This was a question that a VP of Sales asked me recently. But this wasn’t the first one he asked. It started with him saying that his biggest challenge was ‘coaching the coaches’. In his opinion, his team is ‘smart, hardworking and coachable’ but having been worked up through the system, don’t have any leadership experience. And since this is his first time leading leaders, it’s ‘unchartered territory’ and he didn’t want to ‘short change the team with the gaps in his skillset’.
After a few conversations he went back to his executive leadership and came back with this question, “The difficulty I am having in determining ROI is attributing the impact of your work, independent of other improvements we are making. What have some of your other clients done to measure return? Just overall lift?”
Every client measures return differently, but more on that further down. Where they all start is with four simple questions:
- What was the goal for last year?
- Where did you end up?
- What is the goal for this year?
- Where are you now?
If they can’t answer those questions to start with, or won't share it, there isn’t a lot we can do to help.
As I have been talking with more sales leaders, they eventually end up at the same question this VP asked. How do you know what is working in the specific effort you are making? For example, my sister really wants me to train for a triathlon. I think she’s crazy, but it got me to thinking about how I would do it. What would it take? How would I know if the training was working? What would I need to do on a weekly and daily basis? What are the right activities? How much time would it take to do them? How do I know if I am doing them effectively and will be ready (and not drown, get run over, or break an ankle)?
This VP was faced with the same questions for probably the same reasons I was when thinking about a triathlon. When trying anything new the uncertainty can paralyze us- we don’t want to make the wrong move and until we can understand everything about it, we don’t want to do anything- it seems too risky. And so we do nothing, waiting to have all our ducks in a row. Unfortunately inaction is worse than the wrong action.
Here is what I shared with that VP of sales.
Of course revenue or overall life is the ultimate metric we are all measured by- the problem is that that it can only tell us what happened or didn’t happen. Sales leaders are starting to realize that these types of lagging KPIs aren’t something that we can change. They don’t tell us what leads to that outcome nor do they offer any insights into what can be done about it.
What are leading KPIs?
Leading KPIs track the behaviors and activities sales people need in order to move through the process with the buyer. Here are some examples:
LevelEleven analyzed over 100 sales activities being used across over 100 sales teams. Their 2017 Sales KPI report shares the most common activities by role, industry and even the time frames you should measure them in.
But a disclaimer- these, like the ones above, are just examples. Ultimately, you need to decide for each stage of your buyer’s process and subsequently your sales process, what leading indicators can tell you if you are moving towards your desired outcome.
Not only do these KPIs vary according to the decision making process of your buyers, they will also need to vary based on the role of the salesperson. The activities of an account manager will not be the same as those of an SDR, or an account executive, or even a sales manager.
(by the way, I personally use HubSpot’s CRM Pro and reporting features to track my own leading activity KPIs.) Call recording technology like Gong.io or ExecVision allow you to analyze what happens during your team’s calls and demos. Tools like Databox allow you to design dashboards from several different applications.
Is that enough to measure the ROI of sales coaching?
No, measuring the activities of the salespeople is not enough. It still only tells you what they are doing or have done. It doesn't fully tell you if they will do it, and how well. These leading activity KPIs help you to know if you are doing enough of the right activities to get to the desired outcomes. But as every frontline sales person and manager knows, getting to how the activity happens, ie: the execution, is where the real stuff is happening. Do their behaviors support the activities that lead to more opportunities and ultimately revenue?
Scorecards can help to evaluate and assess the quality of the conversations happening between buyer and seller is the next level of leading KPIs and how to tell whether or not your sales coaching is effectively developing self sufficient sales people. This layered questions worksheet can be used as an progressive and comprehensive scorecard for the conversations and opportunities you and your team are having.
But do you know what behaviors you need to coach to? For each member of the team? And more importantly, do they know? You can easily measure things like talk time, speed of speech, phrases used… But what about metrics and data to help you predict behaviors so that you can manage and coach to develop the right behaviors that lead to the most effective activities (i.e.: conversations) that get you the desired results? Which weaknesses are obstacles for sales growth and which strengths support it? How should you customize training and coaching to fill those gaps?
This is where you really start to measure the impact of sales coaching. The job of the sales manager/coach is the manage their team’s behaviors for exceptional execution on the activities that lead to revenue AND evangelical customers.
There are two sides to this. One side is measuring the behaviors and activities of the sales people. The other side is measuring the behaviors and activities of the sales managers.
The behaviors and activities of the front line managers have a direct impact on the sales person. Are you supporting coaching and training by training the managers? Do they have access to the people and resources to lead the team? How much time is spent coaching? How many early stage opportunities are debriefed and strategized? How many calls and meetings have been role played? There are many more, but most organizations don’t even measure those few. Use this eGuide to determine if a coaching initiative can help your organization, and what you will need to do, or get help with, to make it happen.
How do you measure the impact of coaching in your organization? With your team? Share in the comments below.
Curious what coaching sounds like? Listen in on the next #livesaleslab to hear how we do it every day.