Investing in sales coaching pays off. There is a cause and effect relationship between developing your people and your sales results. Although this may seem like common sense, too many companies ignore the connection or don’t act on it. Research shows that 53% of individuals who work at companies that achieve high revenue growth believe sales coaching is always or almost always effective. In essence, these high-revenue growth companies invest more in coaching and get better results than lower-revenue growth companies.
Sales coaching and development helps drive consistent sales rep behaviors across the entire team and elevates average performers to become top-performing salespeople.
ValueSelling Associates and Selling Power surveyed more than 150 B2B senior sales leaders to identify the mindsets, attributes and behaviors that differentiate the best in the sales profession. The insights from this survey can help sales leaders look at their entire sales team and diagnose each individual’s challenges and potential for success.
The survey results uncovered that active listening, practicing empathy, building a high-caliber pipeline, staying open to coaching and development, and dealing with adversity separates top performing salespeople from the rest of the pack. Sales leaders must help reps develop these skills to enhance their performance and increase sales.
1. Active Listening
Top sales performers possess a critical skill – active listening. After asking questions, they engage with verbal and nonverbal cues, as well as confirm and clarify what they’ve heard. While body language and other physical manifestations – facial expressions, seating position, etc. – can easily be observed during an in-person meeting, this becomes much more difficult to gauge in a virtual environment where most customer interactions are happening remotely.
Coaches should encourage reps to practice active listening and associated behaviors such as taking notes and paraphrasing customer sentiments to show they are truly paying attention. Alternatively, it’s important to discourage distractions, such as multitasking, that undermine active listening during a sales meeting.
2. Practice Empathy
Empathy is one of the most critical attributes of a top performer, because it enables reps to truly understand their buyer’s perspective. Top performers understand that the more they can relate to the prospect, the deeper the relationship will be. Reps can put themselves in the shoes of their customers by doing research about their business and industry, asking questions and listening actively, and most importantly, focusing the conversation on the customer – not themselves.
For all salespeople, it’s important to strike a balance between empathy and ego. Top performers toe this line by creating a healthy tension in the sales cycle – they establish a clear need for their product or service by understanding the buyer’s needs, but they do it without arrogance. The opposite of an empathetic top performer is someone who is focused only on pitching and demonstrating their product or solution, regardless of the prospect’s situation.
While empathy itself is innate in people, certain components are skills – such as active listening and asking questions – that can be developed with the right coaching. Sales leaders must model the same empathetic behaviors that they encourage their teams to practice.
3. Building a High-Caliber Pipeline
Prospecting is often a rep’s least favorite activity. However, overachievers recognize the importance of consistently adding new opportunities to the pipeline.
When it comes to building a robust pipeline, top performers are more focused on discipline than intensity. They are rigorous about prospecting, and do what it takes to reach the right people, with the right message, at the right time. These reps possess a mindset, supported by a set of skills – time management, identifying goals and objectives, overcoming obstacles, making phone calls – that leaders must develop through sales training and coaching.
They also maintain a disciplined prospecting cadence that is built into their daily activities, so there is always time dedicated to the activity. Aside from making space for prospecting, top performers are targeted in their approach and know what it takes to create a real opportunity.
4. Staying Open to Coaching and Development
When it comes to coaching, sales leaders have a few key mandates. First, they must role model the right behaviors. Second, leaders must communicate consistently and clearly about their expectations for reps’ daily activities. Their management philosophy should enable sales reps to prioritize the activities that are fundamental for success. When managers send mixed messages about where sales reps should spend their time, it becomes more difficult for those reps to take action effectively and efficiently. Where reps struggle, coaches should course correct and help them see what to do differently. Sales leaders should also celebrate achievements – even the little ones – to reinforce leading indicators of success throughout the sales cycle.
5. Dealing With Adversity
The highest-achieving sales reps have a short-term memory. Objection is a core part of being in sales, and those who can persevere through it are the most successful. When top performers face adversity, they are resilient and look for the lesson. Average performers often take rejection or adversity personally, and, as such, they struggle.
It should not be a salesperson’s goal to avoid failure. Those who aren’t experiencing challenges on a regular basis probably aren’t talking to enough people. From a development perspective, when a rep has a disappointment, a coach must help them rise above the situation and see the lesson for the future. A good coach will help them pinpoint their blind spots and figure out how to fix them.
The Value of Investing in a Sales Coaching Program
Winning sales leaders understand that coaching is a critical component of continuous improvement. For your sales function to operate at a high level, every sales-related role should be supported with coaching. With the right coaching and development, many average sales reps have the potential to become top performing salespeople. Baseball coaches don’t just work with the pitcher and the best hitter. They work individually with every player to optimize skills, reinforce lessons learned, and provide opportunities for growth. A few star players may win a few games, but only a well-honed team will win across the entire season.
To learn about all seven mindsets, attributes, and behaviors of top-performing salespeople, download the ValueSelling Associates ebook, “7 Actionable Habits of Top Performers.”