Regardless of who you are in the world of sales, sales coaching is something that you probably think of as a problem. For most sales managers, coaching is effectively telling your team members how to close deals faster. From the standpoint of a salesperson, it’s about being told what to do to close a deal faster or being asked for a more accurate forecast. From the perspective of Sales Enablement and Sales Training, it’s about educating salespeople and managers so that they can close more deals faster. If you’re in Marketing, it’s about salespeople delivering the right messages to customers to close deals faster. C-level executives seldom consider coaching, so long as results are produced.
In theory, with all the emphasis on closing more deals faster, shouldn’t sales results improve? And yet, year after year, analysts report that a significant percentage of salespeople fail to make quota. In fact, between 40% to 60% of sellers don’t make their number. This is often chalked up to quota over-assignment or sales teams being carried by a few top performers. Given the scale of this problem, why isn’t coaching directed to ensure more salespeople improve?
As many sales training firms point out, coaching in sales should be more like coaching in sports. Athletes rely on coaches to educate them and to provide feedback about their execution, so they perform at peak levels. Emphasis is placed on continual improvement. You never hear athletes, or their coaches say that they’re “done” improving. Quite the opposite. Athletes talk about continuing to improve, getting better, doing more. Taking the analogy one step further, there is always only one ultimate winner in most sports, and the same is true in sales. Only one salesperson will win the competition for a given deal.
However, where there is considerable review, analysis and introspection put into why a team won or lost in a given sport (which is conducted by the team’s coaches), such reviews don’t have the same value or impact in sales. The focus just becomes closing the next deal, because in sales the “win” is making the Number.
While there is intense focus on winning opportunities, there is minimal focus on how a seller got there. Reps that fail to make quota are seldom helped to improve. Reps that are top performers are accepted for what they are because they don’t need to improve. In either case, there is little to no guidance about how to do better. In our view, this is a significant lost opportunity for most sales teams.
What would it take for managers to start coaching? The biggest complaint lodged against coaching is that it takes too much time away from closing business. For coaching to take place, managers would have to help their team members without leaving the flow of effort to close deals. They must be able to improve each team member without taking time away from normal sales activities. In other words, coaching and winning deals must become the same activity. This is the only way coaching could become attractive to managers, who must make their number to be considered successful in their role.
Developing a Sales Coaching Framework
The big issue facing managers is how to get the necessary information and how to acquire insights to coach without compromising their time and effort to win more deals. The primary barrier to accomplishing this is that managers consider coaching to be an analytical activity where they have to take time to figure out what a seller is doing and why they are doing it. The focus is on analyzing data and figuring out the root causes that point to why a rep is not closing more business. Managers don’t believe they can afford to take the time to perform this analysis, meet with each team member and then follow up on specific tasks or behaviors they believe must change. That is too much work.
This is where a Sales Coaching Framework comes in. What closing deals and improving selling have in common is that the source of both is the Sales Process. The business’ Sales Process should be the best practices path sellers must execute to effectively produce revenue. Built into the Sales Process are the metrics, behaviors and skills needed for a seller to become as productive as possible.
The Sales Process should be designed to help managers determine that reps are effectively managing their deals. Managers must be able to incorporate critical assessment, knowledge and decision making skills without sacrificing opportunity velocity. A Sales Coaching Framework provides managers with the necessary tools both to assess performance and help reps close more business at the same time. By having the necessary information to coach at their fingertips, managers can provide feedback based on an understanding of the root causes that are driving each seller’s opportunities. Simply put, better Sales Process execution means more deals will be closed.
All managers focus on the pipeline and its characteristic “shape” to understand how reps are either moving deals forward or stalling. Knowing which stages create friction makes it easier for a manager to decide what activities or skills are root causes of a bottleneck or what skill or execution issues are preventing opportunities from closing. Other tech tools may provide insights to a specific skill execution (Gong conversations) or metrics (Tableau analytics), but the critical decision a manager must make is, “what needs to change now to improve the rep’s execution, and what do they need to do to close more business?” Managers can then use deals already in the pipeline to show the rep how they can overcome issues preventing them from closing more business.
A Sales Coaching Framework uses the concept of Sales Alignment as a way to frame the issue within the sales process so that managers instantly know what metrics and skills would drive immediate improvement once a selling issue is identified.
Funnelocity® Sales Coaching Framework
The Funnelocity® Sales Coaching Framework provides a simple analytical toolset that helps managers stay in the flow of the sales process, focusing on closing business instead of fishing for why a rep is not performing. The Funnelocity® Sales Coaching framework saves extensive time and effort by pointing to specific actions (including enablement/training) that are required based on manager observation of seller interactions and other aspects of opportunities in their pipeline.
The Funnelocity® Sales Coaching Framework is an automated process used by managers to diagnose and evaluate the performance of their sales team members quickly and easily based on their existing pipeline. Having the Funnelocity® Sales Coaching framework allows each manager to make judgements about how a rep is performing and focus on operational changes to permit the rep to close more business without ever leaving the flow of opportunities that need to be closed in a given quarter or year.
The process consists of five key steps, all of which are designed to eliminate time and effort needed to analyze a rep’s performance:
Sales Process Pipeline Evaluation
A sales process pipeline evaluation identifies where each rep’s opportunities are bottlenecking and how long they have stayed in each sales stage. Used to diagnose how a rep is executing the sales process and to identify which metrics and skills are aligned to improvement areas. The Funnelocity® Sales Pipeline Dashboard reviews the counts and amounts of opportunities found in each sales stage and an aging analysis shows counts and amounts of opportunities by aging periods.
Once the key problem sales stage(s) are identified, leading indicators and/or results metrics aligned to the business’ Sales Process validate the pipeline analysis to display all significant metric gaps of actual performance to goals, and to indicate which metrics will be the focus for improving and winning key pipeline opportunities.
Current and previous Managers Skills evaluations for each rep are used to determine if Skills scores aligned with the selected problem sales stage(s) are consistent with metric and pipeline assessments. The manager decides which of the rep’s skills require further updating and/or coaching.
Based on the above steps specific Action Plans are created for underperforming reps based on the opportunities identified that require closing or specific actions that will improve the rep’s overall performance on all opportunities. Action Plans help the manager and rep focus on one specific area of improvement at a time. This is an incremental approach where the Action Plans add up to a complete plan of performance improvement for the rep. More important, Action Plans are tied to closing deals that must be won to help the rep meet their quota goals.
Monitoring & Trending
Using the Trending Dashboards to monitor increases and/or decreases in performance over time for proposed Action Plans, managers review the metrics and skills to identify improvements where the rep has closed key opportunities or requires further support. Managers can easily compare multiple reps for a specific metric or skill or look at multiple metrics or skills together for a given rep to get a better handle on how deals are being addressed.
The Funnelocity® Sales Coaching Framework makes it easy to identify the root causes of sale execution problems for critical opportunities due to the alignment of your sales process with metrics and skills that are contributing to wins or losses. Action plans document the specific plans required to make improvements and close deals. Monitoring tools permit simple analysis of performance over time to ensure the underlying causes are addressed and deals are closed.
All of the metrics and analytic data are built into Funnelocity®, which is installed into your Salesforce instance. Managers now have a way to improve performance while managing the pipeline and avoiding wasted time and effort. Team members improve their ability to grow revenue and improve selling skills while closing more deals.