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How To (Kindly, Gently) Shift To Data-Driven Sales Coaching

How To (Kindly, Gently) Shift To Data-Driven Sales Coaching

The rise of CRM in modern businesses mean sales managers have to think about the data-driven ways their reps need to work

There are numbers sales reps love to hear, and numbers they would probably rather ignore.

The numbers they love to hear, of course, are the ones that show they’ve crushed their quota for a particular week, month or quarter. Other numbers may be even more important, but require more analysis and a plan of action. These are the numbers based on the data you find in CRM tools like Sales Cloud, and unless they are a rep who is new to selling and has worked with such technologies from the beginning of their career, a different approach to sales coaching may be in order.

Great sales managers are constantly coaching, but some of what they touch on might be more intangible, subjective things like the tone of voice a rep uses on the phone or the way they make a pitch in the boardroom. Reps absolutely need feedback on those areas, but the rise of CRM in modern businesses mean sales managers have to think about the data-driven ways their reps need to work, too.

This can be a potentially off-putting conversation, for several reasons. Some reps might consider themselves less than technology-savvy and uneasy about working with CRM data. Others might think of sales success as being almost entirely dependent on their interpersonal or social skills, rather than the way they use Sales Cloud. And naturally, any sales coaching session can often be construed as a time to negatively criticize rather than educate and empower a rep.

Overcome these challenges and more by keeping the following in mind:

Introduce The Concept And The Process

Before you sit down in front a shared screen and dig into Sales Cloud, make sure the rep feels prepared for what’s coming.

If you already have a regular touchpoint meeting to review their performance individually, for example, finish up your regular session by explaining how you’ll be using CRM in the next session, and why it’s important. Stay positive and position the tool as an enabler for their future success, rather than something that’s designed to expose all the things they’re doing wrong. Encourage them to come forward with the data they think is most relevant, rather than having everything presented to them later.

You could also send an email that discusses the merits of using data-driven sales planning at a high level with the same prep tips, but try to make sure you have some kind of in-person conversation, even if it’s just in the hallway. That way you don’t have the rep festering and worrying — or complaining about it to their coworkers.

Choose One Metric That Works

As any sales coach knows, a rep’s performance issues tend to fall into three major categories:

  • Lack of productivity: While others are whipping through cold calls, sending one email after another and booking dozens or meetings, others seem to be lost in space.
  • Lack of conversions: Being busy doesn’t matter much if the rep doesn’t close enough deals. Buyers need to purchase something for the company to grow and the rep to prosper.
  • Lack of sufficient value: They’re closing deals, but those deals are too small to actually meet their quota. Or, the deals prove to be one-offs from customers who don’t come back. Or they simply aren’t able to increase the value of a customer through cross-selling or up-selling.

Hopefully you’re not trying to coach a rep who is struggling in all three of these areas, but there may be some overlap. Begin by looking at the one that appears to explain any gaps in terms of reaching their potential based on what you’ve seen or heard first-hand. Look within the CRM to find the numbers that bring out the proof points that validate your hypothesis. Do this before meeting with the rep and think about how it can be presented as less of a “gotcha” or bad report card but the starting point for a discussion.

Listen For Stories Behind The Data

Sales reps are used to dealing with harsh rejection and negative feedback, so they know they need to speak up about what’s been going on in their account base. A good sales coach will never be so data-driven that they ignore this part of the discussion, because it’s a critical step in making them see the connection between what the technology tells them and what they should be doing to overcome challenges.

If a rep says they make endless cold calls but never hear back, for example, show the CRM data from more productive reps that illustrate the power of nurturing leads with more personalized, relevant information versus a generic pitch.

For a productive rep that’s failing to convert enough leads, meanwhile, they may not be using the best mid-stage or late-stage marketing materials (or they’re simply not using any at all). A rep with a string of low-margin deals who’s not sure of how to build a richer clientele may need to shown how to boost their cross-sell and up-sell opportunities by identifying trends and patterns within similar kinds of customer accounts using the CRM.

Put The Sales Rep In Charge Of The Plan

Sales coaches should conclude any data-driven discussion by ensuring reps understand this is not a one-off thing but the beginning of a new, smarter way of working.

Using CRM and artificial intelligence tools like Salesforce Einstein, for instance, a sales manager and rep should begin to look at new goal-setting based on what’s likely to happen in their accounts, along with specific tactics to try as an experiment.

Then, reps should be tasked with running through the same kinds of numbers within the CRM and leading the next meeting, rather than the coach. This puts the coach where he or she belongs in the conversation — guiding and suggesting as appropriate but allowing the rep to take charge of their own destiny.

One final piece of advice: there is usually at least one rep on every sales team that’s more open to change and taking direction from their manager. Begin your shift to data-driven coaching with this person. If it goes well, make them the ambassador to others, conducting a lunch n’ learn or even making them a sort of internal case study to their peers. You never know — this might end up being the next rep who gets promoted to manager (and data-driven coach) in the future.

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