Savvy sales managers constantly hunt for places where a little coaching can have a big impact on sales performance. The right metrics can function like coaching radar. Savvy sales coaches are just like saavy sports coaches. They use radar-like data to affect the outcome of games by how they teach and the learning they enable.
From what we’re seeing, neither metrics nor coaching, by themselves, are any guarantee sales performance will improve. It takes more. It takes the kind of designed interventions that it takes to improve habits of any form. Interventions that promote the courage and curiosity to try new approaches.
Much of what we’re seeing echos points made by Charles Duhigg on the Power of Habits. Most salespeople have habits. They also have an underlying conviction that their habits are good ones. Many might say: “heck, my habits are what made me the success that I am today”. Sales habits, as result, often come to the party dressed as ‘best practices’. In reality, when measured as Return-on-Effort, many of these habits are of questionable value. Worse than that, like any other habit, when the pressure’s on people are inclined to revert to old habits. When everything else seems uncertain and uncomfortable, there’s great comfort to be had from the familiar.
Firms lucky enough to be firing on all six cyclinders, growing beyond targets, and retaining their best people hardly need ‘designed interventions’. Many firms, however, face more uncertainties today than ever. As one colleague from a highly successful multi-billion dollar firm recently noted “we’ve been incredibly successful by almost any measure and yet for the past 3-4 years we’ve been operating in an economy that’s as hard as nails.” Simply put, life isn’t like it used to be.
So, how can firms de-risk their uncertainties in sales performance? In my view, with designed interventions that create greater agility in sales practices. It takes a combination of better metrics, better coaching, and continuous learning. Designed interventions we’re working on with our colleagues and clients include:
- giving sellers a structured, buyer-focused, approach to their work that improves their odds of success
- measuring the buyer impacts of sales practices, then use such metrics to spot bad habits fast.
- peer reviews to give sellers the will to do the right thing + the skills with which to figure out what it is.
- coaching to shrink the time it takes to grow skills from what sellers learn from what they practice.
- an overall approach that encourages better habits by personalizing the learning.
Improving B2B sales productivity is entirely possible. It just takes a combination of these types of designed interventions to combat the comfort of ‘business as usual’.
Are we, and those we’re working with, now where we need to be on this front? Not a chance, but we’re learning at a frenetic pace. One thing we do know: a really good week is now one in which sellers readily admit they’ve spent time outside their comfort zone.
Duhigg notes that the habits that matter most are the ones that re-make all others.
Learning, as a habit, could prove to be the key.
The journey continues.