Data-Driven Sales Coaching - The 2018 Guide

Data-Driven Sales Coaching: The 2018 Guide

The professional selling industry has seen drastic changes over the years, and gone are the days of the “shoot from the hip’ers,” lone wolves, and Gordon Gekkos. The modern-day sales industry is in a form of digital renaissance. Sales managers are moving their sales training and coaching strategies from mystical artform to repeatable science.

One of the most important changes in the sales industry has undoubtedly been the rise of data-driven sales, which transformed the old sales process into one with far more direction and purpose.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into what data-driven sales coaching looks like in 2018, and how you can make sure your processes are in-line with the standards in this ever-changing industry.

Modern Business Intelligence

What’s in your sales stack?

Odds are, you’re using several software programs to monitor your sales performance.

Sales departments have begun using data to drive sales ops more and more as they’ve realized how useful it can be. As a result, we’ve also seen the rise of modern business intelligence (BI) platforms that facilitate the collection, use, and interpretation of data for modern enterprises.

The first step to a data-driven sales coaching approach is to actually begin collecting and using the three different types of sales data (Volume Data, Conversion Data, and Performance Data). To do this, you’ll most likely need to adopt a business intelligence platform that fits with the size and scope of your enterprise, and has the capabilities you need for the types and amount of data you’re collecting. Once you have your BI platform integrated and your data parameters set up, you can begin the process of integrating data-driven sales into your practices, and outlining your coaching strategies.

Data as “a Tool” vs. “a Focus”

Since we’re discussing “data-driven” sales, it may be natural to place more importance than we should on the actual data itself, rather than the sales. If we begin placing too much importance on the data we’re collecting then it can actually be much more of a hindrance than a help.

One such way this can happen is when we focus too much on the collection of data, and take up our valuable time and resources collecting and entering every single byte of data we can get our hands on into our system. Time management is one of the most important aspects of running a sales department, and the pitfall of focusing too much on data collection can end up backfiring if we fall into it.

Another possible occurrence is that we focus too much on the use of data. It may seem ironic since the sales process is described as “data-driven,” but as a coach and as a manager you want to promote the unique strengths of each individual and motivate them as best you can. When we begin aligning our team members with the data we collect and basing their entire sales-process on it we are actually sacrificing both of these strengths.

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Too much of a good thing can quickly become a bad thing, and so the data in your data-driven sales should not be the entire focus of your sales operations. When you’re coaching your sales team and defining your processes it’s important to think of data as more of a tool, and how it can be used in just the right amount be each individual to enhance their effectiveness.

How Can You Use Data To Improve Your Sales Coaching?

The most important job of a coach in any position, whether it be industry; life; or athletics, is to help the members of their team improve in their roles and grow their individual strengths. This remains true in data-driven sales coaching, and the best part is that the data we are collecting can actually be the catalyst for improving our team members.

When we visualize where our team members exist in reference to our organization and against other members of the team it becomes much easier to see how we can take reps who may not be performing as well as they would like and bring them up to be on par with the high-performing reps on the team.

Leverage gamification – Salespeople are, by nature, motivated by competition. Remember, when designing effective sales coaching strategies, incentive drives behavior. Gamification simply leverages this principle.

Using this technique to plot out the performance of our reps also allows us to set goals and plot our pathways our individuals can take to join the top ranks or salespeople. This way, data becomes a very useful and tangible catalyst for self-improvement and the growth of your revenue.

However, it has been shown that in many cases of the very bottom performers in an organization, coaching may not be enough to bring them up to par with the rest of the team. In some cases, these low-performing individuals may not ever rise up, and may simply stay where they are no matter how much coaching they receive. In these cases, it is commonly an issue of the role they are in, or them simply not being a good fit for the organization.

Create More “A” Players –  As a sales leader, your time is best spent coaching the middle 2/3 of reps who have both the room for improvement and the incentive to be top performers. Leverage the insights from your data and business intelligence tools to sift out the behaviors and processes of your top performers and find effective ways to pass on those sales skills to these key sales reps.

Set Goals, and Make Them Known 

According to research conducted by the Harvard Business Review, over 50% of B2B sales executives indicate that their employees don’t understand their company’s strategy.

The first step is to determine what KPIs your company and sales department should be measuring and determine how data will help guide the sales process and drive better results. Having these clear goals communicated to your team will help you set expectations for sales reps and keep them accountable through the months ahead.

Sales data can offer a real-time look at the sales pipeline, thereby eliminating gaps in visibility and enabling sales leaders to set goals. Successful sales coaching enables sales leaders to define their business goals, outline a workflow, and work with reps to achieve these objectives.

Final Thoughts

In the end, the way you approach data-driven sales coaching is entirely up to you and your specific needs and style. The most important thing to remember is that the data you are collecting should be used for framing coaching conversations and improving sales goals, rather than becoming the focus of all your sales operations. Finding an effective coaching strategy may take time, but the foundation of what makes a good coach remains largely the same no matter what practice you are in.