No field of work necessitates coaching more than that of sales. While delving into the “why” could fuel an entire book, the need for coaching can be condensed into the following reasons:
1. Academia doesn’t teach sales.
The average college is loath to offer sales instruction. According to the Harvard Business Review, the United States is populated with over 4,000 colleges- and less than 100 of them offer sales programs. Academia considers sales the realm of on-the-job training. So in a vicious-circle like fashion, on-the-job coaching becomes a necessity.
2. The work environment is prone to rapid, radical shifts based on the latest data.
With data analytics providing metrics for ever-increasing sales efficiency, coaching is more necessary than ever for the maintenance of a productive, up-to-date sales force.
But what is taught is only as good as the one doing the teaching. Here are seven steps to take your coaching to the next level.
1. Build Credibility
No one wants to be lectured by someone they view as unreliable or inexperienced. Establishing credibility is key to successful coaching- a credible source is readily relied on for advice.
Past histories of coaching success and statistics reflecting the performance advantage conferred by coaching (17%!) are great foundations on which to leverage credibility.
2. Establish Clear Goals
All the coaching in the world will serve moot if clear goals are not established. These could be as obvious as increased sales targets or more specific to a particular area of weakness in the deal-making process. Big Data provides incredible starting points.
Since data analytics software handles most of the dirty work, valuable time is freed up for coaching and invaluable goal-establishment metrics are available at the push of a button.
3. Keep Up With Technology
In an age of rapid technological advancement, the coach who is not keeping up with technology is missing out on an array of opportunities.
Though this should not be news, it bears mentioning nonetheless: everyone has a smartphone now. This should make connecting with reps a far more fluid experience than in times past. But too often phones bear a stigma of unprofessionalism and are shunned in the workplace, rather than used to their full advantage.
Smartphones coupled with video coaching software provide endless opportunities for easy, accessible, long-distance coaching.
4. Coach the Marathon, Not the Sprint
Too often coaching is relegated to semiannual, days-long seminars. Going through the paces because coaching is ‘in vogue’ is not enough- Neil Rackham estimates that 87% of the knowledge gained at seminars is lost if there is no follow-up. These seminars are a coaching sprint.
A marathon is more methodical. Try setting weekly appointments with reps to go over sales process, procedure, and relevant product updates. Create a cadence.
No two people are the same, particularly when it comes to learning. It is important to incorporate both visual and linguistic instruction.
Individualized programs also involve coaching in real time. Jared Houghton, CSO of Ambition.com, argues that “the most effective time for coaching occurs in the heat of the moment, not several weeks later after an employee has hit a major milestone or seen a hot lead go cold.”
If a sales rep just closed a monstrous deal, help them analyze what made it work. If a deal fell through at the last moment, help the rep examine where in the deal-making process things started to go wrong.
6. Make Opportunities to Coach
Part of the individualization process is taking advantage of coaching opportunities as they present themselves. In his book “How to Get Started with Sales Coaching: An Action Plan for Success”, Jon Birdsong indicates that this can be as trivial as facilitating conversations by the water cooler.
If data metrics indicate a rep is not performing to his or her usual standard, strike up a conversation and ask what you can do to help them close more deals.
7. Treat Reps as People, Not Just Data Points
In the age of big data, CRM, and computer-run analytics, it is easy for even the most skilled of coaches and managers to treat their salespeople as points on a graph.
But more than any other occupation, sales requires a healthy, functioning ego. To neglect this trounces coaching credibility and cultivates animosity, making successful coaching impossible. Yes, the actions of salespeople should be plotted out and entered into sophisticated data analysis. But these analyses cannot account for the whole of the way the rep is treated.
Video coaching software can go a long way in this regard. Unlike email, it provides a degree of personalization that enables the coach to more easily convey feelings of understanding and sympathy, both establishing credibility and facilitating individualized coaching on the go.