Developing Future-Focused Coaching Programs
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Coaching is an integral part of a holistic approach to learning. By transforming the skills and knowledge learned in training into repeatable behaviors, coaching empowers sales reps to not only retain what they have learned but also apply it effectively in their day-to-day interactions with prospects and customers.
When coaches and reps establish a long-term coaching relationship, they can accelerate professional development for reps and improve sales effectiveness as a result. However, to accomplish these outcomes, much more is needed than just regular meetings.
To ensure that coaching produces successful outcomes both in the present and in the future, it is important to approach coaching sessions by utilizing efficient tools, leveraging the power of data, and providing accessible enablement resources. By investing in future-focused coaching programs, sales organizations can ensure that their sales teams are well-prepared to navigate market changes and evolving buyer needs.
“We are definitely seeing a difference between [reps] who have been coached versus those who haven’t been coached,” said Stefan Funk, global head of data-driven coaching programs at SAP. “There’s clear evidence that coaching has a huge impact in terms of financial impact, personal development for our sales colleagues, being more confident in customer interactions, and ultimately closing deals.”
To successfully enable sales teams to develop future-focused coaching programs, sales organizations can follow the best practices below.
Embrace Technology to Maximize Coaching Effectiveness
Technology has revolutionized the sales coaching landscape, particularly in the era of virtual and hybrid work environments. In the past, sales professionals relied on cold calls and voicemails when it came to selling. Now, the landscape has changed with online networking tools, email prospecting, and automation.
“Technology has blown up in the sales enablement community, whether it’s tools to help sellers become more efficient in their day-to-day while also giving insights to sales enablement managers on productivity, or coaching tools to help sellers become better or learn faster,” said Lauren Metheney, senior manager of revenue operations at Blend.
As the sales landscape continues to evolve, it is crucial for organizations to embrace technological advancements to maximize sales effectiveness and drive success – and coaching is no exception.
For example, advancements in AI can make it easier to analyze sales meetings and conversations so that coaches can pinpoint trends and provide actionable feedback at scale. Additionally, improvements in learning and enablement platforms can make it easier for coaches and reps to engage virtually so that coaching can take place more consistently. By leveraging technology, sales organizations can optimize their coaching processes, save time, and enhance overall effectiveness.
“As far as the future goes, as new ways to sell evolve, the technology will also adapt as well as how we are coaching sellers,” said Metheney. “Some foundational things will still exist…but how we sell may change, and of course, there’s going to be more tools that exist that I couldn’t think of today.”
Leverage Data to Improve the Impact of Coaching
In addition to helping teams stay on the cutting edge as innovation occurs, technology can also improve the impact of coaching by allowing practitioners to surface data-driven insights. By taking a data-driven approach, enablement teams can tailor coaching programs and address existing gaps in sales reps’ performance.
“Helping reps through coaching to become better or perform better in their current role is the ultimate goal, and that’s the ultimate goal of a data-driven coaching program,” said Funk.
Coaches can utilize data on how reps are performing to establish specific goals for their development and structure coaching sessions aimed at progressing against those goals.
“We are taking the entire population who’s been a part of the data-driven coaching program and comparing it towards those who have not been part of the coaching population, and we definitely see a difference,” said Funk.
This also promotes a seamless coaching experience, fostering alignment among different teams by centralizing information and data for easy access and sharing.
Foster a Collaborative Learning Environment
Encouraging collaborative learning creates a sense of trust and community in a team – which is vital to effective coaching. When reps trust that coaching can help them develop and they have a community of peers to lean on for practice and feedback, they will be more motivated to engage in their learning and development.
“Group coaching relies on peer involvement and the sharing of wisdom. I’ve had some great coaching programs where we asked reps to bring a call recording to a session and we all put our heads together to talk about how that rep could make it better. It’s about offering suggestions and just pure brainstorming,” said Dianne Kleber, vice president of sales operations and enablement at Paradox.
For example, encouraging team members to discuss their recent sales interactions and give each other feedback on their execution is one way to foster a collaborative learning environment. Receiving feedback takes openness and vulnerability, and offering reps opportunities to practice these skills with their peers before coaching sessions may make the coaching relationship more comfortable.
Developing future-focused coaching programs means considering not only what reps need to achieve results in the short-term, but also how to prepare them for sustainable long-term success. Leveraging technological advancements, embracing data-driven insights, and fostering a collaborative and inclusive environment can help practitioners develop coaching programs that are built to endure and evolve.
“We’re all familiar with the data that says the half-life of any sales training is less than 30 days unless there’s some sort of coaching and reinforcement. So, every new program, every new initiative that sales enablement launches should have an accompanying responsibility and coaching role,” said David Brock, founder and CEO of Partners in Excellence.
By investing in coaching and providing the necessary resources and support, enablement can empower sales teams to achieve higher levels of performance and drive sustainable growth and success.