With millennials making up 75% of the workforce by 2025, it’s time for organizations to rethink how they are preparing them for success.
Whenever companies release or acquire new products, sales leaders understand how important it is for reps to be trained and prepared to sell the new offering. But while training sessions or quick content updates are important, there’s still no guarantee that salespeople have truly mastered the material and can effectively (and accurately) communicate the new release when it matters most: during the sale.
That’s where sales coaching can play such a critical role when preparing reps to sell new products and services. The numbers don’t lie: CloudCoaching International reports that reps experience a 66% increase in sales productivity when training is complemented with in-field coaching.
Here are 5 sales coaching tips to keep in mind during a new product launch:
#1. Start with easy coaching challenges
Selling new products can be daunting. Start with simple coaching challenges, such as asking reps to describe their favorite aspect of the new product. “Buyers don’t buy the product itself; they buy the business value they can get from the new product, service or solution,” says Tamara Schenk, research director at CSO Insights.
By starting with a coaching challenge that requires your reps to reflect on the value of the product and how to most effectively communicate that value to prospects, you’re setting them up for success in the field.
#2. Hold reps accountable for their learning and mastery
You’ve probably heard the saying “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
When sales managers simply tell reps what to say and do, they remove reps’ ownership of the learning process. Asking questions is a great way to help reps reflect on their experiences and take ownership of their learning.
“The best coaches work with their people to understand the current issues and jointly diagnose what is working and what is not as they develop an action plan to achieve sales objectives,” said revenue growth expert Scott Edinger. “They ask questions to help the seller frame the issues properly and provide constructive feedback regarding how to improve.”
When you ask your reps to assess their pitch of the new product, you give them ownership over their learning. This forces reps to reflect on the value of the new product and how they communicate that value.
#3. Hold sales managers accountable for coaching
77% of sales managers blame their lack of coaching on time constraints. Don’t let your team be a part of the majority that make this critical mistake. Managers won’t be able to find time to coach, they must make time to coach.
Asynchronous video coaching platforms make it easier for managers to coach, enabling reps to video-record a product pitch and share it with their manager to provide feedback and guidance. These solutions provide managers with the flexibility of providing input when the time is best for them, instead of finding time to coach in-person or over the phone.
Sales managers should also plan recurring coaching sessions, which not only builds in time to coach but also creates a coaching culture where reps are expected to regularly reflect on their performance and build their self-awareness.
#4. Create dynamic value messaging
Different buyer personas have different needs and challenges, which is why a single, universal approach to value messaging is not always the best course. Sales enablement leaders should provide new product messaging tailored to things like specific buyer roles, industries and phases of the customer journey. Reps can then be coaches on delivering the messages that are most relevant for different segments of customers.
Schenk says, “The inability to communicate value messages is a key inhibitor to sales success… We cannot expect to be successful with ‘one size fits all’ value propositions. Instead, in our customer-centric world, organizations need dynamic value messaging frameworks that consider the relevant messaging criteria and different focal points and goals in different buying situations throughout the entire customer’s journey. Examples of messaging criteria include the relevant buyer roles, the different phases of the customer’s journey, the customer’s context, the buyers’ different approaches to how to tackle the issue and the desired business results and wins.”
#5. Model behavior and create a positive environment where reps can learn from each other
Sales coaching doesn’t need to come from managers alone. Peer-to-peer learning is also an incredibly powerful tool when launching new products. For example, if certain reps are having some early success selling a new product, ask them to share their experiences with the rest of your team. Sales enablement and sales managers can’t be everywhere at once, so empowering reps to help each other and build a culture of peer-to-peer learning helps reps get the coaching and advice they need to succeed.
Continuous coaching helps set your reps up for success by making it easy for them to get some early wins and gain some confidence. It also promotes a culture where reps are empowered to help their fellow team members.
I’ll end with this quote from sales leader, John Russell: "I never cease to be amazed at the power of the coaching process to draw out the skills or talent that was previously hidden within an individual and which invariably finds a way to solve a problem previously thought unsolvable."
Have you had success coaching reps when selling new products? What additional tips would you share? Sound off in the comments below!