The Importance Of A Modernized Sales Coaching Model

Patrick Welch, President of Bigtincan.

It was the late John Wooden who once said that “while a good coach can change a game, a great coach can change a life.”

Wooden, considered to be among the most revered coaches in the history of sports, led UCLA to 10 NCAA men’s basketball titles over a 12-year span in the late 1960s, including an all-time record of seven championships in a row. The college basketball icon obviously didn’t have remote sales representatives in mind when he made that statement, but his message aligns quite well with the evolution of sales enablement today.

For a more recent and relevant parallel, look no further than Providence College men’s basketball coach Ed Cooley—the recipient of the 2022 Naismith Men’s Basketball Coach of the Year award after leading the Friars to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. Cooley was the keynote speaker at our company’s 2022 Sales Kickoff event in August, where he shared a unique perspective on the criticality of effective preparation that enables a team of coaches and players—whether it be in basketball or in sales—to ultimately “get to yes.” Take recruiting for example. In order for a smaller school like Providence to compete with the likes of blue-blood college basketball programs for the nation’s top high school prospects, meticulous preparation is required.

“Before I go and recruit a prospect, I’m going to do all my DNA research on who that person is,” Cooley said. “And I mean everything. What’s their name? What’s their cat’s name? What’s their neighbor’s name? What’s their favorite color? What’s their dream car? What’s their dream home? Do they want a family?”

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Similar logic should be applied to sales enablement. Like recruiting in college sports, the B2B sales market is both exceedingly competitive and complex. And now more than ever, amid the rise of digital-centric selling and remote buyer preferences, the path to becoming remote-buyer-ready is anything but straight and narrow. It’s an arms race of who can best appeal to a new age of buyers.

Aragon’s 2021 Globe for Sales Coaching and Learning benchmark study found that sales leaders are increasingly pivoting from traditional LMS-based approaches for onboarding, training and coaching. The study determined that sales coaching had the greatest impact on win rates and sales quota retention over the past five years.

Those results were indicative of industrywide trends that signify the importance of adopting modernized coaching to effectively prepare customer-facing teams for navigating a volatile sales landscape. Legacy practices like one-size-fits-all onboarding and ad hoc training programs lack the intelligent automation, personalization and scalability that reps need to become strong digital-centric sellers.

Prioritizing Personalization

It’s important to remember that the typical customer-facing sales team consists of sales reps with different backgrounds, preferences and learning styles. This underscores the importance of integrating personalized learning as a core competency of a modernized sales coaching framework. Compared to industry peers, outperforming sales organizations commit to 79% more coaching and are 57% more likely to tailor their training programs for personalization. Fostering an organizational culture that prioritizes professional development drives learning retainment and seller performance—leading to increased revenue—as well as employee engagement and staff retention.

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There’s also a bandwidth factor. In reality, one sales manager does not have the time to provide personalized coaching to a team of 50 sales reps. The same can be said for 30 sales managers overseeing 500 sellers—they just don’t have the capacity to offer the guidance each individual seller needs to proactively navigate virtual environments. This is where sales enablement automation tools are increasingly essential. From just-in-time microlearning to customizable content creation and interactive video-based coaching, personalized sales coaching is built on scalable AI-enabled technology. That way, coaching programs can be tailored to the specific needs of both the remote seller and the collective organization.

When Preparation Meets Opportunity

A mantra of Cooley’s is that if you’re not preparing to win, you’re preparing to lose. His players constantly watch film of both practices and games to see what areas of their game can be refined the next day.

That very same approach can be applied to sales. As we all know, preparation is a critical component to a sales organization’s ability to win deals. However, with shifts to new and unfamiliar virtual selling practices, it’s an area where a lot of traditional sales enablement programs fall flat. The ripple effects of pandemic-driven swings in buyer preferences have narrowed the window for meaningful engagement with prospects. According to Gartner, B2B customers spend less than a quarter of their purchasing journeys interacting with sales reps. And since the average deal involves multiple suppliers, some sales reps will only receive around 5% of their individual time.

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With limited opportunities to engage prospects, sellers must be over-prepared for each and every interaction in order to “get to yes.” Except, without real-time visibility into their interactions with prospects, sellers cannot determine what strategies are most effective at alleviating common pain points during the buying process.

Sales enablement automation is critical in this capacity. It can transform engagement data from any stage of the sales life cycle into actionable insights revealing buyer’s intent. Then, sellers have the information they need to prioritize the right leads, deliver the right messaging and distribute the right content. For example, AI-enabled conversation intelligence tools can measure buyer intent from prerecorded sales pitches to provide instant feedback to sellers on what worked and what didn’t. Did their tone of voice create a positive vibe? Were they easy to understand? Did the product messaging pique the prospect’s interest?

Knowing the answers to these questions empowers sellers to understand how to proactively engage buyers and—as Cooley says—ultimately get to yes.

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