An overwhelming 77% of firms don’t provide adequate coaching to their salespeople, according to a recent study by the Sales Management Association. The study also revealed that although identifying skill deficiencies of sales reps was one of the top three coaching priorities to have an impact on revenue growth, it was only twelfth on the list of priorities for sales managers.
In the fast-paced world of sales, it’s easy for managers to simply focus on what’s urgent – such as advancing a specific opportunity with a customer or prospect. And for many managers, a long list of urgent tasks tends to take precedence over key sales coaching initiatives. In addition, the average salesperson to sales manager ratio in over 600 companies surveyed by CSO Insights was roughly 6:1, making manager bandwidth a significant challenge as well.
Considering these challenges and many others that sales managers face on a daily basis, organisations could be missing the mark when it comes to effective sales coaching. As 2016 sales kickoffs get underway, it’s a good time to refocus sales coaching initiatives. Here are a few tips to get the new year off to a fast and successful start.
Coach with Insight, Not Hunches
Data analytics can play a powerful role in coaching. By embracing sales force performance data and using it to make decisions driven by something other than hunches, managers are able to accelerate pipeline growth, improve forecasting accuracy and boost win rates. Additionally, understanding – with data – the specific knowledge or skill deficiencies of each rep enables the manager to provide more effective, on-target coaching.
Don’t Forget Your Middle Performers
It’s an unfortunate reality that many sales managers tend to focus their coaching on either their best salespeople or their worst, but often forget about the 'middle,' or those average performers. However, the middle typically makes up about 60% of the sales force. A recent Sales Executive Council (SEC) study found that even a 5% performance improvement from the middle 60% yields over 70% more revenue on average than a similar 5% shift in the top 20% alone. Clearly the size of the prize is worth going for, so don’t overlook the middle.
Reinforce the Skills That Matter Most
Much about sales coaching involves changing the behaviors of sales reps to drive long-term results. Training reps once in a while doesn’t impact results as much as continuously reinforcing the knowledge and skills that matter most – on a regular basis. By helping your reps make the case for why your product or service provides superior value for the client’s business, you can rest easy that every call will be their best one.
Make it Easier to Coach
In addition to investing in content and tools that help drive buying decisions, organisations need to invest in coaching tools, too. While reliance on marketing content and prescribed sales processes can help move deals along, the reason we have sales people is to add value in addressing a customer’s unique business problem. Dependence on rote sales presentations that answer questions customers aren’t necessarily asking may not deliver the desired result. With tools that facilitate sales coaching, businesses can ensure sales reps are successful in providing useful perspectives that help customers make their own best decisions.
Consider Coaching On-the-Go
Reaching employees where they are – on their smartphone or mobile device – ensures that sales managers can continue to coach without necessarily being present. By pushing individualised coaching content to sales people via their mobile devices, managers can help improve sales rep knowledge and engagement on a continuous and real-time basis in addition to formal coaching sessions.
The sales function today is in need of massive change to help reps sell contextually, at higher levels. CRM and content portals can help, but those tools are intended to align with the demands of sales processes, not sales people. By putting a renewed focus on sales coaching, organisations can help their salespeople to sell with confidence and drive maximum value for the customer.
By Lisa Clark, Vice President of Marketing, Qstream. She has 20 years of experience building high-value software companies, brands and market share. Connect with Qstream, on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+.