Using Data for Informed Sales Coaching: Metrics that Matter

No matter how skilled, experienced, or flat-out amazing a salesperson is, there’s always room for improvement. For perspective, studies have found that companies that invest in informed sales coaching see 8% more annual revenue, a 28% higher win rate, and 88% more productivity.

But how do you decide which specific areas of sales coaching to focus on?

For this post, I’d like to share the three core areas we base our evaluation process on for existing sales employees to facilitate optimal coaching and development programs.

3 Core Areas for Informed Sales Coaching

Let me start by saying there are a nearly endless number of factors that can impact a salesperson’s performance. Everything from product knowledge to negotiation skills to sales technology comprehension plays a role in a rep’s results.

But to streamline sales coaching, there are three core areas that we zero in on:

  • Will to Sell
  • Sales DNA
  • Tactical competencies

Will to Sell measures an individual’s sales-specific drive to succeed, Sales DNA measures the core underlying beliefs and actions that either support or limit sales success, and Tactical Competencies measure skills and abilities necessary throughout the sales lifecycle.”

Within each area are individual competencies that go more granular. With Will to Sell, for example, there’s desire, commitment, outlook, responsibility, and motivation. Here’s a full breakdown.

The key to truly understanding where a rep is currently at and how to deliver the best sales coaching starts with assessing each of these core areas and quantifying the results. In other words, it’s all about the data.

Once you’re armed with this information, you can customize your sales coaching accordingly to address their weaknesses and develop better overall habits.

With that said, let’s fully unpack the three core areas for informed sales coaching and look at how you can objectively analyze an existing rep’s performance.

Will to Sell

Having a strong Will to Sell is an essential precursor to success. You could argue that regardless of how knowledgeable and skilled a rep is, they likely won’t reach their full potential without the Will to Sell.

Again, measuring this involves analyzing five main competencies:

  • Desire
  • Commitment
  • Outlook
  • Responsibility
  • Motivation

Here’s an example of how these competencies can be objectively measured using an assessment like the Objective Management Group Sales Assessment.

In this example, a rep scored:

  • A score of 86 for desire
  • A 70 for commitment
  • A 75 for outlook
  • A 67 for responsibility
  • A 72 for motivation

By these numbers, the rep meets or exceeds their target for each competency. However, considering that the rep barely reached their target of 75 for outlook, that would be the primary area of focus for sales training.

This is only a mock example, of course, but it shows which specific competencies are most important with the Will to Sell and how you could use data to objectively assess those competencies.

Sales DNA

The next core competency is what we call Sales DNA, “which measures a salesperson’s beliefs and actions that support or limit success in sales. Salespeople are often unaware of how their biases can negatively impact their interactions with customers.”

Under the umbrella of Sales DNA are six core competencies:

  • Doesn’t need approval
  • Stays in the moment
  • Supportive beliefs
  • Supportive buy cycle
  • Comfortable discussing money
  • Handles rejection

Here’s an example of how these competencies could be evaluated objectively.

According to the results, this salesperson exceeds their target in all competencies. However, stays in the moment, supportive beliefs, and supportive buy cycle are just barely above target, indicating that these could potentially be areas of focus for informed sales coaching.

Tactical

The third and final area is Tactical, which includes several competencies, including:

  • Hunting
  • Reaching decision-makers
  • Relationship building
  • Consultative selling
  • Selling value
  • Qualifying
  • Presentation approach
  • Closing
  • Sales process
  • Sales technology

Here’s an example of how you could measure a salesperson’s Tactical competencies.

Among the first six competencies, hunting is the only one that’s below target. That means it would be a critical area of focus for sales training. Otherwise, everything looks quite good.

As for the other four remaining competencies, closing, sales process, and sales technology scores are all lower than they should be. Therefore, those would also be important points of emphasis.

Putting the Pieces Together

Now let’s zoom out and come up with a tailored approach for the mock salesperson from this example.

According to the results, a sales trainer would want to focus on the following:

  • Will to Sell – Outlook
  • Sales DNA – Stays in the moment, supportive beliefs, and supportive buy cycle
  • Tactical – Hunting, closing, sales process, and sales technology

Keep in mind that the competencies from Will to Sell and Sales DNA were all on target or better, which means they wouldn’t be top priority. The four Tactical competencies, however, were all below target, which means they should receive top priority.

From there, the sales coaching team could come up with an individualized game plan to improve these areas of weakness and get the rep to where they need to be. Again, this is an arbitrary example, but it clearly shows which specific competencies you should analyze and how objective data can be utilized to fully understand a rep’s current abilities and figure out the best approach for enhancing their performance.

Optimizing Your Talent with Informed Sales Coaching

Sales coaching should never take a one-size-fits-all approach. Every rep is different, with their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and each is at a different stage in their sales career.

That’s why you need to 1) identify core competencies to focus on and 2) objectively measure how a rep is currently performing in those areas. From there, you can tailor your sales coaching to laser focus on the areas that need the most improvement. Also, you’ll know where a rep is thriving so you can refine those areas even more to help them reach their absolute peak potential.

To learn more about the sales skills assessment featured above, check out the Objective Management Group Sales Assessment.

The Science of Persuasion: Training Sales Teams to Influence Buyers

When you break it all down, selling is simply explaining how your product solves a problem and persuading a lead to buy. Of course, there’s a lot that goes into that, but if your salespeople know how to effectively persuade leads, their jobs become much easier. And that’s what I’m going to tackle in this post — training sales teams on the science of persuasion.

Below are the best of the best strategies using proven psychology to win over more customers.

Seek to Form a Genuine Connection First

There’s a Harvard Business Review article that’s nearly 14 years old but offers timeless advice about the importance of salesperson-lead connections.

“The most product-knowledgeable salesperson is not necessarily the most persuasive one because it takes more than logic and reason to change buyers’ opinions. A personal connection must be forged.”

I think this hits the nail right on the head. A critical precursor to anything else is first establishing a solid connection. Otherwise, it’s going to be an uphill battle the rest of the way. If, however, legitimate rapport is made from the start, the rest will often fall into place.

It’s not rocket science. If the human element comes into play, it:

  • Makes leads open up to explain their needs and pain points so a rep can properly address them
  • Makes leads more open to a rep’s input
  • Lowers a lead’s resistance

So while salespeople obviously need to be knowledgeable, I can’t stress enough the importance of connection-building, and it should receive top priority in the psychology of persuasion.

Leverage Reciprocity

One of the leaders in exploring psychology within the context of sales and marketing is Robert Cialdini, who in 1984 published a book called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. One of Cialdini’s main principles in the book is reciprocity, meaning if you give a lead something unexpected, they will often feel inclined (consciously or unconsciously) to return the favor.

While the entirety behind this concept would take a long time to fully unpack, the gist is that there’s a natural tendency with human nature to repay someone. Otherwise, it creates what’s called an unequal exchange.

Say, for instance, when a salesperson reaches out to an early-stage lead, they provide them with free research report data and don’t ask for anything in return. This action would plant a seed and set the stage for reciprocity where the lead would likely feel compelled to return the favor.

While this doesn’t necessarily mean the favor will be buying, reciprocity taps into powerful human psychology that can be extremely potent for influencing buyers. Therefore, it’s something I strongly recommend training sales teams on.

Deepen Trust with Social Proof

“The principle of social proof states that people will look to the behaviors and actions of others to determine their own, especially when they are certain,” writes technology thought leader Rahul Vashneya. “This is extremely applicable to the buyer journey of your customers since at that particular stage, they’re looking out for social proof by all means to back up the decision they’re about to make.”

Say, for instance, a lead has moved through the awareness stage and is now in the consideration stage where they’re seriously thinking of buying your product.

This would be the perfect time for your rep to provide social proof and confirm that buying your product would, in fact, be a smart decision.

Here’s an example of how scheduling app Calendly uses social proof to win over more leads. First, they have concrete data that tangibly illustrates how effective using their app is.

Second, they reference leading organizations that use and love Calendly.

Third, they have multiple customer stories…

…as well as videos that give firsthand accounts of real customers using Calendly and how it’s been beneficial.

All a salesperson has to do is choose a relevant customer story to share with a lead in the consideration stage to reinforce Calendly’s value and help connect the dots of how it can help their company. As long as it’s the right social proof at the right time, this can have a profound impact, often raising the conversion rate substantially.

To quantify, one study found that social proof increased conversions by 15%.

Create a Sense of Urgency to Encourage Leads to Take Action

Let’s say that a rep has successfully moved a lead through the majority of the sales funnel. They’ve answered their core questions, addressed pain points, handled objections, and so on.

They’re now at the point where they can realistically close the deal. But how can they significantly increase the chances of a lead converting rather than taking more time to “think about it?”

One of the most effective strategies is creating a sense of urgency to motivate leads to go ahead and pull the trigger instead of mulling it over. A simple example would be offering a limited-time discount where a lead can save money by purchasing right away. However, you can use pretty much anything that provides added value and incentive.

Do this effectively, and you can leverage the powerful psychological concept of urgency that gets a greater number of leads to take action.

Just note that you don’t want to go overboard with it to the point that your reps become too pushy. When this happens, it may sour leads and do more harm than good. Creating a sense of urgency is a bit of an art, but when done right can have a huge impact.

Training Sales Teams with Proven Psychology

Regardless of what you’re selling or what industry you’re in, the same concepts of sales persuasion apply across the board. Properly training sales teams on techniques like connection-building, reciprocity, social proof, and sense of urgency should ensure they check all the right boxes as they attempt to move leads through the sales funnel.

That way, they can create a better customer experience end-to-end and should be able to ultimately close more deals.

Speaking of sales teams, if you’re looking to assemble a team of elite professionals, check out The OMG Sales Assessment. 92% of candidates recommended by this assessment go on to reach the top half of their sales force.

Investing in Salesperson Training Can Have Up to 353% ROI: Why it Pays to Develop Your Talent

In a previous post, I mentioned that it typically takes about 11 months for a new salesperson to become fully productive and around 15 months to become a top performer. That’s one of the main reasons why salesperson training is so important. It accelerates ramp time and helps reps reach their full potential more quickly and succeed in a competitive environment.

But this brings up a pressing question. What exactly is the ROI of salesperson training? And how much can you expect to get back for every $1 you invest?

That’s what I’ll discuss in this post.

Looking at 2020 Data

Let’s cut right to the chase. A 2020 study by Southern New Hampshire University found that salesperson training can have an ROI of up to 353%. And a separate 2020 study by the Sales Management Association found “teams that invest in sales training and development are 57% more effective than teams that don’t.”

That’s really impressive!

While this isn’t to say that every company will see results of this magnitude, as lower-performing teams only see an ROI of 4%, this shows the sky-high potential of properly investing in the development of your sales team.

To quantify even further, the monetary return for salesperson training is as much as $4.53 for every dollar invested. Again, this is on the high end of the spectrum, and you can’t automatically assume it will be this much for every company, but many businesses do see this amount of return, which is extremely promising.

Other Compelling Data

To add a bit more perspective to the picture, let me mention a few other statistics that illuminate things further.

Research by Clear Company found that “68% of salespeople say training and development is the most important workplace policy. Although numerous factors contribute to the success of salespeople, such as having the requisite skillset and a guided sales process, more than two-thirds believe salesperson training is the number one factor. Conversely, “reps cited lack of skills and training and development as the main reasons they chose to voluntarily leave their positions. And 40% of employees who receive poor sales training will leave their positions within the first year.”

employee turnover

This speaks to the correlation between inadequate salesperson training and turnover — something that’s absolutely toxic to establishing a winning sales team and to overall company culture. By looking at the big picture, it’s clear just how vital it is to develop your talent, and shows that it helps in multiple ways. Both in getting more out of your salespeople in their day-to-day operations and in reducing turnover.

The Core Benefits of Salesperson Training

At this point, I think we can agree that, when done right, sales training pays off. And we’ve looked at quantifiable data that tells us just how profitable it can be. But what are some specific ways that it produces this type of ROI?

Besides a shorter ramp time, as I mentioned earlier, there are four core benefits that lead to your company earning more money.

First, the better your sales reps are at doing their jobs, the greater the number of deals they’ll inevitably be a part of. From more effective prospecting to lead outreach to lead nurturing, salespeople should become more skilled at this essential aspect of their job, which, in turn, should maximize the number of chances they have to convert.

Next, salesperson training sets the stage for reps to boost the average profit margin per deal. As Modern Sales Training points out, “the best sales teams have learned how important it is to differentiate themselves to build value inside their deals, and building that value is a hot topic for sales training.” The better trained your salespeople are, the more perceived value they can bring to your products or services, which allows them to sell at a premium price.

Third, having well-trained reps naturally makes it easier to close more deals. After all, your salespeople will be in a better position to build rapport with leads, address their pain points, overcome objections, and so on, ultimately letting leads know why they should choose your company over a competitor. As a result, your competitive winning percentage should increase, and you’ll be better able to stand out even in a saturated market.

Finally, there’s the higher retention rate that tends to come along with robust sales training, which I touched on previously. I think Modern Sales Training articulates this phenomenon perfectly with this quote.

“All people want to feel like they’re improving themselves and increasing their skills. If people feel like they have learned all they can learn at your company, they will start to look for another challenge elsewhere.” Smart organizations recognize this and “create sales learning paths for their reps to always have the opportunity for growth, to challenge themselves, and give them the chance to improve their sales skills which will earn them more money.”

By putting your team in a position to succeed and leverage their full potential, most salespeople can’t help but feel more inclined to stick around for longer. And it often instills a deep sense of loyalty, which can strengthen your overall culture.

Why It Literally Pays to Develop Your Talent

Most sales leaders know that salesperson training is important and has value. But not all understand just how big of an impact it can have. With some companies seeing an ROI of up to 353% or $4.53 for every $1 spent, it’s well worth the effort and can pay dividends in the long run.

And if you’re looking to find dream candidates using a proven science-based approach, check out HireDNA. This cutting-edge software allows you to attract and retain top industry talent, with over 90% of candidates climbing to the top of the sales force within their first year.

Onboarding Remote Salespeople vs. In-House Salespeople: Strategies to Win at Each

A growing number of today’s sales companies have a mix of both in-house and remote salespeople. In fact, recent data from HubSpot found that 46% of sales companies now implement a hybrid model. While there will certainly be some overlap between onboarding remote salespeople and in-house salespeople, each demands its own unique strategies.

With that said, here’s how to handle each.

Onboarding Remote Salespeople

Convert Traditional Onboarding Materials into a Digital Format

The first order of business for sales leaders making the shift to remote onboarding is to take the traditional onboarding materials you’ve been using over the years and make them easily accessible for remote reps. This may sound obvious, but it’s one of the biggest stumbling blocks among sales trainers just getting their feet wet. After all, if there’s a major gulf between the materials your remote salespeople access and what your regular in-house reps access, it’s guaranteed to create friction. That’s why you want to ensure there’s complete homogeneity between the two.

So how exactly do you go about this?

I suggest taking inventory of essential onboarding materials, such as your employee handbook, company policies, company culture outline, and so on, and creating a digital packet that’s accessible through an online portal. This is a great starting point and will provide a cornerstone of online resources for all your remote reps to help them get their bearings.

Create a Series of Onboarding Videos

One of the biggest barriers to successfully onboarding remote salespeople is the lack of personal touch they don’t get like they would with face-to-face, in-person training. While it’s impossible to completely replicate the in-house experience, you can get pretty close by creating a series of onboarding videos. And when done correctly with iterations over time, this can help you create a consistent, repeatable process that adds the personal touch with minimal time expenditure.

Fortunately, this is easy to do with a platform like Bitable.

With it, you can create high-quality, professional videos using pre-made templates. Bitable lets you record training videos, screen-capture videos, and animated training videos with ease. That way, you can build a series of onboarding videos in sequential order that fluidly moves remote salespeople through the process step-by-step. And if they ever need to reference a particular topic, they can always go back and review it.

Build a Tech Stack

Needless to say, tech plays an integral role in a remote salesperson’s day-to-day activities. So right out of the gate, you’ll want to supply each rep with a comprehensive tech stack that can be accessed from a single digital location, such as an online portal. This may include communication tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams, project management tools like Trello and Asana, and CRM tools like HubSpot and Pipedrive.

Here’s a detailed example of what a tech stack may look like for inbound sales teams.

The key is to provide a standardized tech stack to create a uniform digital onboarding experience and also provide the requisite training on each to reduce the learning curve (something that can be done through online training videos as I just mentioned).

Onboarding In-house Salespeople

Use a Milestone-Based Process

One of the biggest advantages to onboarding in-house salespeople the “old school” way is that you’re heavily involved with their development and can keep close tabs on their progress. To streamline in-house onboarding and help new reps realize their full potential in the quickest amount of time, I suggest using a milestone-based process.

Here’s what top corporate sales training company The Brooks Group has to say about it.

“A formal, milestone-based onboarding process provides the framework to give reps everything they need to succeed within your sales organization within an appropriate time frame. A successful onboarding process:

  • Sets time-based goals for content and skills mastery
  • Establishes expectations for new rep participation in the process
  • Guides both the representative and the manager through the process
  • Includes clear checkpoints to measure progress”

While you’ll want to use a milestone-based process to a certain degree when onboarding remote salespeople as well, you’ll really want to emphasize it when onboarding in-house reps for the simple fact that it’s so easy to track everything firsthand. Also, it helps standardize the process to ensure everyone is on the same page and prevent disparities from hurting your overall sales system.

Give New In-house Reps a Mentor

In a previous post, I mentioned that it typically takes around nine months for a new rep to become competent to perform and 15 months to become a top performer.

But I also mentioned that a strong sales onboarding process can reduce this time by as much as half. One of the best ways to do that is to assign a mentor to each salesperson — someone who personally oversees their development and primes them for success.

Just like you want to use tech to your advantage to aid in onboarding remote salespeople, you’ll want to use the face-to-face nature of in-house onboarding to your advantage here. By assigning each new rep their own mentor who they can shadow, ask questions, and turn to for support, it naturally creates a framework that accelerates progress. Not to mention it helps create a more close-knit culture that benefits everyone.

For a detailed overview of sales mentorship and guidance on how to set up a formal program, I suggest reading this article from HubSpot.

Winning at Both Types of Salesperson Onboarding

With close to half of today’s sales companies having a mix of remote and in-house salespeople, it’s incredibly important to offer effective onboarding for both. Again, this largely boils down to capitalizing on the opportunities of each, and implementing the specific strategies mentioned above should help you do just that.

And if you’re looking to fill your talent pipeline with elite salespeople in your industry, check out HireDNA. It can help you find both sales candidates and sales leaders, with 92% of recommended candidates becoming top performers within one year.

40% of Salespeople Say Prospecting is the Most Difficult Part of the Sales Process. Here’s What to Do About It.

There’s a lot involved in the sales process. HubSpot breaks it down into these seven key steps

All of these steps present a certain level of challenge. But hands down, prospecting has been chosen as creating the most difficulty for reps. In fact, “more than 40% of salespeople say this is the most challenging part of the sales process, followed by closing (35%) and qualifying (22%),” HubSpot explains. 

Given that so many reps have such an issue with this critical first step, for this post I’m going to tackle how to streamline prospecting so you can make it ultra efficient and keep a steady stream of quality leads coming. 

Develop Prospect Personas

Similar to customer personas where you define segments of your buyers, a great starting point is to create prospect personas that accurately represent the decision makers you’re looking to reach. 

“A well thought out prospect persona helps you to focus on both of the following,” writes sales process expert Marylou Tyler:

  • “The decision maker’s factual variables
  • The decision maker’s personality variables that impact the prospecting/selling process.”

If, for example, you’re selling a B2B SaaS product, you may primarily be going after higher level individuals within a company, such as account managers, executive directors, or COOs. They would have more sway within their organization as compared to a customer service rep, and you would likely get much further speaking with them. That covers the first part of prospect personas with the factual variables. 

As for the personality variables, you’ll want to look at things like:

  • What key pain points they’re likely experiencing
  • What motivates them
  • The best time to reach out to them
  • The criteria they use to evaluate potential vendors
  • Potential objections

You may also want to check out this resource from Business 2 Community, which outlines how to create a persona matrix to ensure you cover all the bases. 

Once you have your prospect personas fleshed out, you’ll have something tangible to reference, which should go a long way in helping your salespeople target the right people and use the optimal approach. 

Identify Top Outreach Channels

“Back in the day,” there were only a few outreach channels to choose from. Mainly phone, face-to-face networking, and paper mail. These days, there are a wide variety of options, including social media, text, chatbots, and SEO just to name a few. 

This graphic from LeadMD shows just how many ways there are to communicate with prospects. 

As you can see, it’s pretty overwhelming. Without a clear cut strategy, your outreach is likely to just become “busy work” and miss the mark. That’s why you need to be super specific about which channels you want to use and personalize your outreach for each individual prospect. 

This in itself is a science, but here’s a simple strategy I suggest that involves two main steps. 

  1. Analyze what’s worked best for you in the past based on quantifiable data and select the small handful of outreach techniques that are most potent. Then focus on those. 
  2. Do some sleuthing for each prospect to see which channel they’d likely prefer. Maybe, for instance, they’re highly active on LinkedIn, which would make this network a great choice for outreach.

This should prevent your salespeople from having a “spray and pray” mentality and greatly increase their chances of starting meaningful dialogues with quality prospects.

Leverage Referrals

Your salespeople have a 30% higher chance of converting a referral than they do an average prospect. And in the long run, referrals have a 16% higher lifetime value. 

But even though data clearly shows referrals are incredibly potent, it’s a highly underutilized prospecting strategy for most reps. In fact, 58% of salespeople say they ask for less than one referral per month, and 40% say they rarely ask at all. 

If this is an area where you’ve been lacking up to this point, I highly recommend developing a referral program, which you can learn all about here

Batch Prospecting Tasks

The concept of batching where you complete similar tasks in one high concentration session has become incredibly popular in recent years and for good reason. It helps you achieve a high level of focus and minimize disruptions, which almost always leads to better results than completing tasks at random. 

Studies have found that “we need at least 15 minutes to get fully concentrated on one task after switching to it,” and “if we quickly change from one task to another, we lose about 40% of productivity, because our brain still lingers to the previous task for a substantial amount of time.”

Batching can apply to numerous areas of business, and prospecting is no exception. I suggest having your salespeople block off a certain period of time each week (2 to 3 hour sessions tend to work well) where they focus solely on prospecting tasks. That way all of their energy goes toward this vital yet difficult stage of the sales process, and they’re not bouncing around to other duties. 

Turning Prospecting Into a Science 

The fact that 40% of salespeople struggle with prospecting shows that it demands more attention than any other stage of the sales process. Implementing the strategies above, such as developing prospect personas, picking the right channels for outreach, capitalizing on referrals, and batching prospecting tasks should put your salespeople on the right track to turn a weakness into a strength. 

Underwhelmed with your current sales team? Find out how HireDNA can help you find A+ reps by sourcing top talent and combining intelligent matching with science-based assessments. 

The Science of New SaaS Salesperson Onboarding: Breaking the Process Down Into 4 Key Phases

Having a streamlined, structured onboarding process for new SaaS salespeople can have a dramatic impact on both productivity and retention. To quantify, businesses with effective sales onboarding see a 6.7% improvement in quota attainment and 50% higher new rep retention. 

Not bad! 

But how exactly do you accomplish this? And what are the exact steps you need to take?

That’s what I’m going to discuss in this post. Here’s the science behind new SaaS salesperson onboarding broken down into four key phases. 

Phase 1 – Introduction and Acclimation

One of the biggest mistakes I see businesses make is overwhelming new reps by bombarding them with information right from the start. You obviously want to get SaaS salespeople up-to-speed quickly, but you don’t want to throw too much at them at once. 

That’s why the first step involves a basic introduction and acclimation phase where you do the following:

  • Make introductions to sales leaders and team members
  • Familiarize them with your company, industry, and mission 
  • Let them know about your philosophy and culture
  • Explain your unique value proposition (UVP)
  • Articulate what differentiates your brand from key competitors
  • Provide reps with training materials like product info, sales scripts, and demo examples

This is also the time to take care of formalities like tax documents, software platform logins, and so on. The main goal here is to reduce the chaos and make it easy for new SaaS salespeople to get their bearings. 

Think of it as letting them dip their toes in the water but not taking a full plunge. Don’t worry about getting into the real nuts and bolts just yet. This will come later. 

Phase 2 – Initial Development

Once a new SaaS salesperson has had some time to digest the materials from phase 1 and get a basic feel for the position, it’s time for phase 2 where you focus on initial development. This largely revolves around providing them with a standardized training program — one that’s uniform among all sales reps. 

“If you expect your team members to meet their goals, you must also give them the knowledge and tools they need to succeed,” explains Michelle Richardson, VP of Sales Performance Research at Brooks Group. “A training program that teaches new sales hires a consistent sales process is a must.”

While the specifics will vary from company to company, some common sales training content objectives include the following:

I personally suggest starting with product knowledge, as this is integral for creating context for new reps and should help them connect the dots as they move into other areas like customer use cases and communication. Teaching them how to give a powerful product demo is especially important because it has such a strong impact on their conversion rate. 

I also recommend reading this previous post I wrote for creating a streamlined checklist for this process. In it, you can get tips for:

  • Creating a single orientation resource
  • Training reps on the software they’ll be selling (and using)
  • Educating them on buyer personas

The goal isn’t for new SaaS salespeople to perfect their skills here. It’s simply to lay down the core foundation so they’ll have the base level of knowledge to sell your products and be in alignment with the rest of your team. Incremental improvements, which I’ll discuss in a minute, will come later on. 

Phase 3 – Ongoing Support

By this point, a SaaS salesperson will have gotten the hang of their initial skills development and have a firm command of the sales process. They should also be adept enough at nurturing leads and delivering demos that they’re comfortably meeting their sales quotas. Once they’ve hit that mark, it’s time for phase 3 of providing ongoing support, which is designed to keep salespeople engaged and refine their skills

This graphic from sales enablement platform MindTickle pinpoints some specific strategies that go into providing ongoing support. 

In particular, I suggest:

  • Competency assessments to determine a rep’s overall level of comprehension
  • Remediation to see which areas could use improvement
  • Metrics reporting for analyzing KPIs

Then, as you unearth information, provide new reps with either one-on-one support or relevant training materials to help them get better. This leads me to the final phase of SaaS salesperson onboarding. 

Phase 4 – Continual Improvement

Phase 4 is about one thing — sales mastery, which serves two main purposes. One is to get the absolute most from each rep. By helping them maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses, for example, they should become more productive and consistently reach (if not exceed) quotas. 

The other main purpose is to increase your retention rate. LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report found that 94% of salespeople would remain with a company longer if it invested in their career. 

And it’s easy to see why. After all, who wants to stick around in a dead end job where there’s no opportunity for growth and advancement. Following a continuous improvement cycle, which looks like this, is critical for helping reps reach their full potential and motivating them to stay with your company. 

Perfecting Your SaaS Salesperson Onboarding 

Unfortunately, the onboarding process of many SaaS companies merely involves a cobbled together plan that’s barely fleshed out. “While you want salespeople to be resourceful, it’s a mistake to simply throw them into the pool and expect them to swim,” notes Michelle Richardson

By having a clear, repeatable, long-term process in place, you can get new SaaS salespeople up-to-speed quickly without overwhelming them, while ensuring they reach major milestones. The 4 key phases I’ve outlined here should provide you with a tangible game plan so that you get your onboarding down to a science. 

Want to hire better sales talent, faster? Learn how HireDNA can help you recruit elite SaaS salespeople while reducing 96% of hiring mistakes. 

Better Sales Coaching Creates Measurable Results

Sales coaching is often listed as one of the top three priorities for sales managers – and with good reason. Sales coaching is an effective way to increase sales, retain employees, and create measurable positive changes for any organization. Coaching also offers managers an opportunity to not only get a firsthand look at the issues their reps are facing in the field, but also to share best practices that will assist reps in improving their performance. 

But despite the major benefits coaching can offer, research has shown that the majority of sales managers fail to provide effective coaching to their sales reps. In this post, we’ll highlight the impact of effective sales coaching, and show you how you can improve your own organization’s coaching efforts to maximize your sales team’s success. 

Better Sales Coaching Raises Sales Percentiles by 28% – 49%

While it seems fairly obvious that better coaching creates better results, research suggests that the potential for improvement may be significantly higher than many sales managers expect. 

In an evaluation of almost 2 million salespeople and sales managers, Objective Management Group (OMG) found that sales percentile scores were 28% higher for sales reps whose managers devoted at least 50% of their time to coaching. Reps who received coaching also showed higher scores in key sales competencies: 13% better in Qualifying and 24% better in Closing, compared to reps whose managers rarely provided coaching.

Interestingly, these numbers only factor in the time spent coaching – not the quality of the coaching itself. In a follow-up evaluation, OMG discovered that managers who spent extensive time coaching and have great coaching skills can increase their reps’ sales percentile scores by as much as 49%, compared to managers with weak skills who spent minimal time coaching.

More Than Half of Sales Managers Are Not Good Coaches

Unfortunately, further OMG research has indicated that the majority of sales managers do not possess the coaching skills needed to create this level of positive impact. According to OMG, 63% of all sales managers fall into the weak category and 24% of all sales managers fall into the serviceable category – leaving only 13% of sales managers with “strong” or “elite” coaching skills.

Poor coaching among sales managers may be attributed  to factors such as: 

  • Competing priorities – A sales manager’s role includes a number of varying responsibilities, and while coaching is often named as a key objective, few organizations reflect that prioritization in management KPIs. For many sales managers, personal sales and commissions may also outweigh management compensation, and influence the manager’s motivation to devote their time and energy to coaching.
  • Poor definition – Sales managers may also have a poor definition of what “coaching” involves. Some managers may believe that coaching is simply a matter of telling a sales rep what to do, or helping them with basic tasks such as lead identification or pricing. Others feel that listening to a sales call or observing a client visit in the field constitutes coaching. However, these activities require additional learning and engagement elements in order to be effective.
  • Inability to execute – In other cases, a sales manager may understand the various factors that go into effective coaching, but are unable to effectively implement them. In particular, many sales managers falter when it comes to role-playing activities – often considered one of the most important and effective elements of sales coaching.

What Makes Sales Coaching “Good”?

There are a number of ways to develop and implement successful sales coaching programs, but the most effective programs share the same basic qualities. In general, good coaching programs: 

  • Are individualized to the sales reps’ unique skills and learning preferences
  • Promote trust by creating a non-judgmental environment and allowing open discussion of challenges
  • Encourage self-evaluation that allows the sales rep to build self-awareness and guide the coaching discussion
  • Use the Socratic method, with effective questions that stimulate thinking and allow sales reps to have ownership in creating the solution
  • Focus on improving one area at a time versus addressing multiple points and potentially overwhelming the sales rep
  • Focus on improving skills and techniques rather than specific sales numbers

Improve Your Coaching Skills with HireDNA

The sales training and coaching experts at HireDNA can help you improve your sales coaching skills, develop an effective coaching and training program, and deliver high-quality sales training that works within the workflow of your sales team.

HireDNA was recently recognized as an emerging leader in corporate training and coaching. Our experts can assist with any questions about building first-in-class, on-demand sales training tailored specifically for remote sales forces.

Keeping Your Reps Sharp With Virtual Sales Training

As we’ve pointed out in previous blog posts, experienced sales leaders know that the best way to improve your win rate is to improve your reps’ effectiveness. Increasing sales activity is one piece of the puzzle, but it must be combined with greater effectiveness to be successful.

Your single greatest tool for increasing your reps’ effectiveness is your training plan. Ongoing training and coaching keeps reps’ skills sharp, and keeps them on top of the latest tools and techniques needed to generate successful sales conversations.

While the current coronavirus pandemic has put traditional in-person training sessions on hold, smart leaders are embracing virtual sales training – and are seeing huge benefits as a result.

Virtual Sales Training Can Outperform Live Sessions

One of the biggest myths surrounding virtual training is that online training is a pale imitation of live classroom sessions. A recent industry survey found that while 65% of companies plan to increase their investment in virtual training, only 10% believed that virtual training could be as good as live, instructor-led classroom events.

But in a controlled field test comparing reps who participated in live classroom training and online-only training, the results were abundantly clear:

Sales teams who completed online training delivered 23.2% more pipeline than similar teams who received live classroom training

Sales reps who completed online training experienced twice the boost in confidence levels when engaging executive decision-makers, compared with those who attended live classroom training

This field test demonstrated that the self-paced, flexible, and personalized experience of virtual sales training can present drastic advantages over a live-classroom setting. When the reps deeply engaged with the training content in a virtual setting, they not only learned critical new skills, they also gained confidence in their ability to apply those skills to the real-world sales environment.

How Virtual Training Benefits Your Sales Team

In addition to improved performance, virtual training offers your organization several key advantages over live classroom sessions, including:

Reduced Costs – Virtual training eliminates the need for travel and classroom costs, and can reduce opportunity costs associated with time out of field. This can reduce your overall training costs by up to 50% without reducing the training itself.

Scalability and Accessibility – With travel coordination eliminated and scheduling concerns simplified, virtual training can be implemented quickly and effectively to address strategic needs. Large-scale training rollouts can be completed in a matter of weeks rather than months, and can be immediately accessible to all members of your sales team, regardless of location. This is particularly crucial when travel concerns – such as those created by the current coronavirus pandemic – might otherwise hinder your organization’s training plans.

Targeted Training – The agile nature of virtual training allows for highly targeted programs, tailored to either individual, team needs, or acute strategic objectives. Rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach, virtual training provides greater flexibility to created targeted content that addresses specific skill gaps or performance indicators, like decreasing pipelines, diminishing close rates, declining sales activity, etc.

It also allows for the rapid creation and deployment of training based on time-sensitive strategic needs, such as product launches, price changes, industry developments, supply chain disruptions, or other timely communications.

Deeper Learning Opportunities – A self-paced online training environment often allows for added depth of engagement with training material versus in-person training. Live classrooms can create limitations, as both participant and instructor attention may be divided and time constraints may prevent every attendee from participating. Online training can give participants more opportunity to practice and complete assignments to demonstrate proficiency.

Leveraging Virtual Training Expertise

Not all virtual training is created equal. The right approach and training curriculum can make a significant difference in the success of your training program. Maximize your investment in sales training with curriculum that targets your team’s specific skill gaps and sales DNA, and a platform that simulates the real-world environment and keeps reps engaged with the right combination of content, implementation guides, and personalized action plans.

The sales training and coaching experts at HireDNA can help you navigate the learning curve, deliver high-quality training that works within the workflow of your sales team, and feel confident knowing you’re going to deliver the same or better results as an in-person classroom.

HireDNA was recently recognized as an emerging leader in corporate training and coaching. Our experts can assist with any questions about building first-in-class, on-demand sales training tailored specifically for remote sales forces.

5 Ways Sales Teams Can Thrive During Challenging Times

As we’re all rapidly discovering, there’s nothing like a global pandemic to shift the way the world does business. The spread of the coronavirus has forced companies at all levels to implement changes they may not have wanted, and few were prepared to take on – at least on this kind of scale. Many organizations are scrambling to cope.

But amid the concerns and trepidations, new opportunities are arising. While some organizations are panicking and scaling back on budgets and staff, others are finding their services to be in greater demand, and their pipelines more robust than ever. The difference, in large part, comes down to sales leadership.

In a recent report on preparing for coronavirus-related disruptions, Gartner, Inc. suggested, “How CSOs lead now will set the tone and pace for a powerful and career-making experience for everyone in the sales function.”

As a leader responsible for the prosperity of your sales team, what can you do to ensure your organization’s success in this time of crisis?

Taking Action Right Now

1. Don’t Panic – This is always first and foremost, no matter what the circumstances are. The crisis won’t last forever. History is full of major economic turmoil and each time, the crisis has eventually passed. In its wake are stronger people and organizations, who emerge with a new perspective, more experience, and better tools to deal with the next eventual crisis.

The more ominous the headlines get, the more important it is to keep calm and remember that your best option is to focus on the things you can control, and let go of the things you can’t.

2. Stay Client-Focused – The heart of sales is helping clients succeed. In uncertain times like these, it’s important to remember that although we may change the way we do business, we shouldn’t forget the why we do it. As you look for opportunities to continue to grow your organization, don’t let your own concerns about your metrics, commissions, and goals cloud your judgment when it comes to how you serve your clients. Clients can sniff this out from miles away, and they’ll be quick to turn their back on it.

Take a moment to assess your clients’ concerns and their planned responses to the pandemic. Most clients are focused on employee and customer safety, and they may be experiencing immediate challenges like operational interruptions and cash flow declines. Reengineer your selling points to frame your solutions around your clients’ most urgent concerns.

3. Go Virtual – As entire countries are locked down under strict quarantine orders, virtual operations are a critical part of keeping business moving forward. While many companies were already starting to favor digital communications over in-person meetings, the current pandemic has pressed the fast-forward button on those plans.

If you haven’t already, move your face-to-face meetings to videoconferencing tools like Skype or Zoom, or stick with basic voice calls if that’s what your clients prefer. Expand the range of instant messengers your team uses, and use them to give your clients and prospects greater accessibility to your reps. Replace live events with creative digital solutions, like webinars, virtual office tours, and live demos using remote access tools or videos showing your product in action.

Moving Forward in the Upcoming Months

4. Reflect and Act – Change is always a good catalyst for reflection on what’s working, what’s not and what’s needed going forward. As sales leaders, we know that the key to improving our win rate – regardless of the current economic climate – is maximizing the effectiveness of our sales force. Once the immediate needs of the moment are addressed, the next step is to look at what that means for our specific organization.

A basic SWOT analysis can be a good place to start, to gain a better understanding of your overall business and how it now fits in the changing environment. From there, a more thorough sales team evaluation can provide a detailed look at your sales force and help you identify the weaknesses and skill gaps that are limiting your sales results. Those insights will allow you to develop an effective action plan for resolving them and ensuring your team’s ongoing success.

This kind of assessment is particularly important now, when the labor pool is about to expand as other companies cut budgets and workforce. Talented sales reps will become available, and savvy sales leaders are preparing themselves to make smart hires that will shore up skill gaps and create a well-rounded sales team.

5. Build Your Go-Forward Plan – When the dust eventually settles and we’re all allowed back out in public, we know that not everything will go back to the way it was before the pandemic hit. Activities like digital meetings and virtual sales training will continue to be used in greater scale after the crisis.

Companies may have been forced to switch to virtual options as a short-term solution, but reports have shown that virtual sales training can double sales reps’ confidence and increase pipeline creation by 23.2%, compared to reps who participated in live classroom training.

Partner with an Expert Team for Long-Term Success

Developing top sales talent is an ongoing need, regardless of the current sales climate. Using comprehensive, science-based sales performance assessments, HireDNA’s experts can help you identify both immediate and long-term opportunities for growth, and uncover skill gaps that may be holding your team back. We partner closely with you to create a high-performance sales culture, with a clear picture of what it will take to improve your people, processes, and systems.

HireDNA was also recently recognized as an emerging leader in corporate training and coaching. Our experts can assist with any questions about building first-in-class, on-demand sales training tailored specifically for remote sales forces.

7 Tips to Improve Sales Coaching in Your Organization

Your organization could have the best sales strategy in the game. But without adequate training, no amount of planning, creativity or strategy will set you up for success. Make sure your sales reps have the coaching, resources, and support needed for success in an increasingly competitive marketplace. In this post, we’ll share some of the best ways to improve sales coaching in your organization.

HireDNA offers leading sales recruiting, evaluation, and training services to help you build a winning sales team. Contact us for more information.

What Is Sales Coaching?

Sales coaching is a process that sales managers follow to support and prepare every salesperson on their team for success in the field. The goal of coaching is to maximize the potential and effectiveness of every rep. It is personalized guidance meant to improve or reinforce skills and should occur on a weekly or even daily basis. While it does not need to be a formal process, managers should be regularly looking for ways to identify individual strengths and weaknesses and work closely with their team to improve.

Prioritize Your Focus

Rather than focus on improving the top- or bottom-performing reps, channel your coaching energy into the middle-of-the-road salespeople for the biggest return on investment (ROI). Chances are, the worst reps won’t improve enough, and the best reps don’t need as much coaching. The “middle 60%” will benefit the most from training. Focusing on this group helps equitably leverage time and training resources.

Motivation Matters

Sales coaching is all about finding ways to improve your sales team’s performance. Motivating them to do their best is essential. And believe it or not, motivation doesn’t always mean money. In fact, employee engagement firm TINYpulse found that money ranked seventh on the list of factors that motivate employees to go above and beyond. Only 7% of the 200,000 workers surveyed listed it as a motivating factor.

According to their study, the strongest motivators included:

  • Camaraderie and peer motivation (20%)
  • Intrinsic desire to do a good job (17%)
  • Feeling encouraged and recognized (13%)
  • Having a real impact (10%)
  • Growing professionally (8%)
  • Meeting client and customer needs (8%)

With this in mind, consider intrinsic incentives like friendly peer competition, awards, recognition or extra vacation time.

Be Flexible With Your Coaching Style

Just as sales requires a variety of skills, so too does sales coaching. It’s important to understand your coaching style and even more important to understand when it’s time to switch up your strategy. Consider the following styles:

  • Strategic coaching and big-picture guidance are best for broad topics like navigating a complex buying process or selling into a specific market.
  • Tactical coaching is ideal for more individualized interactions like building a relationship or navigating conflicts.
  • Skills coaching helps salespeople improve in specific job function areas like communication, writing, rapport-building, etc.

Empower Your Reps

Sales managers should encourage their teams to be part of the learning and evaluation process. Get their input so you can help to work on key areas that are important to them. Start by asking some basic questions. What are they doing well? What skills do they need to work on to improve in the future? The more that sales managers can make their teams part of the coaching process, the more relevant and impactful coaching can be.

Create an Equitable Environment

Cultivating an environment where every sales member feels valued and heard helps to boost overall performance. Make equitable team decisions, such as rotating monthly meeting leaders, providing recognition for a job well done, and actively soliciting feedback on professional development topics.

Define The Gold Standard

Using standardized metrics to track sales helps determine what kinds of trainings were successful and informs sales strategy moving forward. But tracking is only helpful if all team members are being held to the same standard. It’s up to the sales manager to set objective, measurable goals and metrics to track against them.

Read our blog post on How to Set Measurable Sales Goals & Objectives to give your team a roadmap for success.

Turn Coaching into Culture

Embed coaching into team culture by providing ongoing opportunities and continuously evaluating performance. When training and learning are fundamental aspects of a sales team, members feel more invested in and engaged with the process, and they’re more motivated to succeed. Encourage your sales managers to hold monthly training round up that cover various topics be sure to benchmark success regularly.

Set Your Sales Managers Up For Success

There’s no magic bullet to sales coaching. Sales managers should be equipped with a variety of ideas, incentives and options for engaging their teams in conversations about improvement and learning. The more you can make training part of your organizational culture, the more seamless and successful it will be.

Get in touch to learn more about HireDNA sales recruiting, evaluation, and training services. Let us help you build an exceptional sales team!

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