Effective sales coaching can lead to an increase of up to 23% in rep performance (according to Sales Management Association, 2018). One would logically think that, with an impact like this, sales managers would spend more time coaching. In reality, however, the same study reveals that 76% of sales managers spent too little time coaching. The demands of the job – being constantly pulled into meetings, putting out fires, and feeling pressured to meet the short-term quota – make coaching less of a priority. Not to mention, some sales managers avoid coaching because they feel uncomfortable doing it. Another concern I hear from managers is that while their sales reps love the idea of professional development, they can’t afford to spend a lot of time away from selling.
This is where microcoaching can help. I define “microcoaching” as short bursts of sales coaching that fill one-on-one coaching gaps personalized to the individual’s specific needs.
If managers and reps are fortunate, they find time for coaching on a weekly basis. In reality, only 20% of reps get weekly coaching. SalesFuel’s latest Voice of the Sales Rep research shows that 30% of sales reps would appreciate more coaching. But 40% of “managers do not have time for standalone coaching” (ATD Research, 2019). This pervasive problem costs organizations money because reps aren’t working as effectively as they could. And sales organizations suffer when reps (38%) leave voluntarily because they don’t think their company cares about them.
Your sales reps can dramatically improve their performance when they receive microcoaching in between their traditional sales coaching sessions. Just like in prospecting, the “superpower” of an AI-driven microcoaching solution (CoachFeed by SalesFuel, for example) is in discovery. The “needs assessment” part of this sales microcoaching platform is designed to reveal each rep’s strengths and weaknesses.
The assessment also goes beyond sales skills. By reporting on a rep’s work style, behavioral tendencies, and soft skills, the assessment gives the managers an in-depth look at the whole person. Managers who have been spending their time “deal coaching’” will realize that approach doesn’t work for every rep.
For example, when an assessment indicates a rep tends to jump into action before thinking about the end result, the manager can foresee the resulting difficulties in a sales situation. This decision making style could lead to a poor outcome when the rep tries to quickly lead a prospect deeper into the sales funnel.
Armed with this personalized assessment information, managers can engage in coaching that is adaptive to each salesperson. In the case of decision making, managers should ask the rep to think through two steps they should take before reaching out to the prospect. Over time, reps will learn how to change their behavior to effectively close more deals.
Another benefit of microcoaching is the concept of feeds. On a regular basis, reps receive a short, hyper-focused email or text message. In a two- to five-minute session, your reps can learn something about themselves or their sales skills, as well as read or watch content to support the main point. These coaching sessions can take place without manager involvement. Even better, great microcoaching is interactive. The message is reinforced when the rep responds to a poll or a question or engages in a quick game after reviewing the content. Having the rep respond in this way improves upon one of the big weaknesses in traditional coaching: The manager does too much talking.
Traditional sales coaching doesn’t benefit every rep. We’ve found that, the longer a rep is on the job, the less likely they are to rely on managers for coaching. And, because some sales managers use a one-size-fits-all approach to coaching, only 25% of reps believe this effort improves their win rates. However, microcoaching may help these reps. When they receive an email or a text message containing survey data or proof about effective sales tactics, they may pay attention. While they might not want to listen to their managers, they’re likely to reflect on tips from other sales professionals.
During a traditional sales coaching session, plenty of information and advice flows from managers to sales reps. How much of that information do reps retain? Not enough. One benefit of microcoaching is cadence. When reps receive a text or email on a regular basis, they can draw on what they’ve learned in previous sessions. The repetition will encourage them to modify their go-to behaviors.
The bottom line is that sales microcoaching will help you, the sales manager, develop the middle 60% of your reps. With the help of frequent microcoaching feeds, your reps will learn how to develop their skills and maintain awareness of the mindset needed for selling to the toughest prospects.
Are you ready to try sales microcoaching?
C. Lee Smith is CEO of SalesFuel.