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Data-Driven Sales Coaching For New Sales Managers

Apr 09th, 2019

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

At Saastr 2019Mark Roberge (former CRO at HubSpot), defined Data-Driven Sales Coaching as (a) using data to diagnose skill deficiencies; and (b) customizing a coaching plan.  Roberge encourages companies to “engineer a data-driven sales culture.” You can find a copy of Mark’s Saastr deck here.

Developing data-driven sales coaching skills is a big challenge for every sales team.  New sales managers need to be able to use data to motivate sales reps to reach a higher level of performance and also to show them the path to get there.

The problem is that new sales managers are often promoted from the the ranks of the best account executives.  They need to develop data-driven sales coaching skills, and quickly.  The success of your team can depend on it. 

In this post, we’ll review three elements of data-driven sales coaching that all new sales managers must develop.  In order of difficulty, they are:

  1. Motivating volume of sales activities;
  2. Prioritizing high value activities; and
  3. Diagnosing sales skills deficiencies.

Motivating Volume of Sales Activities

Great sales people know that success depends on maintaining a high level of activity at the top of the funnel.  New sales managers need to learn to motivate sales reps to hit sales activity targets. 

One of the most effective motivational tools for managers is to show sales reps how they compare to their peers.  No one wants to be at the bottom.  Sales reps will also look to see who is leading the pack in terms of demos, opps and deals, and they will be motivated to emulate the activity levels at the top of the funnel.

Companies should strive to build a data-driven sales culture – one where full-cycle salespeople are responsible for contacting both inbound leads and sourced leads.  They generate demos, qualify opportunities, and work with prospects to close deals.  They also maintain customer relationships after the sale.

Here’s a screen shot from Rekener (now Brainshark) that shows the activities we track every day using sales scorecards.

Rekener Sales Rep Scorecards can be used to track daily activity levels for sales reps.

If a sales rep is struggling to hit demo targets, the first thing a sales manager should do is to check to make sure that call and email numbers are at targets.  We also track connects because most of our demos are set via phone call.  However, your company might track email replies or chat sessions if those are important steps to setting demos.

Sales managers should also look for trends over time.  This is important to make sure that sales reps are maintaining necessary activity levels at all stages of the pipeline. 

For example, sales reps (especially full cycle reps) often get into a pattern in which they are alternating between pipeline generation activities and closing activities.  This can produce inconsistent results, where the sales rep has strong months followed by bad months.  A data-driven sales coach can help the sales rep see the pattern.  From there, a good manager can help by adding time management to the sales coaching plan.

Here’s another example of how we use Sales Scorecards to track activity levels over time.  This shows the activity trends for a single sales rep over the last several weeks.

Rekener Sales Rep Scorecards shows sales rep activity data over time.

Prioritize High Value Sales Activities

The next step up for sales managers is to use data to help reps prioritize activities that will generate the most value.  This is much more difficult than focusing on volume of activities.

It is challenging because the data that sales managers need is difficult to see at the sales rep level.  We use Sales Scorecards to give sales managers the ability to coach sales reps on high value activities.

Two examples are lead response and account coverage.

Lead Response  

If your sales reps handle inbound leads, then sales managers need to keep a close eye on lead response metrics.  Lead response best practices have a big impact on value.  Managers need data to see if sales reps are calling leads quickly enough and making enough touches.  

Our full cycle sales reps manage inbound leads.  Our sales managers keep a close eye on whether we have contacted the leads enough times to get a high percentage of connects.  Sales Rep Scorecards rolls up activity data at the lead level, and then rolls up the leads to the sales rep.  Here’s what it looks like.

Rekener Sales Rep Scorecards can be used to manage lead response for sales reps who manage inbound leads.

Account Coverage 

For account based selling, sales managers need data to see which accounts are getting attention and which ones aren’t.  Activity data at the account level can help sales managers coach reps to prioritize accounts that have not been contacted.

Data can also be used to identify accounts that are responding to emails or connecting on calls.  If you use a sales engagement platform like Outreach, SalesLoft or Yesware, then engagement data from those systems can help sales managers identify accounts that are showing signs of interest.  It is also helpful to integrate campaign data from marketing automation platforms such as HubSpot and Marketo.

Sales Rep Scorecards pulls all this data together at the account level and then rolls up the accounts to the individual sales rep.  Our sales managers use this data to coach reps on how to prioritize their outbound sales activities.  Here’s what this looks like for one of our sales reps.  In this case, I’ve sorted based on the email replies, which shows that these accounts have produced good demos and opportunities.

Rekener Sales Rep Scorecards rolls up activity data from multiple systems at the account level and then rolls up accounts to individual sales reps.

Using Data to Diagnose Sales Skills Deficiencies

As Mark Roberge points out, sales managers need to be able to use data to find deficiencies in sales skills.   This is a more advanced skill because deficiencies in B2B sales skills usually can’t be measured with a single metric.  It requires deep analysis, sometimes using multiple techniques, for a sales manager to diagnose a problem with sales skills.  In addition, there are many possible sales skills to consider, including sourcing, communication, objection handling, qualification and closing.  The challenge is to use data-driven sales coaching techniques to uncover the problem and then isolate the cause.

Let’s take an example of a sales rep who is having a lot of success generating pipeline but is struggling to close deals.  New sales managers need to use data to diagnose the skill deficiencies that are causing the problem.  From there, the sales manager can work with the sales rep to improve.

Here are three data-driven techniques for diagnosing the problem.

1.  Performance Ratios.  For a sales rep who is generating lots of pipeline but struggling to close deals, there will be a lot of Opportunities but not a lot of Deals.  This could be caused by poor qualification at the top of the funnel.  But it also could be because of weak objection handling skills in the middle of the funnel.  Performance ratios can help a sales manager zero in on the proper diagnosis.  If the Opportunity to Demo ratio is very high, then the sales rep is qualifying too many prospects as Opportunities.  But if the problem isn’t with qualification, the sales manager should look at the Deal to Opportunity ratio.  A low Deal to Opportunity ratio can be a signal that the sales rep is having trouble overcoming objections later in the funnel. 

2. Funnel Analysis.  Funnel analysis can also help reveal where the sales rep is getting stuck.  It is helpful to look at the cohort of opportunities created in the previous quarter (or two) and study how far those opportunities progress down the funnel.  The following example from Sales Rep Scorecards shows that the sales rep is losing opportunities in the middle of the funnel.  With this data, the sales manager can help the sales rep with objection handling, specifically relating to product capabilities and objection handling.

Sales Rep Scorecards funnel analysis can show where sales reps are getting stuck and improve data-driven sales coaching.

3. Account Coverage.  Using a combination of performance ratios and funnel analysis, our sales manager has been able to diagnose that there is a problem with objection handling.  This problem could be keeping this sales rep from crushing her numbers.  A third data-driven sales coaching tool is account coverage.  As we discussed earlier, account coverage rolls up metrics at the account level and then rolls up accounts to the individual sales rep.  Using account coverage in Sales Rep Scorecards, the sales manager and sales rep can look at accounts with open opportunities, and then look specifically at the number of recent activities in those accounts.  This is a good way to zero in on specific calls and talk about objection handling.  If you have a conversational intelligence tool such as, you can actually listen to the calls, discover the problems and talk about how to improve.

Sales Rep Scorecards Can Help 

Sales scorecards are the fastest and most powerful way to give your new sales managers everything they need to become great at data-driven sales coaching.  We crunch the data so you can focus on crushing your numbers.