For sales managers and other leaders, getting the most out of their sales reps is one of the single biggest objectives. Typically, this is achieved through a combination of sales training and coaching efforts, with the aim of enhancing individual skills and behaviours, leading to improved team results.

Previously, there was a widely held viewpoint that sales was an art form, but in the modern environment, it is increasingly seen as a science, with all aspects being measurable and quantifiable. In this article, we take a closer look at the ways analytics and processes have revolutionised the results of coaching efforts.

Problems With Coaching

While most sales organisations are aware of the importance of sales coaching, there are often significant problems in terms of actually defining coaching, understanding what it entails and ensuring that coaching is actually delivered in a way that delivers a ROI and improves overall sales effectiveness.

“Coaching feels very fluffy,” says Jason Jordan, a Partner at Vantage Point, in a webinar for Sales Hacker. “Sales managers say they’re coaching, but sales reps say they don’t feel like it. If a sales manager rides along with a salesperson one afternoon for four hours… the sales manager will say they coached for four hours. The salesperson will say they got interrogated for four straight hours. What is coaching? There has to be a definition.”

Additionally, businesses use very generic models. For example, the ‘GROW’ coaching model – which stands for: Goal, Reality, Options, Way Forward – is equally applicable to marketing or finance. It is not specific to sales and so sales managers find it difficult to connect these models to the actual day-to-day behaviours in the workplace.

One of the most crucial concepts for sales leaders to understand is that they cannot pro-actively and directly manage business results, like revenue, or even sales objectives, because they cannot make customers behave a certain way. They can only pro-actively manage sales activities, such as preparation, sales calls and training.

For this reason, it is not sufficient to tell reps what you expect of them in terms of meeting quota, or generating revenue. You need to be clear with them on the activities you expect them to perform, and the specific areas where you need to see improvement from them. Coaching can, therefore, be used to influence the activities they carry out en route to achieving an objective or producing desired result.

Sales Activities and Processes

There are a vast number of different sales activities, and the precise activities that are most crucial will vary from one organisation to another and from one sales role to another. In the aforementioned webinar from Sales Hacker, these sales activities are divided into the following four core sales processes.

Call Management – As the name suggests, this relates to the management of sales calls and improving individual customer interactions. It includes sales call frequency, sales call planning, etc.

Opportunity Management – This relates to managing the way in which opportunities are pursued. It may include opportunity planning, where sales reps identify the buyers, their agendas, etc. Ultimately, it is geared towards strategically navigating and winning complex sales cycles, which may require multiple calls.

Account Management – Essentially, account management is about maximising the long-term value of a single customer. It includes key account management practices, cross-selling, up-selling, social selling, and so on.

Territory Management – Finally, this concerns segmenting customers, so that you allocate your efforts as efficiently as possible, across the various different customer and prospect types.

It is these things that sales leaders need to be using analytics to measure, as these are the aspects of a salesperson’s day-to-day work life that can actually be managed and improved through coaching activities. When this is achieved, the overall sales effectiveness of a team can be greatly enhanced.

A Formalised Approach

The good news is, for organisations that take the time to define their coaching process, make use of analytics to continually measure performance, and focus their efforts on influencing sales activities and processes, the rewards are significant. This serves to highlight the revolutionary effect of analytics and processes in this area.

In fact, according to the findings of the CSO Insights 2017 Sales Enablement Optimization Study, adopting a formal coaching process can improve win rates by 13.5 percent, while a dynamic coaching process can improve win rates by as much as 27.6 percent. Unfortunately, the majority are still failing to take full advantage.

“Only 30.3 percent leverage the potential of sales coaching, as they apply a formal or even dynamic coaching approach, where coaching areas and the coaching process are defined and implemented,” Tamara Schenk, research director of CSO Insights, writes in a blog post for Miller Heiman Group. “To be very clear: ‘coaching at random’ is not a strategy; it’s a recipe that always leads to low performance.”

(Image Source: Miller Heiman Group)

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