Successful Sales Coaching Best Practices
Sales is tough and ongoing sales development is a never ending process. In order for a company to succeed, it needs to have a well-developed, well-trained team — one that is able to authentically connect with customers and set more meetings, schedule more demos, and close with confidence. In even the fastest growing organizations, there is always room for improvement. Take it from us – our sales and sales development functions are constantly evolving as we look to accelerate our record growth rates over the past few years.
So, how can you successfully coach a team for growth? That question, coupled with queries into the role of technology in career development, is the topic of an upcoming and exciting panel in San Francisco located at Mulesoft’s headquarters. In advance of this event on July 28th, where our very own David Sill will be joining Rich Liu and Steven Broudy of Mulesoft as well as Falon Fatemi from Node as a panelist, we had the opportunity to get deeper insight from several panelists into the sales development best practices that they’ve learned to rely on over the past few years.
Below are the interview answers provided by David Sill, an authority on B2B sales and the SVP of Customer Success at DiscoverOrg. The corresponding interview with Steven Broudy, Head of Account Development, Americas at Mulesoft, is posted on the Mulesoft’s blog.
Sales Development Reps (SDR’s) are measured by specific KPI’s such as number of cold calls, connects, and emails sent every day. How does the emphasis on high volume of transactions impact the quality of those transactions?
Dave: Ideally, not at all. To be sure, quantity at the expense of quality has costs, but it’s not either/or. Just like with everything, a balance must be struck between chasing numbers and ensuring sufficient quality across sales opportunities. It’s a maturing process, really. Someone new to a SDR role, for example, might interpret management’s focus on volume KPIs as the “only thing that matters,” so if anything, leadership must be astute to coach the moment and impress upon that hypothetical SDR the multi-dimensional considerations that make up a “pro’s” game.
We know that pipeline forecasts are inflated due to account executives listening for buying signals, but not hearing reasons why deals will not close. While we encourage our sales leaders to teach confidence, what are the downfalls of an over-confident sales rep?
Dave: Over-confidence can obviously be a bad thing. My favorite teammates in sales roles are those I know I can count on to do what they say they will do. Or, to put it bluntly, to be good for their forecast, within reasonable tolerances. So the primary downfall of an over-confident rep, then, is unreliability. Maybe another way to look at building this confidence though — or discovering it, perhaps more accurately — is to understand how repeatable, predictable, scalable selling works. If you know the rules of the game you’re playing, all things equal, you’ll find confidence in the procedure. “Hey, I know that my manager needs an accurate forecast for me, so I better learn how to look at both buying signals and gaps/red flags in my sales opps. I need to constantly vet through any assumptions I might be making.”
The Pareto Principle, aka as the 80-20 rule suggests that 80% of the revenue is generated by 20% of the sales team. How can ongoing training and coaching help to increase productivity across sales ( & success ) teams through knowledge transfer?
Dave: I subscribe to a methodology I refer to as the “Best Known Method.” Simply put, across any Team, the best habits of the top contributors are culled together to form a playbook EVERYONE on that Team utilizes as THE way of doing something. Best known method for onboarding a new hire. Best known method for overcoming a pricing objection. Etc. It’s a dynamic process, whereby at any point, all members of the Team have a voice that is heard, but only by deciding as a group that new thinking justifies an update will a best known method change. After that, it’s a pact — hands in the middle, we all agree THIS is the best way. I have found this to be a solid approach to spread learning across the Team as well as to set the company up for rapid expansion and growth.
To scale sales and marketing teams, we must learn to do more with less, and time is the most precious commodity. What can a sales manager do when there’s only so many hours in the day but we all know it’s important to spend time coaching our front line reps?
Dave: A sales manager needs to be good at deciding which corners are ok to cut. It’s not a question of whether there’s time for coaching. Coaching needs to be rooted down as an ALWAYS habit. Instead, look to other culprits hiding in plain view. Let’s say I have a Team of ten sales reps. If each rep at any point in time has 15 “hot” opportunities, that’s 150 customer-facing situations I need to stay on top of. Wow, there’s not gonna be any time for me to coach this month. THAT would be wrongful thinking. Instead, same facts, I need to acknowledge that not all “hot” opps are created equal, so where are the two to three for each of my ten reps that make real sense for me to invest time. Now, I am moving sales cycles towards closure AND using the real world as fodder for coaching my Team.
What are some of your favorite tips for managing, motivating, and leading a busy/high-growth sales team?
Dave: One of my favorites is designed to instill critical thinking skills, which are often overlooked in my opinion. In a busy environment, it’s easy — or convenient — for a rep to pop out of his/her chair as soon as they have a question. In this spot, I try to push back by requiring that individual to first go back to your seat/cube/office and answer four questions. One, what is the issue? Two, what is causing the issue? Three, what are several alternatives to dealing with the issue? Four, which alternative do YOU recommend? By forcing this discipline, you help that rep “grow up,” you nurture self-reliance they can use for the rest of their lives, and you begin to cultivate a leadership development pipeline to support your Team’s continuing fast growth.
Where do you look for inspiration and instructional methodology on how to be more effective for teaching & mentoring your teams to be successful?
Dave: I try to look in non-obvious places. To me, it’s really fun to find patterns that apply from other walks of life. So, maybe I’ll be reading a book about improvisational comedy, and I’ll come upon a principle that could be applied in almost the same way to a sales Team. Generally speaking, I look to the arts, because I fundamentally believe that we are all artists (in our own way), and sales is particularly fertile ground for making your art.
Want to see how MuleSoft’s Head of Account Development, Americas Steven Broudy responded to these questions? Click here to read his answers.
Interested in learning more about the upcoming panel at MuleSoft’s HQ in San Francisco and to hear the exceptional and industry-leading group of panelists speak on these topics and more? Click here to find out more.