sellers who want to be successful, successful.”
One more question that we have here before we get into Q&A. This one is probably at the heart of many of our enablement leaders’ minds here. And that is how do you measure the success of a sales training and coaching program? There are many that were even laughing and everybody’s like, yeah, that’s the biggest one. So, let’s talk about some of the details behind how you’ve measured success, and we’ll open it up to any one of you here on the panel.
GO: Well, I think it depends on who’s asking. I think all of us as sales enablement professionals at some point in our careers have rolled up to different functions. I rolled up to HR and rolled up to sales operations. I’ve rolled up to sales, revenue. And we had this conversation yesterday at dinner. The same way that we try and help and coach our sales reps to understand the personas that they’re speaking to and speak their language, from a sales enablement standpoint, I want to know first who’s asking, because if it’s HR, it’s butts in seats. I don’t know why it’s butts in seats with HR. If it’s going to be sales ops, then you’ve got to pull numbers and metrics and performance. And I think that with your chief revenue officers, sometimes people think that they’re really by the number. But the reality is sometimes it’s also about them feeling when they’re on the field, the questions that they’re hearing or on forecast calls, they’re not having to ask for the same thing. All of a sudden things are just getting done.
So, from a metric standpoint, if you don’t already have a benchmark or idea of what you want to see as a change in what you’re doing, then it doesn’t really matter what you end up pulling up afterwards. Because it could be anything. So, I would say that as a practice, if it’s a bigger initiative or it’s something that you want to know, then take a moment to say, “okay, if we invest in this, what should it look like on the backend? What does success look like?” And maybe you make a hypothesis and we did this a lot on the team. We would hypothesize that in order for us to improve stage conversion, we were going to focus on discovery. And that way we should see an increase here. It’s a hypothesis, we don’t know. But most of the time I think that leadership wants to at least know that you’re thinking that way. It almost doesn’t matter what the exact metric is sometimes. Sometimes it does, but honestly, it’s that idea that we’re looking outside of just the training and the happy smiley faces and people feeling good, but we’re actually looking at the business impact. That’s generally how I think about it, but, but it’s got to come before the initiative.
AC: Yeah, I agree with that, Giorga. I appreciate you saying it depends because I think that’s the best answer. I can think of five different trainings that we put on in the past quarter and each one will have a different metric. But I 100% agree as to finding out ahead of time what really counts.
MM: So, predefining your KPIs to measure success. Yeah. Good. Anybody else? Thoughts on that? Everybody agree?
KD: Yeah, I absolutely agree with what was just said, because if you don’t know the destination, why start the journey? So, let’s set the course on where we want to get to, and then you can inspire the organization towards that once again. We always make the metrics public, right? We say these are the four metrics which are how we are going to measure success in 18 months or whatever it is. And we track them, right? We give the sales organization, and more importantly, the first-line sales leadership, the pride of ownership of those metrics at the start. First-line sales leadership. Again, if they are not inspired by that vision, which is represented in those metrics, they’re not going to inspire their team to perform.
BN: That’s such an important part. And Giorgia, I’m glad you really started with those metrics because frankly I think there’s a little bit of a flaw. And even the question that was asked, like, how do you know your training and coaching is successful? It doesn’t matter. I mean, what matters is, are you making an impact? It’s the training and coaching that are helping us get there. It was a big question.
RK: I would say, so I report to CRO. My initial response when you asked the question when we were talking about it a few weeks ago was it’s the same metrics as my CRO follows, and he cares about win rates. He cares about profitability, he cares about sales velocity. What’s our average sales cycle? What’s our conversion rate by stage? How long does it take to get a new seller into the field and really performing and doing back-to-back quarters of achieving or exceeding quota? So, I need to be able to show some influence or correlation to those.
We did a value-first proposal training in April through early June, and then looked year-over-year at win rates and profitability. For April through July, the win rate went up 13%, we beat the profitability per deal by 1.8%, and it was 7.5% better year-over-year. Now, did I do all that? The sellers did. And the sales leadership gets the credit. Do I think we contributed and showed influence? Yes. So, even if it was a horrible training, at least I’d have them believing that I’m making that contribution.
GO: The last thing I’ll add though, if anybody’s struggling or thinking about how do I do this? For those of you that have board meetings, I would have the head of HR come and ask me for stats, and then I would have the CRO come and ask me for stats about the sales enablement program. And then I would have the CMO come and ask me for stats. And all three of them have different interests. The program was always the same, but the questions that they would ask me and the reports that they would want me to run were different. That then gives you insight into what these leaders care about, and so as you’re looking to sell, because if you’re in sales enablement, you’re constantly selling, you’re selling for budget, you’re trying to get resources, you’re trying to get attention. Understanding when they come to you, what questions they’re asking, because we’re salespeople. That’s really telling you what they care about. And so then you know how to frame, even if it’s the same program that you’re putting out, you’re going to frame it differently for your CRO or head of HR, or marketing. That helped me as I was just starting trying to understand how do I translate this craziness that we do into something that means something to them? And that was helpful.
MM: Very good. And I’ll leave with this particular quote before we go into Q&A. So, get your questions ready, because we’re going to be passing around a mic with questions. You probably have seen this on social media. The CFO says to the CEO, what happens if we train our sales team and they leave? And the CEO says back to the CFO, what happens if we don’t train our sales team and they stay? So, this is a very important concept to be thinking about, especially as leaders when we’re talking to our CFO, CRO, or CSO is, “Oh my gosh, what happens if we don’t do this?” And these folks stay here? And we continue with the same exact situation over and over again. So, we’ve got to be able to make change, and you’ve got to lead it from the top.
First off, a round of applause to the panelists. We’re going to open it up for some questions, and we have two questions right over here. Let’s start with over here and we’ll make it this way.
Audience 1: Hi, I’m Jade. I work for a startup here in San Francisco called Brandcast. I’m just curious, we’re a small company. We don’t actually have an official sales enablement function. It’s one of the many hats that I wear. So, we don’t have the luxury of using tools like Lessonly, which I used at my last company. From a coaching and a training perspective, for a startup that doesn’t have a lot of money to put towards these types of initiatives, what would you suggest as the best resources and people that you need to kind of tap into so that you’re not creating a training program that’s like a one-time thing and hoping that it kind of sticks?
AC: I can start. I think my advice would be, it doesn’t matter if you have tools. I love my tools, don’t get me wrong, a lot of them. But I think what really matters is what do you, what is the process and what is the curriculum that you have in place and what do you want to be coached? Basically, if you have that outline, even if it’s in a Google Doc that you share with your sales managers, your leaders. That’s what really matters so that the information is being shared. And then I would just say, identify a champion on the sales team who can be on your side and that can advocate for you with everybody else as well, so that they can help kind of drive things since you’re wearing so many hats.
BN: Yeah, and start with just the same practice we’ve all been talking about. Think about the outcomes that you want, think about the change that you want, and then build the relationship with the sales manager so that when you do create that enablement function and get those tools, those habits are already starting to be in place and you’ll be much farther ahead of most of us in here.
MM: I would also say, think about your competencies that you’re challenged with in the startup environment, right? So, as an example, if your challenge is brand awareness and overcoming some of the certain objections, identify one of those folks on the team that already has that competency and that can overcome that. And take every weekly sales team meeting and pull that person aside and say, “Hey, would you do me a favor? Would you do this in a 10, 15, five minute, whatever it is, and showcase for the team?” And you take each person on the team. And you allow them to be able to learn from each other. And that’s going to be a masterful way for folks to learn, is through osmosis, and by each other. So, understand what those competencies are that you’re challenged by whether it be closing, whether it be prospecting, brand awareness, any of the items that we mentioned today, and find that person on there. And if you can’t find that person on there, then you become that expert by doing the research and you come in and present some material. There’s a ton of free material online, for sure.
GO: The last thing I would say is one of the benefits of being in such a small place is that you can embody and become kind of that subject matter expert. So, shadowing the reps and if you can listen to their calls, if you can yourself go through a couple of sales processes from soup to nuts with them, then you’ll be a little less reliant on always having to pull, because then that becomes taxing for them and they’re going to say, “well, what are you doing for me?” And so I think that it’s a give and take. So, to the extent that you can shadow and really understand the language of the buyers and understand the struggles that the salespeople are going through and empathize with them, your programs are going to resonate more with them because they’ll recognize that you understand the struggles that they’re going through because you’ve felt them yourself. That empathy when you’re developing these trainings is so incredibly important because the reps and the sales managers really pick up on that, that you’re doing this for them and it’s a reflection of their needs, not yours.
Audience 2: Thank you. Hi, Jimmy McFadden. I’m with Wyndham Destinations, and it’s a really big company. We have a huge sales force. They’re really the big gap is with the frontline managers. You talked about your competencies or your needs analysis for your salespeople. How do you create a competency list for coaching coaches, right? What attributes do these coaches need to work on to prove that they’ve advanced from, like you said, level five green belt on up?
GO: I think that sales managers in general get the least amount of training, and I think if all of us were to commit 90% of our budget to sales management training, our jobs would be a lot easier. Honestly, if we stopped training salespeople tomorrow and made videos for them to record, to just listen and really spent the time working with the managers and more importantly, giving the managers what they need. So, to answer your question more specifically, there are competencies that are indicative of good sales management or good coaching, and plenty of resources to find that. It’s about picking the ones that make the most sense for your industry, sticking to them and reinforcing them. If there’s no one reinforcing above the managers, if all the managers are being asked is, are you making your number? Then that’s all they’re going to deliver. But if all of a sudden the executives are asking their frontline managers different questions, questions that in order for them to answer, they will have had to change their behavior and coach in a different way to get those answers right. So, it’s a trickle down.
It’s the same thing. The sales reps aren’t going to do anything their managers aren’t asking them, and it goes one more level up. So, you have to go higher. It has to be something. And that’s why I agree with you, sales managers have the toughest job because it really is this weird mix. You need to be a really good coach. But if you’re a really, really great coach and you’re not making your number, you’re out. You can be a really crappy coach and you’re making your number for the quarter, you’re good. No problem. So, what do you do?
KD: I want to add something too. Get some sort of coaching methodology for your managers. So, there’s lots around these. Everyone has their own coaching, right? And there’s also a trend these days in larger organizations, and I’m not sure whether you guys have got this or not. But they’re setting up sort of like a center of excellence of coaching. It’s the master coaches. And just invest your heart into those guys.
And the other thing that I would encourage you to do, because discipline comes before habit, everyone says, “well, I want to create a coaching culture. I want to create a coaching habit.” Well, discipline comes before that and some of that discipline has a stick to it, right? If we want to get fit, our personal trainers say, you turn up here at six o’clock in the morning. So, I would invest in some sort of coaching construct. Train the heck out of them. Set up some master coaches. And then get them to calendarize the coaching. The best coaches that I have ever seen grow are those that do both formal coaching and informal coaching interventions. And the mark of the diamond is basically large, complex sales.
The sales leaders I coach, I get them to set aside at least half a day a week for structured coaching sessions one-on-one with the salespeople. And I’ll just make one other comment before I stop. There is a big difference between a review and a coaching session, so just don’t forget that.
MM: One thing I was going to mention is in our digital sales training programs, the way we go about doing things is we take six different competencies within digital sales prospecting, and every two weeks we’re going from one section to another section. After the hands-on live practice, so there’s textbook week one, hands-on live practice week two, in week number two, two days later, we’re doing coaching. What we’ve done is we create a coaching competency. And there are three things that we asked for that we’re looking for when the reps join the call. Did you do it, show me if you did not do this, then let’s do this now. That’s what we call the inspect what you expect. That guide is essentially what you create. And now you take that and you teach it. We’re teaching this and we are showing the sales managers as they’re going through the program for digital prospecting, what they should be doing as part of the coaching model. We record those coaching calls and everybody has to go through those coaching calls so that the sales managers can understand, what should I be doing to be able to help my sales rep when this training program goes away? You’ve got to think about this though, because you’re going to learn a lot in a two week period on each competency. What are the two or three most important things that you expect the managers are going to inspect and you inspect it, you show what needs to be done, and then once that’s done, they take over from there.
Audience 3: Hi, Alicia Heagle, growth enablement manager with Highspot. We all make mistakes with training and coaching in particular. Is there maybe like one mistake that you’ve made that you sticks out, maybe in your mind that maybe you learned from or gained something from? Just kind of curious on what are some big takeaways you’ve learned from a mistake or two?
MM: Ooh, I have one. Can I start? As a training company, we get this all the time. “Hi. We’d like to be able to change our seller’s behavior. Can you do a one or two-day workshop?” Holy freaking crap. You cannot change behavior in one or two days. The most you’re going to learn and retain is no more than 30%. So, you must time training over the course of time. And that’s very important. As peers in the room, we have to understand the core competencies that are needed and time that out. I think you were saying that, Robert. We use the three-month rule, which is I think something similar to what you said as well. So, biggest mistake, don’t get everybody in a room and train for two days. It’s a total waste of time and money. Save the money.
RK: Mario, I love this question. It’s a great question. I’m just going to give you three specific things that come to mind. First, the mantra: audience, content, execution, always in that order. By audience, I mean, what’s the performance objective? What does the audience need to be able to do? So, the biggest mistake that I’ve made time and time again is I let somebody come at me with the execution first, which is what actually happens. And then I try to engineer the content and the performance around the execution. So, what that looks like is: “Hey, Robert, next week, can you deliver a one hour training on ABC?” And we go, “sure.” Instead of audience, content, execution, in that order.
Second is, I didn’t learn early enough about the power of the words. “Yes, and…” versus “no.” Yes, I would love to help, and let me understand more about your issue first. Just like good sellers. Do we need to do the same thing so that I’m not committing to what the solution is? I’m just saying I’ll help you so I’m not perceived as a roadblock.
Number three is what is the performance I have asked, how can I help you instead of what is the performance that your team needs to exhibit to really move the needle on the metrics that we all care about? When I’ve asked, how can I help you? What happens? I get a long laundry list of content demands and other things that I can do to help them. And it’s not prioritized. A lot of them aren’t going to move the needle that much, and I want to think like a sales performance consultant versus a training order-taker.
AC: Yeah, I would agree with that. I think like my biggest mistake is whenever I’m reactive instead of thinking more strategically. So, whenever I come from that place of, okay, somebody asked me to do this. I can do it, I’ll figure it out and just do it. It always falls flat. There’s no follow-up plan. There is that whole coaching piece that we’re talking about today, and it kind of falls off entirely. So, I think taking that mindset of being a little bit more consultative, I love the “yes, and”, and I’m trying to implement that more in my life. I think that sums it up.
Audience 4: We’ve talked a lot about training the managers. We measure things like what percent of the time the managers are in the field, what percent of the time the reps get coached, but how would you inspect the quality of that coaching? What are some ways that you inspect that quality? So, it’s not all about frequency, but it’s like, I train you. Well, I just expect that you will do it that way. How can I inspect that?
GO: It depends on if you have tools or you don’t have tools. So, if you don’t have tools, then you’re stuck with lagging indicators like performance, right? You would assume you could make maybe an assumption that you’ve done some good coaching and if you’re shadowing. If you have tools, you can actually listen to the calls. If you have a recording tool where everything is being recorded and the managers are putting in their coaching, they’re listening to the calls and they’re putting in coaching, that’s a way that you can do it, as well. I know a couple of companies out there that actually specialize specifically in capturing that information.
Then there’s the flip side. I think it’s funny. I remember this a few years ago from a conference that we went to, and I think it was presented by cracking the management code where they said that they did this great survey. They had spent all of this money, this company had spent all this money on coaching and all the managers had been coaching. And when the reps were asked, what percentage of time did their manager spend coaching, they said, “I don’t know, maybe 5% of the time.” So, there’s the difference between what managers think coaching is, which is there’s a rep and words are coming out of my mouth, I must be coaching, versus what the rep actually feels coaching is.
I don’t think I answered your question very well, but it’s just there are tools that will help you if you really want to inspect, but there’s also having a good relationship and being able to have that transparency and trust within the organization for the reps to be honest. And do they feel like they’re being coached.
KD: Just to add to that, I’m a huge fan the coaching methodology. We use a methodology, which is a three month certification process for a coach. They’re being scored, they’re getting their feedback. And you will be surprised that if a sales leader is coached for eight coaching calls, our experience is at the end of that eighth call, he will turn around and say, “man, I can’t believe how bad I was on the first one.” Right? Because their improvement is just exponential. So, a “coaching the coach” program, make it a big thing. Some of our clients, sales leaders have to actually get nominated to go into the “coach the coach” certification program. So, it’s been as seen as a big thing. And you think about it now in terms of sales leaders, personal career, right? If they build a personal brand for themselves as being an outstanding sales coach, that can take their career anywhere. So, if you align it to that personal agenda of their advancement, those programs can be wildly successful.