Every sales organization knows sales coaching is critical to their success. In fact, Forbes Insights found that 74% of top companies rank coaching as sales managers’ most important role.
But knowing the value of coaching and executing it effectively are two different things. Therefore, when designing a coaching program, there is more to it than just having your reps practice their pitch – you need to outline the core skills the reps need to improve upon and assign each to the proper coaching methods.
Using insights from Brainshark’s sales enablement team, we’ve compiled 6 of the most critical skills to coach sales reps on.
#1. Time management and planning
Within these areas, it is important to break it down by decision making and goal setting. For example, reps should be aware of all assigned tasks and the order and timeframe to complete them, and which tasks they can delay. They should also know how to use their time effectively to achieve individual and company goals.
Reps also need to be equipped to manage territory, account, opportunity, and call planning. Managers should coach reps on creating a specific plan for each area, knowing that the plans could change over time.
Use one-on-one, informal coaching to go over the rep’s time management and planning strategies together. If you notice opportunities for improvement, coach the rep on making their plan more efficient and prioritizing their tasks effectively. Then, approve the rep’s final plan once they’ve made adjustments and review it again over time.
When someone is a good storyteller, people listen – and that’s how you want your sales reps to be. Having the ability to tell an authentic story helps differentiate sales reps from their competition. It also demonstrates that they understand how “like” clients have solved similar challenges with your solution by coaching reps on how to tell these stories genuinely and utilize proof points to lend credibility to the story, whether it’s slides, videos, customer testimonials, or other content.
Through video coaching activities (either formal or informal), you can evaluate several areas of how reps tell their story, such as their tone, use of key descriptors or proof points, and the ability to use a story arc. Based on reps’ submissions, you can provide feedback on areas for improvement and collect examples of best practices to share across the sales organization for peer learning.
#3. Active listening
Active listening is one of the most critical skills for reps and is even more important in today’s always-distracted world. Active listening means reps’ ability to listen in the moment without prematurely formulating a response or follow-up question. Instead, reps need to listen diligently to what’s being said and confirm and clarify the information to thoroughly understand it.
Use video coaching activities and role-plays to help reps improve listening skills. For example, have one person act as the customer and have them describe their business challenges. Then ask the other person to repeat the information to see if they picked up on key points and digested the overall message.
There are many types of objections that reps will encounter from buyers, but we’ve boiled them down to a few key types, including:
- The buyer has misinformation about your offerings or your company.
- There’s something about your product or services that they don’t like and can’t change.
- They like what they hear from you, but they want proof.
- They don’t see a need for your product or services or are happy with their current solution.
Video coaching activities and role-plays will help reps develop skills on how to handle a myriad of objections. Objections can come out of nowhere from buyers, so try surprising reps with different scenarios without giving much guidance and see how they handle it.
#5. Aligning to buyer’s journey
‘Aligning to the buyer’s journey is a phrase that’s used all the time in sales. But understanding where the buyer is in the buying process and ensuring your approach is aligned is not an easy task. It’s really about understanding where to compete and when to split from the buyer.
If you are going to lose-lose early.
Coach reps to understand and interpret what is happening on the buyer’s side and anticipate when to compete and when not to. It may require a more formal coaching approach, where reps complete a series of coaching activities to test knowledge of each phase of the buyer’s journey, how to speak to each one and what types of content will resonate with the buyer.
#6. Communication skills
Strong communication skills enable reps to build supportive relationships with colleagues and clients. Reps need to drive value-based conversations with prospects and articulate the company’s value and products. The critical part of this is listening to a description of the client’s business challenges and finding possible ways to address them. Reps can do this by facilitating a needs-focused dialogue and showing empathy, clear communication, and specific calls to action, such as proposing next steps or laying out what to expect moving forward.
Have reps record videos or do role-plays practicing mock conversations where they articulate value, evaluate business challenges and outline possible solutions and next steps.