Successfully coaching a sales team is difficult.

As a sales rep, you have to navigate through a sales process that often has many steps, many challenges, and can in most cases can be compared to climbing a steep uphill terrain to reach the peak - or to close the sale.

As a sales manager, you most likely have a team full of different types of people, in different locations, with different learning styles. Though they may all have that inner fire to sell and a natural sense of competition, figuring out how to successfully lead a sales team that truly works together to reach sales targets is often a challenge.

So, how can you achieve this? How can you communicate ideas and information to your sales team in a way that can be understood and acted on by everyone?

Working with a global car manufacturer, we helped them achieve behavioural changes in their sales process by using ‘nudges’- to help sales people get customers through the “difficult” parts of the sales journey, which ultimately led to purchase. Through a combination of convenient mobile technology and practicing micro communication, sales people learned the tips and tricks on how to sell, shared ideas with each other on best practices to try during the tough parts of the cycle, and shared in a leaderboard-based competition throughout. The result was a dramatic increase in test drives, and sales!

Based on this case study, here are some useful tips on the do’s and don’ts for coaching your sales team. Follow these, and you’ll be on the road to success to having a high functioning, high performing sales team in no time.

Don’t: use a top-down communication method

Traditional top-down corporate communication is widely used in order to share selling tactics and knowledge with the team – but they are not always effective. When you practice top-down communication methods, messages often become blurred by passing through different management levels, or can even come across as being very disconnected from the realities of the sales floor.

Instead, try opting for other more localized alternatives and using a more approachable method for communicating. This will allow for the message to be better understood and more influential on driving certain behaviours and actions amongst your sales reps.

Do: look at various technology communication options

One of the struggles decentralized teams face on a day-to-day basis is finding an effective way to communicate with their team members. Whether it’s email or intranet, or even a whatsapp group - find a way to make today’s technology work for you. No matter the medium, ensure communications are clear, timely, and add value to the reader.

Mobile can be a simple platform for solving this issue. With an estimated global smartphone adoption of 68%, it’s clear that nearly everyone and anyone is carrying around a mobile device these days. Using a mobile app for pushing information to the front line and engaging in two-way conversation hits the mark on all communication success factors: it’s easily accessible, efficient, and simple to use.

Do: keep it micro

Top-down communication may appear overwhelming for the receiver. Condensing information into bite-sized pieces to make the message more digestible can help solve this problem. When communicating with your sales team, using in the moment, micro-communication reminders with messaging that compels action will be the most efficient method for driving behavioural change.

Don’t: enforce strict rules.

No one likes to be forced to do something in a certain way. The intentions behind strict rules are good – but they come across as aggressive when sales tactics are being forced on an sales rep. Implementing strategies to convey useful information to employees is a much better way to grab their attention and begin to ‘nudge’ them towards a certain behaviour.

Do: gamify it

Everyone loves games – in fact, they are the #1 downloaded category of mobile applications in the App Store. By incorporating a game-like feel to the delivery of critical information, not only will employees be more engaged in the process, but they may even enjoy learning about new sales initiatives or tactics. By providing rewards and gamifying training programs, employees will be more inclined to participate. (Plus - sales people LOVE to be number one. Bragging rights abound).

Do: use a priming strategy

Taking a subtle approach to coaching your sales team can be done through a process called priming. It can be achieved through the placement of subtle cues in the person’s environment which causes a change in their behavior and preferences.

“Nudging” your sales team (no, not physically) to grab their attention is the perfect way to apply a priming strategy. This concept could be applied electronically – through delivering smartphone notifications when new information or actions are available or a short daily post on the company intranet. For example, take the idea of reminding your sales team that it’s critical to share with prospects on a test drive during their selling process (and leads to a 50% conversion rate). It is a subtle and effective way to grab their attention and influence desired behavior, rather than enforcing a strict rule that states ‘each and every prospect must be taken on a test drive’.

Don’t: encourage your sales team from jumping to the close

When it comes to coaching your sales team, don’t encourage them to skip to the close - even if they’re feeling lucky. It’s all about taking baby steps. Ever hear of the term, slow and steady wins the race? Many of the smaller steps may seem tedious to complete, and are in fact often undervalued. When managers took the time to discuss with their sales teams about the benefits of talking early on in the sales process about pre-paid maintenance, sales people experienced a much higher conversion rate on that plan. Essentially, when they began to ‘nudge’ their sales teams to focus on a specific step in the sales process within a given month, they saw a positive impact on overall sales numbers.

Do: reward & recognize behaviours

Motivating sales reps is a crucial element to any business success. Recognizing accomplishments, big and small,  will motivate them to keep up the good work. This gets even more interesting when results are published in a public way (the corporate leaderboard updated in real time). Additionally, consider using team-based tangible incentives to drive location-based (or team-based) performance.

So, the takeaway? Salespeople are different, and it is a multitude of these approaches that will help you see success. Have other tips? Share with us in the comment section.

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