Episode 126: Best of PRO 2020 – Coaching Edition

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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.

It’s week two of our series recapping some of the best expertise we’ve heard in 2020 and we’re diving into coaching. What makes a good sales coach? How can you create an effective coaching program? And how do you measure the impact? We’ll discover answers to these questions and more in this episode.

First, let’s talk about the importance of coaching, and specifically how it helps sales enablement ensure the desired behavior change outcomes are achieved.

Carole Mahoney: Ideally, sales coaching helps to create a behavior change because you’re challenging their beliefs. You’re helping them apply the knowledge that they’ve learned in training to actually execute in their day to day on the job execution. There’s a model that’s the adult learning theory model, which shows that the largest percentage of our learning happens in the application and then the day to day, and not theoretical, but real life.

So, the more that we can have coaching be not just a reinforcement of what they’ve trained, but actually allows salespeople to take what they’ve learned — the knowledge in their head — and apply it to the words and the actions that come out of their mouth. So that’s one way that coaching helps to create that behavioral change because in order to change the behavior, first we have to recognize that the behavior needs to change, so challenging beliefs and approaches, but then we have to practice those new approaches, those things that we’ve learned.

Aaron Evans: If we’re working with a particular team and we’re bringing in a particular level of training, first of all, we identify what that training’s objective is. So, if it was around negotiating as an example, or whether it was around new products that we’re training them on, or a new feature, then that’s really easy to translate what success looks like very quickly. You can see the effects that you’re having there. But I think often what happens is that we neglect one really important part of change, which is coaching.

What we find is that although you might start seeing change at a macro level, the part that really excites me is the change that we see on a micro level, or what I’d call an individual level. You might be working with a rep on a particular change that they’re making, and it takes time for them to truly grasp that concept. And the coaching is where that pays off, one-on-one coaching with a rep where you see the improvements that they’re making, then the byproduct of that, the results that come in.

SS: Now establishing a solid coaching foundation requires having a framework in place that can be easily woven into the existing sales culture and ultimately creates a coaching culture within the organization. Part of the success of this is heavily dependent on securing buy-in from sales leaders. These next experts discuss how they’ve gone about this within their own organizations.

Evangeline Earl: I think that one of the core components to a successful coaching framework is really just being able to dig in and have a very transparent, open, vulnerable discussion with the sales reps to get them to open up and describe what their current challenges are, really get them to start thinking, and being very consciously aware of where their gaps may be. And so that’s one way where we’re able to start to kind of pull out from the sales rep themselves, different areas that they might be struggling with or different challenges they see for themselves. And, one thing that we’re actually actively doing right now with all of the directors is running through an actual coaching workshop, how they can be more impactful in terms of their own coaching. So, we’re actually kind of modeling our own behaviors, so to speak.

We’re modeling how they can go about having discussions with their sales reps, getting their sales reps to open up, getting their sales reps to discuss different challenges with their directors. So that’s one thing that we’re working on. And then also making sure that the directors, especially if we have a new director that comes into the company, making sure that they feel very confident in that resources available to them in terms of how to actually access and see how their reps are doing from a metric standpoint.

So, if there are any gaps that we see coming from the directors, we get with them one-on-one on a coaching call with the directors to identify and dive into how we can better support the director and whether that’s bringing in other subject matters from the company to do a one-on-one session with the director themselves, or really just pulling the sales reps in with the director and running our own workshop or our own session to kind of model that type of coaching and training behavior so that the director can then go on and feel more confident in their own skills.

Anna Cockell: I think one of the biggest key components of our coaching program is just having everybody bought into the importance of coaching. So again, it’s really easy to get caught up in the busyness of day-to-day work. But if the managers and the leadership really agree on the value of coaching and how that fits into the overall success of the organization, then you’re more likely to see it consistently. One way that we have implemented this coaching is through a framework, just kind of utilizing our tools at hand. But we do use a call recording software to help with this. And so having some scorecards and pulling in the information that we want to make sure that the reps are coached on into this place so that everybody’s operating on the same platform and with the same information – again, that consistency piece – is sort of key to us in our nascent coaching program.

Also, just setting some expectations and making sure that we’re all on the same page from an enablement side, as well as the management side. We do that through weekly meetings with the sales managers, in addition to just general check-ins for specific initiatives. I talked about the negotiation training previously, making sure that everybody knows what they need to be reinforcing with their teams and what they should be coaching towards.

In the future though, I think that one thing that we’re going to be focused on is really making sure that we have specific training for the managers themselves around the topics. I think that training managers separate from the rest of the team is important. So, you’re kind of building that buy-in early on, creating champions to then sit in that training with the reps, but already having that information so that they can put on their coaching hat from the very beginning, rather than getting the information at the same time as the people that they will ultimately have to be coaching.

SS: To expand on the point of training for managers, it is critical to ensure that sales enablement first enables and empowers frontline managers to arm them with the tools they need to successfully coach their sales reps. Here is some advice on how to work with frontline managers.

Dave Brock: Most managers have had no formal kind of training and even though they want to coach, they don’t know how to coach. So, sales enablement can train managers informally in how to coach. Two is, as sales enablement launches new programs for the salespeople, there’s the reinforcement, there’s kind of the activation and reinforcement phase. I mean, we’re all familiar with it, 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 for the managers.

If we’re doing say a new account management program, sales enablement needs to sit down with the managers beforehand and say, after your people have completed this account management program, you have the responsibility for coaching and reinforcing what we introduced to them in that program over this period of time. You might put together a semi-formal training program or advice about how they reinforce the account management concepts and so on and so forth. And if you have that then you’ll build those skills, people will come out of that program they’ll be coached by their manager in applying those skills in real life, and they’ll build those skills and they’re far more likely to sustain those…I do believe that there is a role for sales enablement to do some very specific coaching, but always as a compliment in reinforcement to what the sales manager is doing, not to displace the sales manager or even to give the sales manager an excuse if sales enablement people are doing coaching so I don’t need to do that. It’s a big key part of the manager’s responsibility to coach.

Steve Maxwell: There are definitely things that enablement teams and leaders can do to help their managers coach reps better. And that is A.) to understand what you’re trying to coach them to do. I’ve made a shift over the past few years in a more broad enablement discussion of what our enablement leaders need to do, what they need to focus on away from what do we need our salespeople to know to what is it that we need our salespeople to be able to do? If you do that, it’s easier to coach that. Now, if I go to my managers and say, ‘Okay, Steve’s a new hire, he’s coming up to his 90 days, here’s what he needs to be able to prove that he can do’.

Now I can help that manager coach to that. I can provide an analysis form with the behaviors you’re looking for, what the scale is, what the subjectivity is, what you can do to support that as a way of helping that manager coach that rep to do something because if we just leave it up to them, then they become one-on-ones about deals and they’d never separate the opportunity planning, the opportunity reviews, the territory reviews, et cetera, from actual coaching. I think a lot of things that we can do as enablement practitioners is to provide our leaders with what you want them to be coaching on and how to do it and the forms and the feedback and everything, and then it’s much, much simpler for them to actually do it.

SS: Of course, it’s one thing to ensure coaching is being done – but how can sales enablement ensure that coaching is being done successfully. We’ll hear from experts on what good coaching looks like.

Stacey Justice: When I think about what good coaching looks like, I look at it and say, good coaching is ongoing and consistent. So, it doesn’t just happen in those weekly meetings. It happens in the car in between client appointments. It happens on an airplane. It happens over lunch. Coaching should always be happening and it shouldn’t be complicated, if that makes sense. I think sometimes we get into this and think there are a lot of coaching methodologies and there are a lot of ways you can approach it. But I think the simplest thing is just having open dialogue with each of the reps and a culture that supports that feedback. I also think that it is based on goals and the follow-up. There’s an element of providing feedback, which is part of coaching, but I also think there’s an element of circling back and understanding and kind of looking at what progress that person is making. I think that’s one of the reasons that you’re speaking to the fact that it happens over time. Good coaching shows progress. It shows development. And if it’s not happening consistently, if there aren’t goals, if there isn’t a level of accountability that comes from it, then I just don’t think that you see that progress. To me, that’s the fundamental part of coaching.

Evan Carlton: I think the biggest thing is often the same thing that makes someone an effective teacher, which is one, making sure that you really are keeping up to date on the best practices, advancements, etc, right? You can’t be just preaching best practices that worked when you were selling copiers in the 90s. You need to be keeping up to date with current events.

So, that’s probably the first thing, but then also understanding the way that each of your ‘mentees’, if you will, learn. So, taking the time to understand how they’re motivated, what their learning style is, how they respond to feedback and coaching. Because the way that I might coach the same scenario with two different SDRs is going to depend on those factors. So for me personally, I respond to strong leadership. So, you know, if my manager gets in my face or is really pressing me, you can bet there’s going to be a change in my behavior off that. For other people, that can actually do more harm than good, right? So just knowing what style of coaching the mentee is most receptive to is really important.

SS: And to close out, we’ll hear from our experts on how they have applied data-driven insights to measure the impact that coaching has had on their organization.

Stefan Funk: 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 there’s 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.

Chad Dyar: For coaching, we use coaching technology to make sure managers were doing it every week and that their reps are improving the different areas that they were coaching on. So, if we identify that a rep was maybe stronger in discovery, but weaker in qualification, we would be measuring how they improved and how they’re qualifying their deals over, of course, the quarter. So, forecasting went right down the line with what the reps were responsible for and how the managers were coaching to better behaviors. And then we also had an event called the “Coaching Olympics” where we put the coaches on full display. They would have a panel of judges from the C-suite of the company watching them coach in real-time. And then we scored on a rubric we built out for that. So, we’re able to use that as well for the base level of what excellent looks like in the company.

SS: That wraps up the best of coaching expertise in 2020. I hope you learned something new and would love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment on our LinkedIn with how you’ll approach coaching in 2021.

For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there is something you would like to share or a topic you want to know more about, let us know. We would love to hear from you.

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