From sales gamification to negative “thought zapping” with a rubber band to decrease the cold-call jitters, I’ve heard my share. And yet time and time again, when colleagues ask me what makes a good sales coach, I come back to five core traits. Not one of them is gimmick-based or superlative-rich. Rather, they are founded in time-tested strategies that leverage human nature’s drive to self-improve and close the deal. Here’s the down-low:
1. FOLLOW THE LEADER
There’s no doubt that winning sales coaches are also inherently excellent leaders. In fact, in my opinion, strong leadership is one of the most crucial components in the development of successful sales teams. A skillful sales coach is able to create and share a vision with their sales team, then use unwavering guidance to lead reps to closed deals.
The proof is in the pudding: a report by Harvard Business Review showed that “69 percent of salespeople who exceeded their annual quota rated their sales manager as being excellent or above average,” and also that “56 percent of salespeople who rated their sales organization as excellent also rate their sales manager as excellent.”
My experiences – both as a sales manager and a rep being managed – have taught me that effective sales mentors possess both the skill and will to help their team adopt a vision, then keep them focused on achieving it. The result? Leading by example and excelling at your team’s day-to-day activities is a surefire way to create unconditional buy-in and support from your team. And remember, leadership is contagious. As John Wooden once said, “The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example.”
2. COACHING IS CRUCIAL
Did you know that a study by CEB (now Gartner) reported that companies that support coaching initiatives can improve their sales goals by as much as 19 percent? While this may be news to some in the executive suite, it’s certainly no surprise to anyone who’s ever sat in the bullpen with a call list.
The best sales coaches ensure that their hires learn to appropriately digest both positive and critical feedback. Training and development of new hires and more experienced sales professionals must be a constant and repeatable action that is executed daily.
Coaches can gauge their success by conducting role plays with reps, asking them what they thought of their own performance, and giving them constructive feedback. Grade your reps not just by how smoothly they conducted the role play, but also by how open they were to self-assessment, taking criticism, and applying feedback. You’ll learn that coaching is a critical component of a sales teams’ growth, and that it needs to be applied to all members of the team, regardless of experience and past success.
3. CAMPAIGN FOR TRANSPARENCY AND KPIs
David Baga, former Senior Sales director at Oracle and currently Chief Business Officer at Lyft, is clearly no slouch in inspiring teams to grow revenue. In an interview with Upshift, Baga touted “designing a transparent organization” as one of his foremost sales lessons. “Transparent means that your peers, manager – everyone – should know how you’re performing,” he said. “The best sales organizations should know each team member’s goals and their progress against them…Your work ethic should be on display.”
In my experience, top sales leaders create an environment based upon transparency, and oriented around key performance indicators (KPI’s). Why does this work like a charm? Well, ultimately, when you put competitive people in a transparent environment, it drives the growth curve in all important business metrics.
For best results, make sure to emphasize and celebrate desired outcomes; this helps prevent people from confusing activity with productivity. Leveraging innovative automated tools like Salesforce1, Geckoboard, and AppointmentPlus scheduling software (full disclosure, I’m the sales manager there) will allow you to identify and examine performance indicators and bring it back to the KPIs that directly move the needle in the right direction.
4. TOUT TIME MANAGEMENT
According to inbound marketing and sales software leader HubSpot, “the average salesperson spends more than half of his day engrossed in some form of communication or research, and less than half doing what his title implies…you know, selling.”
Here’s the skinny: top sales coaches not only have to make time for their team members, they also have to coach their reps on how to be their most productive selves. How does a sales leader find time in the day to do this, without taking reps away from closing deals? A scheduling tool like AppointmentPlus will give you access to each of your hires’ calendars to find times in any given day that works for them without keeping them away from a money-making opportunity. AppointmentPlus also allows you to keep a structured approach to coaching day in and day out, and enables you to identify and prioritize the most important sales activities.
5. PUSH DATA-DRIVEN PERFORMANCE
Stephan Blendstrup, former Senior Director of GTM Strategy at Zendesk, once said of the company, “We don’t make any decisions without data…The number one thing I want to know is why aren’t my leads converting into sales?”
If only more leaders would promote a data-driven mindset and provide access to the right tools to uncover the right data, the world of sales would be a much happier place. It’s easier than ever today by embracing automated tools, which give you all the ammunition you need to make metric-based decisions.
As the old adage goes, the numbers don’t lie. Making decisions based off of data rather than gut feelings or assumptions is an essential characteristic of an effective leader. The data will uncover each reps’ strengths, weaknesses, and greatest areas for improvement. And offering transparency into revenue closed, average deal size, close rate, pitch rate, and historical numbers from previous months will not only drive competition among reps, it will draw the curtain for your entire organization on your “method behind the madness.”