Sales teams have experienced a significant transformation; they are no longer succeeding by providing information. Their jobs are now about building bridges between problems and solutions.
Today, people get the majority of the information they need before ever speaking with a salesperson. This is especially true in an increasingly digital world where in-person relationship-building strategies have been replaced by digital initiatives and social selling. Now, sales people need to provide insights beyond the obvious.
This is a new mindset in addition to new skills.
Experienced sales leaders know improving your sales results is a bigger process than focusing on simply quarterly metrics. The difference between high performers and those who lag behind is typically just a few minor tweaks. Sales teams that are able to capitalize on the future are the ones with the agility to make these adjustments in real time. Here are the characteristics sales teams need to face the future, and how they can develop them on the job.
Emphasis on continuous improvement
One commonality amongst sales teams that are successfully adjusting to our current market is their commitment to continuous improvement. Traditionally, this has been achieved through “sales coaching” which often involves classroom sessions and homework.
Drawbacks of a traditional approach to sales coaching
The phenomenon known as Ebbinghaus’s Forgetting Curve explains how the impact of traditional learning programs is not up to the expectations of companies and especially the challenges of upskilling employees. To put it simply: over time, we tend to forget information we’ve learned unless we take proactive steps to remember.
Just how fast does this happen after traditional sales training? In Gartner’s 2019 research on the evolution of sales training, they discovered sales people will forget 70% of the information they learn within a week of training, 87% will forget it within a month.
And don’t think you can rely on your managers to reinforce this training. In a separate study, Gartner found 42% of managers lack the confidence required to help employees grow.
Benefits of digital coaching
Employees still need to upskill and re-skill but, as seen above, it’s to the advantage of organizations to develop more efficient ways of doing so.
Digital coaching has emerged to fill this need. Here are a few ways digital coaching wins over traditional, in class training:
- Customization: The one-on-one approach to digital coaching means each member of your sales team can personalize their sessions to tailor the content to whatever roadblocks they are facing.
- Flexibility: Your employees can access digital coaching from anywhere, and in any time zone. You don’t need to fly them into a specific training facility, and their coach can work around their busy schedules to find times that are most convenient for them.
- Repetition: Unlike in class training, digital coaching isn’t a “one and done” scenario. Coachees meet with their coaches regularly throughout the month, which helps solidify their learnings.
Emotional regulation refers to our ability to respond to emotional situations. For example, how easily can you handle a deal that falls apart? How do you deal with criticisms from a prospect? For salespeople, emotional regulation is essential — especially as they advance in their careers and sales deals become more complex.
A sales person’s ability to manage through high stakes deals can be the difference between winning a deal or losing a prospect. But it’s not just prospects that sales people must interact with — they’re also accountable to their organization, which can take a great deal of emotional regulation.
Research in the “Journal of Selling and Major Account Management” shows through active emotional regulation strategies, salespeople can disrupt negative through patterns and prevent the emotional exhaustion that so often causes entire teams to burn out.
Not sure how to get started with helping your sales team improve their emotional regulation?
- Identify workplace triggers: Some chaos at work is inevitable, but other workplace triggers that lead to emotional exhaustion can be reduced by thoughtful managers.
- Reframe workplace events: Viewing lost deals, personality conflicts and workplace frustrations through a different viewpoint can help calm emotional flares and help employees find their baseline.
In order to develop a successful sales development strategy, companies should therefore complete their L&D Strategy with professional coaching to accompany sales teams in developing key skills that will enhance their performance and engagement.
Enhanced cognitive agility
Sales teams that will succeed in the future have high levels of cognitive agility. What does this buzzword mean? Cognitive agility relates to our ability to think outside the box to solve complex, interrelated problems. Sales people are required to have extensive cognitive agility because they’re constantly context switching. That is to say, sales people are often switching between unrelated tasks. Cognitive agility is a measure of how fast you can adapt in real time.
The pressures of today’s fast-changing global economy make it even more essential for sales teams to have a high level of cognitive agility — responding in real time to new opportunities is essential for high performing sales teams.
How can sales team develop more cognitive flexibility?
- Create routines, then alter them: Team members who don’t already have daily habits in place should prioritize creating routines that set them up for success. But, changing the routine from time to time can help build cognitive flexibility, so don’t get too stuck in a rut. Even making the smallest of changes such as tackling tasks in a different order or realigning your office space can make an impact when it comes to improving cognitive agility.
- Practice creative thinking: Encourage your team to think both practically and creatively, and to rely on both technical and behavioral skills when it comes to problem solving.
- Create opportunities to transfer learning: Transferring knowledge to new contexts can help identify incorrect assumptions and develop new possibilities for future applications.
Should your whole team receive coaching?
Through coaching, sales leaders and reps can identify the few things that will make the biggest difference in their results. It’s this focus that coaching can bring to the small habits and viewpoints that ends up making all the difference. Both sales representatives and managers can benefit from coaching, with these respective objectives as examples.
Coaching your sales representatives
With their dedicated coach, sales representatives will be also able to work on different dimensions of their work, such as planning, work stress regulation and influencing skills.
Here are some examples of coaching goals salespeople can work on :
- Discover strengths and develop skills aligned with the sales role
- Improve prioritization and planning
- Cope with stress and increase resilience
- Create a clear career vision and plan of action for sales representatives
- Develop empathy and communication skills to build rapport with clients
- Develop listening skills and powerful questioning skills
- Ask for feedback and help proactively
- Activate the right resources internally to improve your selling techniques in a team effort spirit
Coaching your sales managers
A Gartner study found 34% of sellers report their manager helps them develop the skills they need for the future.
Often promoted after being top performers as individuals, sales managers lack support when adjusting to their new management posture. They need help to develop the leadership skills and organizational skills needed to build efficient teams.
Indeed, being an effective manager implies mastering and implementing many skills in one’s team. In this study by Powers & al. (2014), 8 out of the most important skills have been listed:
- Builds trust with sales force
- Understand overall strategy of the organization
- Design and build effective teams
- Provide effective verbal feedback
- Role model for the Salesforce
- Make decisions consistent with company strategy
- Create a supportive team environment
- Manage team dynamics
Sales managers are increasingly expected to adopt a “manager coach” approach, but how could they adopt such a new posture without actually experiencing coaching?
Depending on the strengths they can draw on and the areas of development they need to work on to become “a good manager coach,” they therefore need highly personalized support, which can be offered through professional coaching.
Here are some examples of coaching goals that sales managers can work on:
- Develop ability to give and receive constructive feedback
- Adopt a position of role modeling for the team
- Develop sales manager-salesperson trust
- Develop coaching skills: For example, ability to ask powerful questions
- Improve communication and collaboration
- Create a clear career vision
- Identify and develop uniqueness and strengths of team members
By taking time with a coach to experience coaching and get inspired on the useful skills to become manager coaches, sales managers will in turn be able to be efficient to coach and empower their teams.
Sales coaching is a key component of the L&D strategy to help salespeople grow, but it needs to be revamped to help the sales leaders of today develop the unique skills they’ll need for the future. Professional coaching has proven to have a strong impact on the organizations, especially to achieve higher performance, higher retention levels and sales representatives’ engagement, as well as an improved communication within the team and with clients and an increased well being.
With its digital coaching solution, CoachHub enables organizations to accompany salespeople at a large scale to provide highly personalized support thanks to a dedicated coach focused on the needs of the entire sales team.