There isn’t a company out there that doesn’t want to increase revenue, yet many sales reps are woefully undercoached and unprepared to drive growth. In fact, one informal study found the typical sales person said they get little to no professional training. Surprising, given that the number one driver of organizational performance is coaching, according to Google’s Project Oxygen study.
If your sales reps could agree, what is that lack of coaching costing your organization? How does it impact your sales reps from achieving their true potential?
The big challenge is getting sales coaching right. Far too many companies only coach periodically or during weekly pipeline discussions. They might use ad hoc sales training when they feel that it’s necessary but do not have a well-structured sales coaching strategy designed to help their salespeople increase their ability to make connections and deliver on customer needs. And most training materials are boring, generalized and ignored.
Many managers simply don’t have the training they need to be effective sales coaches. Worse, many leaders consistently overestimate themselves as coaches. In fact, 24% of executives surveyed in one study rated themselves as above average, while their colleagues put them in the bottom third of the group.
Developing a comprehensive sales coaching plan, on the other hand, can lead to better conversations and better sales outcomes. Are you ready to start improving your sales practices? Try these 6 key tips.
1. Design Coaching Programs Based on Goals and Sales Data
What are your business’s actual goals and targets, based on your current sales data? You may have a number of critical goals that you want to meet based on what you want your employees to accomplish and how you prefer to connect with them. Sales coaching programs should be based on providing salespeople with the tools they need to reach those goals.
What are your business’s overall strategic goals, based on the big picture sales you want to see over the coming year or years? Salespeople should be clearly aware of those goals and how they can help achieve them, from upselling customers with additional products and features to encouraging customers to check out everything the company has to offer.
Each salesperson across your business may have their own individual sales goals, often based on past performance and salesperson capability. In addition, you may have specific sales goals, including goals related to selling particular products. By coaching your salespeople, you can put them in a better position to reach those vital goals.
What message do you want your brand to present? Customers are looking for a solid, consistent experience with your brand. In some cases, you may have specific messaging you want your salespeople to focus on: specific language that you want them to use, for example.
By providing your salespeople with comprehensive training regarding that messaging, you can put them in a better position to keep that message at the forefront when dealing with customers.
Related: How to Select the Best AI-Powered Sales Training
Customer Experience Goals
The customer experience with your brand is incredibly important. Interested customers will leave your brand quickly over perceived problems, including customer service challenges. By providing a high-quality customer experience, on the other hand, you can help keep customers with your brand and develop a genuine connection with them. Train your salespeople in how to create that great customer experience, with clear, measurable goals in mind.
2. Get Beyond the Language
Effective coaching doesn’t just focus on the language salespeople use in communication with customers. It also means nonverbal communication: how your sales representatives actually show up for the conversation and connect with customers.
Many software platforms such as Gong and Chorus designed to help with sales coaching focus on measuring words. They may take a look at simple vocal features like fillers and rate of speech, but they may not go much beyond that. We know from research, however, that how they say it is even more important than what they say in creating a specific perception for the target audience.
A salesperson that seems bored or disconnected could quickly create a negative impression with an interested buyer, while an actively engaged salesperson can make a huge difference. Even small physical or tonal differences in delivery can make a lasting difference in the impression the customer takes away from the meeting.
Provide reps coaching and guidance on non-verbal elements of sales. Do they have an executive presence? Are they confident? Likable? Trustworthy? By helping reps be more aware of and develop those vital skills, you can change the way customers see them and, in many cases, the way they may perceive your brand.
3. Structure Time for Sales Coaching
The Association for Talent Development says the number one reason sales managers say they don’t coach as often as they know they should is because of time constraints. As a result, sales representatives may not have the ability to grow their skills based on genuine connection and feedback. They may struggle to genuinely connect with their targets, or have trouble meeting specific sales goals.
Ideally, sales coaching should be incorporated as part of every salesperson’s weekly schedule. In addition, it should be part of the annual sales kickoff and quarterly business reviews. When sales coaching is a regular part of your business practices, you’ll often find yourself in a better position to actually grow the skills needed by your salespeople, including providing them with vital feedback on a regular basis.
Furthermore, it’s critical that you have a system in place that will help track sales coaching and overall sales performance. What you measure, you can manage. Over time, you can see how those stats change, which may help you make alterations that can improve overall sales styles.
Related: What Is Conversation Intelligence and How Does It Help You Create Personalized, Scalable Coaching Programs?
4. Provide a Safe Practice Space
Conversation practice is a crucial part of the sales coaching process, and salespeople should be engaging in it on a regular basis. Unfortunately, one-on-one roleplays with managers or peers aren’t used as much as leaders think–and they may not provide the same level of feedback that you would get from a more effective solution. Managers and peers already know the product, and they may know the expected outcome.
An AI practice tool, on the other hand, can offer a great deal of support and convenience, including simulations that can help salespeople improve their skills. Conduct simulations, record salespeople, and allow them to practice. Then, review the recording and the results.
See how the sale went and what can be done to improve it in the future. With those simple efforts, you can go a long way toward helping salespeople see their potential weaknesses and improve their overall performance.
5. Blend Human and AI-Based Coaching
There’s no substitute for working closely with a fantastic, experienced coach who really knows the material, ICP, and process. Those coaches are in the ideal position to get the best from each salesperson.
Whether it’s a member of your team, like an experienced sales manager, or someone brought in from the outside, however, that coach’s time is limited. Scaling up a coaching program that is 100% based on human coaches is a huge obstacle, and it’s often where companies get stuck.
Imagine, however, what might happen if your salespeople could have unlimited practice time and feedback–and then could work one-on-one with the live sales coach, in exactly the area where they most need help, support, and feedback. By blending the AI coach and the human one, salespeople can often get the best of both worlds and, in many cases, the best possible result.
By practicing repeatedly with the AI coach, the sales rep can improve their sales conversations significantly. Then, their managers can view the aggregated results of those practice sessions and zoom in on specific areas, which can provide their one-on-one coaching sessions with a much higher degree of focus. Managers can also listen to specific sections of the practice sessions as needed so that they can focus their personal coaching efforts on the most impactful areas.
6. Make It Experiential and Fun
Gamification is a great way to boost salespeople’s engagement with the coaching process. Consider Novartis, for example. The company was able to generate excitement and engagement with its sales coaching and engagement strategy by turning it into a competition.
Using this coaching tool, their sales team members were scored on various sales simulations, earning internal reward points that could be used to redeem popular prizes. As a result, the sales team was highly engaged in the process and ready to make the most of each session.
Find a way to provide that fun, exciting experience for your salespeople when possible. An experience-based coaching platform can go a long way toward ensuring that salespeople are in the ideal position to grow their skills over time.
Effective Sales Coaching is Essential
Coaching is crucial for your salespeople. Winning organizations and companies use a combination of AI and traditional sales coaching to improve sales reps’ preparation, confidence, and sales performance as they continue to grow their skills. With Quantified AI, you’ll find a modern communication skills development platform that can help you improve productivity, upskill your talent, and increase sales across the business. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your business grow.