Are you familiar with Creed Bratton from The Office? Even if you have never heard of this show (a must-watch for anyone who loves sales satire), here’s a run-down of his short-lived management days:
- He tried conducting a meeting even though he forgot to schedule one;
- He had no idea who was in sales and who was in customer relations;
- He just didn’t know how to motivate his team correctly, no matter how hard he tried.
If you are a new manager, there is a lot on your plate. First of all, congratulations on the new role!
Even as you juggle business goals, new expectations, sales calls, new clients, tools, and revenue quotas, you need to take the time to coach your team. Quite like football coaches, your success is dependent on your ability to coach and inspire your team (apart from hiring the right people).
According to a Harvard Business Review article, the transition from salesperson (player) to manager (coach) is neither easy nor natural for most people. Most newly-promoted managers lack critical competencies. They don’t have experience managing others. They haven’t recruited, coached, energized, and retained a team of salespeople.
But the sooner you beat your impostor syndrome and start building a coaching program for your team, the faster you will meet revenue goals. Data-backed coaching is a friend here - unlike earlier times, you can now use data about each seller’s competencies and weaknesses, about your team’s sales process and tooling, and about the market at large to develop custom coaching programs, rather than relying on pure intuition (which of course has its place as well).
More importantly, the more data you use to inform your sales coaching techniques, the more assured you can be that your time investment will bring outstanding results.
Like product development, sales coaching can also be an iterative process with continuous optimization for high impact.
Why sales coaching matters: Isn’t managing the team enough?
The numbers are out. 96% of sales and marketing professionals strongly agree that sales coaching significantly affects sales performance. 64% of these professionals believe that coaching must be consistent in order to be effective.
Sales coaching helps with:
- Identifying objections or clarifying questions your sales professionals face when closing deals. No two sales conversations are the same, but with data at hand, you can identify patterns in your prospects’ objections and questions. You can use these insights to train your team on handling similar objections or questions.
- Identifying any misconceptions your sales professionals face during sales conversations or if they misunderstand your prospects' responses during these conversations. An example of this is the happy ears syndrome, something we recently wrote about;
- Determining winning behaviors that your team can replicate to increase conversions;
- Reducing team churn. 34% of employees are more likely to stay on with employers who deliver professional development opportunities through coaching and mentorship;
- Improving win rates, of course. Coaching helps you identify how robust your sales process is and how much your teams follow it. It also allows you to train your team on soft skills like emotional intelligence to build rapport and long-term relationships and become the closers every business needs. And while we are on the topic of improving win rates, coaching can help your teams use sales collaterals more effectively to close more deals.
- Building a culture of lifelong learning in your team and raising the performance bar.
How to get started with sales coaching – 4 tips
Sales coaching is not about motivational speeches and generic advice.
Here are four best practices to help you ace sales coaching as a new manager:
Tip #1: Analyze individual and team performance with hard data at hand
They say the proof is in the pudding, so where should you go if you want to look to build an insight-led coaching program?
- Get the lowdown from the previous team manager: You can be sure that previous managers would have noticed performance nuances. These insights can give you a good starting point for a robust coaching program.
- Collect deal data from your customer relationship management (CRM) tools: These insights include the number of calls taken, meetings booked, and callbacks completed for each employee, along with next steps, reports on days to close, deal closure probabilities and more.
- Study transcripts and review sales calls: Listen to what messages your team uses and doesn’t during sales demos and calls and how these actions impact your deals;
- Leverage conversational intelligence to understand which behaviors are working and which ones aren’t: For example, find answers to questions like, “Is the sales rep maintaining enough eye contact?” or “Is their messaging resonating with prospects?”. Study how your teammates handle objections and pricing discussions during sales calls.
Insights from all these data sources will give you the foundation you need to personalize your coaching strategies for each sales representative.
Tip #2: Explore your team’s goals and development areas
Not every member you manage will have the same career aspiration, so the training program cannot be one-size-fits-all. Coaching is not parroting the same advice to every employee.
If your SDR wants to become an AE as part of their career goal, you need to coach them on people skills. Powerpoint skills may not get them very far. Similarly, maybe your AE wants to get into marketing. In that case, your training module needs to focus on how you can help them make that transition.
Your coaching cannot be only about winning clients and nurturing leads. It must aid every team member’s development goals and career aspirations, as long as they align with where the organization is heading towards.
A superlative coaching program is one that takes into account your team’s aspirations as well as overall business goals. Identify the short-, mid-, and long-term coaching areas mutually beneficial for your employees and your business.
Tip #3: Combine different coaching formats
Curate a plan for tackling core training areas for each coaching session. You can deploy 1:1 mentoring for some topics, such as those related to confidence, empathy, and energy. For other problem areas, such as your team not getting high open rates for their cold emails, you can offer group training sessions on how to craft cold email subject lines.
Perhaps you can figure out online resources and templates in collaboration with your L&D team for aspects related to creating compelling sales decks. You could also recommend reading materials or organize fireside chats with experts for the psychological side of sales, such as non-verbal communication or mirroring.
Bonus tip? Get your best-performing sales reps to take the reins sometimes. Let them share their winning strategies with their peers. Teaching is the best form of learning, so you are giving your best performers a deeper insight into their own successful behaviors while also helping other sales reps emulate what works.
Tip #4: Measure, modify, and optimize your coaching program
You will constantly need to tweak the above strategies. As you measure your team's success as an outcome of coaching efforts, you will find more ways to exceed expectations and identify more development areas and training priorities. Review your coaching materials and the overall program to keep up with the ebbs and flows in your team’s performance.
Over time, try to create custom coaching plans for each sales rep based on their performance during deals to get the best out of them.
Sales coaching is not easy. But you don’t have to do it alone.
As a new manager who is just learning the ropes or someone new to coaching, following these tips may feel like a pipe dream. But it must be done if you want the team and the business to grow.
Good sales tools are your friends. Leverage your CRM systems, sales engagement platforms, and conversation intelligence tools to best explore the strengths and weaknesses of each rep and the overall sales process. When it comes to conversation intelligence and enabling reps to level up, Sybill could be a game changer for the right organization.
With call scoring, deal intelligence, recording monologues and filler words during sales calls, messaging faux pas and winning behaviors and even slide scoring, Sybill delivers many of the data points you need to build a robust coaching program for your team.
You have a fresh opportunity to help your team become self-sufficient high-performers who consistently exceed expectations and sales quotas. In the process, you become a manager who inspires action, improvement, and growth. So it’s time to get started!