If you are in B2B sales, you are always optimizing for revenue. You are either building more products, hiring more sales reps, or tweaking your pricing — and each of them contributes to varying degrees of success.
One of the most cost-effective ways to accelerate revenue is sales coaching. The Sales Readiness Group suggests that B2B sales reps that achieved their quota 75% of the time had more proficient sales coaching initiatives in their organizations than others.
On average, B2B sales managers spent 20% of their time coaching their reps to close certain skill gaps, which increased the average revenue per rep. And if you can do this in your company, you can improve both the revenue and the bottom line.
There aren't many sales productivity investment options that are nearly as impactful as coaching. So, let's look at what sales coaching is and how you can accelerate the process.
What is sales coaching?
Sales coaching works very differently compared to how a B2B sales manager mentors, trains, or manages their team. It is not about telling your sales reps what to do but rather enabling and helping them get to the next level.
B2B Sales leaders and managers who understand the importance of developing their team members tend to design the sales coaching process in a way it helps each rep individually.
The idea is to ensure that each rep gets feedback on specific improvement areas, reinforces positive behavior, and corrects negative behavior. And that is vastly different from what a generic training program offers.
Common sales coaching approaches in B2B sales organizations
Most companies in the B2B space take one of the two approaches to sales coaching — (a) setting up a sales training program or (b) getting the new sales reps to shadow the calls of senior reps to get reps and AEs upto speed.
There are merits to both approaches depending on the culture of your B2B sales organization.
Sales training programs
Sales training programs have traditionally been a key area of investment for B2B sales organizations. Though training programs have been around for a long time, recent surveys show that 9 out of 10 reps and AEs in B2B sales organizations still feel that training programs are a must on a regular basis as it contributes to their professional development.
And interestingly, B2B sales training programs have changed a lot since 2019. As the in-person training programs got suspended, many sales leaders such as John Barrows and Jeff Davis transitioned to virtual training. And these virtual training programs have made sales training more digestible with its bite-sized chunks approach instead of overwhelming reps with the entire curriculum at one go.
Shadowing senior reps on their calls
The next sales coaching method, or rather the most common method used by B2B sales teams, is — getting sales reps to shadow senior reps on their calls for the first couple of months.
Shadowing is a preferred method because it's contextual to the organization and the product you will be selling. It really helps when you watch and learn from your senior sales pros in action. It gives you a perspective into how they interact with prospects, handle objections, common questions asked by prospects when to upsell, cross-sell, etc.
Sounds great, so what are we missing?
In a B2B sales organization, when you have a new sales rep on board, it takes an average ramp-up time of three months before they are ready to interact with prospects. And then it takes another six months before they become competent and almost a year and a quarter before they become top-performing sales reps.
It takes 6-9 months to get to full productivity because they need to get used to the organization's onboarding process, the internal process around sales closure, and the handover to customer success. But, overall, it's not just about getting to full productivity, but about getting embedded in your organizational culture.
So, the question is — can you afford to wait for nine months from the time of hire before your sales reps become competent performers? And is training and rep shadowing sufficient enough ramp-up process?
Here's what Casey Hill, Head of Growth at Bonjoro, says:
And that is exactly where a sales coaching software helps.
What is a sales coaching software? How does it accelerate the B2B sales ramp up process?
A sales coaching software acts complimentary to the sales training and rep shadowing efforts taken by B2B sales organizations. The software gives sales leaders the ability to analyze sales calls, and help the new reps refine their techniques, and improve sales close rates.
The sales coaching software typically offers features such as listening to past calls, conversation intelligence, and feedback/comments from sales leaders and peers. You can use the software to understand your top sales performers more and see what they are doing on calls that make them successful. And then, you can use those insights to coach other reps.
The higher the visibility over actual sales calls, the faster you can help the new reps hone their skills and shorten the time to revenue.
Case study: Our AE got to her first sales demo in 30 days
At Avoma, we had Olivia Wainhouse join us in March 2021 as our newly hired Senior Account Executive. Going by industry average, it should have taken a minimum of 3 months before she started taking up sales calls with prospects and doing demos independently.
Olivia delivered her first sales demo in under 30 days of joining Avoma. And the proof in the pudding is that she got a purchase commitment from the prospect on her very first call.
Since she was our first sales hire, she obviously didn't have any senior reps whose calls she could shadow on. But, full disclosure — she definitely joined our CEO on some of his sales calls.
However, what really helped in accelerating her ramp up was:
a) Creating a playlist of the sales calls done by Aditya, our CEO, and listening to it daily as part of her morning jogs. She listened to 5 calls per day and understood the questions that were commonly asked by prospects, objections raised, how questions around pricing were tackled, etc.
b) She also created snippets of certain parts of the conversations that she wanted to learn more about and shared them with the team, with her comments on it. And that reduced a lot of time in the back and forth in terms of internal communication.
So, when you drink your champagne and know it works - you can celebrate a little :)
Sales coaching tips to accelerate your B2B sales ramp-up
1. Adopt an asynchronous approach to coaching
There are many advantages to taking an asynchronous approach to sales coaching. For instance, you can let your new reps listen to the calls of other reps without the need for being on the call at the exact moment when the sales call is happening. In addition, your reps can listen to multiple calls a day (just like how Olivia listened to 5 calls a day), which can quickly get them up to speed.
And for you, a B2B sales leader, you can asynchronously review the recorded calls, come together with your reps to discuss what worked, what could be improved, and more.
This helps accelerated learning and feedback loop because:
- You as a sales leader need not block out time to sit in on your rep's calls
- You don't even have to listen to the entire call. You can choose to listen to the specific topics of discussion that you think are critical, and in your preferred speed such as 0.5x 1.75x or 2x. For example, you can choose to listen to only the discovery section, demo section, etc., so that the listening process in itself is smarter. And that alone can accelerate the learning/feedback loop by 2x.
- Your meetings/feedback to your reps can be focused and specific to each person based on the data and outcome of their calls
- Your sales coaching program is neither restricted to a physical location nor does it have a time constraint
2. Set up active listening benchmarks
Many a time, B2B sales reps are juggling between paying attention to what a prospect says, taking notes, handling objections, thinking about what to say next, and more. So, it's tough to practice active listening.
Helping your sales team adopt note taking software can help them participate more actively in the conversation. For instance, active listening can help reps pick up on subtle emotional signals of the prospect. In addition, it helps you realize the set of product features you want to show them instead of overwhelming them with everything your platform does.
It helps to set up active listening benchmarks. For instance, looking at the data from our online meetings, we at Avoma have found that the ideal/recommended talk range is 40% - 60% for sales discovery calls. So, if you see that your reps are talking more than 60% of the time, you might want to make it one of the parameters you would want to help them improve.
3. Create call templates for your reps
Another key aspect to accelerating the ramp-up is to create a template that your new reps can follow based on the nature of their sales call. For clarity, a template doesn't mean having a call script. No prospect likes to be on the receiving end of a call script. To create a template that gives you an overview of points you want the rep to touch upon during their calls.
For example, suppose your rep is on a sales discovery call. In that case, you want them to understand the prospect's business needs, the use case of what they are trying to solve, their current pain points, when they plan to implement a solution like yours, the next course of action after the call, etc.
Having a clearly defined approach levels the ground for all your reps and building their personal nuances/style from thereon.
4. Reduce your review time by leveraging call notes
As a sales leader, sometimes, you might not have the time to listen to the calls of every rep on your team. You can shorten your review times by going through the call notes (which also get automatically appended into the CRM).
At a glance, you get the summary of the entire call. You get to understand the tech stack of your prospect, the objections they had during the conversation with your sales rep, the positive moments on the call, and more.
And then, you can choose the calls you want to listen to for a deeper perspective. That way, you spend your time wisely on things that really need your attention. In fact, when you use a tool like Avoma, you can comment or share feedback on something that your rep said on the call, which you think could have been handled differently.
5. Leverage conversation intelligence to improve collaboration
Using a conversational intelligence tool can help you record and analyze the sales conversations and access key information from their conversations. It speeds up the data entry into their CRM and passes information to other stakeholders on their team.
The software can also help you bridge the alignment gaps across your sales and customer success organization. In fact, you could bring the entire organization on the same page by democratizing the key insights from customer and prospect conversations to other teams in the organization such as product, marketing, customer success, etc. That way, you break the silos across teams and accelerate the time to revenue for the entire organization.
Sales coaching, especially in the world of B2B is a good mix of art and science. So, an accelerated ramp-up of a sales rep is not just about adopting tools and software but about a good mix of software, sales training, and shadowing on the sales calls of senior reps.
Winning teams are the ones that get their combination right.
Make it rain!