We often hear about how sales teams are among the lifelines of scaleups.
They are an essential team — but you’d be surprised to know that 45% of salespeople feel like they’re not being mentored enough, especially as the world got disrupted by remote work.
For this year’s Ascent Conference, we brought together Bocar Dia, sales coach at the Harvard Business School and Chad O’Connor, VP of sales at Outreach, for a fireside chat on sales coaching strategies; ramping up new sales reps faster; and giving equal coaching opportunities to reps despite operating remotely.
Changing the Sales Coaching Dynamic
In coaching sales teams, one thing continues to be the biggest challenge in succeeding with it: time.
With sales staff openings at an all-time high, providing timely, insightful coaching to employees both new and old has never been more important. One could easily see why — with the growing pressure to deliver a superb customer experience, and as reps are required to develop more skills to successfully sell remotely, sales managers definitely can’t have all the time in the world for coaching.
The Big Question: How Can Sales Performance Be Maintained During These Times?
Organizations must now find fast, innovative ways to coach sales reps without compromising the value of the coaching. Chad cited as an example the coaching strategies they’ve applied for coaching Outreach’s sales teams that have so far been effective. “First, we slowed down the level of information in our onboarding process,” says Chad. “We made it into bite-sized chunks weekly.” This boosted information recall among Chad’s team and they started to deliver better results.
Aside from synthesizing information, Chad also shared how they created a “buddy system” to help connect team members despite virtual boundaries. He explains, “It’s a sounding board for you to feel comfortable to ask questions.” He also emphasized the idea that people learn at different levels and paces, so it’s important that organizations take this into consideration.
The Important Role Managers Play in Coaching
As top-line leaders, managers play a crucial role in enabling your sales teams and boosting their performance. As Bocar said in the session, “I think of onboarding as not stopping until the person is consistently hitting targets.” Leaders are the ones at the helm not only for reaching these targets, but also in ensuring that sales reps are equipped with everything they need to facilitate growth.
This means that sales managers must steer clear of reactive coaching, and everyone should get equal opportunity for coaching. In the same report referenced above, 45.4% of respondents said that their managers base coaching opportunities by performance. These figures are illuminating, as they reiterate the importance of proactive coaching by anticipating the team needs, and offering help even without being asked.
Furthermore, Chad encourages sales managers to actually jump in and do one-on-one sessions with reps. “That way, there’s more due diligence and you get to look beyond the scores.” This is one effective way of addressing skills gaps in real time, versus merely grading the assessments — something that may cause reps to disengage.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to empowering managers to take charge in the coaching process using the best tools and techniques. Simply onboarding people isn’t enough — data-driven coaching is now the name of the game, and you’re setting your organization up for failure if you don’t commit to it.