Enabling your enablers

Kevin Beales offers 5 tips for managers to improve sales coaching

Great sales reps aren’t born. They’re made. Even the best reps need training and reinforcement to effectively convey value and successfully navigate buyer interactions. For reps to build up their selling skills and gain the insights they need, they require ongoing coaching from sales managers. Unfortunately, hybrid work has made it even more difficult for reps to get the coaching they need.

Sales coaching in the virtual selling era

The move to hybrid work forced sales organisations to adapt and adjust their processes for virtual selling environments. But while some areas benefitted from the transition, others faltered, including coaching. According to Salesforce research, 62% of salespeople report they had not received training on virtual sales over the course of the past year – a reflection of the fact that just 32% of salespeople rate their company’s training and coaching as excellent.

There are a few reasons for this. For one, hybrid work enabled sales reps to work from anywhere. But sales managers must now account for dispersed teams’ varying schedules and time zones. Coaching reps becomes much more difficult when sales managers must coordinate meetings that work for salespeople in multiple locations.

Virtual selling is here to stay, and it requires a new set of skills. Teams need sales coaching now more than ever 

Another challenge is reduced visibility into seller activity. According to recent research, 76% of sales leaders say that not being physically present with their team has made it harder to observe and coach. For instance, when reps conducted their selling from the office, managers could attend sales meetings or listen to their reps’ calls and offer feedback on improving their approach. With many sellers now working from home, managers don’t have as easy access to hear those sales conversations unless they’re using a conversation intelligence tool.

Virtual selling is here to stay, and it requires a new set of skills. Teams need sales coaching now more than ever – especially with only 23% of B2B sales reps believing they are as effective selling virtually as they are in person, according to Gartner. Managers must find ways to overcome the hybrid coaching gap to train their teams to be productive in the virtual selling era. 

5 tips to improve sales coaching

1. Incorporate asynchronous video
Giving each rep the attention required to improve their skills isn’t always feasible for sales managers in hybrid work environments. There isn’t enough time. One way they can get around that is by incorporating asynchronous video into coaching. 

With asynchronous video, managers can provide critical feedback to their teams on their own time. For instance, a seller can record themselves doing a practice selling session and show how they’d approach a call, share it with their manager for review, and then receive feedback on improvements. Sellers will get coaching before talking to a customer or prospect, while managers can coach when it’s convenient for them. 

2. Encourage reps to self-coach
While asynchronous video is a great tool, there may be times when a manager isn’t available to provide coaching. Encouraging reps to coach themselves allows them to take corrective action into their own hands. 

Reps can use video to record themselves giving presentations, demos, or pitches. They can then review their own game tape and self-identify where they need to improve, such as body language, demeanour when delivering messaging or tone of voice. They can continue recording videos until they’ve worked through their improvement areas.

3. Rethink coaching methodology
In the past, managers would meet with reps for a regularly scheduled coaching session, but hybrid work and asynchronous tools have disrupted traditional tactics and allowed reps and managers to have ongoing coaching conversations as well. This flexibility means managers can take a new approach for the new coaching normal. 

First, sales managers can now consider the right technique for each coaching interaction with sellers instead of a one-size fits all approach. Some exchanges may require them to give more directives or offer more coaching. Once that’s known, sales managers can identify ways to tell if their coaching was effective. One way is by watching reps’ recorded videos. Managers can study their conversations to see their coaching insights used in practice and determine whether they moved the needle for the prospect or customer. 

4. Leverage conversation intelligence
Sales calls (even practice calls) contain a wealth of information managers can use for coaching. Software such as conversation intelligence can help capture that data. 

Conversation intelligence – AI-powered technology that records, transcribes, and analyses sales calls to generate recommendations – is a powerful tool that helps managers coach at scale. For instance, conversation intelligence can help managers evaluate how reps deliver messaging and product information and identify content from sales calls that can be added to sales training programmes. Because it provides data-driven insights, managers know exactly where to focus their coaching efforts. 

5. Measure soft skills
Some skills are hard to measure, such as whether a sales rep can build rapport with buyers, present well on video, or handle difficult objections. One way managers can measure these soft skills is by preparing a scorecard. 

With a scorecard, managers can identify up to five areas they want to measure for each rep, such as whether their face-to-face selling ability translates to video calls. Then, they can review the rep’s recorded practice session and rate them using the scorecard. The scorecard can help managers keep track of the rep’s progress with each subsequently recorded video to see whether they’re improving or stuck in a particular area. Managers can then pinpoint where sellers need further coaching and focus on that. 

Sales coaching is crucial for reps to succeed, especially in the virtual selling era. Although coaching has become more complicated for sales managers, the transition to hybrid work doesn’t mean it’s impossible. By incorporating asynchronous video, encouraging self-guided coaching, rethinking coaching methodology, leveraging conversation intelligence, and measuring soft skills, managers can equip their sales reps to sell effectively, regardless of where they are.  

Kevin Beales is VP & GM at Allego

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