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Sales Coaching: A Proven Model for Delivering Feedback to Your Team

Sales Coaching Interaction

Providing feedback to your team is a critical sales coaching discipline that must be delivered the right way to create an engaged and motivated team.

In a recent survey of North American sales leaders, we at Fusion Learning asked, “Do sales managers have a model they use to provide feedback to their people?”

The response was surprising: one third said no. This was an aha moment for us.

Almost half of sales managers do not have a reliable coaching approach. We also know from our sales-management training sessions that feedback offered without a clear model ends up as a one-way conversation delivered from the manager to the performer. This leads to critical information not being understood and actioned by the performer.

These ineffective one-way feedback conversations come in one of two types:

1. The “sandwich”

The manager presents the performer with what he or she did well, “sandwiches” the negative feedback in the middle, and wraps it up with more positive feedback. It’s a habit based on years and years of giving feedback – and it’s a habit we have to break. Sales coaching requires a two-way conversation to be effective.

2. The “drive-by” approach

The manager doesn’t attempt to engage the salesperson; he or she simply states negative feedback and moves on. You never want to provide drive-by feedback. Remember, if you simply tell the salesperson, the conversation is one way, but if you ask the salesperson, this facilitates a two-way conversation.

If you constantly praise your team members without suggesting improvements, you will have an extremely confident, unskilled team. If you constantly suggest how they can improve without celebrating their success, you will have a skilled team that is lacking confidence.

Sales Coaching Feedback Infographic

Balance in feedback is critical

Our Effective Feedback model makes self-discovery by the performer the first and most critical part of this process. The model is two way, and has four easy-to-follow steps:

1. Ask performers what they did well.

2. You add what you feel they did well.

3. Ask performers what they will do differently next time.

4. You add what you suggest they do differently next time.

Steps 1 and 2 build confidence. We need confident team members. Steps 3 and 4 build skill. All four steps create a confident, skilled, and engaged team member with clear action items for improvement.

Do we spend an equal amount of time in each of these steps?

Definitely not!

People have different capacities for feedback and different abilities to assimilate information.

Those who lack confidence need more in steps 1 and 2. Those who are very confident, but lack skill need more time in steps 3 and 4 (but be careful that it comes after reinforcing confidence in steps 1 and 2).

Although two-way feedback is common sense, it isn’t common practice.

Making Effective Feedback common practice will engage your team and support their development. Once this four-step process is in place and well embedded in your culture, you’ll find team members are so well versed in receiving and giving feedback that they can actually provide themselves with clear, actionable, realistic, and balanced feedback on a daily basis.

How does this work in the real world?

Fusion Learning has consistent double digit growth, and one of the most significant factors is feedback. When we hire new team members (all members, not just sales), we provide them with a two-page summary of what it will be like to work at Fusion Learning. Here is what we say about feedback:

“Growth and development is key in our industry, not only for clients, but for employees as well – you will receive constant feedback here, some you will like and some that is harder to hear – either way there is an expectation that you take it and act on it.

“We will be open and candid with you. If you are performing well you will know it and if you are not performing well you will receive feedback and coaching.”

Our belief is that our successful growth has a lot to do with feedback being frequent and helpful for our team. Everyone on the team knows that feedback is a four-step process, and they appreciate how it contributes to their growth and development.

If you would like to improve your sales coaching skills and take your team’s performance to the next level, ask about our practical sales management training solution.

Are Some Members of Your Sales Team Not Performing?

Sales Team Not Performing in Office You may be on track to reach your total sales target, but are all the members of your sales team meeting their goals?

If not, you’re likely not creating sustainable and predictable performance. To do that, you need a capable and results-producing team across the majority.

Calculate your sales participation rate

In sales, one of the goals of ongoing management is Participation Rate (PR) – the percentage of sales team members who are at or above plan.

For a sales team, Participation Rate is easy to calculate. On a team of ten people with four people at or above their target for the year, the Participation Rate is 40%.

Participation Rate is a statistic rarely scrutinized and here’s why:

Sales managers are measured for making their quota. If the quota is $100 million, the sales manager’s goal is to get each sales person to deliver an average of $10 million. However, the different approaches to get to $100 million are not equal. If only a few make it, the likelihood of sustaining performance is reduced.

Whether some sales reps produce $15 million and others $5 million; the sales manager only needs the total to add up to $100 million. This incentivizes the sales manager to keep average performers because a sales person who only delivers 50% of their quota is better for the sales manager than the 0% they would contribute if the sales manager let them go.

Yes, you can achieve a great year on the success of a few sales reps but it’s not truly sustainable. If sales managers don’t understand this dynamic, they will be compelled to keep average performers and forgo the opportunity to create increased results.

Our research reveals that a participation rate of 60% or less will give sales managers a 10% chance of making their revenue plan. Sales managers must aim for a 70% participation rate to have a good chance of making plan, although it is not guaranteed.

Given this, why do sales managers tolerate poor performance? What stops them from having tough conversations?

Our belief is that they don’t understand the impact of participation rate.

Assess and categorize your salespeople

A sales rep’s performance can be evaluated on two criteria – behavior and results. If your sales team is not performing to plan, assess whether a sales rep is or could be delivering results using the following framework.

There are four performer categories a sales manager works with:

  1. High Performers = Deliver results + behave correctly
  2. Coachable Performers = Behave correctly, but results are not 100% yet
  3. Tough Performers = Deliver results + behave poorly
  4. Poor Performers = Poor results + poor behaviors

In an ideal world, a sales manager would have 100% High Performers. Neat concept, most likely not going to happen. What is the next best thing? 100% High Performers and Coachable Performers. This is attainable but it’s not the norm.

Most leaders will have some Tough Performers and some Poor Performers. Imagine having ten direct reports with two in these groups. Not bad, manageable. Now imagine four out of ten. Life is tougher and tough moments happen on a daily basis. At six out of ten, it is probably tough to get out of bed in the morning.

Don’t delay the performance conversation

Try to improve behavior and results with monthly One-on-Ones (more frequent for Tough and Poor Performers), observational coaching with feedback and regular connects to lean in and support.

If these sales management disciplines fail to work, that’s when it’s time for the performance conversation, which has five key steps:

  1. Set a clear standard and set milestones of performance for sales rep
  2. Inform the sales rep where they are not meeting the standard and set milestones
  3. Give the sales rep the opportunity to meet the standard and set milestones
  4. Offer assistance to help them meet the standard and set milestones
  5. Outline the consequences of not meeting the standard and set milestones

Sales managers know how to do this – the issue is gaining the courage. Sales managers need to have the conversation as soon as needed as putting it off spares no one.

Sales reps who want to be with you will step it up and improve. Those who are not capable/not interested will show very quickly (in weeks not months) after the performance conversation. If things still don’t improve, the sales manager can move to the final warning, consult with HR and decide to part ways, if required.

If you need to strengthen your coaching skills and or sales management disciplines, refer to our practical sales management sales training solution. Coaching to the challenges will develop your people and enhance contribution and performance across your team.

Training Industry names Fusion Learning Inc. a 2017 Top 20 Sales Training Company

March 10, 2017 – Fusion Learning Inc. is honored to announce that it has made Training Industry’s 2017 Top 20 Sales Training Companies List. Companies featured on the list are recognized as the best providers of training services and technologies in the marketplace.

“We are thrilled to have made Training Industry’s Top 20 Sales Training list. This is a big deal!” said Alyson Brandt, President, Fusion Learning Inc. USA. “Over the last 3 years we have been cited as a company on Training Industries Watch List. I think this move to the Top 20 list is validation of the unique sales training solutions we bring to the market, our deep appreciation of our clients personal and business objectives, and results that stick.”

Selection to this year’s Top 20 Sales Training Companies List was based on the following criteria:

• Industry recognition and impact on the sales training industry
• Innovation in the sales training market
• Company size and growth potential
• Breadth of service offering
• Strength of clients served
• Geographic reach

Per Ken Taylor, President, Training Industry, Inc. “the companies that earned their place on the 2017 Top 20 Sales Training Companies List have each demonstrated significant innovation in 2017, with a specific focus on improving the learner experience. These companies are responding to evolving expectations when it comes to modality, mobility and better use of learning technologies to enhance the sales training experience.”

Per Doug Harward, CEO, Training Industry, Inc. “The sales training sector has shown a significant focus on coaching and sustaining the impact of companies’ investment in sales training. We continue to find emerging practices coming to market first through the sales training sector.”

View the 2017 Top 20 Sales Training Companies

About Fusion Learning Inc.
Fusion Learning Inc. is one of North America’s top sales effectiveness firms. We deliver practical sales training solutions that unlock individual performance and produce sustainable business results. We partner with companies to understand their unique business challenges, design tailored solutions to meet their specific needs, and create impactful learning experiences that change mindsets and produce lasting results.

About Training Industry, Inc.
Training Industry spotlights the latest news, articles, case studies and best practices within the training industry, and publishes annual Top 20 and Watch List reports covering many sectors of interest to the corporate training function. Our focus is on helping dedicated businesses and training professionals get the information, insight and tools needed to more effectively manage the business of learning.

Sales Management Execution: More Art or Science?

Sales Management Art vs Science

In networking with my sales leader friends and peers, there is one unending argument that always surfaces:

Is there more art to sales success, or is sales management a science?

I’ve found that the overwhelming reasons why salespeople choose sales as a career is their love of the art of the deal:

• To build innovative solutions that create lasting value

• To manage their time as their own

• To build client portfolios they can manage as their own business

• To feel personally engaged in winning

• To express themselves in front of their customers

Salespeople often work without direct supervision building solutions, running customer calls, attending conferences or trade shows – and that’s what they prefer. Salespeople want to be left to their own creative studio, and the argument for art suggests that an experienced sales force requires less management, less training, and less oversight.

However, most sales forces we work with at Fusion Learning ask us for help in making their messages more consistent in the market. Our customers have well-thought value propositions for product, pricing, and distribution, and what we’re hearing is more repeatable, more reliable, more uniform communications in field.

Is artistic freedom by the sales force helpful in sales management execution?

No sane sales leader would push too hard to reduce the artfulness of their teams. However, adopting a science-based sales management approach will inform your sales process and make it possible for sellers to perform their art to the greatest effect.

Thoughtful use of sales science improves your ability to guide your sales team’s time on the right activities – those that will lead to better outcomes.

So how can you use sales science to execute more effectively?

Make coaching a sales management priority

You’ve spent countless hours refining your strategy documents, but executing your sales management strategy is a people problem. Relentless focus on powerful one-on-one coaching sessions are where your teams will receive the guidance and the confidence to execute to their full potential. Strong coaching sessions ensure sales teams are making clear headway on their priorities at your pace, not theirs.

Fusion performs a Sales Culture Survey every three years, and the 2016 results revealed that the best sales organizations have changed their sales management practices over time. They have increasingly moved to weekly sales coaching practices, rather than monthly.

Leverage your CRM system

You’ve invested in a powerful and capable sales CRM tool, and everyone’s been trained on how to use it.

So why aren’t you seeing a material impact or lift in your sales success?

CRM is the single most powerful enabling technology available to sales teams, but they are complex softwares – usability and user adoption is often low, and it’s common for us to see companies putting enormous time and effort into CRM user compliance and execution.

But sales management reporting, which you might normally think of as an output of good CRM inputs, can be one of the key drivers of sales execution. Communicating clear desired outcomes and developing rigorous and regular reporting will quickly lead to insightful conversations with your sales teams.

By establishing weekly sales coaching, and ensuring only CRM-entered data qualifies for the conversation, you can quickly confirm what’s being acted on, what isn’t being acted on, and how much insight your teams are bringing to their accounts. At Fusion Learning, we live this by declaring “If it isn’t in CRM, it didn’t happen”, which supports both great coaching, and consistent CRM compliance.

Create a scoreboard to measure and manage

Great sales teams care about winning, and they can only know they’re winning when they know the score.

Sales science demands we maintain a rigorous scoreboard to ensure we’re not just feeling good about our sales work, but that we can confidently measure our success and gain insight into our next actions.

A great scoreboard has a very narrow focus: it measures only what is crucial to your sales success. We’ve seen B2B sales scoreboards that measure the volume of emails sent out monthly, the time spent on a phone call, even logged-in time on applications – you can clearly measure almost anything.

Being a sales scientist means analyzing your business closely to uncover those one, two or three mission-critical metrics, the ones without which you’d never be successful, and focus relentlessly on making those improve.

At Fusion Learning, our scoreboard follows three key principles:

1. It measures the sales work that’s most important to success

2. It’s always accurate and quickly updated

3. Everyone in the company can read it and understand it.

For us, our critical sales metric is time spent with customers – we’re convinced it’s our leading indicator of sales success.

Executing on science

There is no doubt that salespeople value their independence and their ability to create. However, what they value most is overperformance against their plans.

If forced to choose between a repeatable, reliable sales process that has greater confidence of increased win-rates, and the ability to choose their own path, most smart salespeople follow the more direct and clear path to a win. Increasingly, that means having a sales leader that has adopted a scientific approach and regularly coaches their salespeople through successful execution.

To sharpen your coaching skills, ask me about our practical sales management training solution.

Retain Your New Hires – Avoid These 4 Common Sales Onboarding Mistakes

sales onboarding mistakes to avoid

Will your new sales hire stay or go? And if they stay, will they succeed or fail?

An effective sales onboarding program should give you confidence to answer those questions.

Research shows that 63% of employees know whether they will stay at a company long-term within the first month on the job; 33% know within the first week. This initial period is a precursor to employee engagement and has a significant influence on how productive they will be in their new role.

Sales onboarding means much more than just getting your new sales hire a desk, laptop, and password to the CRM system. It is one of the four crucial steps to building a high performing sales organization.

At Fusion Learning, we refer to these four steps as ROOMr:

1. Recruiting

2. Onboarding

3. Ongoing Management

4. retention

If you miss one of these steps, the rest will be much harder to achieve.

Sales Onboarding ROOMr

Sales onboarding is successful when a new hire achieves proficiency (not mastery) in attitude, knowledge, skills, activities and begins to achieve results. Each of these areas can be broken down into various activities specific to your business.

For example, reps may need to gain knowledge of one or several products, their markets and customers, and competitors’ strengths. Activities include reaching out to prospects, connecting to decision makers, participating in first meetings, converting prospects to opportunities, writing proposals, and finally, closing. Skills include prospecting, first meetings, presentations, communicating your company’s stories and how to negotiate and close in your business.

So, once you’ve recruited top sales talent, be sure to avoid these four common sales onboarding mistakes:

1. Don’t declare victory too early

Effective sales onboarding takes time. The program is not complete until new reps have achieved proficiency in all components of all areas.

In our most recent sales culture survey, 85% of sales organizations have sales onboarding periods of six months of less. We believe some (maybe more) of these organizations are underestimating the time required.

The time required to complete the sales onboarding plan will be determined by the tenure and experience of your new hire. Time to completion is negotiable and you can adapt the sales onboarding plan accordingly. What is not negotiable is the commitment from your new hire to participate and complete the sales onboarding program thoroughly.

Keep in mind that a new hire’s sales onboarding program isn’t truly completed until you as a manager are 100 percent confident that they can take a sale from prospect to close on their own.

2. Don’t confuse sales onboarding with training

Although sales onboarding might include taking classes, it should not be confused with training.

Each new rep should be given a very detailed list of the proficiencies that must be attained. It is the new sales rep’s responsibility to attain them and to ask for help from managers or others if obstacles get in the way.

Thorough sales onboarding is methodical and sequential. A good onboarding program sets specific quarterly goals in each major area of proficiency. Fusion Learning emphasizes skills, knowledge, and activities early in the process, then ramps up the push to reach sales goals later.

3. Don’t expect new reps to close in the first three months

Big wins can occur early in the sales onboarding process. However, be careful. Lucky breaks can be damaging; they may mislead a new rep into thinking he or she has learned everything necessary to achieve such results regularly.

As new reps are often eager, prospects rarely mistake them for sales veterans, even after a big sale. But if the lucky new rep has not learned, for example, how to prepare a winning proposal for a complex sale, it will be difficult for the new rep to replicate these results in the long term.

4. Proficiency does not mean mastery

Proficiency does not mean mastery of sales or even that the rep is now a “mature” salesperson.

For example, if your best reps sell $5 million annually, and your average veteran sells $3 million per year, the new rep may sell only $750,000 in the year to achieve proficient status. Yet this rep is fully on board when you know he or she can grow into a steady performer, even if it will take him or her another year or two to hit your sales veterans’ numbers.

Effective sales onboarding requires patience and diligence to have solid performers – or at least reps thoroughly capable of solid performance. And that makes the last steps of ROOMr, ongoing management and retention, highly feasible and much easier.

Develop a coaching approach that connects to each individual on your team

The key to maximizing individual results and driving higher engagement is by creating an individual management approach. To learn more, ask about our Managing Different People Differently training solution and stay tuned for additional best practices on sales onboarding processes.