Episode 120: Stefan Funk on Driving Sales Performance with Data-Driven Coaching

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast. I am Shawnna Sumaoang. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space and we’re here to help professionals stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices so that they can be more effective in their jobs. Today, I’m extremely excited to have Stefan Funk, the program lead for data-driven coaching and head of communications at SAP join us. Stefan, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Stefan Funk: Fantastic. Thank you very much for inviting me. It’s a real pleasure to talk about data coaching today. So, my name is Stefan, I’m with SAP for nearly 20 years now. I started as a working student in the organization and now I’ve been in the sales enablement function for close to 10 years. So, first of all, I’m absolutely a family man and like to spend as much as possible time with my family. So, we have three kids, it’s sometimes challenging, but, it’s a lot of fun.

So, in my role at SAP, I like to make sales colleagues unlocking the full potential through coaching and reaching new performance heights, and that’s my ultimate goal. I’m really passionate about coaching for four years. I’ve been through the acts and coaching program myself, which is highly demanded by SAP colleagues as well. So, I’m really passionate about coaching and really helping, sales colleagues to unlock their full potential and become more successful in their role.

SS: Well, I’m extremely excited to have you join us today. Now, as you mentioned, a large component of what you do at SAP is around sales coaching, particularly since you lead the data-driven coaching at SAP. I would love to understand, I’ve heard fantastic things about it. What does the data-driven coaching program look like at SAP?

SF: So, data-driven coaching at SAP combines two major components. So, it combines the power of coaching with the insights of data that we have internally in all of our CRM systems and provide a complete view of on the one hand side, the performance of our colleagues. But, ultimately helping them through coaching to become better or perform better in their current role. So, that’s the ultimate goal, and that’s the ultimate goal of the data-driven coaching program here at SAP.

SS: I love that. And can you tell us a little bit about how you went about building this program at SAP?

SF: So, we originally built this program back in 2017, I think. So, during this time, the sales executive team came back to us and said, “Hey, we see that of course we making our numbers, however, we are working in a highly competitive IT industry and we would like to make our sales folks more successful in their current role and using some state of the art approaches and techniques to make them even better.” We have seen that we are above average, compared to other companies, when it comes to quota achievement. So, our executive team said, “Hey, we can definitely do better.” That was the reason why we have thought about on the one hand side, we already have great programs available. And they still exist, right? So, we have classroom trainings, we have virtual life trainings, we have e-learnings and stuff like this, but, one component that was really missing in our learning portfolio was around coaching. And mapping this towards SAP’s performance, as well as using the insights from a data perspective and, as well as from a skills perspective to really drive performance within our company. So, that was the main reason why we have built this program. And, it turned out to be highly successful over the last three to four years.

SS: Absolutely. As I said, I’ve heard some fantastic things about it. From your perspective, why do you think it’s important for sales coaching specifically to be data-driven and how do you use data to pinpoint specific behaviors?

SF: That’s a really good question. So, coaching itself is a great technique. So, you can use coaching within all the functions within your company, right? Be it, you are a developer, you are in HR, you are the kind of operations guy. However, specifically for our sales target audience we thought we need to take out the guesswork, if you will, out of coaching because coaching can mean everything. And by making it data-driven, we said, “Okay, let’s build a framework around coaching that gives some guidance to do to the coach as well as to the coachee.” So, meaning the sales colleague within the organization where he or she can specifically decide on the topics based on the performance data that we are providing within the data to the coaching reports, can decide on certain topics that he or she wants to discuss with the coach.

So, meaning he or she has a specific issue in terms of opportunity creation. He or she has a specific issue in terms of having the first call with C level executives, et cetera. So, these topics are really critical when we talk about sales and in order to frame this nicely, we thought about, let’s put a framework around this and provide all the data insights that we have within our systems, within our CRM systems and build a kind of a program around this which provides first the insights and give the sales colleagues as well as the coaches that are part of the program structure on how to run and frame the coaching discussions moving forward in order to overcome any obstacles or any performance issues specifically towards an issue that we have identified in the reports.

SS: I love that. I think of that as a fantastic approach to coaching, it’s hyper-focused and I think that that is what people need, particularly today. Now, you wrote an article where you mentioned that you train and certify coaches within your organization. What does that training look like? And, what are some of the core skills that coaches need to be effective?

SF: Well, you have an overall program around coaching for the entire SAP organization available. So, which allows you to become a certified coach at SAP. We are working together with an external vendor who does these kinds of certifications for us. So, it’s a kind of overall program that is available to all of SAP colleagues. So, we are enhancing this on our sites by specifically training sales colleagues on certain sets of skills. So, how does sales look like, right? What are some portfolio elements that need to be solved? What are some go-to markets elements that are important today, within our company that drive performance? So, these are really the heart around building a coach community on the all site. However, what is really important becoming a coach so you can argue that you can have one-hundred-point list here, but I like to point out a couple of, things that are really important. So, on one side, it’s definitely communications, right? So, you need to have strong communication skills. You need to have empathy for your clients, right? So, you really need to understand what he or she thinks, what he or she has in terms of problems or challenges. You need to be authentic at the end of the day. So, you really need to live and breathe your values every day. You also need to be able to handle difficult conversations because sometimes especially if your opinion, when you talk about with sales colleagues, it might be a little bit difficult because they are not achieving their quota, they are not achieving their goals.

Sometimes it might be a little bit difficult once you are running to these kinds of coaching sessions, because they come with a mindset of, “I know everything. I’m already performing well.” But, it’s not the case, so you need to be really careful about this and you also should have strong relationship-building capabilities. So, what I mean by this, so normally once you are starting with a coaching conversation and you’re building rapport, right? So, building rapport is really the entry point of a coaching relationship. So, you’re starting with some opening questions. So, who you are, where you are coming from, what are you, goals, et cetera? And, you really let the coachee or your clients speak about themselves. And, it’s all about listening first, which is really important. And then asking specific questions that are open-ended questions, which then ultimately leads towards a kind of solution-focused approach where the coachee at the end of the day can come out of a coaching session and say, okay, now I have my top three action items on my list and I definitely want to take them further.

And once you’re starting your next coaching session with the clients, you definitely report back on them and say, “Okay, where have you been successful? What have been some of your roadblocks, what kind of challenges you have seen?” So, you definitely have to be a great communicator. You need to be at empathetic. And one of the things that I have seen personally, because I’ve coached more than a hundred sales colleagues over the last couple of years, you should also have experienced coaching because that really helps because once you have felt how coaching feels like, and what kind of power this can create for yourself and how you are following up on certain things. That’s really a game-changer and, we always strongly advise that, people should have come through the certification process that’s given on our site. However, we always say, “Okay, let’s experience first coaching for yourself before you coach others.”

SS: Absolutely. I think that’s a fantastic approach and methodology. Now, in that same article, you also talked about some things to consider when you’re pairing coaches and coachees. So, in your opinion, what makes an ideal kind of coach-coachee relationship and, who should actually do the coaching and why from your perspective?

SF: That’s a really great question because we’ve been asked about this all the time and we’ve been also asked to include sales managers also in the coaching programs. We strongly believe that the power of coaching comes from to be coached outside of your direct reporting line. So, because then a coach has a natural view on what is happening on your performance side, what is happening on maybe sometimes it’s also private stuff that is happening which influences performance issues and stuff like this. So, we strongly believe that specifically in sales coaching, also sales managers should continue coaching. However, what is happening sometimes they are falling into operational stuff, right? So, what’s the status on opportunity A, B and C. So how should we approach this, by, are you not meeting your numbers? Right.

So, coaching from sales and sales manager should definitely happen. However, we believe that having a neutral view on to say its performance of an employee and really coming in with a fresh eye on certain things makes perfect sense. And, that’s really critical by the anomaly only pairing coaches with people outside of the original reporting line or sometimes also outside of the entire sales organization, that also happens.

SS: I think that’s fantastic. Stefan, I have really enjoyed this conversation. I think coaching is such a critical topic to sales enablement. So, in closing, I have I think the question that I know I get from a lot of sales enablement practitioners, and it’s around measuring success. Since data plays such a huge role in the structure of your coaching program, how do you measure the impact of the coaching programs and demonstrate that they’re successful?

SF: So, here we have a two-sided approach in terms of measuring the impact of a coaching program. So, on the one side, it’s really the experience that those coaches have with the program. So, these are soft measurements if you will, like NPS score, satisfaction scores, rating of their coaches, et cetera. A more critical part, and this is where we are putting a lot of focus on measuring the financial impact of coaching. And so, what we have seen in terms of financial impact is that, it’s phenomenal that you can close, 45.1% more deals, right? You can generate 10% more opportunities; you can generate close to 50% more net new accounts. So, these are really the matrix that we are carrying off and these are really the matrix that also our leadership team would like to see in order to justify the investment in this program.

So, what we’re doing in terms of measurement or financial impact approach, 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 here. And I talked about the numbers. We are definitely seeing here a difference between folks who have been coached versus those who haven’t been coached. And this is a simple comparison that we are making every time once we have your closing period, once we are closing our coaching for the year, we are doing these kinds of comparisons in order to see what kind of difference we have seen in terms of performance improvements in terms of achieving quota attainment, achieving net new business development, etc. And here you’re looking really at the numbers that we are getting out of our internal CRM system or internal customer relationship system and say, “Okay, let’s compare those who have done coaching versus those who haven’t done coaching and do the analyzers.” And there’s a clear evidence that coaching has a huge impact in terms of financial impact, in terms of personal development for our sales colleagues and being more confident talking to the customers and ultimately closing deals.

SS: Stefan, I have enjoyed this conversation so much. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us about this today.

SF: Thank you very much. Was a pleasure.

SS: To our audience, thanks for listening. For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders visit salesenablement.pro. If there’s something you’d like to share or a topic you’d like to learn more about, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

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