Leadership Sales

How to Use Data to Coach Your Sales Reps

Before diving into the five tips on using data to coach sales reps, I want to point out the biggest misconceptions organizations have when we talk about coaching using data.

You may think that you’re currently using data effectively to coach your sales reps, and many sales managers and leaders believe the same, but are making one critical oversight.

Sales organizations think coaching using data is the same thing as coaching to the pipeline.

But there are two issues with this.

The first is that coaching to the pipeline is all about finding tweaks and small changes that can be made relatively quickly to improve short-term outcomes. It’s not about long-term gains.

The second is coaching to the pipeline means managers and leaders base their decisions on the performance of multiple reps by using an average. This doesn’t give managers a very accurate picture of individual performance – just an average one.

When it comes to coaching sales reps effectively using data, it should be about how to coach reps as individuals based on their own performance at various stages in the sales process.

Why Coaching Sales Reps with Individual Data is Important

Many sales managers have held meetings where their people will show up with pipeline review sheets or pull up a Salesforce dashboard and just regurgitate the numbers.

But question how valuable this is for your reps.

Are you looking at data consistently to provide insights to your team on their performance? Is it all a qualitative opinion of what the process and pipeline should look like? And again, are you just looking at the average?

For example, say your team or organization’s average sales cycle is “45 days.”

But when you break it down, Rep 1’s average sales cycle is actually 32 days, Rep 2’s is 47, and Rep 3’s is 52. Knowing that, you can then break it down even further and understand that Rep 1 goes longer at step three in the process and Rep 2 goes longer at step four.

Breaking down and coaching to these individual, specific metrics is what it truly means to coach sales reps using data.

When put into practice, these five tips will help you properly run your meetings, know what you should prepare, what metrics matter, and ways to be a better coach.

Let’s dive in.

5 Tips For Using Data to Coach Your Sales Team

#1 Be the Coach that Shows Up Prepared

When you show up to your one-on-ones each month (and if you don’t have a standing monthly, you should), make sure you’re the manager that shows up prepared.

If it’s an hour-long review, spend at least an hour or two that month digging into that rep’s numbers, what’s going well, and what isn’t.

It’s a complete waste of a meeting if you spend half of the time getting up to speed and not providing any real feedback or coaching.

Sales engagement and revenue intelligence tools like Outreach and InsightSquared, respectively, are great for insights into what’s working at specific stages in the process and make it easy to gather this information.

Showing up prepped and prepared like you would for any other meeting allows you and your people to quickly understand where they stand, dig into issues, and provide valuable guidance.    

#2 Bring Insights, Not Just Data

The reason why prepping for your monthly one-on-ones may take an hour or two is because it isn’t enough just to pull the data. Data is only as good as the insights and actions you can take from it.

I often see managers fall into two buckets.

  1. They bring a ton of metrics and numbers to meetings but don’t explain to reps what it means.
  2. Or they fall on the other end of the spectrum and bring qualitative data to the table that is vague, not actual data, and also not actionable.

The insights managers need to properly coach reps needs to explain the complete picture broken down into actionable components.

For example, reviewing the average sales cycle by stage by rep. You can then hone in on what step in the process takes the longest or has the lowest conversion rate for that rep.

Instantly these conversations change from are reps above or below their target to this is where they need to improve their skills to hit or exceed their target next month, etc.

#3 Use Technology, Not Your Gut

Technology is going to be the key differentiator in coaching with quantitative versus qualitative data. Building on tip #2, make sure you’re coaching reps on actual data points and not what you think the process should be.

Buyer preferences and journeys are constantly changing, and they differ from industry to industry, product to product. Sales operations and revenue intelligence tools allow managers to see exactly where the bottlenecks and gaps are in their team’s process.

I mentioned InsightSquared earlier, but there are a couple of other leading-edge tools that have their own unique features, like Clari, People.ai, and Gong.

Conversation intelligence in tools like Gong can provide even more data points around why certain reps may be better at converting in meeting one or two based on the specific points they hit on in their conversations with buyers.

The important thing to understand is what this technology is trying to help you achieve as a manager coaching reps. It allows you to make decisions not based on previous best practices or gut instinct.

You can definitely see, for example, that five people on your team are faster at X step in the process by almost ten days. This tells you which reps actions to replicate across the team and gives you an opportunity to pair those reps with the people who have longer times at that step.

And again, this isn’t a gut instinct but based precisely on what you see in the data.

#4 Help Provide the Resolution

As a manager and leader, not only is it essential to know the strengths and weaknesses of each rep, review metrics and data on the team and individual level, and provide insights into what that data means, it’s also on you to help provide the resolution.

It can be as simple as pairing up two people to talk about what one rep is doing differently at this stage and why their conversion rate is higher, or it can be listening in on calls in the next two weeks to provide feedback and help push deals forward.

Coaching your sales reps doesn’t stop with uncovering the gaps and bottlenecks but working with your people to make sure they are clear on next steps and how they can develop their skills.

#5 Build on Insights Month-to-Month

This fifth and final tip for coaching sales reps is an important one.

It’s about accountability from the manager and the rep and making sure you have an ongoing development plan that structures change and growth.

This meeting may be separate from the typical monthly one-on-one reviewing performance and data points or a part of it. Whatever works best for your team. But there is nothing more discouraging than having the same conversations every month with no change.

It’s frustrating for managers, and it’s frustrating for reps.

You must hold each other accountable for what was agreed upon in the previous month, review how well the changes went, and talk about what you can continue to build on from there.

Coaching to Data Requires Rep & Manager Buy-In

If you didn’t catch on, these five tips for coaching sales reps build on each other and require manager and rep participation at every step.

For my reps out there, you should also be looking at your success at each stage in the sales process with a magnifying glass. You need to know your own numbers so you can grow without solely relying on someone else.

Managers and sales leaders, when you can get your team to take their growth into their own hands, these meetings become faster, more beneficial, and reps will start to come prepared with their own solutions and strategy.

This is how you are going to build a high-performance sales team by coaching and using data effectively.