Coaching 101 – Level Up Your Players
I’m serious – How do you clone your Top Sales Performers? Since the beginning of time, coaching has been a word used to describe leveling up players whether in sports, business, or any other activity, coaches aim to optimize the performance of humans by observing their performance and suggesting changes. In sales coaching, this is no different. Sales coaches optimize performance by listening to recordings, closely tracking KPIs, and crawling over call analytics. But there is more to sales coaching than just the coach. The fact is, the salesperson needs to be able to apply the coaching to what they are doing, and that is sometimes easier said than done.
After all, there is a ton to remember and even the best of performers take years of grueling training to get to the point that they are “best in class”. And even then, how do you know your A-players are not actually just C-players that make all of your D and F players look good? The best coaches model their players after the best worldwide and continue to iterate and innovate with the top talent. Think about Pistol Pete vs Michael Jordan, both great players based on who is around them, but if Pete lived forever, he would have had to change many things just to keep up. Being able to level up a player breaks down into 3 factors. First, getting buy-in. Second, optimizing performance through data and KPIs, and Third, replace things that don’t work with things that do.
The biggest possible mistake of any coach when trying to level up players is making it about something other than the players. Why in the world would I want to change from a c-level player to a b-level player. What is in it for me as a rep? For many reps it’s money, some it’s just a job, but some want to be the best salesperson ever. If you have one of these, then you probably are not that worried about leveling them up… they will do that even if you don’t help them. If you can’t answer that question for every person on your team, then you are probably a bit premature to be leveling anyone up.
Odds are, you can pinpoint why they would want to change. The conversation here to get buy-in isn’t rocket science. You simply ask if you have the right idea about what motivates them, then tie in leveling up as a player to their personal motivation. Hold on to that as well – when things get hard, they may need a reminder for why they are working so hard for a marginal increase in performance.
Before you can optimize performance, sales coaches must clearly understand and define the Sales Development Representative KPIs that make “A-Level-Players” (A-Players) and what defines a “C-Level Player”. This starts on your team, then moves to the company, then expands to the world. Literally, what are the best players in the world doing? But, back to just your team, and your company.
In sales, usually, this is simple enough on a high level, we look at who is crushing quota and that is usually the ladder. But there is a need to define what is making A-Players who they are. Questions we should ask are ones like “how are my A/C players handling objections differently? How are they demoing differently? What do their inputs look like from a KPI perspective? How do they guide a buyer through the buyer journey differently? Are there any consistent tags, processes, or words that get repeated? Even if it’s not the same words, what about the structure of ideas being used?
Once you have an understanding of what is making your team different, you can begin to extrapolate how to bring your lower-level players up a level. You can literally begin to clone some of your A-level players by installing the things they do differently into the rest of the team.
Using Data to Create a Standard Process
When you are looking at your A-Players, and have defined how they are handling things differently, you need to document their talk tracks. Think as if you are making a 1-3 bullet slide (don’t actually, for the love of humanity, create a slide…) on exactly how to overcome a specific objection or handle a key part of the call. This happened to me early in my career.
I was setting up calls by asking about where the prospect was from and then bleeding into a conversation. It worked sometimes but could be way better if we only applied some structure. One of the best reps that I was shadowing at the time began setting up the call with highlight bullets like “Don’t want to waste your or my time” followed by “what I normally do here is Introductions, talk about why you took this call, to begin with, and then if there is a fit, we can do a demo”. Being able to apply this to the beginning of the call increased my close rate almost immediately.
This formula can be applied to almost any call structure or call scenario. From competitive objections to call flow (framework), there should be a prescribed way that works best and can be applied by any rep. An example could be that your A-Players all set up the call in the same way by saying ITEM1, then ITEM 2, then ITEM 3, then STOP. This is very repeatable and easy to replicate. Why wouldn’t you want to use this with your lower-level players? Similarly, ask your A-Players how they handle specific objections. If they say “any time I hear competitor X, I mention that ITEM 4, ITEM 5, and ITEM 6” then you can repeat that process.
The point here is that you have the data in your call recordings and in the minds of your top reps. They are salespeople… all you typically have to do to get them to give you the data is express interest in what they are doing and they will tell you all there is to know and more.
Keep What is Working. Trash What Doesn’t.
Remember the first time that you started in sales? If you were like me, you were eager and confident, but as you learned the process changed. Through banging your head against the wall constantly, you probably found out what works and what does not work depending on the situation. In the modern sales cycle, leaders should be tracking KPIs and metrics on a very granular level to understand what is working to prescribe the correct inputs to new reps and keep tenured reps on the right track.
Without consistent feedback and iteration based on data, everything is anecdotal, and impossible to determine the true formula for success because there are far too many variables. That said, the best way to clone your top sales reps is to track what works and put in a plan to put that data to work so that the process is repeatable. Rinse, repeat again.
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