We recently held a webinar, with our CEO Ariel Hitron together with Pete Kazanjy, founder and CRO of the data-driven sales management software company Atrium and founder of the amazing community Modern Sales Pros (join it, you’ll thank me :), to discuss the thorny issue of how to improve sales coaching with data.
You can watch the webinar on demand here, or keep reading for an overview.
Every enterprise needs the most effective sellers possible, who can handle every stage of the sales funnel, know how to listen, how to ask questions, and how to handle pushback. But those sellers don’t appear out of thin air; sales representatives need training and an effective sales coaching process, or system, to gain all the skills and knowledge they need.
Sales managers are crucial for the task of developing rep performance. The mark of a great manager is that they identify how their team can get better, and then help them achieve it.
But becoming a great manager is an equally great challenge. We found that the average sales manager spends less than 10% of their time developing their reps, and over 50% of reps miss their quota.
That’s not because most managers don’t care about their sales teams, but because they’re struggling without the tools and data that are vital for success.
What is handicapping sales managers?
Sales managers are struggling with sales coaching on two fronts. They don’t have the data that reveals which sales representatives need support with which stages in the sales funnel, and they also don’t have the tools to lead effective coaching once they know what to offer.
Advanced analytics tools like Looker and Tableau, which promise to solve data challenges, are designed for analysts, not managers. For example, they tend to aggregate sales data, with the result that managers can see that sales teams aren’t hitting their quotas, but they don’t know which reps are struggling. At best, they then push everybody through standardized coaching that, like one-size-fits-all t-shirts, doesn’t quite fit anybody.
It’s easy to send around a set of slides with new messaging and product information, but it’s a lot harder to ensure those slides are adopted and to drive real change. Many a product marketer has slid over into sales, only to discover that most of the internal content they agonized over is almost irrelevant to the sales teams.
For small companies with small sales teams, it’s possible to create a sales agenda, distribute a demo script, and have your sales representatives run role plays with each other a few times until they understand your new messaging, but how can you scale that up to a sales team cast of hundreds?
3 steps to effective sales coaching
We identified 3 main steps to effective sales coaching. Essentially, the secret to success rests on:
1. Using data to identify the problem
2. Setting “homework” to build the right sales muscle
3. Closing the feedback loop by measuring metrics
1. Use data to identify the problem
Data-driven sales management software like Atrium opens up visibility into sales performance on an individual seller level. You need to pull data from multiple sources, including the CRM and call recordings, and convert it into clear and easy to understand graphs and charts that show where things might be going wrong for a sales representative.
With data that’s reliable and easy to consume, sales managers can adapt their sales coaching practices to be more efficient, much like the baseball team the Oakland A’s does in the movie Moneyball, where they apply data to refine their game strategy. For example, if the data tells the A’s that the opposing player they’re facing has a tendency to hit to the left of the field, the team will move the focus of their outfield catchers to the left.
It sounds simple, yet not every baseball team has followed the A’s lead. And not every sales team has adopted data-driven sales management, either.
Bringing together data is just the first step which enables sales managers to identify the problem. The next step is to assign the right coaching to resolve the issue.
2. Practice to gain the new competency
Data driven management behavior delivers utility across the board, but it’s not enough just to identify the problem. You need to work to correct it. To return to the baseball analogy, if a batter is having trouble hitting curveballs, working out that curve balls are their biggest problem isn’t the end of the story.
Now they need to go into the batting cage and practice hitting curveballs again and again until they improve.
You can’t raise competency – in either sales or in baseball – by carrying out an exercise just once. People tend to sell in the way they feel comfortable, and changing behavior requires a lot of practice and feedback. They need to repeat the experience many times so that they don’t just know what to do in theory when a curveball – or difficult lead – comes along, but they’re completely confident about it in practice.
In a small sales team, you could have sales managers practice role play scenarios with the seller who needs coaching. But that requires a lot of time, which sales managers don’t usually have to spare, and it’s not scalable for a larger team. Additionally, sales processes are a lot more complex than hitting curveballs, so it’s harder to create an effective “batting cage” that combines both the competency and the enterprise’s real solution information.
That’s where Jenny, Second Nature’s AI-driven sales coach, comes into play. Jenny is like the batting cage for sales teams. She offers the sales equivalent to curveballs again and again until the sales rep feels they have mastered the play. The simulation draws on AI to make it realistic and authentic, so that users can transfer their new competency to the real world, and it’s scalable to large teams.
3. Measure the results
The final step is to close the feedback loop by using the same data-driven management software to measure the results. Managers can use Atrium to analyze AI reports as well as execution in the field, and check that the coaching is having an effect on the seller’s results.
This adds up to a structured coaching program. It’s effective for broad sales coaching that aims to roll out new sales messaging or product information across an entire team, and it’s also applicable for personalized sales coaching that targets each sales employee’s specific proficiency gaps.
The power of automating sales coaching
Automating sales coaching through AI-automated data analysis and AI-driven simulations means that sales managers can achieve more tasks than would previously have been impossible due to a lack of time and human resources. By making sales coaching performance data accessible to sales managers, enabling personalized and repetitive coaching, and closing the feedback loop again with data, AI tools help sales managers to help more of their sales teams achieve their true potential.
To learn more about how Second Nature’s AI and Atrium can help you to ramp up the impact of your sales coaching, watch this Sales Coaching webinar, Turning Data into Dollars.