Assume you’re a sales manager for a mid-sized enterprise. You’ve just received a call from your chief revenue officer who wants to know how much revenue you expect your team to produce between now and the end of the year. You pull up your spreadsheet and start reviewing the numbers, but the forecast just doesn’t look right. Sales have been consistent, but there are so many variables at play and it’s hard to predict what the future holds. Market conditions are volatile, sales cycles are getting longer, and your team is experiencing turnover. To make matters worse, the data you’re working with is incomplete and outdated. You're feeling the pressure to get it right but you’re not confident you can.
More than ever, sales teams are struggling with unqualified leads, missed sales goals, and lost opportunities. Increasingly, company and sales leaders are turning to coaching as a solution. And why not? Executive and personal-effectiveness coaching have historically yielded great results. According to the International Coaching Federation, the average company can expect a return of 7 times the initial investment in coaching.1 Shouldn’t the same be expected from sales coaching?
If you’re a sales or enablement leader charged with training sales managers, you’ve likely been asked, or asked yourself, “What are the core skills and competencies our sales managers need to effectively coach and develop our sellers?” As you dig into this question, developing effective sales managers can seem like a daunting challenge.
Meet Morgan. A hard-working seller. Focused and productive. Morgan’s developed strong sales skills and knows what it takes to sell. At the end of the year, does Morgan hit target? Beat it by 20%? Fall short by 30%? Does Morgan know: How many sales they need to win?
How is the current state of the sales environment impacting sales organizations? Which sales and enablement issues are most challenging for leaders to tackle? What are the top sales priorities for the next 12 months? How should they be addressed to ensure they're achieved? To find out the answers to these questions, we surveyed 322 sales, enablement, and company leaders globally, following up on our original research conducted in 2019.
You’d be hard-pressed to find an organization that didn’t want its sellers and sales teams to meet their goals in the face of challenging conditions and do so with high win rates and strong pricing. Sales training is one obvious way for organizations to build such teams. While sales training often fails to meet its promise, our research shows that highly effective sales training is correlated with higher win rates, sales goal attainment, and premium pricing.
Given the investment companies make in hiring, training, and managing their sales force to get maximum results, it’s imperative sales and enablement leaders understand how they can make the most of that investment and retain the best sellers once hired. Our Top-Performing Sales Organization research, in which we analyzed data from 472 sellers and executives, revealed that the process for onboarding new sales hires and getting sellers to full productivity is strongly correlated to key measures of a well-functioning sales organization.
Remember back in pre-pandemic days when sales teams conducted lavish SKOs in person, perhaps with an option to dial in? Things are a bit different today. Some organizations are returning to in-person sales kickoffs, some are holding exclusively virtual events, and others turning to some form of hybrid event. Either way, the same challenge remains: How can you deliver an engaging SKO that spurs reps on into the new fiscal year?
How much control do sales managers have over the performance of their teams? More than you might think. A RAIN Group Center for Sales Research study found that Elite and Top-Performing Sales Organizations prioritize sales coaching significantly more than other organizations, and they have more skilled and motivating sales managers.
It’s always important to remember: if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. If you want your sellers to perform at the peak of their potential, it’s essential to know the specific objectives you need to help your team achieve, and to map out the road that will help them achieve those objectives.
In a RAIN Group Center for Sales Research survey, we asked 423 sales and enablement leaders what their top priorities were for the year ahead. Their responses offer insight into the areas sales teams are actively trying to improve.
Reinforcement has been a trend in the world of sales training for a while now. All the research data in sales training—and learning and development in general—supports the need for robust reinforcement. But it’s still not happening often enough. According to Aberdeen, fewer than half (44%) of companies formally follow-up initial sales training with reinforcement. At the same time, the companies that do reinforce training see 20% more sellers achieve sales quotas.
Many sales managers and coaches are never taught how to lead effective sales coaching conversations. So they start with, “What’s up?” Then they listen to sellers for an hour with a bit of back and forth about this opportunity or that one. They may talk about the need to fill the pipeline or come up with an idea to move one of the opportunities forward. And then the hour is up.
Finding and hiring new sales talent is a long and expensive process. Once the new rep is hired, it takes time to onboard them. Especially challenging during the ramp-up period is building their knowledge in: Your customers' businesses—their markets, industries, customers, regulations, etc. The needs you solve and how to identify those needs
Most leaders agree the opportunity to improve sales performance through coaching is tremendous, including: Maximizing sales wins for their most important opportunities Filling the pipeline with new, qualified opportunities Maximizing sales to key accounts Focusing sellers’ time on the most important activities Developing skills, knowledge, and attributes to get to the next level of performance Keeping sales activities and motivation at the highest sustainable level These leaders are turning to coaching because coaching is an increasingly popular—and increasingly proven—method of improving performance.
The state of sales management in many companies is disturbing. Consider these stats from our Top-Performing Sales Organization study: 66% of companies do not believe their sales managers have the skills needed to manage and coach sellers. Elite performers are 2.4x more likely to agree that sales managers and leaders are effective at maximizing selling energy. 71% of companies do not believe people in selling roles manage their time and day effectively. Almost 7 out of every 10 sales managers do not have the skills they need to do their jobs effectively! Astounding. It's certainly understandable, though. Sales managers are directed, by the very definition of sales management, down the wrong path.
It may not be considered the most glamorous aspect of sales management, but as business and technology have evolved, it’s widely acknowledged that getting sales operations right is imperative for a smoothly run, effective sales organization. On his blog, Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing even hails it as “THE most important and unsung hero for sales teams.”
In sales forces of any size, changing the sales organization structure is an uphill battle. Structure relates to the organization of selling at the company, including sales compensation, territory design, account and lead assignments, and more.
Most sellers and sales leaders often ask themselves: "Is my win rate any good?" Win rate is one of the most basic measures of your sales success, so it’s only natural to want to benchmark your performance against the average to see how you stack up.
If you've spent any time in complex sales, you know there's been a significant shift in how you win sales opportunities and grow accounts. In our client work and studies through the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research, we've seen that:
"What gets measured gets managed." – Peter Drucker Only when you have a good sense of what's going on in your organization can you decide which buttons to push to make the greatest improvements. Even small efforts to track key sales metrics can quickly drive better results.
There's one question I wish I got asked more when working with leaders looking to invest in B2B sales training. That question is, "What will it really take to get the best results?" If you're a seller, you can probably relate to the experience of a well-meaning trainer giving examples from an industry that had nothing to do with yours. Or maybe they didn't have a credible track record to back up their claims. And when the training was over, it was back to business as usual the next morning.
Sales coaching has become a hot topic in business as more and more companies see a significant return on investment. However, where executive coaching and personal-effectiveness coaching yield positive results, sales coaching lags behind. Whether it's a lack of time, inconsistent coaching conversations, unavailability of tools and resources to succeed, or weak coaching skills, sales managers and leaders simply aren't producing strong results.
Sales coaching—working one-on-one or in small groups with firms and individuals in a highly focused manner to help them increase effectiveness, revenues, and sales—is a large part of what I do on a day-to-day basis. Done right, it’s one of the most powerful, impactful ways to increase revenue and boost individual or group performance.
Salespeople know what they sell, and they sell what they know. When it comes to salesperson knowledge, people know too little about their particular industry, their customers’ needs, and their company’s products and services to be able to sell the full suite of solutions. Without this knowledge they can’t: Ask the right questions to uncover the complete set of customer needs Match the right products and services to those needs Position the value of their company as superior to other options available to the customer
There are thousands of ways to kill a sale. Some are obvious like not showing up to a meeting prepared, not following up, not listening, not establishing trust, going to proposal too early, not speaking to decision makers... the list goes on. These are all pretty easy to see and with some work and practice can be overcome. Then there are the killers that hide beneath the surface that many sellers and sales managers do not even know exist. They are the sales weaknesses that are a part of an individual salesperson’s makeup that act like weights pulling them down.
Do your sales managers know how to coach and motivate your sales people? Your sales staff is underperforming, but you can't figure out why. You're pretty sure that you've hired the best possible talent, but some days it seems like your sales staff is the gang that can’t shoot straight. Where did you go wrong?