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An Operational Framework for Data-Driven Sales Coaching

Aug 05th, 2019

This blog post was originally published by Rekener, now a Brainshark company.

Data-driven sales coaching is the process of measuring the output of your sales reps, with the goal of quickly diagnosing deficiencies and coaching reps to improve their performance over time.  Companies that are good at sales coaching crush their competition.  Research shows that companies with effective sales coaching outperform on quota achievement by 15% vs those that don’t.

There’s some foundational stuff you need for data-driven sales coaching, in order to get all your data organized and in shape to use.  The foundational steps are:

  • Get all your sales data sources together to build a 360 degree view of performance for each rep.
  • Build out the right KPI’s to measure effectiveness in each part of your sales process.
  • Build in context to make it easy for sales managers to see what the rep needs help with.
  • Have an ability to capture coaching moments, so managers can track rep progress over time.

Once you have your data together and organized, you can use this operational framework for diagnosing rep performance and coaching.  There are 4 parts.

  1. Benchmark performance against peers.
  2. Track achievement against goals.
  3. Trend performance over time.
  4. Record feedback, coaching, goals and action items.

We’ll cover each part below. We’ll show how you can use each part of the framework to improve the performance of your reps.

1. Benchmark sales performance against peers

Benchmarking reps against their peers is really important for performance management.  In order to do this effectively, first you need to map out your sales process and identify the KPI’s that measure each part of your process.  This doesn’t need to be anything complex. 

If you’re measuring full-cycle reps, you should look at activity metrics like calls and emails, as well as results like demos set.  You also need mid-funnel metrics like opportunity and pipeline generation.  And bottom-funnel metrics like bookings, close rate, ASP and sales cycle.

What you’re looking for are places where a rep is lagging behind their peers.  Benchmarking is a powerful motivator for sales reps because it lets the reps see what they need to do to be successful.  And it allows them to see that higher achievement is possible. The rep can look at the other reps that are performing at that higher level.  

The context provided by benchmarks also makes it easy for managers to diagnose sales deficiencies.  Managers are immediately drawn to the places where the rep is falling behind peers, and they can focus their coaching there.

Here’s an example of a comparison of a rep to their peers.  Red / yellow / green highlighting makes it really easy for a manager to focus on the places where the rep needs help.  Showing peers and their performance helps the rep understand that they can get their performance levels up just like their peers.

Benchmark reps against their peers for data-driven sales coaching

2. Track achievement against goals

Managers should also track performance against recorded goals in their coaching sessions with reps.  Almost every company has sales quotas for each rep.  You should also create targets for KPIs like calls and emails, demos, pipeline generation, and opportunity generation.

If you’re not sure how to set those targets, the best approach is to start with the quota and work backwards.  For example, if your quota is $100k, your ASP is $10k and your win rate is 25%, then that means a rep will need to win 10 deals to hit that quota.  To win 10 deals, they need 40 opps, since only 25% of them will close.  Now you have a quota and opportunity target.  You can keep working your way back in the funnel, using historical conversion rates, to get the targets higher up in the funnel.

The benefit of putting in targets in addition to benchmarking reps against peers is to make sure the rep is performing at a level that will actually get them to their overall goal of hitting quota.  Targets are also a powerful tool to drive commitment to improve.

Here’s an example of a rep’s achievement of goals over time.

Track performance against goals for data-driven sales coaching

3. Trend performance over time

Once you’ve reviewed how the rep is doing against their targets, and against peers, you need to hold them accountable for making progress.

For instance, if a rep is behind their peers for pipeline generation, you need to know if this is a recent problem or if it’s been happening for a while.  You also want to see if they are on a downward or upward trend.  And, if it’s something you’ve already addressed in a previous coaching session, you should track the progress over time.

Here, you should take the same KPI’s you’re using in your benchmarks and your goals, and view the trend of them over time.  Depending on your go-to-market motion and sales cycles, you want to look at these trends either by week or by month (or maybe both).

You’re looking for places where the rep is on an upward or downward slope, and if they’re on a downward slope, you can intervene to make sure that any issues get corrected quickly.

Here’s an example of a rep’s demo and opportunity generation being tracked weekly.

Trend performance over time for data-driven sales coaching

4. Record feedback, goals and action items

Recording your coaching conversations is critical.  If you don’t record what you’re talking about, then next week in your 1-on-1 with a rep, you’re starting from scratch again.  Taking notes allows you to keep your conversations organized, and make sure reps are improving in the areas you need them to focus on. 

Notes are a great way to document the commitments that reps are making to improve.  It’s also good to record some short-term goals that aren’t necessarily the same as a rep’s company goals.  These can be more qualitative in nature.  For instance, you may have a goal that you want a rep to have conversations with 5 decision-makers over the next week, and report back on how the conversations went.

The best part about taking notes is that there is no ambiguity when you have your next one-on-one.  You’ve specified to the rep what you want them focusing on, and everyone can be held accountable.

1 on 1 notes between a sales manager and rep

Sales Scorecards Can Help

Rekener (now Brainshark) can improve sales team performance by enabling managers to track reps against their peers, measure progress against goals, see trends over time, and also log 1-on-1 notes for feedback and coaching.

To learn more, request a demo of our sales scorecards solution