Getting Real About Sales Coaching in Real Time: 5 Tips
A recent survey of 250 companies found that 87% of salespeople want more coaching. Demand for more coaching is especially true among younger sellers, those in their first ten years of selling.
While salespeople of all levels desire more coaching, sales leaders and coaches say they are already stretched too thin and do a lot of coaching as it is.
Why the disconnect between the coaching salespeople want and the coaching they receive?
To answer that question and provide proven tips for effective sales coaching, Doug Hutton, senior vice president of products at Corporate Visions, and George Donovan, the chief revenue officer at Allego, joined up to present at a recent webinar, Getting Real About Sales Coaching.
These seasoned sales executives discussed the current state of sales coaching and shared five key takeaways sales coaches can implement today to become better coaches.
>> Watch on-demand: Getting Real About Sales Coaching
The State of Selling in Today’s Virtual World
Before the pandemic, selling and sales management were essentially in-person activities. In the office, managers could listen to how the rep approached a call or handled a close. On sales ride alongs, there could be immediate feedback or updates to help the salesperson advance.
As sales moved to a virtual setting, managers found themselves adjusting to a new reality, struggling to provide input to their dispersed teams.
No wonder the survey showed that more than half (67%) of sales managers report having a much harder time keeping their reps up to date with crucial details such as pricing, market conditions, and new products.
Geography is another challenge for sales managers. Before, sales teams were based on location; most of the sellers were in the office or located in a nearby region.
But in today’s hybrid selling world, hiring the best salesperson means they can be based anywhere. Working in multiple time zones is challenging, as a whopping 97% of survey respondents report having a more challenging time coaching and training because of time zone difference.
With all these challenges, managers are struggling to understand reps’ skills and behaviors.
“Without knowledge of the rep’s ability, even managers who know who to coach will struggle. Because their interaction is not focused on the underlying skill, that coaching event is not going to be nearly as impactful for the rep,” says Donovan.
5 Effective Sales Coaching Tips:
Here are the five sales coaching strategies sales leaders can implement now to improve their coaching impact and move the needle on sales performance.
Embrace Asynchronous Video
With people working in different time zones and on different schedules, there’s often not enough time in the day for a sales manager to spend quality time live with their sellers. That’s why asynchronous technology has become such an essential part of sales management.
While Zoom and WebEx are examples of live, two-way communication channels, asynchronous is when you record something and send it to someone who views it when and where they choose.
For example, a salesperson can record their practice selling session and send it to their manager for feedback. The manager watches the video and provides feedback—all on their own time.
“The stats we have seen show us that before a seller submits a video for review, they practice it on average six times. No matter what it is they are practicing, starting with practice videos ensures salespeople aren’t making mistakes in front of customers,” says Donovan.
Asynchronous video means managers can correlate the seller’s practice video with their sales actual performance.
“We’ve all seen sellers who are confident and good at what they’re doing in training,” says Hutton. “But then when it gets to the game and they’re on the field, it’s not translating. Through asynchronous video, we can capture practice sessions and live sessions and ensure the coaching is sticking and the rep is performing fully,” says Hutton.
The benefit of asynchronous video extends to the way sales content is developed. Through asynchronous testing, marketing can collaborate with sellers, test out the content, and learn customer feedback.
Harness the Power of Self-Coaching
Time management is a big pain point for sales leaders and coaches. They can’t do it all, they say. Fortunately, video technology can help a salesperson coach themselves.
“It is incredibly powerful for a salesperson to watch themselves on video,” says Donovan. “Body language, tonality, it’s all-important. And when reps watch themselves, they can self-identify issues and take corrective action.”
A sales rep can record themselves delivering any message—a demo, a presentation, a pitch, objection handling. The representative reviews the video and asks the manager for specific feedback on one portion of the call. The rep gets direct feedback on the areas they are most concerned with, and the manager doesn’t need to sit through the entire long video.
Conversation Intelligence, powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI), can also provide significant insights for self-coaching. AI can point out if the rep is talking too fast, if there are too many filler words, or if the balance of the sales discussion is working. While AI will never replace human feedback, it does give the seller clear information on how to improve.
Implement a Coaching Methodology
Hutton and Donovan see a shift away from once-a-week, scheduled coaching interactions. Today, more sales managers are using the tools and technology to deliver coaching on an ongoing basis asynchronously. This asynchronous feedback enables the sales manager to provide more regular feedback and creates an ongoing dialog between the manager and the seller.
Whether coaching is delivered live or asynchronously, managers must assess what skill or content areas a seller needs to improve on to execute future customer conversations well.
“Ultimately, effective coaching is about approaching every coaching interaction with the right coaching approach,” says Hutton. “Is it more directive? More training? Are you empowering this seller? Ultimately, all coaching needs to be about the customer conversation and improving that moment of truth.”
Finally, managers need to provide exit criteria to let them know if their coaching has succeeded. This feedback becomes much easier with video technology. Coaches can identify which parts of the customer conversation need the most work and have the rep practice those parts using asynchronous video. By watching a video of the actual customer conversation, a coach can see the results of their coaching and the rep’s efforts.
Leverage Technology to Coach at Scale
Artificial intelligence (AI) has been available for a while, but it’s finally starting to pay dividends and provide insights that can help managers coach at scale.
For example, managers can use AI to analyze best sales practices and develop concrete examples of what “good” looks like in a sales call.
“We record and analyze a lot of calls, then layer in who’s a top performer, middle performer, and low performer. This correlation provides a specific example of what a call or a call segment should look like. We can home in on good conversations and coach the people who aren’t top performers up to be top performers based on these calls,” says Donovan.
The power of this analysis comes from the quantities of conversations being recorded. There is a wealth of valuable information in these calls, and using AI lets managers access that data to learn from it and provide coaching at a much larger scale.
Measure Things That Are Hard to Measure
When it comes to sales coaching, there are a lot of skills that are hard to measure. But to be genuinely effective, sales managers must create a coaching methodology that consistently measures effectiveness in all areas.
“Having a methodology, coaching consistently, and measuring the effectiveness of it, that’s the goal for all of us,” says Donovan. “While that may feel overwhelming, managers should know that even small amounts of coaching can make a big difference. One easy way to start coaching is to measure a person’s presence.”
Donovan suggests preparing a scorecard of five things you want to measure. These can include soft skills that are more subtle. For example, does the salesperson have the “it” factor, and can they translate it to video? Does the person’s face-to-face selling ability translate to video? Has a rep who once excelled lost their touch?
Once a manager has prepared a scorecard, they can watch the sellers’ videos and rate them in the five areas. A week later, when the salesperson creates another call video to review, the manager gets out their scorecard and learns if the salesperson has progressed or is still stuck.
This scorecard system is easy to do and, over time, generates actionable feedback that the seller can use to improve. Managers can also use the scorecard to identify training and coaching areas the salesperson needs to improve further.
Watch on-demand: Getting Real About Sales Coaching: Providing Real Help for Real Conversations in Real-Time..