Getting Started With Coaching
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Enablement has been gaining prominence in the last few years, with many companies seeing the value in creating a dedicated function to support the onboarding and ongoing training of revenue-facing teams.
While every company’s enablement team will function differently, roles and responsibilities are typically far-reaching, including aspects such as identifying skill gaps, creating programs in response, and then delivering that content to the targeted audience.
However, enablement’s job isn’t done once that content is delivered. Building behaviors and reinforcing learnings require practice and accountability. In response, enablement teams are increasingly focusing on this coaching component to measure long-term knowledge retention, skill usage, and ultimately, success.
For companies with expansive budgets, enablement teams may include dedicated roles such as sales enablement trainers or sales coaches, and managers may be given dedicated time to fulfill coaching responsibilities as well. However, for many smaller companies and startups, this isn’t always an option due to team resources and bandwidth.
Rather than waiting for more time and budget, there are ways to get creative in how to approach coaching to lay the foundations needed to gain the buy-in to expand. Taking those first few steps – even if not done perfectly – are necessary to start on the right path.
Below are some helpful tips to follow in getting started on this journey:
Define the Focus
The most effective coaching programs are ones that are specialized and tailored to the individual. Not everyone has the same strengths or weaknesses that they may need to improve upon. However, when working within a small team without the resources to reach wide and deep, it’s best to scale back and start small.
Prioritize the Audience
To start, take a step back and ask, “Who will benefit the most from coaching, and who will benefit the business the most from receiving coaching”? By asking these questions, revenue leadership teams can quickly narrow in on what audience to prioritize. In many cases, these will be reps who perform relatively well, but with a bit of focus, can rapidly excel and become more consistent.
Home in on Skills
Similarly, take a more finite view as to what skills can be most improved. As with asking “who” can benefit the most from coaching, teams can work together to define “what” to coach on. With leadership, work to identify any trends regarding skills gaps between individuals, and if any of those trends align with main blockers to revenue or renewals. The result of this exercise should be two to three areas of focus, which smaller enablement teams can comfortably create content and programming for.
By defining the focus, enablement leaders can chart a course to maximize impact with the least amount of effort.
Content and Program Development
“Time is the enemy of memory”; spaced repetition is key to knowledge absorption and retention. These principles should be kept front and center within the development of coaching programs, not only as they will be effective in meeting the overall goal to upskill participants, but also as they work in favor of smaller teams who may not have the resources to create and deploy vast quantities of content at once.
To take these principles into account, consider adopting a staged approach to coaching programs. Start first with establishing foundations, which can then be followed by actual practice and one-on-one feedback. In addition, try to include as many visual elements as possible rather than solely written content to make the most impact, as it’s been found that interactive content can help drive retention in education.
Here is what a staged approach might look like in practice:
Build the Foundation: To kick off a coaching program, start with general theories and best practices around that particular skill, as well as its impact in relation to driving revenue or customer success. This will help build an objective stance of why the team is looking to invest in a particular skill area, as well as a baseline of expectations and what “good” looks like. While these general presentations can be succinct – consumed in 30 minutes or less – they will save time in the long run as they will help to ground one-on-one coaching and feedback.
Apply in Context: In parallel with building a general foundational layer, weave in how those learnings apply in context to the program participant’s role to solidify concepts and desired behaviors. For example, if the coaching program is focused on how to ask more strategic follow up questions, give real examples of questions that are typically asked in sales conversations, with sample follow ups that may be asked in response to a typical customer answer. Whether in group or individual discussion, give prompts to then discuss why people might respond in a particular way.
While these more tactical aspects can be included within the “Build the Foundation” phase, consider separating them out and sharing afterwards as a “TLDR” (too long, didn’t read) cheat sheet, which can be easily accessed for repeated reference.
Coaching and Practice: The final and most important component to any program is the actual coaching and practice. This is where reps apply these learnings in real settings. While some teams will do this in the context of role plays, it can be just as, if not more, effective and efficient to base feedback around existing, previously held calls that have been recorded. Using real conversations allows enablement teams to more quickly give advice, as time isn’t being spent constructing and role-playing hypothetical situations. Many times, that feedback can be perceived as being more valuable because it feels more “real”.
Within actual call coaching sessions, consider not only sharing feedback on areas of improvement, but workshop in real-time with your participant how they might improve in the future, such as how they might rephrase questions, pose additional follow-ups, and more to reinforce the skills that are being coached on.
Creating, launching, and maintaining an effective coaching program – even when taking a scaled-back approach to start – is time-consuming. Technology can be used to help drive efficiencies, especially within the implementation and coaching stages.
For example, if taking a staged approach that kicks off with a foundational presentation, think about how this can be delivered to participants asynchronously through a learning management system (LMS) or a pre-recorded video. Not only is this method more scalable, but it also allows users to re-access content on-demand in the future.
Within the coaching stage, using call recording software can also provide efficiencies. Features such as scanning transcripts or searching for keywords and phrases can help enablement quickly identify areas to give feedback depending on the particular skill or competency that has been prioritized for coaching. For grading and feedback purposes, many tools include the ability to markup notes within the call itself and can create standard scorecards to track feedback. They can also aid in the ongoing monitoring of calls to ensure that program learnings are continuously being put into practice.
Through leveraging tactics such as these, small enablement teams can make a big impact in creating and delivering high-quality coaching programs to revenue teams. In doing so, they can build the future buy-in from leadership to expand resources and reach as the company scales.