How to Create a Coaching Culture for Your Sales Team
By: Ashley Artrip
Even the best players are only as good as their coaching. This is true not only in the sports world, but also in the world of business, especially when it comes to sales teams. Entry-level players — er, employees — may come in with talent, drive, and aptitude, but these innate skills will only reach their full potential under training and sustained coaching. That’s why it’s so crucial for every sales team to have a strong coaching culture.
Sales coaching should be educational, motivating, and sustained. It’s important that it goes beyond just reward structures, and include structures for continual self and team improvement. After all, even the best teams can’t just rest on their laurels; you need to be always looking for innovative ways to grow and improve.
At SV Academy we’ve coached hundreds of entry-level BDRs through their initial training, as well as through their post-hire coaching. We’ve seen what works, what doesn’t, and what helps foster a sustained coaching culture. Most importantly, we’ve learned that there is no one size fits all approach for sales coaching. Instead, there are three tenets that every team should follow, but then adjust to fit their team culture and individual rep personalities.
1. Make Coaching Go Both Ways
Coaching shouldn’t be a one-way street: it needs to not only consist of feedback and training from the manager to the employee, but also from the employee to the manager. Set up bi-weekly sessions where employees can give feedback to you on what motivates them, what coaching strategies they appreciate, and what they’d like to see in the future.
To do this, have employees work backward from their best work. For instance, if a sales representative set a record number of SQAs one week, have them reflect on what strategies they used and how they learned these techniques. Follow the same procedure with bad weeks: what didn’t work, and how could the SDR have been better set-up for success?
Just as entry-level employees are continually learning and growing, sales managers should likewise always be looking for ways to improve their sales coaching strategies.
2. Incentivize Self-Reflection
Sometimes, it’s not enough to just ask for self-reflection; you need to actually incentivize it. A great way to do this is through team bonding events that include reflection. For instance, one sales team we worked with had weekly “Wine Downs”, which were essentially Friday happy hours that started with highlights from the week, lowlights, and reflections on each. By combining reflection and analysis with the happy hour, the team improved participation and incentivized employees to engage in personal reflection before participating in the team event.
Other teams do weekly barometers, where team members submit personal reflections on their performance, strategies, and motivation, and then submit their weekly barometer to their managers before one-on-ones. By integrating reflection with a standard meeting, you incentivize employees to spend time on self-examination — after all, they know that they’ll be discussing it with their boss.
3. Use a Blended Coaching Methodology That Works With Multiple Personality Types
One of the most common mistakes that managers make in sales coaching is assuming that one size fits all. While this would certainly make things easier, the reality is that different people respond differently to the same coaching techniques, and what worked well for one person may actually be de-motivating for another person. The best sales teams are diverse and dynamic — and your sales coaching should reflect this.
Because of this, it’s important to use a blended coaching methodology that can be adapted for multiple different personality types. Blended coaching uses a combination of facilitative coaching — asking questions, practicing empathy, and encouraging trainees to be empowered to participate in coaching — and instructional coaching — the more traditional form of instruction wherein the trainer assumes they have more knowledge than the trainee, and shares their expertise.
By practicing both forms of sales coaching, you ensure that your employees not only receive the didactic instruction they need, but also receive personalized mentorship that’s adapted to each employee’s personality type.
Coaching is Just One Side of the Coin: How to Source Coachable Entry-Level Sales Representatives
The flip side of coaching is finding coachable salespeople. Not everyone is equally amenable to feedback, and different people are better than others at incorporating training and lessons into their behaviors. That’s why finding sales representatives who are highly coachable is such an important component of sales coaching.
One way to find these people is through a training program such as SV Academy, where graduates have been thoroughly vetted and are already primed for sales coaching. SV Academy has a rigorous vetting and application process, with only 4% of applicants accepted into the program. This ensures that graduates of the program are not only fully trained as BDRs, but are also naturally coachable and accustomed to sales coaching processes. Additionally, SV Academy provides post-hire support and mentorship for its graduates, which takes much of the burden of coaching off of you.
To learn more about how you can partner with SV Academy to gain access to these candidates, reach out to [email protected].
Elaina Ransford contributed to this article