Effectively coaching a sales organization empowers the team to collectively achieve goals and boost revenue. The proof is in the numbers — In CSO Insight’s 2019 Sales Enablement Report, actively coaching sales team showed a 21.3% increase in quota attainment and a 19% increase in win rates over the study’s average.
In order for sales team coaching to be successful across the entire organization, coaches need to understand the nuances and components that make up the different sales teams. Coaching a variety of reps requires in-depth knowledge of the position itself — including aspects like goals, challenges, and measurements of success for each role.
Basics for coaching all sales teams
Regardless of which sales team you lead, there are certain aspects of coaching that apply across the board. One of the first steps to coaching a team is understanding the term itself.
Coaching is not the same as training or managing — to coach a rep is to work on long-term improvement and growth.
Your role as a coach is heavily reliant on acting as an educator for your reps. Continuously assist them as they grow in their role. Educate them on how their position impacts the overall organization by reinforcing communication and teamwork across all departments.
Coaching specific sales teams
When it comes to coaching sales reps, it’s critical to fully understand their place in the sales ecosystem. Identify the skills, specifics, and materials needed to coach each type of rep.
Here is a breakdown of different sales roles and some coaching tips for each:
Sales Development Reps
Generally speaking, the beginning of the sales cycle starts with Sales Development Reps, or SDRs. These sales reps build a large amount of the potential pipeline for the rest of the sales team. Coaching SDRs involves setting them up for success before they even begin outreach and encouraging open and consistent communication.
How to coach SDRs
1. Proper preparation
SDRs are generally the first contact for a prospect, so creating a streamlined onboarding process is essential to their success in this role.
Make sure they do their research: industry, region, country, or specific outreach segment.
As a coach, help them by providing the right resources. You can also connect them with a mentor or more established sales rep to guide them through the prospecting process.
2. Nurture the SDR - AE relationship
SDRs typically work closely with Account Executives, so it’s imperative to nurture those relationships as a coach. If your teams are struggling due to a lack of communication, feedback, or transparency between the teams, implement a feedback loop or a consistent meeting structure. This ensures important information is getting passed between the SDR and their AE consistently.
SDR is a common entry-level position, so by encouraging communication (and normalizing asking for help), you are setting the stage for their future career and growth success.
3. Understanding their metrics
An SDR’s goals are based on communication quotas, building up the pipeline, and lead qualification. So, their success is typically measured by the number of calls and emails made, as well as the number of meetings scheduled. As a coach, it’s important to clarify the difference between the number of meetings versus their quality.
For example, if an SDR is performing well above their goal for calls/emails per week, but their conversion rates (calls to meeting ratio) are below target, have them take a step back and assess how they’re handling their outreach. Help them regain focus on the quality of their leads, rather than on the number of people contacted. These types of distinctions will help set them up for greater success in the long run.
Since their goals can often be high-reaching, coaching SDRs should include educating them on best practices for quality prospecting and outreach productivity.
Automation for coaching SDRs
Incorporate sales automation tools to streamline the prospecting and lead the enrichment process for a smoother transition. Automation can also help coaches through outreach analysis and AI-based feedback tools for continual performance improvement.
If your SDRs are struggling with the accuracy of lead data, utilize programs like Lusha which has a proven 81% accuracy rate for contact information. If your reps are having trouble enriching their leads, use programs like Zoominfo which includes access to information like company Org charts and role updates for real-time insights and sales intelligence.
Account Executives, or AEs, are responsible for closing their SDR’s leads, so they need to be coached to their specific individual selling styles. AES will have the most interaction with prospective clients, so working with them to improve their sales skills will be the main focus for coaches.
An AE’s success is measured by whether or not they hit their sales targets and are increasing revenue. They also strive to improve their individual win rates. AEs are often a focal point of your sales team, so it’s important to work with their selling expectations as well as their strengths and weaknesses.
How to coach AEs
1. Sales coaching models
Since coaching an AE relies heavily on the individual, it’s important to select a coaching model that will best fit with their personality and your management style.
If your AE has a specific goal they’d like to reach — closing a certain amount of sales in the quarter, for example — utilize the GROW coaching model and focus on the steps needed for them to achieve that particular goal.
2. Thoughtful compensation plans
The right compensation plan can motivate your AEs to work more efficiently towards their targets. It can also boost the performance of your reps since they will want to earn their commission.
For example, if you currently cap your commission, look at the data and see if there is a certain “drop-off” point in terms of sales wins. Oftentimes, reps can be less motivated to sell if they know there is a limited amount of commission they can earn per year.
3. Encourage teamwork
If the company has a specific revenue number they want the sales team to hit, implement a sales contest to increase your AE’s activity and give them an additional boost to work towards a collective goal.
Teamwork moves beyond just the AE team — since AEs work so closely with SDRs, implementing a mentorship program can be a great way to enhance those specific relationships.
Mike Carroll, the Head of Growth at Nutshell, suggests the same.
“Help create an atmosphere where your AEs are responsible for training and mentoring the SDRs in their pod. As a single team, they are responsible for driving revenue together, and that single measurement of success will incentivise their collaboration”.
Communication between AEs and any post-sale Account Managers or Customer Success Managers is also important.
Take a look at your client onboarding and post-sales data and see if there are any gaps between the Sales to Account Management handoff. If there appears to be lower client satisfaction during this process, establish a more structured and documented handoff system between the two teams to help improve the process.
4. Automation for coaching AEs
Sales automation tools come in handy with AEs too — using software to record sales calls, create centralized playbooks, or even practice pitching, will give you the tools for giving tangible coaching feedback.
AEs might be challenged by tough questions during their calls. As a coach, make sure to provide battle cards so reps are ready to handle any situation thrown at them. This will help AEs quickly answer any critical questions during a call.
To find areas to improve, make sure you can also shadow or record calls to analyze their performance at scale.
Sales Enablement Specialists
Sales Enablement Specialists are responsible for the optimization of information and resources to assist with the acceleration of sales through your pipeline. They also help to identify any problems or gaps within the sales cycle itself.
How to coach Sales Enablement Specialists
1. Encourage communication across teams
A common challenge for enablement specialists is communication across all of sales and marketing. Oftentimes, this can be exaggerated since they don’t necessarily have firsthand experience selling to prospects.
Let’s say your specialists are telling you that they don't have enough insight into the sales team, keeping them from creating more effective collateral. Start bringing them into your sales meetings, even if the topics discussed do not directly impact their day-to-day work. Giving them this candid insight into the common SDR and AE conversations (and challenges) will create more room for understanding between the teams.
2. Direct vs indirect success metrics
As a coach, it’s essential to understand that a sales enablement specialist’s success is typically measured by a combination of indirect and direct metrics. For example, let’s say one of your specialists is having better success with direct metrics like sales content usage, but the reps who are using their material have low conversation rates (an indirect metric for the specialist). As a coach, you’ll want to bring the focus back to the effectiveness of the content — encourage them to analyze additional data like views, downloads, and other engagement metrics for a better understanding of how their material is working for the reps.
3. Centralized content library
The main goal for enablement teams is increasing revenue through smarter and more effective marketing and sales collateral.
If your sales reps are struggling to find materials, resources, or collateral that helps make the selling process easier (and more successful), then create a centralized library where your enablement specialists can own all the available sales content. This autonomy over a central hub of information will encourage more communication and teamwork between the enablement, sales, and marketing teams.
Resources like training materials, case studies, and ebooks are critical for enablement specialists to adequately assist sales teams, so making them easy to access for all reps (remote and local) is the best way to guide the enablement team towards greater success.
4. Automation for coaching Sales Enablement Specialists
Many sales automation tools are specifically geared towards sales enablement and utilizing market intelligence to encourage more effective selling. Invest in measurement tools where content engagement and customer intelligence can be quantified to enhance your enablement team’s effectiveness.
For example, if your specialists do not have a clear picture of how customers move through your sales cycle, try documenting the process in a more effective manner. By optimizing your CRM documentation for transparency, they’ll have access to a full overview of customer engagement and conversation history. This gives them more insight into what resources are the most useful or necessary for your reps.
Helping each sales team grow
SDRs are oftentimes on an Account Executive trajectory, so part of being a successful coach includes preparing them for that future role. Implementing a program that allows SDRs to shadow AEs throughout a sales cycle is a great way to help them learn how to have effective customer conversations.
When it comes to helping AEs grow in their role, there is a multitude of growth options available. Encourage additional training, workshops, or regular peer feedback sessions for consistent opportunities to become better sellers.
For Sales Enablement Specialists, find ways to enhance their relationships with the customer-facing sales reps by creating team-building offsites or monthly informational happy hours. These are chances for both teams to understand each other’s challenges and learn from one another. Investing in their understanding of other teams will not only help your sales process run smoother but will also give these teams a stronger sense of how they can perform better within their specific roles.
Set aside a certain amount of your yearly budget for continual employee education. To help your reps improve their skills and grow in their respective roles encourage them to:
- Attend conferences
- Take online courses
- Buy reading materials
- Join networking groups
For more coaching tips, be sure to check out our article by our VP of Sales on World Class Coaching!