Coaching Culture: Putting Down Roots

Coachin Culture: Growing Roots by David Sill
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At the start of the new year, I wrote about my team trying to turn the corner from “Account Management” to “Customer Success”.  Months beyond the vision phase, we are now in execution mode and fully committed to building a coaching culture – both for Customer Success and Sales – that instills the good habits needed to realize that vision.

Coaching is absolutely clutch.  It’s gotta be there.  It can’t take days off.  It requires executive level sponsorship and involvement.  And it needs to manifest itself in smart, repeatable process.

Here are three things we’re trying right now at DiscoverOrg to root down a coaching culture.

1. Coaching at the Call Level

To be effective, you have to coach when the moment is fresh.  That means live conversations.  When you’re a small company, you have a major advantage in this regard.  That’s because, when everyone is within earshot of each other, you’re inherently around when coaching opportunities pop up.  You hear the new SDR getting hammered by a prospect, for example, and as soon as the call ends, you can approach him/her, break down what happened, and provide a couple of strategies to try next time that issue arises.  Just-in-time coaching, in other words.

But as you grow, this advantage fades.  Managers spend too much time in offices.  CSMs, AEs, and SDRs are spread throughout square footage, or perhaps across the globe.  And the opportunity to hear the calls happens by chance or not at all – because the opportunity cost is too high to plan for it.

Luckily, in this great era of sales enablement, there are options to capture and coach the conversations your team has.  We use ExecVision to enable sales managers and peers to offer point-of-need feedback based on a scorecard that is customized to fit our specific needs.  Dimensions of our call coaching include time management & pacing, key call objectives, and soundbite tagging.  We are currently building a library to share the best habits of the best calls.  Management is required to log X hours per week in call review, and there is a tight process around delivering and reviewing the coaching feedback offered.

Today’s sales, marketing, and customer success teams rely heavily on their technology stack to keep up with the fast-paced and dynamic environment of today’s digital world. That’s why DiscoverOrg is committed to creating a family of integrations to meet the needs of our customers.

2. Standardizing on a Common Language

Integrated with the coaching scorecard is a sales and customer success vernacular also developed for our specific needs.  We’ve all gone through plenty of sales training, and you can think of this common language as a collection of our favorite pieces from various providers. These were made available in a battlecard we encouraged (ok, required) everyone on the team to display where they would see it all day long, encouraging conformity in the way we strategically discuss accounts, calls, and opportunities. This has several benefits.  For one, it’s massively efficient, versus the status quo of many different versions of an opportunity review depending on the chosen style of a diverse teammates. In addition, coaching a common vernacular into the team also makes us better at forecasting. Because of the standards, our pipeline and forecast (new sales, customer retention, upgrades, et al.) now has an integrity to it that didn’t exist before – again because we have coalesced on getting the definitions right.

3. Ritualizing Celebration Around Small Wins

Strong cultures require clear identities, and an effective method of forging a team’s identity is to come together to celebrate wins (even the small wins that come as part of your cycle).  A rising Customer Success Manager on our team is executing on his idea to play “walk-up music” when upgrade wins happen.  Now, whenever an opportunity is closed/won, the entirety of the team learns about it by hearing a colleague’s theme music.  Everyone, at that time, stops what they’re doing to recognize the accomplishment.  There’s an element of surprise, a big reveal, and just a couple nice moments of feeling great for your teammates.  There are countless ideas like this, but the point is to know who you are as a team, then BE that identity – without apology.

As with any initiative, there’s a LOT of execution still in front of us if we want to realize the coaching culture we envisioned months ago.  But so far, these and other practical means seem to have us all singing from the same songbook.

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David Sill built an inside sales engine for PC Helps Support, Inc. (now known as Vitalyst) that posted 14 consecutive ..read more

  • Dave – great post. Those are three things that every scaling sales organization should do.

    In observing our customers we’ve seen that the key to a coaching culture actually lies in action taken by the reps guided by leaders and managers. Companies that follow this cadence are seeing awesome results:

    1. Have each rep listen to one of their own call recordings per week, mark comments on it, and share it with their manager.
    2. The manager then checks out the comments that the rep made on their own call, listens to select portions of the call, writes additional comments, and shares it back to the rep. Because the rep already placed key moments on the timeline of the call, it becomes much faster for a manager to see what the rep is thinking and determine areas for improvement. Managers tell us it’s about 10x more productive than simply listening to the call recording.
    3. The rep and manager review together during 5 minutes of the weekly one-on-one. They also practice executing the same moment in the same call better.

    Because the rep has to listen to his/her own call and mark comments, there is a moment of self-discovery that is far more powerful than being told. Reps tend to figure out what they need to improve on instinctively.

    If your readers make each of their reps listen to one of their own call recordings per week and comment on it, magical things will happen.