How to leverage sales tools to establish sustainable coaching practices and enhance productivity

You’re wondering: Why is my sales team losing the productivity battle when we have built processes and invested in tools to help us manage our time and focus on the right deals? I’m sure you made an effort to define core operational metrics for your sales team and prepared reports and dashboards to help them to focus their energy and attention. But you recently increased the sales budget and suddenly don’t feel confident that your team can achieve the new quota, even after investing in the latest tools to support productivity.

It makes you question whether your sales enablement or sales op lead is using these resources in the most effective way and with the right frequency, or if they even appreciate the scale of the investment. Hard to answer, right? Adopting dashboards, tools, and processes requires a strategic landing and change management effort, and, more importantly, a sustained mechanism to ensure your teams’ execution remains impactful over time. I understand that you’re managing many variables to improve sales productivity, and one of the key elements involves using better tools to track execution and trends, while also having clearly delineated processes to make weekly, or even daily, corrections with these tools.

I am sure you frequently receive the same feedback: “We delivered the program and trained the sales managers, so it should be their responsibility to leverage these resources.” Sales managers should be the fundamental change agent, leading by example in the organization. But in reality, they are super busy and don’t have the time to take full advantage of all these great resources (or at least most of them) and they are, in fact, hard to use. Hence, beautiful dashboards and fancy reports using new AI algorithms are not enough to guarantee a successful adoption. Let me distill this challenge in this article and propose strategies to overcome them.

There are many sales enablement levers to boost your sales team productivity, as this Salesforce article describes. In my opinion, and related to the theme of this article, I am sure you have struggled to implement an effective coaching discipline—vital to identifying roadblocks in stalled opportunities and helping sales reps close their skill gap—and to establish a tracking system to measure execution and hold teams accountable for final outcomes during on-time coaching meetings.

You’ve hired coaches, consulting firms, analysts, and a training company to develop these two capabilities from the ground up and to land them within a quarter so that your sales team is prepared to deliver the quota. After making your whole sales organization participate in extensive training sessions to show them how to operate from now on, both your sales enablement and sales ops leads make you feel optimistic about the massive effort. Three months later, you don’t see improvement but still feel confident because your enablement leads explain they need more time to demonstrate positive impact. Six months later, everyone has forgotten how to use the playbooks, dashboards, tools, and worse: they don’t know why this system was developed in the first place.

This situation happens frequently for many reasons, but they boil down to the following three:
 

1.    Lack of a sustained discipline: You approved a budget for the development and landing stage and had some initial metrics, but you forgot to put enough fuel for the long run to encourage sustained and improved usage of all these tools and processes over time. It’s not enough to assume the sales enablement or sales ops lead will successfully force teams to permanently adopt the available resources. This model won’t last unless you support with funding and, more important, carry a metric on your scorecard that drives the accountability within the whole organization.

2.    Interference from competing initiatives and processes: You are still pushing your managers and reps to do many tasks with the same level of urgency, minimizing in turn the impact of the recent program launched boost their productivity. Your managers are working overtime by dealing with requests from all their sales reps, their customers, and their top executives simultaneously.

3.    No context to the dashboards and reports: Sales people and specific sales managers are inundated with reports and dashboards, which require a high investment in time and focus to interpret before they can come up with insights to better coach their sales reps. Perhaps they were trained in how to do it, but the reality is they don’t have the time to manage this complex process. As a result, their sales meetings are driven by the optimism of the sales rep who tells the story the manager wants to hear.

How can you approach these challenges? There are many ways to drive sales managers and sellers to use the tools effectively and improve productivity. I recommend a few tips:

1.    Assign someone to examine usage and frequently share best practices. Leverage your CRM platform to build or buy these dashboards and reports, but don’t leave it to the sales managers and sales reps to master the new tools. Have someone track how the sales team uses the resources and what scenarios make them more appealing to use. That information can be used to improve features and simplify the UX/UI with every quarter, an approach many startups take. Focus on removing clutter so that managers focus on the dashboards and report analysis.

2.    Capitalize on Big Data and AI initiatives to obtain better insights from data. Did you know that 90% of your existing analytics are descriptive and there is an opportunity to create better insights from the data with Big Data and AI initiatives? New technology can generate insights at optimal moments, showing the lagging indicators of performance and helping you identify leading indicators connected to people execution/activities to assess the execution and its potential impact. Using the new technology helps your sales managers by accelerating and simplifying the process of gaining insights that prepare them for their sales discussions.

3.    Establish a follow up mechanism to see how landing and adoption is faring over time. Track how sales managers are running their sales conversations by reviewing their agendas and sales rep feedback. Their agendas should be flexible but prescriptive, with core discussion points stemming from the previous two recommendations. Finally, make sure you track how meetings’ action items are being managed and if they’re being completed on time. You will come away with valuable information on which key actions have the biggest impact in winning and retaining customers, helping your team progress more opportunities to the close stage.

Building and sustaining a coaching habit at an organizational level produces enormous benefits for your sales teams, but it will require your sustained commitment to support the transition. Your sales managers are inundated by reports and dashboards to analyze and forms to complete, all of which require a big investment of time and energy. Don’t feel bad, there are many ways to help sales managers use the tools effectively over time and improve productivity. A full book can be written on this, but by following the above recommendations, your sales enablement and sales ops leads will be pleased with your commitment to the transition and making this adoption a permanent one. Leveraging Big Data, AI technologies and automation to support the coaching process and track how sales reps are progressing will have a positive impact for your sales team down the road.

 

 Michele Lanzara is CoFounder of Convercio

Michele Lanzara is CoFounder of Convercio