Sales Coaching Meets Analytics: The Case for Activity-Based Management

October 22, 2014 | Ann Lambert
Sales Coaching Meets Analytics: The Case for Activity-Based Management

Every coach has a different style. Some lead by example, others by instruction; some lead by guided practice, others lead by letting their pupils take the reins—trial by fire. When it comes to sales management and coaching, there are certainly a lot of opinions out there.

In a recent article, Jim Keenan, founder and CEO of A Sales Guy, takes an unequivocal stance in favor of results-based management. He writes that sales reps should be given the opportunity to approach their deals in their own unique way, as long as they are getting desirable results.

Keenan argues that the alternative, activity-based management, assumes that there is only one right way of doing things and everyone should follow suit. He writes:

“If you have to tell people how to do their job, you have the wrong people or the wrong people running the people. Either way, you have the wrong people. Once you’re telling people how to do their job, it’s over, just get new people or do it yourself.”

He goes on to write about his “Freedom Box” management philosophy, in which sales reps have limitless freedom to execute their own approach, but are given firmer boundaries as their numbers miss the mark.

A strong, proven approach, but you could also ask – where does data fit into all of this? While Keenan asserts that, “Good people know how to get the job done,” you could also argue that oftentimes, good people with good data know how to get the job done. Sure, most reps have their own personal approaches on how to engage prospects, but without metrics on proven successes and failures, their activities can at times amount to uninformed guesses.

Big Data and the sales coaching process

In a recent study, the Aberdeen Group reported that 68% of Best-In-Class companies find applying big data and analytics to the current sales pipeline works for coaching reps. When looking at business results based on coaching styles, “Analytical Coachers” report a 7.6% annual reduction in sales turnover (compared to 5.6% for all others), a 6.2% annual improvement in total team attainment of sales quota (2.6% for all others), and a 5.8% annual improvement in percentage of sales reps achieving quota (3.9% for all others). These numbers make a clear case for “fact-based, performance-improving sales behavior modification.”

Aberdeen has determined that “using more data and less emotion in the coaching process” accelerates the sales cycle and provides opportunities to win more deals. While 57% of Best-in-Class sales organizations make it a practice to formally collect and share best practices, sales content, and marketing assets, 49% actually have top performers engage in real-time coaching for specific deals. 

It seems clear that results for even the most capable reps can be enhanced—if not made more intentional and consistent—if they’re provided with data-backed, activity-based coaching. Analytics based on what works can go a long way in coaching your B and C reps to play like A reps.

What role does analytics play in your team’s sales coaching strategy? Get the conversation started in the comments section.

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