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A Sales Coach’s Tactical Guide on Setting the Right Goals for Sales Reps
Part 4 of this sales coaching series focuses on the right coaching goals for sales reps.
Most Managers Believe Sales Coaching is a Beat-Down
Last week I had the opportunity to catch up with a friend who has had a great sales career. We hadn’t spoken for a couple of years and he was sharing his latest sales gig with me.
I shared how Xvoyant has helped thousands of reps transform and that we did it without ever talking to a salesperson. We provide technology that helps a leader create 1:1s that count.
His response to me was really surprising. He said: “That sounds like exactly the kind of thing I hope my company never buys.”
When I asked him why he told me “Our 1:1s are about getting beaten up with data. When I find a sales position a key consideration for me is how much will they let me do my thing. I don’t want any micromanagement.”
As we discussed the 1:1 impact he found that 1:1s had zero impact. He didn’t find that his leaders helped him improve or discuss things that he might do differently. The conversations were around stack rankings and gaps and not sales performance coaching.
Sales Coaching: What Salespeople Say Versus Managers/Leaders
Recent research shows:
74% of salespeople say they receive no coaching at all and only 8% say that the coaching they receive is awesome.
78% of the leaders of these same salespeople claim they are “high-performing” coaches.
Talk about a misunderstanding!
Here’s why the perspective matters. When salespeople say they are receiving great coaching, 86% of the time they hit sales goals.
How do you move past a perspective of being micromanaged and into a place where the 1:1 conversation creates inspiration?
Don’t Mistake A Conversation For Sales Coaching Commitment
A common sales coaching mistake is to confuse conversations for coaching. This is best understood when considering a common mistake many salespeople make.
You’ve met the salesperson that’s great at creating conversations with prospects. Their prospects will take a call, go to an event, schedule a meeting, and say all kinds of positive things about the rep and their offering. They do just about everything except buying from the rep.
All the conversations have led to great internal relationships but have never translated to a profitable professional relationship. They don’t create customers, they create what I call “professional friends.”
This comes when salespeople don’t help their prospects make and keep commitments.
Coaching is very similar.
Too many leaders confuse conversations with coaching. However, if a 1:1 conversation doesn’t include a commitment, the leader isn’t helping the rep intentionally improve.
How to Make Your 1:1s Count
As the emphasis on sales coaching continues to grow, there are many different definitions of what coaching really is. Tools designed to record calls, provide video practice, or manage activities all provide value in different ways.
Most “coaching” tools help prioritize areas to improve or help practice a specific skill, and they do a great job of this.
What these tools don’t do is create and manage commitments to intentionally change.
The 1:1 meeting between leader and sales rep is something most sales organizations try to do. Unfortunately, most of the time these meetings fail to drive intentional improvement and more often are simple “check-ins.”
Great reps have learned to stop counting sales calls and start making phone sales calls count.
Great leaders have moved past counting their 1:1s and have learned to make the 1:1 count.
1) Be Consistent with Your 1:1 Schedules
The first reason 1:1s fail is because leaders fail to hold them. If you’re not consistent in holding 1:1s a message of their importance is sent to the team that screams louder than anything else you might say.
The frequency of your 1:1s is dependent on things like:
The frequency of sales activities
In a transactional, high-velocity business, you may find that the reps do so many of the sales activities every day that, weekly 1:1s are valuable. In an enterprise, complex sales environment, those activities may happen less frequently and as a result, you may have 1:1s every 2 weeks or even monthly.
Coaching is about activities. As a result, the more often a rep does key activities, the more often you should be sure to have meaningful coaching 1:1s.
Length of sales cycle
A key reason to have 1:1s is to ensure short and long-term sales in predictable ways. The shorter the sales cycle, the more frequent your 1:1 cadence needs to be. Longer sales cycles can have more time in between 1:1s.
General sales momentum and trends
There will be times when the trend is not your friend. Positive trends should not result in less frequent 1:1s. However, negative trends can create a need for more frequent 1:1s.
A good rule of thumb is to not have 1:1s more frequently than weekly and no less than monthly.
Consistency is more than just the frequency. Consistency also includes the consistency of agenda. Salespeople should never be taken by surprise in a 1:1.
The agenda, data points, and accountability elements should be well-known. This allows a rep to self-assess and be prepared to have a forward-looking strategic planning session rather than a rear-looking play-by-play of the last couple of weeks.
2) Make Your 1:1s About “What’s Next”
At least 90% of a 1:1 should be about the future. At most only 10% of the session should be about the past. Coaching is about commitment to change. If the conversation isn’t about the future, change is unlikely to happen.
There are three forward-looking topics that should be part of each 1:1:
How to win deals in the existing pipeline
The first item on the “What’s next” part of the 1:1 agenda is to help win deals in the existing sales pipeline.
The first way you can make your 1:1s meaningful to your reps is helping them win more business. Opportunity-coaching is a fast way to increase win rates and improve sales cycle time.
To do this effectively, your sales process should include more than just sales stages and key sales activities.
You can measure the success of a sales activity if it created a well-defined customer verified outcome. For example, a prospecting call or email is designed to create a meeting. A demo is designed to lead to a defined next step.
Most sales organizations would benefit from adding clarity to the customer verifiers at each stage. The easiest way to help win what’s winnable is to evaluate the evidence (or lack of) specific customer verifiers.
In a recent webinar with Jim Dickie, Jim described the verifier concept as a toll required to move through a toll booth. As you come to a sales stage, the customer pays the toll with their verifier.
Verifiers are physical evidence that the customer has engaged in the sales process in a measurable way. Understanding these makes it very easy for your 1:1s to have powerful deal reviews.
Achieving pipeline balance
After a review of key deals in the short-term pipeline, smart leaders work to achieve balance in the middle and longer term pipelines.
As I speak with sales leaders about their pipeline coverage requirements, it isn’t unusual for them to have a spreadsheet showing a required coverage of something like a 3-4x quota to pipeline.
The challenge with this is it’s based on averages rather than being tailored for the rep.
It means it’s right for 1/3 of the reps, too much for 1/3 of the reps, and not enough for a final 1/3 of the reps.
To be valuable in the 1:1, calculate what the individual coverage requirement is. Help them see into the future to see where their pipeline gaps exist.
Understanding performance aspirations
The final piece of the forward-looking conversation is a review of the reps definition of what “winning” is. In part 3 of this series, we shared a blueprint on how to connect with the rep’s definition of what winning looks like. Use this time to use the approach described to dollarize what the aspirational performance is worth to them.
This creates a powerful opportunity to set goals around increasing opportunities, growing revenue per customer, improving win rate, and driving cycle time.
3) Build Your Skill-to-Success Model
In your 1:1s, you’ll come to a point were the rep decides if he or she will change:
- Will you commit to the activity that creates the verifier?
- Do you commit to the activity that fills a specific pipeline gap?
- Are you focused on aspirational performance or developing a skill that allows you to achieve this level?
This is where you set coaching goals.
A coaching goal is a goal where a rep commits to change an activity level or develop a new skill.
Coaching goals are not dependent on a customer saying “yes.” Those are sales goals. The only person that needs to say “yes” to a coaching goal is the rep.
In order for this to work at scale, an organization must have a clearly defined “Skill-to-Success” model.
Components of the Skill-to-Success Model
Every sales organization must define the skills and activities required to achieve success as a member of the sales team.
The Skill-to-Success model is based on this framework:
- Outcomes (sales) are driven by sales stages.
- Sales stages are a unique set of experiences each sales rep needs to engineer.
- Activities are high-value actions a salesperson conducts in order to help a customer engage at each stage. The success of an activity is determined by the sales skills of the salesperson.
- Sales skills are required for activities to create predictable success. Skills are developed with each rep through resources a company provides.
- Resources are what sales enablement teams provide to help reps create the skills and experiences that are required to be successful in the organization they represent.
The better you understand the activities, skills, and resources to move from stage to stage, the more predictable your outcomes become.
This provides a simple way to ensure 100% of coaching goals are relevant for each rep:
- To move a “must win” deal to the next stage, set a goal to conduct a specific activity tied to a verifier.
- When you need to build more pipeline in the quarterly pipe, set a goal around increasing the activities that lead to new opportunity starts.
- For better conversion rates to reach an aspirational goal, set a goal around developing the skill tied to the activity.
This format ensures you will never have “rogue goals” where leaders ask reps to do something that doesn’t fuel the skill to success model.
Stay in the Inspiration Business: Read the Full Coaching Series
Customers don’t buy from your reps unless there is a clear reason for them to change. The better you dollarize the reason to change the more likely the change happens.
Your reps don’t buy your coaching unless there is a clear reason for them to change. Dollarizing the value of even the smallest change is the easiest way to engineer moments of commitment.
As a leader, you’re selling change. Intentional improvement requires intentional change.
Don’t beat people up with data and leave them to figure out what they need to do differently in order to win.
Remember: Transformational results require transformational activities. Great leaders inspire transformational activities and their reps willingly give them.
Providing insight and creating moments where they commit to doing something they want will keep you a strategic part of how they do what they joined your team for in the first place: win.
Other Guides in the “How To Approach Sales Coaching Like a Pro” Series
This is part 4 of a 5-part series on sales coaching models. Don’t miss the other guides in the series:
- Developing the Right Coaching Mindset
- Using Data Like A Pro
- Being a Sales Performance Coach
- Why Follow-Ups Matter in Sales Coaching
Simply click the links above or visit xvoyant.com/coaching-guides/
Also published on Medium.