Recently, we presented the top line research findings from a three-year study that discovered the mistakes salespeople make on actual live sales calls and meetings that hurt their results. We also found that both outside and inside salespeople are making the exact same mistakes, regardless of how much training and coaching they’re getting.
Because inside sales teams typically get more coaching, feedback, and role-play practice, you’d think this would have more of an impact on their selling skills, but our research has shown this is not the case. We’ve tested dozens of sales teams and the sad truth is, most of the inside sales coaching and training is not breaking the four bad habits that cause poor results:
- Talking too much and taking too long to get to the point
- Not asking the right, relevant questions at the right time in the sales process
- Inability to communicate clear and convincing competitive advantages
- Poor call control of the sales process and inability to close or even ask for the order
Why sales coaching has less impact than it should …
Inside sales teams do typically get more sales coaching that falls into these five buckets:
- The recorded call review: This coaching activity involves calls that are recorded or live monitored with a coaching process applied to identify how the salesperson can do better
- Team huddles: These are quick meetings, largely focused on system changes related to the telephony tech or discussion of best practices or recent successes a sales team member recently had
- Quality monitoring reviews: Many inside sales organizations have dedicated QA teams that listen to calls and sometimes pass on actionable insights to front line sales managers that focuses mostly on compliance-driven factors that are then discussed with the salespeople
- Role plays: Typically involves repetition of practice and the quality of the experience varies greatly depending on who is conducting the role play
- Online Interactive Coaching: This is an attempt to automate coaching with online tech, AI and learning processes. This can be very effective at getting knowledge out quickly but has minimal impact on the verbal habits and patterns that cause sales mediocrity.
Most of this sales coaching is focused on analyzing the past and not practicing to impact the future. Let’s take a good look at a coaching activity that consumes a lot of time.
The recorded call review
Most of the larger, better organized inside sales teams have some type of call recording tech in place that allows calls to be pulled up, listened to and reviewed. Truth is, an enormous amount of time and money is invested into this method of coaching and although it can have some positive impact, it doesn’t move the needle much with the four bad habits. Here’s the process as it typically occurs:
- The sales managers allocate a time block to pulling up calls and listening to them, typically using a scoring system or rubric they’ve been trained to use … it often takes listening to several calls before a useful one is found
- A coaching session is scheduled and typically starts by listening to the selected call the sales manager has identified with the salesperson
- There’s usually some kind of conversation flow, hopefully interactive, to identify what went well and how the salesperson could have performed better according to an established process they’ve been trained on
- The sales manager typically throws in some advice on how he/she would have handled the call and this advice ranges from extremely helpful to emotionally damaging and all colors in between
- The interaction ends with little to no real practice but instead, pressure or metrics driven commitments to do something different or better in the future
- When what is often described as “practice” does occur, it’s usually the sales managers asking the salesperson to say, once or twice, what they should have said on that sales call
Most salespeople we work with tell us they don’t like this kind of coaching, largely because the sales managers doing it are ineffective at the coaching process. They often feel as though the purpose of these coaching sessions is to look for mistakes and overlook the calls that went well. Often, salespeople do not think their sales manager is more effective than they are at selling so a credibility problem is established in terms of the advice they’re getting.
After testing dozens of sales teams, we can say with absolute confidence, this type of coaching is not the best way to train and coach inside sales teams to improve and it often creates more frustration and organizational friction and fractured relationships than it’s worth. There’s a better way.
How sports teams train their athletes …
When you look at elite sports teams, they approach training in a much more effective way that has an immediate and continuous impact on their players. Here’s how they do it:
- They analyze the stats and performance from a previous game and come up with a game plan for the next game.
- They determine the adjustments in the game plan that will increase their odds of winning
- Most of the time with the players is spent practicing and rehearsing the plays and strategies that will increase their odds of winning
- The senior-level managers/coaches are right there, actively involved in training, assessing the training sessions and coaching the coaches
- Practice coaches are able to demonstrate effectively the skills and improvements they want to see as a result of the intense practice
- Players go through a wide variety of drills every week to improve their strength, agility, speed, and awareness. These drills are repeated over and over.
- The team puts enormous effort into designing the practice routines and putting coaches in place that know how to practice with the players.
The key is, they are practicing for the next game. The analysis of the past is relatively quick because it’s used to help improve the practice strategy and to identify what skills need to be practiced and then … the practice happens!
Inside sales teams need what elite athletes need!
When you look closely at how inside sales teams are coached, even the better ones, you’ll find that the bulk of their sales coaching focus is on analyzing the past, pointing out mistakes and successes and motivating the team members to focus on fixing those mistakes with more focus and effort but there isn’t much time for actual practice because people are busy and salespeople need to get back on the phones to hit demanding efficiency metrics.. And, this works with a relatively small percentage of salespeople, but it’s easier to execute with poorly trained sales managers.
If, however, sales teams train their sales managers to coach and practice the way elite sports teams do it, here is what will happen:
- Less of their time will be spent analyzing the past
- The company will develop an actual practice system with drills and exercises that break bad habits and build good ones
- Salespeople will go through drills every week designed to break the bad habits that 70% of them get into and repeat day after day
- Sales managers will spend time in actual practice with team members instead of just giving advice based on what they’ve observed, which is easy, but largely ineffective
- The company will experience dramatic improvements in conversion numbers that will offset the increased practice time that drops efficiency metrics.
We need to learn from elite sports teams because they have taken training to the next level. The reason over 70% of all inside salespeople make the same four mistakes on call after call after call is because the training and coaching they’re getting are not having the impact it should. Doing more of what’s not working, even with more intensity, is not the answer. Athlete centered training and coaching is.
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