The Data Behind Successful Sales Coaching in the New Normal

August 6, 2020

Sara Howshar

Jim Benton was joined by Shianne Sampson, VP of Sales & Customer Experience at PetDesk for this week’s Weekly Briefing to discuss the data behind sales coaching in this new normal.

Diving right in, they addressed the overall productivity of sales teams. Meeting volume for all segments is down 14% since March, but the SaaS segment is up 31% since March.

PetDesk assists and digitizes Veterinary Hospitals, and Shianne confirmed that they have seen a similar trend.

“I think that there was a bit of a fear and drop in March,” she said, “but as everyone started adapting to the new normal, we’ve seen this uptick for sure.”

And there have been other bright spots as well.

“Silver lining over the past few months is that pets are getting adopted,” she added. “Shelters are at their lowest levels in a long time. Vets are having their dog days so to speak.”

Tell them why they’re doing great rather than just telling them where they need to improve.

How Sales Teams are Coaching Today #

Jim and Shianne share a common perspective on coaching: It has to be consistent, regardless of the new world we face.

“What I’ve found in sales,” said Shianne, “is that coaching is everything. In the old days, you’d get hired and hit the phones running. I think now coaching is the backbone of sales.”

Managers are Coaching More #

Chorus data found that managers take 15% more coaching actions per call now than they did pre-COVID. But we are seeing a slight return to normal coaching behavior in the last months of Q2.

To Shianne, this made sense but was worrying. “Urgency drove coaching in April and May, but [that level is] where it should be all the time. Now we’re seeing in June and July things are starting to get comfortable again.

But urgency shouldn’t drive your coaching. Your coaching should be consistent. We’re slipping back into bad habits.”

“I think two things happened,” she said. “March hit and everyone went remote so there was no more side by side coaching. Then, there’s a whole new world of objections you’re facing. So you’re having to get on calls to understand what’s going on.”

Sales teams are adapting to helping their reps, and improving their own processes and products.

“For example,” she said, “Vets had to go curbside. It’s a brand new world for them. For PetDesk, we made drastic jumps at this time - we added telemedicine quickly. “

Coaching with Positive Comments on the Rise #

Around one third of the comments are positive and encouraging, the rest tend to be suggestions for improvement.

“I wish this was more than one third,” said Shianne. “If you’re going to leave a comment, you should leave a positive comment, and you should also offer a lot of specifics. Rather than saying ‘You sound great!’ It should be ‘You sound great because you said this and that.’ So tell them why they’re doing great rather than just telling them where they need to improve.”

Reps are Self-Coaching #

Reps are taking 33% more actions on calls than they were in January.

“This is the future,” said Shianne. “This is what we’ve seen on the move to remote. Back in the day, you were going through the phone book and then Salesforce comes out. Well now we’re forced into this situation that works better because I can put notes directly in your call. We’re being forced into the future but we are moving forward because it works.”

There are so many applications for Conversation Intelligence, and that has magnified since the move to remote sales floors.

Reps are coaching themselves and getting better, and teams are sharing intel that is essential for business growth.

“I’m commenting to other leaders in the company,” Jim shared. “I’m able to bring the voice of the customer to our Board.”

Shianne agreed: “I listened to 12 calls this morning! When could you do this on the sales floor?”

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Median Coaching Actions

What Should Sales Managers Coach On? #

Generally speaking, there are three main buckets for coaching:

  • Conversation Skills
  • Sales Skills
  • Replicating What is Best

And they’re all equally important. But it’s essential that before you dive in to start improving or coaching, you have to take a step back and get back to basics.

“You can coach all day long,” said Shianne, “but unless you know how to coach or how to break down calls, you’re going to be spinning your wheels.”

“You have to be specific,” she added. “I think there’s a hierarchy to the way you approach a call. A manager gets on and they focus on the close or objection handling. But when your deal-killer is happening, you’re not able to hone in on it. The first thing you have to address is how they sound.

Managers need to take a step back and realize that there’s a hierarchy on how you coach. Get that area right before moving forward to the next thing.”

Top Performers Tell More Stories #

Top Performers tell 20% more stories than the Average Performer

“This is the magic of Conversation Intelligence,” said Jim.

Shianne added a tiny asterisk to this storytelling data: “Top performers tell valuable stories. A story connects my knowledge to your value.”

She shared that the vet space that PetDesk serves is a historically pen-and-paper business model. “And we’re coming in with software,” she said. “That’s two totally different worlds. We have to tell a story that bridges that gap. ‘What we’ve seen is that this vet has been on paper since 1942, they started with petdesk and now this is what they’re able to do.’”

Utilizing these stories in sales is powerful, and it has typically come with experience. But with call recording software you’re able to share stories with new sales reps that are onboarding. Suddenly, they’re less hindered by the limits of time and experience and can share experiences lived by the entire revenue org.

“The key to stories is about experiences,” said Jim. “The ability to be a part of more stories is being part of more calls. You’re able to take a story on and experience it for yourself and then share it.”

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Positive Comments on Calls

Social proof is the glue that binds what I’m trying to sell you with actual results.

Top Reps Share More Social Proof #

Top Performers include concrete social proof in 68% of their stories. That’s up from 29% compared to the Average Performer.

“We’re salespeople,” said Shianne. “You can build trust through your sales experience, but you have to build it out based on a story that resonates with me. I want to know what you’ve been able to do for someone in my similar situation and I want proof of that. Social proof is the glue that binds what I’m trying to sell you with actual results.”

Invest in Yourself to Become an Expert #

Social proof, stories, and other strategies can create a sense of urgency for the buyer. But, as Shianne noted, only if you do it properly.

“If you haven’t lined your call up correctly and done your discovery, then no urgency. If you’ve dug in on your discovery, there’s urgency.

Yes, these things work, but they have to be done correctly. Managers have to become the expert first and hold themselves accountable and be able to teach this.”

Shianne is passionate about coaching. She wrote a book on her perspective and methodology called Triage. It will be available on Amazon starting on Oct 1st.

Outlook on Q3 #

Keep on truckin’.

“Don’t take your foot on the gas,” said Shianne. “We got a healthy dose of fear in March, urgency was created and everyone went above and beyond. And now things are starting to go back to normal.”

But she advised teams to keep the good habits they’ve built over the past few months strong.

“Going into 2021, you don’t know what’s going to happen. That healthy fear can be super beneficial if it’s used right.

Keep the urgency keep coaching, and keep your eye on the prize.”

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