Guest blog post by Brandon Redlinger, Director of Growth at Engagio.
As a manager, what’s the single highest leverage thing you can do to make your salesforce more effective?
I’ll give you a hint. It’s not giving them newer technology. It’s not raising their compensation. It’s not even giving them more leads. Sure, all of those things are great and can move the needle, but the problem is they are tactics. They’re like Band-Aids that cover up the problem, but don’t get to the root cause.
The single greatest thing you can do help your sales team success in the long term is consistently coach and train your reps.
Put a great coaching and training program into place and all of the other problems will take care of themselves.
It can be time-intensive to maintain a regular coaching and training schedule. But just how much time should you be spending? In his book, “Sales Manager Survival Guide,” David Brock recommends spending 50 percent of your time with reps.
You might be thinking “that’s a lot of time!” And you’re right. However, this entails more than just one-on-ones. Your regular coaching and training cadence should include:
- Team training — This includes product training (monthly), tools/technology training (quarterly), market and industry training (twice per year), and change management/project management and critical thinking/problem solving (quarterly)
- One-on-one Coaching — This is time for personal and professional development. Let them guide these sessions.
- Reviews — This includes call and deal review (weekly), pipeline reviews (monthly or quarterly if you’re doing Account Based with longer sales cycles), and performance reviews (quarterly).
- Time to reflect on your team — Set aside time each week to stop and process everything. If you’re like most sales managers, you’re running a million miles a minute, which is why you must put some time on your calendar for reflection.
Rob Jeppsen said it well: “Being a manager is not about getting people to do what you want them to do but rather getting them to want to do the things that will make them successful.”
Coaching and training are ongoing activities, and you must dedicate time to it if you want to succeed.
Why do the best managers coach?
Why Even Good Managers Fail
The CEB Sales Leadership Council reveals that manager who dedicate less than two hours of their time to this critical activity attain see quota attainment from their reps drop below 90%. However, manager who spend more than three hours of coaching attain see their reps attain 107% of their quota.
At a glance, that delta doesn’t seem like a lot, but if you start to extrapolate that across multiple reps with hundreds of thousands of millions in quota, quarter after quarter, it adds up. Consider the potential impact of one or two additional hours spent coaching per week. This could equate to the difference between $18 million and $21 million in sourced pipeline in a single year.
Companies spend $20 billion worldwide on sales coaching and training each year. However, when tested 120 days later, 85–90 percent of sales training fails. Here are three major reasons:
- Lack of assessment, responsibility and continuous development: Well-intentioned executives must stop trying to implement a new flavor of the month sales training only to be replaced or forgotten the next month. You and your sales leadership must assess skills, hold reps (and each other) responsible and develop ongoing programs.
- Inability to turn knowledge into action: Having your reps read material or sit in a sales training once a week isn’t enough. Just because they sat through a class or got certified doesn’t meant they’re applying the knowledge. Along with training, you must have an implementation plan, the ability to measure its effectiveness and means to provide valuable feedback to each rep.
- Boring, unmemorable and unengaging training sessions: People learn best by hands-on, active engagement. Yet, most training is passive. Think back to when you were in school — did you learn more in the classes where the professor stood at the front of the room talking at the students? Or did you learn more in the classes where there was discussion, interaction and application? Don’t talk at your reps. Engage with them.
The best sales managers know that coaching and training is more than telling reps what to do. It’s about guiding reps to become more effective team members. Though some would argue that certain training (like messaging alignment training) is part of a successful sales enablement program, you can’t rely on sales enablement to know what your team needs or how to best deliver it. You must take full responsibility for this as a sales leader.
4 Essential Steps to Developing a Program to Turn Your Reps into Rockstars
Here’s a 4-step methodology for coaching that will have an immediate and lasting impact.
1. Define your objectives, goals and metrics: Coaching and training shouldn’t be done to check off a box on your list of duties. It’s vital that you have a specific reason for what you’re doing. After you’ve defined your why, define your goals. Keep your goals specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely.
There are 3 elements of a powerful sales metric.
- A good metric is comparative. You should be able to compare a metric to other time periods, lead segments, lead sources, and accounts so you can better understand what the numbers actually mean. Aiming for a 4% increase in response rate is more useful than just saying I want a 12% response rate.
- A good metric is a ratio. Ratios are easier to act on. Number of demos booked is purely informational. Number of demos booked per week gives you insight that you can act on because it’s a leading indicator that tells you your current effectiveness and whether you are on pace or not to hit your quota.
- A good metric changes the way you behave. What do you do differently based on how the metric changes? This speaks to a few different things. First, it has to be a simple number to measure and understand. Second, there has to be a direct line of sight to how it affects the bottom line. Rather than a correlational relationship, you have to be able to explicitly show the relationship is causal. And lastly, you should have direct control over your ability to act on you insights from measure this metric.
2. Develop a plan: There are plenty of sales programs that have day-by-day and week-by-week plans, but this is only a starting point. Customize and personalize your plan. Aligning the desired outcome with learning needs will help determine what content needs to be part of the training and how frequently training must occur.
Remember, this is not a one-time event. If you want skills and knowledge to stick, spaced repetition and reinforcement is key.
3. Deliver the training: A mentor of mine used to tell me that two things are required for behavior change, whether it’s personal or professional in nature: You must start now, and do not deviate. Sure, you can (and should) make small tweaks and changes along the way, but your overall strategy shouldn’t change.
You are essentially creating a professional development organization. Otherwise, you’re relying on buying talent, which is costly and doesn’t scale.
4. Get feedback: I’m a fan of testing and quizzing along the way. This let’s you know how your program is working (or not working). Furthermore, studies show that by simply knowing there’s going to be a quiz, people will retain learning better. Don’t make the mistake of not turning knowledge into action: The sooner your reps can start implementing what they’re learning in their coaching and training session, the better.
The second piece of advice for this step is to record and listen to your rep’s calls. Some people are good test takers, but that doesn’t matter when you’re talking to someone live. Of course, managers can listen to all their calls and give real time feedback, which is why I’m stoked about platforms like Chorus, which we love and use at Engagio.
Coaching and training may not be the sexiest part of our job, but it’s the one activity that will have the biggest impact on your organization.
As a sales manager and leader, this is one of the most important skills to develop. As David Brock said, “As much as coaching is viewed as a developmental or learning activity for the person being coached, it is also a developmental and learning activity for you, the coach.”