Equally as important as is it that reps are coachable, you need to make sure your sales leaders have the ability to effectively teach. Coaching is a two-way street — reps need to be able to learn just as much as leaders need to be able to teach.
While coaching is undeniably a big time investment for both reps and leaders, it’s worth it. In fact, research from The Corporate Executive Board Company shows that “Sales reps who receive just three hours of coaching a month exceed their goals by 7%, boosting revenue by 25% and increasing the average close rate by 70%”.
Effective coaching not only brings up revenue, but it also makes sure that every rep feels valued. Rather than just praising the leaders or harping on the laggards, coaching across the whole company means that the reps in the middle of the pack also benefit. These are the reps who have the largest room for improvement and the most incentive to push themselves just a bit harder to get on top of the pack — making them the best kind of student.
To make sure sales leaders are set up for coaching success, they first need to be equipped with a successful coaching program. According to SiriusDecisions, the four factors critical to a successful coaching program are culture, insights, process/tools, and actions.
- Culture. This is a mindset that needs to be built into the very foundation of how your company grows. Leaders may not initially be enthused about this focus on coaching because it takes them away from selling, but it’s an idea that needs to be emphasized on all levels. Coaching and learning should be the first thing a new hire experiences when they walk through the door, and it should continue as they learn from mistakes and progress through their careers.
- Insights. It’s hard to know how your team is doing if you don’t have a method of gaining insights. Regularly checking in on activity and performance using metrics will make sure the team is on track and goals are being met.
- Process/tools. Simply checking in isn’t enough to see results. Regular manager/rep coaching sessions should be scheduled to go over recent progress and make sure all reps are up to date on the newest technologies and sales techniques.
- Actions. During these coaching sessions, specific actions should be determined to help meet short, medium, and long-term goals. Setting forward actions will give reps specifics on things they can do to improve and will keep them looking ahead to further goals.
Centering your coaching program around metrics will help combat one of the biggest challenges that managers often face: accurate forecasting. Most reps don’t forecast accurately and managers often find themselves spending time during one-on-one sessions troubleshooting to find out the truth. Metrics can help make predictions more accurate and standardize the forecasting process.
When scheduling coaching sessions, we suggest separating metric reviews and coaching into two separate one-on-one sessions. Metric review sessions can focus on going through individual reports and figuring out which areas need work, and then coaching sessions can focus on teaching new strategies to help achieve new goals.
During metrics review sessions, there are a number of reports that you should make sure to discuss:
- Current Bookings. This directly quantifies how much revenue reps are bringing in every period. While ideally, bookings should be steady or increasing every period, you want to make sure that they’re at least on track and meeting goals. If they’re consistently falling below goals, then you should be discussing whether their goals need to be tailored and how they can increase bookings.
- Conversion Rates throughout the Funnel. This shows exactly how many opportunities are falling through the cracks while moving through the funnel. By identifying where reps are losing the most opps, they can put a greater emphasis on finding ways to help improve those conversion rates.
- Length of Sales Cycle by Stage. If an opp is spending too much time in the cycle, their likelihood of being closed-lost increases. Taking a look at a rep’s cycle by stage can help identify which stage is taking the longest for opps to get through and give reps pointers to which stages to focus on.
- Sales Pipeline History: Inflow/Outflow. This keeps an eye on how many opps are being won and lost in comparison to how many opps are in the pipeline. This can help your reps figure out if they’re performing enough and acting on enough opps. If they are doing enough but not getting the results they want, reps can spend time figuring out how to shift their focus so that they’re seeing more closed-won opps.
- Pipeline Staging. This gives reps a look at how much they have in their pipeline and what opps are coming up in their schedule. Making sure that reps have enough in their pipeline and that they’re not letting any opps slip through the cracks will make sure that they’re taking advantage of every chance to close a deal.
- Forecast. This will show not only the rep’s manual forecast but also how they’ve performed on average historically. By comparing these two numbers, you can help reps figure out how to improve their forecasting as well as if they’re on track to meet their goals.
After reviewing every report, you should make sure to set forward and mutually agree upon goals for reps to work towards during the next period. To help reps keep a close eye on their individual metrics without having to search for every report, have them set up individual main dashboards with all of the relevant reports available at a glance.
In this example, Robert De Niro can look at all of his important numbers and trends without having to leave this page. He can see the deals he has coming up soon in the pipeline, as well as whether he’s on track to meeting his bookings goal, both numerically and graphically. Putting together an individually tailored dashboard works to constantly remind reps of which areas need improvement and how they’re progressing on their goals.
When meeting for a coaching session, it should be informed by the metric review and led by the rep. Reps should first come to their own realizations about what needs to be done and highlight which areas they think need development. Then reps and leaders should work together to come up with an execution plan to improve and make sure that they’re committed to it.
Just as reps are measured on their performance, coaches should also be evaluated on their coaching to make sure that everyone is constantly improving. The EcSell Institute suggests coming up with a coaching score made of certain goals and metrics to help evaluate coaches.
However you think is best to evaluate coaches, you should just make sure that everyone is being held accountable for creating a better culture of coaching.