Coaching for Success: How Top Sales Forces Grow Expertise
You already know you need to constantly revisit your sales goals, marketing messaging, and target markets. But have you examined your sales force training and coaching systems lately? Go-to-market strategies need to adapt to changing laws, tariffs, regulations, and economic factors. Even a coaching and training system you implemented successfully, say, three years ago could be failing to help your teams pivot and perform to the best of their ability.
Given that sales markets will always be moving targets to some degree, how can sales operations managers train their teams to achieve, adapt, and hit their marks?
Here are some tips for teaching and coaching sales teams to be as effective as possible.
1. Create and implement ongoing training to reinforce best practices with your teams. According to research by Xerox and ASTD, 87 percent of new skills are completely lost within a month of training. And 80 percent can be lost within a week if the skills aren’t used immediately.
Pretty sobering, right? All that important training down the drain. So how can your organization turn your training into tools that employees actually use and retain?
It’s critical to reinforce the skills learned in training straightaway. In fact, during the training session, it can be helpful to call out specific steps the employee will use within the first week or two of the job. That way, the employee will feel empowered to understand how the first few steps taken in this new job will lead to sales success.
It can be helpful to have a simple metric scorecard, that both a manager and salesperson can use. Not everything in building a sales relationship can be quantified, of course, but if your training lays out steps and benchmarks and goalposts for the team—which it should—then you can create a metric scorecard that salespeople can measure their performance against.
2. Assign a mentor or buddy. This has rarely been done in traditional sales because individual salespeople are often in competition—be it direct or implied—with each other. But as more millennials enter the workforce and sales forces, human-resource experts are finding that they respond well to “shadowing” a more experienced team member, who can show them how the process works, instead of merely telling them about it.
This relationship will of necessity be a temporary one, but if new salespeople can shadow a senior team member for, say, 30 or 45 days, they will see not only your company’s process and goals in action, but where they fit into your organization. They’ll also see that the company values them enough to share this important resource.
3. Build and share a clear roadmap for your company, department, and employees. Make sure this is shared early and often in your training. All the principles, processes, sales goals, and tools you share during training should map to business-critical components of this roadmap.
Be sure new employees can access this roadmap, as well as all the training materials, on your intranet, or on a preloaded USB stick that’s easy for them to navigate. All employees should have a clear—and inspired—picture of where the company is going, and how they can help the company there. With knowledge comes empowerment, and with empowerment comes investment.
4. Have your sales teams make friends with marketing, if they haven’t already. More and more companies are seeing sales growth simply by better integrating these formerly siloed groups. If your marketing department is creating high-value videos, case studies, and whitepapers, make sure your sales teams a) know about this valuable collateral and b) use it. Part of any successful training in this new landscape should include a chapter or two on your marketing group, as well as an overview of the content it’s produced, where the content lives, and how it can and should be used.
5. Consider incorporating gamification in your training. If you have a training app with leaderboards and achievement badges, you’ll get buy-in to your training concepts on a deeper level. First of all, salespeople tend to be competitive, so this will tap into that urge, and help drive home your training concepts in a fun, rewarding way. Second, this means learning will continue outside the training conference room, in a way that underscores the principles of your coaching.
6. Continue coaching your coaches. The sales landscape is always evolving — so should your training, and the ways your trainers and coaches teach. Have your sales coaches visit other departments, like customer service, fulfillment and project management to make sure the whole company is on board, but more importantly, to learn what other employees are learning on the ground. If there have been changes, these important teams are learning about the sales landscape, opportunities, challenges, and areas for growth, so make sure your coaches are closely tied to the front lines. Keep the training as fresh, relevant, and current as possible.
The good news is that effective sales coaching is achievable. Following these tips can help empower your employees to take the training and turn it into actionable, profitable results.