How to solve the big sales coaching problem
This post is authored by Dave Stachura, Accent’s Director of Sales Enablement Consulting.
Imagine for a moment that you’re not a sales coach. Instead, you’re a coach for a baseball team, and you need to improve your team's batting averages fast.
The odds are likely that your coaching approach is not going to be “Just hit the ball more.”
That’s a super easy way to coach, but I can promise you it’s not going to be effective. If your players knew how to hit the ball more, they’d do it. They’re not intentionally missing just for the hell of it.
Instead, baseball coaches use different strategies to help their players learn to hit the ball:
- More practice
- Swing mechanics improvements
- Swing at better pitches
- Scouting reports
- Better equipment
- Better physical condition
Anyone who has read the book Moneyball knows that arbitrary advice can’t stand against the superior results of using cold, hard data. And that’s just as true for sales as it is for baseball.
“Just sell more”
If you have a sales rep who isn’t closing enough deals, a “just sell more” approach to sales coaching isn’t going to get you the results you’re looking for.
You have to systematically approach improvements to sales execution, and there are several ways to accomplish this. For example, you could:
- Do more sales practice
- Create a more structured sales process
- Create persona-based content
- Provide reps with sales tools
- Use sales playbooks
But the mother of all improvement methods lies in increasing visibility. To illustrate why, let’s go back to our baseball analogy…
It’s hard to coach in the dark
You have the same objective: boost your players’ batting averages. But this time there’s a twist: while your players are practicing, you’re in the locker room. You’re not watching the players. You have no way of telling if they’re hitting the ball or not, let alone identify the finer mechanics of movement that will allow you to coach effectively.
After practice, your players come to you and give you some basic reports on how they did. “I had 50 at-bats, and managed to hit it 10 times. I feel really good about those 10 hits, and I think I’ll be able to repeat that success next time.”
Sounds ridiculous, right? That’s the typical level of visibility for a B2B sales coach. You can see win rates, listen to your reps’ gut feelings about each deal, and maybe even dig into metrics like number of calls made or emails sent. That's not a lot of information to effectively coach your entire sales team.
The biggest sales coaching problem: there’s only one of you
Sure, sales execution would probably improve if you could hand-hold your reps through every aspect of the sales process, but that’s never going to happen. Especially in enterprise B2B sales environments, there aren’t enough sales coaches to go around, which leaves sales reps—for the most part—fending for themselves.
So without standing over your reps’ shoulders, how do you as a sales coach maintain that level of visibility into sales execution?
The power of aggregate data
Improving visibility typically requires these 3 components:
1) Some sort of tracking/data capturing system
Use software to automatically keep track of key selling activities, such as calls made, emails sent or meetings scheduled.
2) An analytics engine to sort the data into useful insight
Put your CRM data to work by tying that tracking information to results. The analytics engine will pull out correlations like which activities, email templates, pieces of content, etc. are the ones that lead to winning deals.
3) Data visualization tools to display the results
Okay, you have the data correlations, now what do you do with them? The answer is not to stick the data in an Excel spreadsheet and call it a day. Instead, use visualization tools to turn dense data into instant insight. Both sales management and sales reps will be able to see at a glance how each sales opportunity is progressing and what needs to be done next to move the deal forward.
Data analytics are bringing true visibility to B2B sales, giving sales coaches an easy way to identify problems in the sales process and then surfaces actionable sales advice to solve those problems. That’s the smart way to do sales coaching.
This topic was originally covered in Accent’s free webinar, “Sales Enablement vs. Sales Prevention: Which are You Doing?” The full webinar is available to watch on demand here.