October 12, 2018

Why You Should Focus More on Sales Coaching

By Blake Harber

Looking to build a high-performing sales team? Focus on supporting salespeople with consistent, quality coaching. Here are three tips to keep you on track.

#1: Spend time in the trenches with your team.
Sales training is more than a 50-slide presentation you run through with your entire team every quarter. Opportunities to support your investment in sales training can be found in the day-to-day grind at the individual level.

Unfortunately, when a manager’s calendar fills up with unproductive meetings, the first thing that often gets left by the wayside is valuable coaching time with their reps. Work with your manager to remove any meetings that take you away from spending time with reps.

It’s essential that sales leaders prioritize time with their reps, plain and simple. Once you’ve done that, have a plan for how you use that time so it’s used efficiently and effectively.

#2: Adopt the 60/40 rule to create daily coaching opportunities.
I created a 60/40 rule for myself and our sales leaders to follow that has helped immensely in carving out training time. First, I set a goal to be on at least two calls every single day with reps. Second, during those calls I shadow 60 percent of the time as a “fly on the wall” and actively participate on the calls 40 percent of the time.

Shadowing calls is a great way to assess a rep’s skill set and areas of development, while participating on the call shows reps how to run a good sales call – it gives them the ability to see what an effective call looks and sounds like. This can help jumpstart the pattern recognition necessary for them to improve.

I recently had a rep who struggled feeling comfortable asking a few specific discovery questions that were key to understanding the buyers’ current state. We practiced and practiced but she couldn’t quite nail it on her discovery calls. It wasn’t until we took a call together – and she was able to hear a demonstration of a more effective way to ask those specific questions – that she was able to implement them into her discovery calls.

#3: Use first-hand insight to customize sales training.
Listening in on and participating on your reps’ calls gives you first-hand insight into individual performance. Collectively, these experiences can also highlight broader team needs and guide your training curriculum.

Areas to constantly review and improve include:

  • Prospecting strategy – Measure and test tactics that have proven successful in turning certain prospects into buyers.
  • Product knowledge – Your sales team should have an in-depth understanding of what they’re selling – along with any new product releases.
  • Sales processes – Does your team understand your current sales motion? Do they understand who to target – and when? If you are a startup, these things can be constantly evolving, so, as you learn, be sure to document these things in a place where future reps can access and self-educate.
  • Discovery – Always be discovering. Teaching your team how to effectively ask questions throughout the entire sales process is crucial, so practice this often.

Great sales managers and leaders make coaching an integral part of their efforts. I believe frontline managers should spend 70-80 percent of their time coaching reps. If your calendar is full of meetings that pull you away from that, it’s time to refocus on what will truly help you build a high-performing sales team.

Blake Harber is a senior manager of corporate sales at Lucidchart, the essential visual productivity platform that helps anyone understand and share ideas, information, and processes with clarity.