How to Coach and Develop Winning Sales Teams

by Elay Cohen, Senior Vice President of Productivity at salesforce.com


Improving Sales Productivity is a Top Priority

Many CEOs and executives I meet share their productivity challenges and emphasize that improving the effectiveness of their sales organizations is their number one priority. 

CoachingThe traditional ways of driving productivity — communications, community, sales execution, account planning, deal support, one-on-one coaching and learning — are all important. With all of these great initiatives, many sales leaders and CEOs focus on revenue as the key measure of success.

But using revenue as the measure doesn’t promote an optimal coaching culture. Coaching feedback is usually given too late to impact real action.  Once a couple of quarters pass without a sales person receiving effective coaching, recognition, and positive reinforcement, the end is usually near. The sales person is likely already looking for a new job and checked out.  You know the signs and you can see that “deer in the headlights” look in their eyes. 

The cost to an organization when a sales person leaves is enormous.  Consider all the training, salary and opportunity cost of not closing new business.  In some industries the costs often reach millions of dollars.  Surely, there must be a better way..       

A Great Coaching Culture Drives Productivity

Building a coaching culture is the way to drive up productivity by engaging with sales people often and early. Sharing feedback, recognition and rewards to sales people is critical to breaking the employee turnover cycle and accelerating sales growth.

There are ways to create high-performance cultures, to drive the right sales behaviors and to accelerate sales growth.  Consider three important steps to help your organization sell better, together:

1.  Align teams and drive productivity with social goals and real-time sales coaching. 
2.  Motivate teams and accelerate sales performance with recognition and real rewards. 
3.  Boost revenue and productivity with real-time performance management. 

Consider setting goals, milestones and accomplishments for leading productivity indicators.  Imagine what would happen to the productivity of your sales people if you had a culture of focusing on what matters most — a culture where goal sharing, transparency, alignment and accountability were the norm. The interesting part of this new way to work is that once you identify (and share) individual and team goals and accomplishments you will create an environment where coaching teams, sharing successes and learning from mistakes are values that are encouraged.  

As sales leaders our opportunity is to create a working environment where performance management is social and coaching is the norm.  

Every Moment Is A Coaching Moment

Many organizations treat performance management as an event that happens once or twice a year.  I believe every activity and every interaction between a sales person and their managers, teams and customers is a coaching opportunity.

Why wait until a sales person misses their quota to start coaching?  Why not offer coaching to them from the very first day they start? Why not look for coaching opportunities beyond the actual sales? 

Making coaching social and transparent is a performance philosophy that will transform sales people and dramatically improve sales programs like onboarding, territory and account planning, sales execution and skill development. 

Sales TeamTake onboarding for example. Imagine presenting a newly hired sales person with an onboarding plan. The plan includes the learning goals with due dates, status and progress.  Learning goals may include watching executive welcome videos, completing mentoring sessions, standing and delivering a first call presentation, doing product training and completing knowledge quizzes. Each learning goal can be shared with contributors who are committed to help this new sales person meet and exceed their objectives.

The onboarding learning goals are sourced from a library of best practice templates so activity and behaviors of top performing sales people can easily be modeled.  With Social Performance Management, onboarding is transformed because there is now a team aligned and committed to help this new sales person accelerate their path to success.  Everyone is accountable and everyone knows where the sales person is on his or her onboarding path. Successes are publicly recognized and appreciation for mentoring and help is offered too. 

Territory planning is another important sales activity that can benefit from applying social performance management principles to it.  For many sales people, the territory planning process is more like an event. At the beginning of the year, a territory plan is created with goals focused on prospecting, pipeline, revenue and customer satisfaction.  A sales person could create a pipeline goal to hit certain growth targets in top products inviting the broader sales team including sales support staff, marketing professionals and product managers to help execute the plan.  Just like a shared onboarding plan, the sales person’s territory plan become a shared space with goals, due dates, status and progress making it transparent and social.  

Another great use case for Social Performance Management is during a team-based sales process. Executing a successful sales campaign is a team sport.  Injecting social performance yields many benefits to sales people and the extended sales team. It provides more opportunities for sales managers to provide real time coaching in the context of working and closing a deal.

Setting goals that map to the sales process provides a sales manager with the ability to coach a sales person on the job. Imagine a deal close plan made social with team goals, due dates, status and progress. The entire team knows exactly what is needed to get the deal across the finish line.  Sales managers are able to monitor deal progress.  Supporting sales teams have visibility into how they can contribute.  Contributing team members can be easily be thanked.  The marriage of a close plan with social performance also helps drive up deal confidence and improves forecast accuracy.

Start Coaching Your Team Now

Getting started is easier than you think. Look at the lifecycle of a sales person. Consider a timeline that spans “hire to Hawaii.” It starts the day a new sales person is hired and extends to them sitting on a beach at a sales Club event.  

What are all the tasks they are being asked to do?  How many of them are team based?  Document all the tasks they do during onboarding, planning and sales execution.   Map the tasks to goals in Work.com.  Share goal templates with teams so the best practices are institutionalized.

Coaching the sales managers to adopt the “Align-Motivate-Perform” mantra in their day-to-day management of their teams is key to this truly becoming part of your sales culture.

The power of sharing aligning and motivating teams around key productivity programs helps managers be more closely connected with the performance of their sales people.  Making performance management social also makes coaching, recognition and rewarding a fundamental part of every sales organization’s culture.  

This is an excerpt from the forthcoming book “Winning Sales Teams.” 

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