One of the complaints the majority of B2B buyers have about vendors is that they are too busy selling their products and services to listen to their needs. With this in mind, a survey [download page] from ValueSelling Associates and Training Industry shows that high growth companies are investing in sales coaching to give their sales team the skills – such as listening – that they need to better support their customers.
While listening and communication skills represent one of the most common areas covered in best-in-class sales coaching programs, these are not the only skills sales coaching programs focus on. Another common area that programs highlight, per the report, is product and service knowledge. This knowledge might also assist sales representatives in being more transparent about the product’s capabilities as well as its limitations, as this is one of the top ways buyers believe vendors can improve the purchase process.
Top-notch coaching programs also cover presentation skills and sales processes, which makes sense given past research indicating that buyers’ most important content asset is a sales presentation. And, although the B2B buying process for new customers can sometimes take 4 months or longer and buyers tend to prefer to do a lot of their initial research online, prior research has indicated that early engagement with a sales representative is beneficial. As such, one of the most common areas covered in sales coaching is prospect engagement.
While supporting a variety of skills like those previously mentioned is one of the best practices covered in the report, there are other practices that have benefited high revenue growth B2B companies.
One such practice is taking an integrated approach to sales coaching. According to the report, 3 in 5 high-growth B2B companies have integrated sales coaching as part of their sales training program, compared to the 26% of low-growth companies. On the other hand, only about two-fifths (43%) of high-growth companies use sales coaching as a stand-alone activity, unrelated to a learning program.
One-third (33% share) of high-revenue-growth companies also have an ongoing sales coaching program. Though some (19%) low-revenue-growth companies also have ongoing sales coaching programs, the largest share (30%) instead opt for short-term sales coaching programs that last up to 3 months.
High-growth companies are also using sales coaching throughout their entire sales organization. Many of these companies are providing coaching for sales roles including customer service representatives (61%), external/field sales representatives (57%), business development personnel (54%) and internal/digital sales representatives (43%).
Measuring for Success
Just like every sales and marketing function, measurement is key to proving the effectiveness of a program as well as identifying areas where there may be room for improvement. While high-growth companies use expected measurements such as individual productivity (63%), individual quota achievement (58%) and bottom-line growth (55%) to measure the impact of a sales coaching program, these aren’t the only measurements they use to measure success.
With more than two-fifths (44%) of B2B buyers saying they have switched vendors within the past year, often due to customer experience failures, customer satisfaction (59%) is one of the key metrics used by high-growth companies to determine whether a coaching program has been effective. Another metric used by fewer (51%) – but a potentially good indicator of a successful coaching program nonetheless – is employee satisfaction.
The full report can be downloaded here.
About the Data: Results are based on a survey of 330 learning professionals responsible for the sales training at their companies.