Sales Performance Coaching Overview
Sales Performance Coaching is the most critical competitive skill that any sales organization can have. It is the most potent tool available for improving performance, maximizing productivity and achieving revenue growth.
The goal of coaching is to increase performance by helping us as leaders and managers maximize our organization’s resources — starting with individual contributors. The first objective is to help make the leap from boss or manager to coach, so that coaching becomes an integral part of how we lead. The broader objective is to help create a collaborative culture with the team and organization.
The model is developmental, which means that you work on one priority at a time. Not only does this achieve the best and fastest results, it is time efficient in that you can coach in 15 minutes or less.
The more effective collaborator and coach we become, the higher team and individual morale becomes and less directive we have to be in our behavior with our team and others.
Directing people in what to do rather than eliciting their perceptions and ideas can see more time-efficient, but it comes at a cost.
People who haven’t had to think through what is blocking the desired performance will turn to you as the answer source over and over. Without giving their input, they are much more likely to feel ownership and maintain a commitment to sustainably execute.
Individual Performance Coaching
Individual performance coaching is coaching by asking: Encouraging people to think through their obstacles, share their perceptions, figure out solutions.
Certainly, a leader’s input is needed and there is no substitute for being clear on your expectations. There may also be times when it is appropriate for a leader to be direct. However, if the goal is developmental, rather than evaluative, coaching with questions will produce results and strengthen relationships more effectively and efficiently than any directive you a leader can give.
As all leaders know, there are times when regardless of the amount of support you given, some individuals won’t make the grade. Once you’ve exhausted all avenues of development, as a you’ve exhausted all avenues of development, as a last effort to turn the situation around, switch your coaching persona from developmental to consequence. Consequence coaching addresses performance problems that have been ongoing.
The objective of Consequence Coaching is to spell out in no uncertain terms the standards that the individual must meet and what they will face if the fail to meet these standards. Consequence Coaching makes the shift to evaluation. At this point, the leader is no longer asking the individual for their perception because the leader has already heard the same response several times over.
Consequential Coaching is developmental in that the goal is to provide support to help the individual improve and succeed. It is evaluative in that it provides hard measurements and set standards and consequences if the metrics are not met.
Developmental Individual Coaching
The Development Individual Coaching model may seem a bit simplistic at first, but with experience managers will internalize the steps and principles to make it their own. At the end of the coaching session, the leader reinforces your support and confidence in the person being coached.The four steps of the model are:
What do you want to achieve?
Set the stage for the coaching conversation by stating the purpose of the session
Gain the coachee's perspective of the situation
Discuss perceptions of the person being coached as well as their needs, organizational goals and how the two come together.
Identify and remove
When both coach and player understand and agree on the obstacles impeding performance, they can begin to remove the barriers
Agree on actions and close
Recap agreed upon action items and time/date. Leader reinforces support and confidence in the person being coached.
Sales Call and Conversation Coaching
Preparing for a Customer-facing sales meeting or conversation gives us the chance to assess the individual’s or team’s preparation, make adjustments to increase the effectiveness of the meeting and agree on the area of development to focus on in the post-call debriefs.
Some leaders or managers “wing it” or limit their preparation to discussing the specifics of the call and taking a minute or two before going into the call. A leader’s expectations about preparation will set the standard for most of their team.
To help a team prepare for their calls, leaders should ask for their ideas and also share with them the leader’s own expectations for preparation.
During the Call/Conversation
The leader’s role is to support the team. Because of the natural tendency to defer to leadership, it’s important to make sure that the team or individuals lead the meeting or call and that the leader is not drawn into taking over the call.
Even when customers or prospects direct questions to leaders, the leader should tactfully redirect the question to our a team member.
Prospects and customers will observe how we the leader works with the team that must ultimately support the customer.
Playing ‘celebrity manager’, dominating the conversation and interacting with team members are viewed poorly by those the team is calling on. Furthermore, this may cause a loss of confidence in the team member’s credibility and create a dependence on a manager to ’own’ the relationship or opportunity. This creates dependence and fails to best leverage talent and resources.
After the Call/Conversation
Immediate, specific feedback is key to sales performance coaching. The leader should use the developmental coaching principles above and give the team specific examples of what the leader has just observed in the meeting or conversation. By providing constructive examples and modeling the behavior or conversation gives the team the leader’s best- practices insight as to not only what, but why and how to best perform in the future.
Keys to Sales Call/Conversation Coaching
Opportunity coaching is the discipline and process of assessing a pursuit team’s strategy and tactics across multiple stages of an opportunity. An important consideration in opportunity coaching is in coaching the deal and coaching the team in a logical, dispassionate way to as to help each individual learn and grow while ensuring their ability to win key opportunities. Key to opportunity coaching and mentoring is in coaching each stage to help the team understand decisions they have to make, what to do and why.
Reviewing the Opportunity Plan allows us the team to test our their plan in a safe environment, before exposing it to the customer. The Opportunity Coaching and Review Process is safe, encouraging all Team members to participate and contribute. The goal of the Review Process is to:
Increase the Win Probability
- Validate the team’s Strategy to Win (and why)
- Ensure the Action Plan supports the Strategy
- Identifies Barriers to Win and the activities to eliminate
- Refine both the coverage plan and value proposition
- Align key resources with key stakeholders
- Provide an objective view of Discovery findings
- Identify competitive advantages and traps
- Identify possible solutions
- Identify risks and creating mitigation strategies
Increase Team Collaboration
- Test the team’s critical thinking and analysis
- Encourage active listening and detailed note taking
- Keep the team focused and on track
- Encourage objectivity
- Eliminate assumptions and premature conclusions
- Allow the team to come to their own conclusions
Key Account Coaching
In today’s SaaS world, customer growth, expansion and retention is critical to enterprise value and long term success. Highly skilled, highly capable key account managers are essential for any organization seeking to transform to and achieve a highly successful Key Account Management culture.
TechCXO has found that KAM needs to be treated as a fundamentally different business approach rather than an adjunct to the existing model or extended training for salespeople. Organizations are realizing that having strong KAM competence and capabilities is an absolutely necessity to manage their most important and profitable customers. Increasing focus is being placed on finding those “critical few” that guarantee success.
Coaching Key Accounts and KAMs has three constituent parts:
- First, providing an understanding of what a Key Account strategy and plan that looks at what the key strategies and business outcomes the customer’s organization wants to achieve and how we the team will deliver the required capabilities.
- Second, a focused set of KAM plan standards, researching and analyzing existing business under contract, key relationships, existing and potential partnerships, business structure and budgeting/buying process, white space analysis to determine future potential and competitive threats, resource requirements and barriers/challenges.
- Third, a long-term team commitment to transformation change that comes with the recognition that KAM is a very different business model linking very strongly with the culture and leadership standard.
Coaching Key Account Manager (KAM) Traits, Knowledge & Skill Sets
Successful KAMs are well-organized, detail-oriented, inquisitive, and value self-improvement know their industry, products and services, features, advantages, and benefits, as well as competitors and their strengths and weaknesses.
Successful KAMs are good communicators, effective questioners, and purposeful listeners. They understand both the formal and informal decision-making processes. They have strong organizational skills, and they pay attention to detail, so they can follow up in order to solve problems and strengthen the relationship with the key account’s key personnel. Most-importantly, the KAM has keen instincts that connect the customer’s desired outcomes, strategies, and challenges to our desired outcomes, strategies, solutions, and culture.
Effective coaching provides a forum in which to leaders ask the right questions to raise key account managers’ performance levels and business objectives. Coaching Key Accounts and KAMs does two things:
- Provides the resources for the KAM to achieve their personal and team goals
- Coaching the KAM in pre-planned coaching sessions that result in improved or continued world-class performance.
Coaching KPIs and Metrics That Measure and Track KAM Success
Effective KAM performance KPIs include:
- Overall Sales Units Achieved
- Overall Sales Revenue
- Sales Units and Revenue per key account (KA)
- Key account results compared to non-key account results
- Profit by each KA
- KA satisfaction rating and retention
Coaching these KPIs keeps management, individual KAMs, and the key account management team focused on overall KAM performance, and provide practical reasons for further training and coaching. They These KPIs also demand that the resources are in place so the KAM can make best use of these KPIs to measure their own performance. The coach explores by asking how well the KAM is using these metrics to self-measure their own standards of performance.
Coaching Key Accounts and KAMs also enables and supports success by providing resources that enable the KAM and team to perform at their best including:
- Effective training programs, so they can continually improve knowledge and skills.
- Effective Voice of Customer (VoC) research, so KAMs know what the KA needs from the company, and from them as the KAM
- Frequent VoC surveys shared with the KAM team, so they can respond and act accordingly
- KAM team meetings to discuss their needs, problems, and successes. KAMs learn from each other, and management uses the meetings to decide how they can support, train, and coach appropriately.
Pipeline and Forecast Management Coaching
Pipeline management and forecasting are both important in predicting a company’s health, profitability and enterprise value. Many companies invest heavily in specialized technology and tools to manage these two activities. However, the true magnitude of the investment is only known when the time and energy expended by the sales force is also considered. Pipeline management and forecasting competencies might unknowingly be the biggest investment a sales force makes in improving its performance.
Pipeline management and forecasting are two different things. In order to enable the healthiest pipelines and most accurate forecast, it’s useful to pull the two apart and to take a unique approach to each.
The Sales Pipeline and Forecast Management Challenge
Ideally, pipeline management focuses on monitoring sales activities, identifying areas for coaching, and determining how to increase both the size of healthy, qualified pipeline and the sales win ratio. Typical business practice and process is to intermingle pipeline and forecast management. Weekly pipeline review sessions are frequently conducted to create an updated sales forecast. Not separating these efforts to build healthy pipelines and effective forecasts both confuses and sub-optimizes both.
Differentiating Forecasting and Pipeline Management
How do you separate forecasting and pipeline management activities? Examining the goals of each task and how to know when you’re achieving them will eliminate this confusion.
The two goals of pipeline management:
- Build a healthy pipeline and to win more deals
- Measured pipeline health across three key dimensions — size, shape, and contents
Deals are won through focused coaching on individual opportunities. Examining the overall health of the sales pipeline by coaching the team in how to best strategize and win deals.
The only goal of forecasting is to accurately predict future performance.
Three specific assumptions are informative:
- If – the likelihood of win the deal based on the level of commitment
- When – based on a collaborative close plan and sequence of events (SoE)
- How much – confirmed value, pricing and terms
Coaching pipeline and forecast management improve a sales manager’s ability to accurately diagnose sales pipeline issues, helps them target coaching to improve performance and support pipeline development and ability to:
- Increase deal velocity and the quality of the overall pipeline
- Link the stages of the sales process to customer verifiable outcomes, key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics
- Recognize indicators of pipeline “health” and challenges problems using KPIs and metrics
- Practice focusing on a pipeline issue using data, engaging in a productive coaching dialogue, and use the GROW performance coaching methodology to create an action plan
- Improve sales forecasting accuracy
- Identify critical areas for coaching and consulting to help sales professionals accelerate opportunities