• Sales leaders frequently claim to be in favor of coaching but fail to foster a culture and create an infrastructure to support it
  • At SiriusDecisions 2017 Sales Leadership Exchange, Dana Therrien and Peter Zink revealed factors of a successful coaching program
  • Every great coaching program relies on an equally great coaching dashboard that shares relevant data proactively and intuitively

Sales leaders frequently claim to be in favor of coaching – but fail to foster a culture and create an infrastructure that support it. With sales voluntary turnover rates in 2016 at a five-year high, B2B organizations must get serious about implementing a best-in-class coaching program to retain the top sales performers they have invested so much time and money in recruiting, hiring and onboarding.

In last week’s session on sales coaching at the Sales Leadership Exchange in Scottsdale, SiriusDecisions analysts Dana Therrien and Peter Zink revealed that 22 percent of high performers admit they’ve never had any type of formal coaching sessions. This may be because sales operations and sales enablement functions struggle to define a coaching process that consistently provides easily accessible and relevant coaching data.

“Employees expect coaching,” said Dana. “One of the main reasons why people leave their jobs is management. Managing voluntary turnover and attracting top talent requires sales leaders to invest personally in their teams’ learning and development.”

Organizations that may be unsure of their budget for this investment must look at the costs of unwanted voluntary turnover that hide in the form of uncovered sales territories and lost sales productivity, then combine those costs with explicit training and recruiting costs to calculate total turnover costs. The staggering result should more than justify an investment in coaching high performers.

But what makes a great coaching program? “Successful sales coaching is not a singular process,” Peter advised. “It requires the right programmatic elements to be in place.” He then detailed the four factors critical to a successful program:

  • Culture. Sales leaders must understand that coaching is not telling – it requires listening and self-discovery for all involved. Coaching should be present at every stage of the sales cycle and tied to career development.
  • Insights. Establish a regular observation cadence of actions and clear connections between actions and performance. Dashboard metrics should reflect performance in relation to the team, role expectations and tenure.
  • Process/tools. Institute a manager/rep conversation cadence to provide opportunities for coaching. Utilize technology to deliver just-in-time coaching in the field, and record counseling and coaching – ensuring its accessibility – to assess change over time.
  • Actions. Sort followup actions into immediate, medium-term and long-term goals, and secure commitment from the rep and the coach. Incorporate patterns of similar actions into ongoing training.

Creating a Coaching Dashboard

Dana and Peter focused on the principle that effective coaching depends on accurate data about how each sales rep being coached is actually performing. In fact, every great coaching program relies on an equally great coaching dashboard that shares relevant data proactively and intuitively, ensuring less time wasted and less sales manager frustration.

“Sales operations and sales enablement must work together to create data-driven dashboards that provide a full view of individuals’ sales performance,” said Dana. He recommended grouping data into categories of key performance indicators (KPIs), calculating the weighted average KPI scores for each category and then determining the overall score from the category score. He gave the following three categories as an example:

  • Sales activity. This category’s KPIs include the number of meetings, number of calls, number of sales generated leads and sales qualified lead response time.
  • Sales performance. KPIs for this category include bookings, revenue and win rate.
  • Certification. In this category, KPIs include product knowledge, presentation skills, account planning, negotiation skills and business acumen.

Dana then described how grouping individuals by cohort allows first-line managers to analyze and coach individuals according to similarity of tenure, role and organization assignment:

  • Tenure. Coaches should assess individuals of similar tenure (e.g. less than one year, one to three years, more than three years) with their peer group, sharing characteristics of successfully tenured personnel.
  • Role. Coaching actions by role cohort (e.g. business developer, sales engineer, first-line manager) include role certification and how individuals can progress in their career.
  • Organization. Coaching actions by organization assignment (e.g. North America, EMEA) include encouraging friendly competition within the organization and coaching individuals on best practices.

In closing, Peter advised sales operations leaders to work with sales leadership and enablement to develop coaching dashboards accessible to managers and reps, and sales enablement leaders to define and measure competency-based metrics to be included in the sales coaching program – and to ensure that field coaches and first-line sales managers receive training in how to coach.

“Most importantly,” Peter emphasized, “sales leaders must develop an organizational culture within the sales team that leads to a successful coaching program.”