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According to a survey by CSO Insights, sales leaders spend less than 20% of their time coaching team members on how to sell more effectively. This can leave reps feeling frustrated and overwhelmed as they struggle to figure out what’s working and what’s not and can also help explain, at least in part, why the average rep takes between 30 and 90 days to reach baseline levels of sales productivity.

At Dialpad, we’re on a mission to turn every quota-carrying sales rep into a high-performer, faster, by leveraging data —not gut feel or intuition—to inform what success looks like. As a sales leader myself, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to coach my team for success, and it often comes down to these five simple steps.

1. Create a Safe Environment

First things first. Unless you’re able to create an environment of trust and safety within your team, much of your well-intentioned feedback is likely to go in one ear and out the other. No one likes to be told that their performance needs work but without the right frame of reference, that’s exactly what they’ll hear.

The good news is this is fairly easy to overcome if your heart’s in the right place. Just take time to remind your team that you’re in this together and that while critical feedback can be uncomfortable it’s key to their development and growth.

2. Create a Coaching Culture

Another way to keep coaching productive is to prevent any one person from feeling singled out or targeted as a poor performer. How do you do this? By making it part of your standard operating procedure and team culture. Make it a point to ask each rep after every sales call: “What’s one thing you could have done differently?” and “what’s one thing you did well?”

It’s also important to show that you’re open to feedback as a manager because, let’s face it, no one is perfect. “What could I have done better?” is a great question to start breaking down those barriers and getting your reps to see coaching as a reward, not a punishment.

And if you happen to manage reps who are hesitant to give feedback to “the boss,” let me tell you, it’s a whole lot easier when you’re open about your own areas for improvement. I once had an AE who never gave me feedback until I shared with him five things I felt I could have done better on a call. He took my honesty as a cue that it was okay for him to be honest too, then shared a very thoughtful and legitimate observation that I hadn’t even considered, to which I simply replied, “Well, I guess that makes six.”

3. Separate Style and Substance

When coaching your team, it’s important to focus on the content and context of the message they’re sharing, rather than the specific words or phrases they use to deliver it. If you’re a sales manager with a geographically dispersed team or managing reps from different backgrounds, it’s easy to get caught up inconsequential colloquialisms or speech patterns, but this is a waste of everyone’s time.

As a general rule, if you ever find yourself proofreading an email and changing “filler words” or editing grammar (admit it – you know you’ve done this before!), you’ve stopped providing value. As long as the facts, understanding of key issues, and action items are correct, let it fly.

4. Keep it Real-Time

Time is of the essence when it comes to giving feedback. If you wait to give positive feedback or deliver it in the dreaded “feedback sandwich” there’s a good chance it will be perceived as disingenuous or placating. And if you sit on negative feedback, your rep may remember the situation differently or still have achieved a positive outcome, minimizing the perceived need for change the next time around.

Making matters worse, 64% of high performers cite lack of on-going training as impactful on their decision to leave their jobs according to SiriusDecisions. That’s why tools like Dialpad Sell are so vital for sales teams. With Dialpad Sell, managers have visibility into every sales conversation as it’s happening. They can listen in on calls that need immediate attention and rely on Voice Intelligence to provide real-time recommendations on pricing, competitors, and common objections for the rest.

5. Leverage the Data... but Be Human

In his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” Daniel Kahneman talks about the importance of weighing hard data when making complex decisions. In one particular chapter, Kahneman shares a story about his time working as a psychologist for the Israeli Military. As a young officer tasked with creating the organization’s evaluation system, he theorized that statistical rules and scoring could produce superior results than the traditional intuition and “gut feel” approach. And he was right. In fact he was so right that the army’s higher-ups almost threw him out (along with his findings) because it challenged the beliefs that many of them had held so strongly.

Similarly, some reps believe that sales is more “art” than “science” and perceive processes and metrics as threats to their artistic mojo. But we know this isn’t true.

Technological advances like artificial intelligence and sales call reporting have only made us more effective at work. There are several ways you can also leverage your sales data to create demand. As long as you remember that the tech is there to benefit your people, there’s no wrong way to incorporate it into your coaching strategy.

Want to learn more? Check out how Dialpad Sell can make a difference for your sales team with features like Live Coach to provide real-time sales recommendations during calls.

And don't miss this insightful post about better sales coaching from our friends at Sales Hacker.

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