Delivering Effective Sales Coaching to Boost Consistent Performance
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Sales coaching is pivotal for both the personal growth of reps, as well as the organization. Without coaching, reps can struggle to translate skills learned in training to the field and adapt to shifting customer needs. By reinforcing key behaviors, coaching can be a game-changer to foster performance improvement and growth among reps.
Not to mention, mature coaching practices are correlated with an increased impact on win rates. Organizations with highly mature coaching programs report average win rates that are 9 percentage points greater than those that have less mature coaching practices. With effective coaching programs, reps can gain confidence to build upon their skills and improve effectiveness in the field.
“We are definitely seeing a difference between folks who have been coached versus those who haven’t been coached,” said Stefan Funk, head of sales coaching at SAP. “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.”
To successfully increase coaching maturity and success, sales organizations can follow these five steps.
Develop Foundational Knowledge and Skills
By strengthening key behaviors, coaching can be the backbone of competency improvement. Coaching helps establish core knowledge and skills through role-specific and customizable programming. Through this, feedback can play a fundamental role to nurture growth and funnel important insights into reps’ customer interactions. When done effectively, coaching can motivate reps to proactively work to improve upon their skills to maximize their potential.
“Coaching allows us to feel like we’re worth the investment,” said Jenn Haskell, director of global sales enablement and training at Everbridge. “We’re not making an assumption that you’ve already got the skill-set. We’re acknowledging that the skill-set is there, but we’re going to tap into it. We’re going to hone your craft, and we’re going to take it to the next level.”
By working with reps on specific goals as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach, reps can hone specific skills as it relates to their individual areas of improvement. The result of effective coaching is more consistent performance, as organizations that are highly effective at developing core knowledge through coaching efforts report rep quota attainment rates that are 7 percentage points greater on average than those that are somewhat effective.
Additionally, effective sales coaching can foster success in middle and low-performing reps and transform them into high performers. At the same time, coaching can help top performers maintain their pace and reach the next level faster. In essence, all reps, regardless of their experience levels, can utilize coaching to reach personal and organization-wide goals.
Manage and Maintain Coaching Efforts
The power of coaching lies in its ability to reflect the needs of different reps and different market needs. Developing coaching programs is a continuous process that will evolve as a reflection of newfound gaps or required skill sets. To optimize coaching efforts, sales organizations can create coaching programs that are thorough, continuous, and effective. Doing so is crucial to achieving consistent rep performance in the field.
An important aspect of coaching, like all learning programs, is establishing a direct feedback loop. Feedback allows reps to receive insights into their selling behaviors and gaps that might need to be filled. With that information, reps can adjust their strategies in real-time.
“The feedback we gathered is actually applied towards continuous improvement,” said Cathy Estabrooks, head of revenue enablement at BirdEye. “We understand how [reps] do after the actual coaching…and then help the managers come to their own conclusion about what is working and what isn’t.”
Additionally, managing and maintaining coaching efforts means that coaching is a regularly scheduled and consistent process for reps. Coaches should not expect reps to retain all of the information and skills from one coaching program. Rather, each program should build upon the previous one to drive continuous learning. When this is done effectively, professionals report average win rates that are 11 percentage points greater than those who are only effective.
Utilize Data to Optimize Effectiveness
Coaching is driven by improvement, which means data is critical to track progress and optimize the effectiveness of coaching efforts. With a data-driven approach, enablement can gain insights into where to adapt current coaching programs and close existing gaps in rep performance.
Additionally, data can aid coaches and reps in crafting future coaching strategies by showing tangible and direct impacts of coaching in real-time selling scenarios.
“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 the data-driven coaching program,” said Funk.
Coaching with a data-driven approach can also help improve quota attainment, as professionals who are highly effective in their use of data to optimize sales coaching efforts report rep quota attainment rates that are 5 percentage points greater on average compared to those who are effective.
“Good coaching shows progress,” said Stacey Justice, vice president of sales enablement and productivity at HashiCorp. “It shows development. 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.”
Align Coaching to Executive Leadership Goals
Since coaching is aimed at reaching both personal and organizational goals, it’s important for efforts to reflect the goals and priorities of executive leadership. By demonstrating how coaching is working to meet the goals of leaders, enablement can secure buy-in from executive leadership and demonstrate coaching as a valuable tool to meet business results.
In this context, high levels of coaching maturity mean that executive leadership is involved in setting the strategic objectives of coaching, and ensuring that coaching is directly tied to the organization’s goals. When organizations are highly effective in aligning their sales coaching efforts to executive goals, they report a win rate increase of 8 percentage points compared to those that are somewhat effective.
Through understanding the goals of executive leaders, coaching can more specifically address what the organization is working to change, to what degree, and how those changes are going to be measured.
“That’s something that has to happen with leadership and with senior leadership… to get buy-in and agreement on exactly what we’re looking to impact here,” said Evan Carlton, director of sales enablement at Sapper. “I can’t overstate that part. That’s just so critical to get buy-in on that.”
Correlate Coaching to Driving Business Results
Coaching is most successful when correlated with driving tangible business results against core go-to-market initiatives. This means that coaching programs should reflect overarching business goals in addition to the individual needs of reps. Since evolving markets require coaching to adapt quickly, coaching will thrive when focused on strategic business results and initiatives.
When organizations are highly effective in driving tangible business results against core go-to-market initiatives, they report a win rate increase of 10 percentage points compared to those who are somewhat effective.
The highest level of maturity in sales coaching requires driving results for pre-established strategic objectives. In doing so, enablement teams can manage successful coaching efforts that help foster positive business outcomes and prepare reps to execute against the organization’s prioritized goals. Therefore, it’s important that enablement crafts coaching programs with these goals at the center to remove ambiguity for reps and coaches about the objectives of their coaching efforts.
Through building foundational skills, maintaining coaching efforts, utilizing data, aligning coaching to the goals of executive leaders and business results, enablement can successfully arm reps with the knowledge and skills to optimize their performance. The results of effective coaching programs are positive business impact as well as personal growth for both sales reps and coaches.
“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,” said Funk.
Coaching has the power to streamline consistent sales rep performance across the field through ongoing, customized support for specific selling scenarios and specific reps’ needs. In doing so, reps can not only build upon their skills but gain confidence in proactively improving their performance.