A Sports Technique Borrowed to Accelerate Sales Team Excellence

June 26, 2017 Chorus

Guest blog post by Matt Cameron, managing partner at SalesOpsCentral.com and founder of Frontline.

This post is NOT about listening to call recordings and coaching the reps!  I have to believe you know that recording calls for coaching is important (You should – You are on the Chorus website after all).

Rather, I want to remind you of the Latin axiom of Docendo discimus” – (“By teaching we learn”) and how this can be applied in a way that empowers reps and accelerates both ramp and continued development.

At SalesOps Central we run bootcamps for AE managers, which means that we hear firsthand accounts of the challenges at the front line.  By far the biggest concern is how to find time to ramp new reps and effectively coach the core team.  It seems it is still a huge challenge to make time to review calls, even with a time saving tool like Chorus – So what to do?

Have reps coach themselves

Drawing on a background in sports performance coaching I am going to suggest to you that you should make time in your weekly 1:1s for ‘Sharpening the saw’, where the rep owns the topic.  Have your reps come prepared to share with you the snippets of calls where they feel they need to focus:

eg.  I made an ask and got stonewalled.”; “I was flummoxed by an objection.” and do the following:

  1. Play the call snippet (usually less than 5 minutes of interaction)
  2. They tell you what they were trying to achieve, what they perceived happened, the impact of that and finally what they would do differently.

You are now allowing them to play the role of ‘teacher’, which forces them to get granular about what happened and to be thoughtful in analyzing the interaction.  This is far superior to the traditional approach of listening to calls and then telling the reps how to improve:

  1. The rep feels a sense of ownership for their development and pride in self assessing
  2. In analyzing interactions independently, the learning is embedded far more effectively than hearing external advice
  3. The approach encourages independence and self-awareness
  4. It avoids ‘random acts of coaching’ whereby you pick one or two calls to listen to and hope to find interactions worthy of discussion.  This technique ensures you are focusing on points that matter.
  5. It saves you time!  Rather than listening to many snippets and then taking notes in advance of your one-on-ones you just arrive ready to provide feedback.

This technique should be used in a structured way that aligns to the current development goals for a rep within one of two contexts:

Quarterly development plans

I am an advocate for reviewing personal development plans each quarter and setting goals that may be reviewed as regularly as each month.  The theme for the month might be, ‘Amplifying value and urgency’.  The rep would then come prepared each week (or every other week) with examples where they attempted to do this during a call. For a seasoned rep it might be, ‘Setting a goal to do better with price protection through building value earlier in the sale’.

Once a theme has been adequately addressed, then the pair of you can agree on the next focus areas (and it is also worth noting that there is no reason not to focus on more than one element at a time).

Using self-assessment in ramping

Any scaling organization should be running a structured, theme-based 30-60-90 day onboarding plan, which represents the ideal context for this thoughtful self-assessment.  Reps should have milestone driven certifications built into the plan, where they can bring evidence of progression and some self-assessment that ensures they don’t finish onboarding with anxiety about gaps in their capability.

But what if the rep says that they have had no interaction challenges?”

It may be that you have a very experienced rep (or just one who lacks self-awareness) claiming not to have had any challenges worth discussing.  No problem – Their instruction is to come prepared to share exemplary examples of the current theme…. Please show me how you were able to build value early in the sale and create urgency.” – No one is exempt!  If they are right, then you can collect a library of best in class examples that can be shared at team meetings and incorporated into the onboarding program.

By empowering the rep to self-assess you will secure better learning outcomes, be focusing on the right areas and importantly, freeing up more time for you to hire that next A-player!


Matt Cameron is the managing partner at SalesOpsCentral.com and founder of Frontline, Silicon Valley's Sales Management boot camp and leadership community. He is an advisor to Chorus and formerly the WW Senior Director of Corporate Sales at Yammer and a Director of Enterprise Sales for Salesforce.com, where he enjoyed building sales engines for high growth companies, which continues to be his passion.

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