You’ve heard the phrase “nature versus nurture.” This theory differentiates between the talents and skills we’re born with and those we develop from outside influences.
A knack for sales, for example, can absolutely be one of those things that a person is just plain born with. Growing up, someone might have won more raffle tickets than anyone else without seeming to try; now they blow their quotas out of the water with ease. But someone who went through a lot of learning and coaching to develop top-end sales skills can be just as successful.
There’s a good chance that talented reps who fall on the “nurture” end of the spectrum reached their current performance levels not only by their own hard work and dedication, but also with the help of thoughtful, well-implemented sales coaching techniques. In the same way, “natural” sellers can benefit just as much from strong coaching. In this post, we’ve identified four critical practices that are ideal for helping everyone on your team reach their full potential.
1. The best type of coaching is truly personalized coaching
If you spend any time searching the web or talking to your professional peers (either in your own organization or others), you’ll certainly find and hear plenty of different ideas about how best to coach your sales team’s reps. After hearing and reading about enough of them, you may begin to think that there is some sort of “formula” you can execute and suddenly have a perfect sales coaching strategy in place.
But, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to coaching that always works in every situation, for every employee. Sure, there are commonalities and best practices that you’ll see show up again and again in different sales coaching strategies. (In fact, we’ll be talking about some of them later on in this blog post). Yet the fact remains that we’re not talking about an algorithm or scientific formula here.
Every time you coach a team member — whether during that all-important first 90 days of their tenure with the company or later on when they have already established themselves as a seller — the approach must be personalized according to individual needs, strengths, weaknesses and working styles.
The first step in developing a personalized coaching strategy for a particular seller, of course, is knowing that individual. If you manage a small or medium-sized sales team, this won’t be too hard, as you probably interact with them constantly on a professional and personal level. But if your sales department boasts 30, 50 or more reps, you likely won’t know each of them well enough for effective coaching.
The solution? Set up a few one-on-one informal meetings before coaching itself begins. Listen more than you talk, and get a sense of how they sell.
Beyond direct personal knowledge of a rep, you’ll also need objective data regarding their performance. The first KPI you must consider is the total sales revenue they’ve brought in (both cumulatively and in various per-week, -month, -quarter or -year periods, as appropriate). Then you’ll move on to average revenue per sale, quota attainment, percentage over quota, ability to bring in return customers and so on. (You’ll have more data for established reps than rookies, of course; look at each set of KPIs at a scale and perspective appropriate to their tenure.) A versatile, analytics-empowered sales enablement solution that integrates with your customer relationship management platform will be your most critical source of this data.
By doing this, you should arrive at a coaching solution that works precisely for them. A seasoned rep’s solution might focus on improving their familiarity with new tech while honing their ability to recognize customers’ needs and turn that into a pitch. By contrast, a newer salesperson might need to work hard on dealing with prospect objections but be very skilled at leveraging cutting-edge sales content like interactive demos.
2. Prepare your reps to play unfamiliar roles
Everyone who works in sales should know the importance of personas. A Buffer article written by B2B marketing consultant Aaron Beashel referred to personas as characterizations that represent key demographics within the scope of your sales efforts. They can be existing customers or prospects discovered through comprehensive lead-generation efforts.
However, not all of them are past, present or potential buyers. Consider the “detractor” persona. This person may be a colleague or manager of a prospect who expresses skepticism about what you are selling. There are also “anti-personas” — individuals who are almost never going to be your customers. According to Beashel, it can be useful to establish anti-personas as a way of highlighting just how different they are from your target audience.
Understanding and analyzing personas can factor into coaching in a big way. For example, you may find that one of your reps has a tendency to lose the plot of the pitch when they are challenged with objections from “director”-level personas. This is a problem if you’re selling in the B2B sphere, as members of the C-suite are frequently involved in major sales on at least some level. Meanwhile, another rep might be excellent with most of the C-level folks but go off the rails when an IT director comes on the call.
TOPO explains that it’s critical to use personas as a training and coaching tool for your sales team. It can be particularly effective if you have reps take on these persona and seller roles, either as a group, in skit-like exercises, or by recording individual persona-focused pitches and responses using Showpad’s PitchIQ feature. The platform analyzes mock-pitch videos based on the metrics you want to examine, giving you the chance to review them with each rep and discuss strengths and weaknesses.
3. Reviewing the “game tape” is critical for honest coaching
Most folks who are involved in professional sports, whether as an athlete or a coach, spend a fair amount of time watching the video recordings of past games. Sometimes it’s from the previous night or a few games back; other times it’s old footage from years or maybe even decades in the past. Most pros, as well as the fans and those who report on and analyze the games, refer to this simply as “game tape,” even though it hasn’t been kept on actual videotapes for at least 15 years.
Reviewing the “game tape” is critical both in a literal sense, e.g., watching video or audio of actual sales calls and meetings recorded using Showpad’s MeetingIQ module, and as part of a broader review of sales-process data.
You see things differently in a reproduced form, often in a more critical light. If reps look over their recordings themselves, they might think they’re doing a bad job even when the truth may be the opposite. Sales managers should review this content either in one-on-ones with reps or in small-group settings, depending on people’s preferences, and contrast it with the actual performance data. Perhaps recordings will reveal that a rookie rep who isn’t closing deals just yet has strong instincts and is on the right track. Or, they could prove that a successful rep brings in plenty of new customers for quick revenue but doesn’t retain them because of a tunnel-vision focus on the sale over the relationship.
4. Turn successful approaches into standard practice
There’s a well-known saying in sales that effectively says, “80% of your sales often come from 20% of your reps.” If you’re relying on a small number of reliably heavy-hitting reps to make quarterly and annual team sales goals, such a system is unsustainable. There’s no guarantee that when those all-stars leave, the reps with the next-most experience will be equipped to rise to their standard.
Your team’s top earners shouldn’t hoard their skills for their own individual gain but instead use them to help their fellow reps get better. Healthy competition is one thing, but it can quickly spin out of control. It’s on you as team leader to make sure top reps share their successful techniques with co-workers.
While some of those tactics may not work with everyone, chances are that whatever your best sellers are doing right can be identified and adopted by other reps. Showpad Coach helps you quantify these practices with cutting-edge analytics, so you can work toward a future where solid percentage-over-quota numbers are the norm rather than an anomaly.
Request a demo today to learn more about how Showpad can bring your sales coaching techniques to the next level.