THE HUMAN FACTOR IN SALES COACHING

One-on-one Coaching pays for itself

You can't win every deal, but you can increase your efficiency and win rates.  Sales coaching is about increasing revenue and helping individuals achieve their potential.  Coaching focuses not on the volume of activities but the quality and impact of those activities.  A combination of training and coaching is the fastest way to increase your salespeople's productivity and revenue for your company.

There have been a lot of articles citing the ROI on coaching and the statistical benefits:

·      Coaching helps increase win-rates for forecasted deals by 27% (CSO Insights)

·      Coaching improves the performance of the middle 60% of a sales force (HBR)

·      Companies that provide quality coaching can reach 7% greater annual revenue growth

·      84% of sales training content is forgotten after 90 days

·      Less than 20 percent of the average manager's time is spent on proactive sales coaching (Global Inside Sales Association)

·      Sales Executive Council concluded the ROI from sales coaching could improve sales performance by 19% with focus and execution.

These statistics are all great points expounding the quantitative benefits of sales coaching.  In this article, I'd like to focus on the human side of increasing sales productivity.

Firstly, humans are complex, both customers and internal sales team members.  Magic formulas rarely work.  No one wants to be put into a box, or worse, treated as a generic robot.  Yet today, so many approaches do just that.  Coaching is about dealing with each individual uniquely, coaching their strengths and weaknesses.  The human touch can't be replaced in sales meetings.

A favorite quote illustrating this point:

"In early 2018, Bank of America [launched] its consumer-facing chatbot named Erica. Within months nearly one million customers were engaging with it. The most common use case? Asking to speak to a human."

- Excerpt from an article by Tara Panu, VP of Marketing, Movius

People really want to deal with other humans and be treated as individuals.  Coaching needs to focus on the human aspect of decisions to create the influence necessary to win.

Books and sales training are great learning opportunities, but they lack the personalized touch with the associated consequences of actions and decisions.  When one's success or performance is actively measured, people are very open to being helped with the best learning taking place in the field.

Secondly, no two companies make decisions the same way.  Salespeople have to navigate each opportunity uniquely and flexibly.  Companies are comprised of personal agendas, aspirations, hopes, biases, and the feelings of the people involved.  A salesperson needs to work with a variety of personalities to provide the human touch.  To be truly effective at selling, human psychology comes into play as well.

A large enterprise sale brings together all these human variables and adds the complexity of organizational behavior:  the competition between divisions for funds, the rivalries of the heads of each division, and the legacy of previous decisions.  To navigate these complexities require a vast host of skills.  An experienced sales coach can lend their many years of experience and pass on their expertise and wisdom at the point in time it's needed.

In real-time, a coach can help guide a salesperson through a complex sales cycle with suggestions, providing insights and perspective from their many years of experience.  A coach listens to a rep's customer conversations, brings more self-awareness to the situation and helps them make better choices in their sales campaign.

Here are some personal growth aspects that are very important but often ignored in articles on the value of coaching:

·      "Street cred" - Coaches who have faced the same challenges and obstacles provide the best insight and appreciation for the complexities and uphill battles a rep may be facing.  You want a coach who has a broad range of experience selling to customers rather than someone with a management or training background.  A coach with many years of dealing with a wide variety of sales situations can provide skills and wisdom from their own experiences.

·      Sales coaches deal with reps where they are at - address skill gaps where they exist and help fine-tune approaches and strategies.  Selling is all about working with people, and people resent being put into a box or being stereotyped.  We all want to be treated as unique and special individuals. A coach deals with the individual, their strengths and weaknesses avoiding formulaic approaches.  They personalize the coaching to improve and hone the skills of each person uniquely.

·      Everyone needs encouragement.  Coaching is inherently about encouraging and helping to motivate people.  In a sales career, there are wins and losses every day.  There are lots of highs and lows to the job.  Salespeople have a lot at stake with each deal.  Salespeople are not measured by steps in a process but by their successes, whether a deal gets closed or not.  Salespeople who don't close enough deals frequently lose their jobs.  The measurements they face are concrete.  The pressure to perform is always there, much like a professional athlete faces.  A good coach helps each rep keep an optimistic outlook by helping to navigate their job responsibilities.

·      The more emotionally engaged a person is in sales, the better they perform.  Most reps will not reveal to their manager or peers that they might be discouraged, frustrated, or overwhelmed.  A coach comes alongside an individual to encourage and motivate a rep to overcome their feelings and become more engaged.  Have they lost their excitement and drive to succeed?  Encouragement from an experienced person who has been there, done that, can make a huge difference

·      Perspective - experience allows one to "see the forest for the trees."  An experienced sales coach from the field has faced many challenges and draws on a lot of successes and failures, garnering wisdom that they can pass along.

·      Non-threatening, non-managerial role - eliminate the threatening nature of a superior seen as potentially evaluating a rep.  Make the conversations more about improving an individual's skills and attitude.  This non-threatening role allows a coach to get to the heart of the matter more quickly.

·      Reduce the learning curve - Getting involved in a sales cycle with the rep, coaching the various steps, and providing immediate feedback increases the speed that a sales rep becomes an "A" player.  

·      Coaching all aspects of the sales cycle - Managers often just get involved with accounts for executive calls and during the closing cycle (near the sale conclusion).  This is where most of the fun is and where the action is visible to all.  However, the highest coaching value is at the beginning and middle areas of a sales cycle.  These stages are where opportunities come to fruition and lead to results. This is also the area where most of the mistakes are made.  Skillfully developed sales opportunities are generally straightforward to close.  Coaches deal with all aspects of the sales cycle spending time with a rep to help them improve at each step along the way.

One-on-one coaching can make a massive difference in the success of a sales team and, ultimately, with a company.  Growing your people benefits everyone.  Many of the statistics shared earlier translate to increased revenue and profitability, but to get these types of results, it is essential to engage an individual with a wealth of sales experience and who has sold to a variety of types of customers over many years.  Experience counts!

Written By:
Randy Stackaruk