State of High Tech Sales Coaching

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State of High Tech Sales Coaching 2019

Table Of Contents Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Perception Disparities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Frequency of coaching interactions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Coaching quality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

Sources of Misalignment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Improving Managers’ Coaching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Coach the coaches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Use technology to improve the coaching process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Focus on individual needs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

Augmenting the Coaching Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Spur deliberate practice and empower reps to self-coach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Peer-to-peer collaboration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

Recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

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Introduction Research shows a direct correlation between effective coaching and win rates. This is especially true in high tech, where sales cycles can be complex and lengthy. High-quality coaching requires not only effort and collaboration between sales managers, reps, and enablement professionals, but also agreement on coaching effectiveness and best practices. When reps receive good coaching, they develop better product knowledge and selling skills, and can go into sales meetings feeling confident and prepared. Exceptional coaching also helps reps better understand customers’ business challenges and provide the right solutions. This eBook will guide you through the results of a high tech sales and marketing survey conducted by Canam Research, highlighting some of the most interesting findings. We’ll look at disparities in coaching practices and perceptions, how to ‘coach the coach,’ how technology plays an important role for both coaches and reps, the importance of the role of peer-to-peer collaboration, and more. We’ll also provide recommendations to help improve coaching efforts at your organization.

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Perception Disparities Front line sales managers and reps disagree about whether coaching from managers affects deal outcomes.

Does managers’ coaching positively affect deal outcomes?

97% of sales managers in high tech feel that the coaching they provide makes a positive impact on sales results—but only 70% of their reps agree.

If reps don’t believe that their manager’s coaching helps them--especially when managers feel differently--it’s a big red flag. Coaching perceived as ineffective makes reps more likely to “go rogue,” creating barriers to subsequent development efforts and even sowing mistrust.

Far too often, training is applied as a solution to a problem it can’t solve. The same applies to coaching. Matching the right solution to the performance problem it will solve is a key skill that most managers aren’t ever taught. Mike Kunkle, VP of Sales Enablement, SPA & SPASIGMA

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Frequency of coaching interactions

Coaching quality

Reps and managers in high tech agree that coaching doesn’t happen enough. When asked about whether reps received an optimal amount of coaching, about 1/3 of high tech managers and reps said they did not.

While many reps and managers agree that more coaching is needed, they disagree on the quality of the coaching provided. Almost all managers believe that they provide high-quality coaching, but only about two-thirds of reps agree. A huge gap in perceptions here spells danger. If reps don’t believe the coaching they receive is of sufficient quality, they’re less likely to listen to suggestions, and more likely to churn.

A sales rep’s relationship with his or her manager is critical to performance improvement, and lack of coaching is a roadblock. If managers don’t provide enough coaching, sales performance suffers because reps can’t reach their potential.

Do managers provide enough coaching?

Do managers provide high-quality coaching?

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Sources of Misalignment Coaching is not effective unless you understand the competencies that need addressing. Coaching to specific competencies drives better performance in the long run because it helps reps build skills they can apply to future deals. Coaching to competencies also focuses on areas of need, and doesn’t waste time where assistance is unneeded. We asked high tech managers and reps to identify the subject matter of coaching sessions to understand whether managers focus their efforts on long-term goals like helping reps build skills, or more tactical approaches like closing deals. Managers’ responses show a consistent belief that they spend most of their coaching time collaborating with reps on skills and competencies that help reps hone their craft. In contrast, reps felt that managers use a tactical, deal-focused approach. While critical to running a successful sales team, deal coaching by itself doesn’t sustain results. Managers also need to coach reps on a variety of skills they’ll need to close complex B2B deals. Managers feel pressured to deliver results and may neglect the long-term benefits of skills-focused coaching in order to meet short-term needs. Without working on basic skills like value-focused selling, improved presentation skills, and adherence to sales methodologies, high tech reps are more likely to struggle in the field.

Deal coaching by itself doesn’t sustain results. Managers also need to coach reps on a variety of skills they’ll need to close complex B2B deals.

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Improving Managers’ Coaching Coach the coaches Sales training and enablement leaders in high tech are keen on ‘coaching the coach,’ yet only 21% of the sales training and enablement leaders we surveyed felt the coaching support and training they provide to front line sales managers is excellent. When asked about the types of coaching on which they focus their support efforts, the results mirrored the type of tactical deal coaching that reps say managers provide. These results show an abundance of tactical, dealfocused coaching that reps deem less valuable. Sales training and enablement leaders should consider focusing more of their manager training and support on skills-based coaching since survey results show that it affects manager behavior. It’s also noteworthy that reps who have been promoted to sales management roles often lack basic coaching skills, as good sellers are not automatically good coaches. Equipping managers with training and support content like sales kits and playbooks, coaching guides, and video demonstrations of top coaching techniques can greatly improve coaching results.

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Use technology to improve the coaching process Survey results show that managers feel constrained by myriad requests and administrative tasks that limit the amount of time they can dedicate to coaching. Sales coaching technology can provide the means to reduce managers’ time burden by empowering them to deliver coaching asynchronously, remove the typical barriers of time and geography, and identify competency gaps to improve coaching focus. However, the survey results show that while sales training and enablement leaders provide technology solutions, managers are often unaware that they exist.

The data also show that sales reps and managers prefer face-to-face coaching interactions, and perhaps this is partly to blame for the under-use of technology. If coaching software doesn’t simulate the in-person coaching experience, managers won’t adopt it. Technology that closely replicates face-to-face interactions may help reclaim much of the value lost when participants can’t be in the same room.

When asked about the barriers to consistently providing high-quality coaching to reps, managers responded that their top constraint is time.

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Focus on individual needs Another way to improve coaching quality is to ensure coaching is personalized to address the individual needs of each rep. Survey results showed that 45% of managers in high tech want more training on diagnosing performance problems, and 37% want better dashboards for monitoring individual competency gaps. Delivering coaching that’s targeted to individuals increases coaching effectiveness by focusing energy on the areas where it will have the greatest impact. Nearly every sales team has reps across a broad spectrum of competencies–from the entry-level BDR to a seasoned pro. Managers need ways to identify skill gaps and tailor programs to meet individual needs. Managers should have a way to test competencies, identify weaknesses, and then tailor their coaching activities to address the most acute needs. By interacting in a focused way, managers gain greater visibility into the individual components of their reps’ approaches and can work on the areas that will have the greatest impact on overall performance.

45% of managers in high tech want more training on diagnosing performance problems


37% want better dashboards for monitoring individual competency gaps

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Augmenting the Coaching Process Spur deliberate practice and empower reps to self-coach If reps don’t use what they’ve learned between the training and the time they need it in the field, it’s unlikely that they’ll do it right when money is on the line. When asked about what would help them improve their coaching the most, managers most frequently felt that they could achieve the greatest impact by finding ways to motivate reps to use what they were taught. Reps often fail to use the techniques and approaches that managers coach them on because they lack sufficient practice opportunities. Without consistent practice and repetition, they fall back on the skills they’ve already developed rather than adopting new behavior. The purpose of coaching is to shape reps’ behavior in order to maximize effectiveness, so practice is critical. Teaching managers how to facilitate role plays while ensuring role play sessions take place on a consistent cadence is key to driving deliberate practice among reps. Reps tend to practice more when faced with the prospect of running through a presentation or talk track with their manager at the end of the week. Establishing a weekly role play session with each rep compels them to work on the items their manager covers during coaching interactions. Additionally, supplementing in-person role play with video role play spurs reps to practice and self-correct by giving them greater perspective on their own performances. Being able to review their own recordings gives them a better understanding of what needs to be fixed, rather than being told by their manager—like recording and playing back a person’s golf swing instead trying to explain what’s wrong.

Question: What would help us (managers) the most to improve coaching:

#1 reponse

Finding ways to motivate reps to use what they were taught.

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Peer-to-peer collaboration Survey results show that 55% of reps want more training on best practices developed by other sellers. This was their top response when asked about what they need from their managers. However, the survey shows that managers’ number-one barrier to consistently delivering high-quality coaching is time. How can managers deliver on these needs when they’re already strapped for time? One approach is to make it easier to spread best practices through peer collaboration. Enabling high performers to easily share best practices with others reduces the burden of coaching for managers, while increasing the velocity with which new ideas are adopted by the field. When a rep engages in conversation with a product manager and they learn something useful about your solution, they expand their horizons and thereby require less coaching. The same occurs when they overhear another rep on a call positioning a product in a particular way. When managers create an environment where reps and subject matter experts can easily share ideas and best practices, they empower reps with a greater variety of tools to choose from when encountering new selling situations.

When asked about their needs, reps’ top responses indicate that they believe more training on best practices and skills-based coaching will improve performance.

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Recommendations While fascinating, these insights don’t add value unless you can use them to improve your coaching efforts. At Allego, we work with over 160,000 users in sales, sales management, and sales enablement to help them address many of the same issues exposed in the survey results. Here are the best practices that we recommend:

  1. Improve the dialogue between managers and reps Several survey responses pointed to differences in perceptions between reps and managers. Consider methods to gain agreement about coaching expectations between reps and managers, focusing on specific competencies that need to be improved. Then use a scorecard approach to understand how reps are improving their areas of need over time.
  2. Increase peer collaboration Enabling high performers to share best practices with others more easily reduces the burden of coaching for managers, while increasing the velocity with which new ideas are adopted by the field. Capturing best

practices and tribal knowledge on video is a great way to share the hard-won wisdom of top performers with other reps. Look for ways to encourage top performers and subject matter experts to capture their knowledge on video so you can share it with the rest of the team as an example to emulate.

  1. Focus on competencies, not just results Focusing on competencies enables you to identify and improve the individual skills that lead to successful selling. As we highlighted earlier, improving skills is one of the top methods with which reps think managers could help them. Reps’ strengths and weaknesses should be identified during training, and then areas of need should receive additional reinforcement as reps move to the field. Also, keep managers in the loop by providing them with initial competency assessments and the ability to track competencies over time. As a result, managers can continually fine tune their coaching efforts to focus on the greatest areas of need.

Make sure that whatever you do best meets the needs of your training staff, managers, and reps.

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4. Use technology to your advantage Coaching software solutions are a great way to nearly replicate the face-toface experience in an asynchronous way. Evaluate solutions that use video and other interactive media to simulate in-person coaching while enabling managers to coach on their own schedules. Look for solutions that provide visibility into competency gaps and allow managers to deliver coaching remotely. It’s noteworthy that survey results show a disconnect between sales managers and sales enablement leaders about the perception of software tools that were available to them. Make sure that the coaching solution you select best meets the needs of your training staff, managers, and reps.

  1. Strengthen the communication channels between sales leaders and sales enablement When a newly trained rep leaves training and enters the field, sales managers need to be part of the transition and stay in the loop. Additionally, Sales Enablement needs to keep abreast of needs in the field so that they’re prepared to continually give sales teams what they need to succeed. How can you accomplish these goals? Share information about sales competencies during the transition from training to field sales. In the survey, managers strongly preferred dashboards to track competencies. For example: • Adopt a formal sales coaching methodology and consider using a third party to assist. • Work as partners to find coaching tools that best meet institutional sales coaching needs.

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Conclusion Sales reps want more and better coaching, managers want to coach more effectively, and sales enablement and training leaders want to improve the quality of support they provide. When training and selling processes are more closely interconnected, sales managers spend their coaching time more effectively because they’re armed with better information. The strategic use of technology combined with stronger coaching fundamentals enables a smooth transition for reps from training to the field, and empowers managers to provide ongoing targeted assistance. Both managers and reps can transcend the limitations of time and distance through video coaching and role-play, and build a collaborative coaching environment where peers and SMEs play a vital role in sharing best practices for ongoing organizational success.

Survey Details We worked with Canam Research to survey sales managers, sales reps, and sales enablement leaders about their experiences with sales coaching at their current organizations. Survey responses came from 34 frontline sales managers, 114 sales reps, and 24 sales training and enablement leaders in the technology sector. The survey was administered using an online response tool to capture and summarize respondents’ information.

Management should consider that an effective way to attract and retain talent is to create an environment where talented people can develop. John Hagel, Co-chairman, Deloitte

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About The Authors

Allego is a modern sales learning platform that combines training, practice, coaching and knowledge sharing into one app. It uses mobile, video, and peer collaboration to reinvent learning for the dynamic needs of sales teams. Allego’s speed and consumer app design match the pace of even the most hard-charging salespeople. If you can use Netflix, you can use Allego. With Allego, sales teams onboard faster, confidently deliver the right messaging, rapidly adopt best practices, coach and practice more frequently, and collaborate broadly with peers and the home office. Nearly 160,000 sales professionals across financial services, technology, life science and other industries use Allego to ensure they bring their A game to every customer conversation.

Mike Kunkle Mike is a respected sales transformation architect and internationally-recognized sales training and sales enablement expert. He’s spent 34 years in the sales profession and 24 years as a corporate leader or consultant, helping companies drive dramatic revenue growth through best-in-class learning strategies and his proven-effective sales transformation methodologies. Today, Mike is the Vice President of Sales Enablement Services for SPA and SPASIGMA. He consults, advises, writes, speaks, leads webinars, and designs sales learning systems that get results.

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