We’ve all been there: under-promise and over-deliver. It has become a well-known saying and a mantra for sales reps. Downplaying large or advanced opportunities to use later when needed to pad performance can temporarily make a rep look good, but it makes forecasting extremely difficult.
Forecasting is hard enough without guessing whether or not the probability of an opportunity closing is a fair representation in actuality. Or trying to decide if a rep’s win rate is accurate because they only enter closed won opportunities. With forecast accuracy hovering around 46%, you can’t blame sales leaders for wanting more precise figures. It’s human nature to want to put our best foot forward, but inaccurate data leads to poor decisions.
Although it isn’t intuitive, a rep’s best interests are served by recording accurate information in Salesforce™. But they need incentives to do so. The two most common reasons to keep sales records up-to-date and accurate are:
- Pipeline coverage
- Predictability and sustainability.
Sales leaders base their predictions on sound pipeline reporting. They count on good data to make hiring decisions and marketing moves. Most of all, they need to ensure a steady flow of revenue for the company, avoiding surprises and predicting with accuracy what revenue comes in and when it comes in. Budgets are set from those numbers, teams are staffed, and support and cx initiatives are planned.
That’s all important, so let’s look at some of the ways that dynamic coaching can help a rep to maintain a steady pipeline and achieve career aspirations so that sandbagging becomes pointless.
Reps don’t want to use CRM because it doesn’t directly help them sell. They can be successful without it. Keeping track of opportunities in Salesforce™ is far less onerous, however, than you might imagine. And the benefits far outweigh the extra effort. Being able to see details about rep and customer verifiers makes it easy to create conversations that turn into coaching goals. The rep can be instantly up-to-date on an opportunity before a call or visit and it makes it easy for a manager/coach to know exactly where a deal belongs in the forecast.
Good coaching protocol calls for once-a-week or bi-weekly coaching sessions. This helps ensure that both rep and coach are examining opportunities on a frequent basis so that changes don’t come as a complete surprise. It depends on the cycle time, but frequency equals insight. You can avoid sandbagging by being closer at every stage. Establishing a good cadence creates a perfect environment for steady, timely coaching goals. A rep knows when he or she can expect help, when to report negative outcomes and when to expect constructive feedback.
Coaching sessions can be set around pipeline gaps to ensure a constant flow of opportunities. This concept is a key to successful sales. If a rep doesn’t enter opportunity information as it happens, it become impossible to see where gaps might occur and a rep can suddenly find themselves with a dry pipeline. With good data entry and a good coach, however, goals can be set for the various sales stages in order to keep each stage full and moving. Successful sales leaders move away from “averages” and calculate specific coverage requirements using starts, win rate and velocity.
Individual Deal Coaching
Perhaps the most important benefit of a sales coaching program is the ability to drill down into a specific opportunity to provide help and guidance. Goals can be set to verifiers or mentors can be assigned to help win deals based on specific needs. Verifiers are like a toll booth—you have to pass them off or you will get hung up and progression stops. The key to win rates is more customer verifiers.
A good coach can see if there are activities that are lacking or if there are specific skills that could use improvement that would have a direct impact on a deal. Opportunities that are stalled or slow are perfect for intervention. And opportunities that receive this kind of attention have much higher closing rates. Make your coaching about creating customer impact and reps will include you early and often.
Reps need to feel that coaching and CRM utilization is in their best interest. It must be relevant to them. For this reason, coaching must be individualized. It should focus on where the rep wants to be. Coaching goals should be set around moving the rep from their current position to their desired position, with clearly defined steps and timelines.
Overcoming Human Nature
All sales reps want to be successful. They want to close deals and they want to do the things necessary to close those deals. Coaching can help overcome some of their natural reticence to share details about opportunities. It can help them have a complete picture of their wins and losses, their velocity, and their win rate. With the right sales coaching technology, they can:
- Pinpoint, with razor accuracy, exactly how changing activity levels or improving specific skills can affect their success.
- Know exactly where they need to be to hit coaching and personal goals.
- Have visibility into each deal, including stage, verifiers, velocity and potential hang-ups. (This enables the rep to bring-to-bear company resources to help them win.)
- Have better 1:1s, fostering mentorship and ensuring knowledge transfer.
Hopefully, with today’s modern sales coaching technology, not only will we see less sandbagging, but we’ll see all of the benefits that come with leaving it behind. Increased production and win rates. Personal, intentional improvement. Better Salesforce adoption. Once a rep realizes all of the benefits of coaching, he or she will gladly take the extra time necessary to keep up-to-date and accurate in their CRM. Coaches, on the other hand, will have all of the information they need to forecast accurately and pinpoint areas of need to help plan and prepare.