Written by: David Smith
Coaching is the #1 thing leaders do to drive performance within their teams. In fact, research from The Corporate Executive Board shows that sales reps who receive as little as three hours of coaching per month exceed quota by 7%, increasing revenue by 25% and average close rates by 70%.
The problem, however, lies in determining what makes for a good coaching program. To be sure, activity management and coaching are not the same. Coaching involves direct, specific, hands-on lessons and feedback that allow reps to understand their goals, progress, trends, and how to improve performance over time. Coaching should be based around metrics and measurement, not just a gut feeling.
Isn’t all coaching the same?
Studies from the Harvard Business Review show that “The real payoff from good coaching lies among the middle 60% — your core performers. For this group, the best-quality coaching can improve performance up to 19%.” What would it mean for your revenue if you could increase performance by 19% across your core performers?
There are a lot of skills that go into good coaching, but believe it or not, most of it revolves around asking the right questions… just like sales. Crazy, right? In order to coach, you need to figure out what drives your people; and in order to do that, you need to understand what, how and why.
- What motivates your people? What can you do to incentivize their performance both intrinsically and extrinsically?
- How do your reps learn best? Each person has a unique learning style and absorbs information in a different way. By understanding this and structuring your coaching around their learning styles, you can ensure that much more information is retained.
- Why do they work in sales and why do they get out of bed in the morning? Is it simply a 9-5 that puts food on the table for them, or can you connect purpose and meaning at a deeper level that allows them to feel like a valued, respected, and essential part of the team?
Enabling good coaching
Once you sort the motivational factors for your reps, you can get down to business constructing an effective sales coaching plan. An effective plan consists of the following steps:
- Define objectives: The first step in any coaching plan is to determine exactly what it is that you hope to achieve. Defining the right goals and strategies is crucial for success but not always easy to achieve. Try to eliminate any non-essentials and get right down to figuring out only the key impact drivers. Then, focus on these until activity increases to a sustainable level and begin to work backwards towards the finer points, if necessary.
- Set KPIs: Once the objectives are clear, you need to set clearly defined performance indicators or benchmarks around them that allow the salespeople to understand exactly how they are measured. These KPIs can be calls, emails, offers, meetings, sales, demos, and anything else that significantly impacts your bottom line. The key is to ensure that you are creating and using your own company-specific KPIs, not just using something that you think sounds cool. Be sure to keep the KPIs very simple and clear.
- Measure performance: understanding exactly what to measure, how, and why is a critical part of the coaching process. The more your reps know their behavior is being observed and measured, the more likely they will be to stay on task. Performance should be measured in real-time and should leverage metrics and data visualization.
- Provide feedback: Feedback is really the cornerstone of what coaching is all about… what trends have we seen, why are we getting this result, and how can we structure a program to improve performance on objectives? Feedback needs to be instant within the software system and regularly followed-up on by coaches and managers. Keep the sessions focused, specific, and short, allowing for absorption of new information. Most importantly, use the data to connect inputs to outcomes.
- Reward, recognize & motivate: A big part of coaching involves motivating key behaviors in order to continue driving activity and accelerating the sales development process. As with any goal, there needs to be some form of reward and recognition for completion. Otherwise, coaching just becomes another boring, monotonous task rather than an uplifting and motivating tool to boost skill development. Some sales leaders believe that bonuses and compensation are all that is required to motivate a sales force, but that isn’t true! People are motivated differently and in order to achieve maximum benefit from your coaching plan, you’ll need to understand the best way to reward, recognize and motivate learning and advancement.
Leveraging the power of gamification
Gamification plays a key role throughout this process, not just in the final rewards and recognition stage, but throughout the process of setting KPIs, measuring performance and providing feedback as well. It is part of the overall sales enablement stack that allows managers to track performance in real-time, visualize data on TVs (such as leaderboards, wall of fame, top lists and more), run sales contests and connect offices in order to help build a winning culture of performance and achievement.
Celebrating accomplishments together plays a huge role in building teamwork, cohesion and winning culture around an effective coaching strategy. However, in today’s hectic and fragmented workplace, the outdated motivational techniques such as sales bells and white boards just don’t drive results and they lose momentum throughout the coaching cycle. As a result, much of the momentum from your sales coaching programs goes wasted as people realize they’re no longer being measure or rewarded for completion of activities over time.
Instead, using a simple, effective gamification solution can greatly improve a manager’s ability to quickly define targets, visualize data, measure performance, run contests, recognize achievements and celebrate appropriately. Motivating people to achieve or surpass their goals is a huge part of an effective coaching framework. It should be quick, simple and effective.
Gamification provides a fun and easy way to manage sales activity before, during, and after coaching by keeping users constantly aware of their progress on goals and by celebrating key accomplishments, such as activities completed, offers sent, meetings booked or deals closed.
Gamification combined with an effective coaching program allows sales reps to understand their progress, see results in real-time and implement feedback with the right tools and with the right incentives. It’s an essential addition to any sales enablement stack.
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