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Sales Productivity, Training

Why your sales teams aren’t improving (and what to do about it)

Jacco van der Kooij

Written by Jacco van der Kooij

Founder, Winning by Design

6 MINUTE READ

Have you ever wondered how sporting teams are able to improve their performance week after week?

One of the key reasons they’re able to do this is because they regularly review their performance and tactics. They get together as a team and go over the game footage, looking at areas where they can work together better. They listen to constructive feedback from trainers and coaches, and seek out advice on how to enhance their overall performance.

Perhaps most importantly of all, they don’t dread criticism. They recognise that constructive feedback is a core part of achieving their individual and collective goals. They create a coaching culture where feedback is not only expected, but welcomed with open arms.

So why don’t we treat constructive feedback as an everyday part of the sales world? Why aren’t we, as sales professionals, more open to receiving feedback to help improve our skills and performance?

Feedback is supposed to be helpful. It can be hard not to get defensive when somebody suggests there’s a better way to approach your work, but training goes hand in hand with feedback. A common trait in top performers, regardless of their field, is that they’re eager to identify opportunities for improvement and hungry for personalised advice.

Traditionally in sales, feedback used to occur when a sales manager came out and sat in on a client meeting or listened in to your calls. Now, today’s managers no longer need to drop in on their team –  technology is rapidly transforming the way in which sales individuals and teams can go about reviewing and scaling their sales coaching.

In this post, I’m going to talk about two things: firstly, how to leverage today’s technology to record calls for self-learning opportunities. And secondly, how to review these recorded calls in a group scenario and create an office coaching culture that boosts your team’s motivation, engagement and results.

Tools for recording calls

As a salesperson, you probably make hundreds of calls a week. Obviously, on a very basic level, you can record both sides of a sales conversation on your smartphone.

But wait! Before doing so, you should consider whether or not you have a legal obligation to let your client know that the call is being recorded. Steve Richard, the co-founder and head of sales training at B2B consulting firm Vorsight, has written a greatblog post about if and how you can legally record calls. It offers a fantastic breakdown of the legal variances between different geographical locations. I highly recommend having a read before you develop your sales call recording policies and procedures.

Now, in terms of recording calls, there’s heaps of really intelligent sales calling technology out there to help you do it easily and efficiently.

The first is ExecVision, which is the brainchild of the aforementioned Steve Richard and his team at Vorsight. It provides visibility into conversations with a new set of analytics that will increase your confidence and ability to drive conversions and the bottom line.

Then, if you’re heading deeply into the AI space, you’ve got Chorus.ai, which allows you to ‘X-ray’ your calls and meetings in real-time, revealing why deals are won and lost. As well as recording, transcribing and analysing calls, Chorus.ai automatically identifies important moments such as Next Steps, Pricing and Pain Points – making follow-up and handoffs a breeze.

Gong.io works in a very similar way to deliver actionable feedback for improvement, and dissects every call you make so that you can zero in on the key events and behaviours that occurred. A newer player in this space is VoiceOps, which specialises in high volume transactions and has great transcription accuracy in non-US markets.

You also have automated diallers such as a RingDNA, Talkdesk and PowerDialer, which have the ability to record calls neatly back into their cloud-based software.

These sales calling tools not only do the heavy lifting of listening and analysing so that you can focus on your key message, they also provide you with invaluable insight on the words you use, how often you use filler words such as “umm”, “ah” and “maybe”, and the amount of time you spend speaking compared to the person on the other end of the line. These are vital pieces of information to scale your sales cycle and help you teach yourself how to sell better.

They even offer the use of call sharing and call libraries so you can refer back to recorded calls time and time again. This helps you drill down on individual moments with clients, improve your objection-handling skills, and help you understand which key topics are being discussed.

In addition, you can show your top reps what you’re doing to get their feedback or use successful recorded calls to deliver value to everyone in your sales team. Which brings me onto my next point…

Tips for group call reviews

Some of the best coaching you’ll ever participate in is in a team setting, and some of the best feedback you’ll ever receive is from your team members.

So if you haven’t shared a recorded call in a group scenario before, I highly recommend you schedule a time to do so now, because it’s one of the best ways to both get and giveconstructive feedback on your sales performance.

Group call reviews also help create a common vernacular and coaching culture across your whole sales team.

Working side-by-side with your colleagues to identify areas for improvement also enables you to spot opportunities to provide a little bit of insight to help people with their daily processes, and hopefully have them do the same thing for you.

Selling is, after all, all about moving other people to action. So why should your sales colleagues or team be any exception?

When you review your recorded calls together as a team, I guarantee you’ll improve your win rates, quota attainment and ramp time as well as overall office morale.

The best way to go about creating a great group call review situation is to break it down into four simple steps.

Step One – Listen first

Listen to your call recording prior to starting your group review session. Do this to identify the particular points you’d like to focus on or use to kickstart the discussion. They may be centred around a certain skill set, or pertain to the repeated use of a particular word.

Ensure that every point you choose to draw out will align with an actionable suggestion. Don’t provide broad, non-actionable feedback. Your goal is to drive change by discussing the strengths and weaknesses of these recorded phone calls.

Step Two – Share responsibility

Throughout the session, try not to dominate discussion with too much of your own feedback or critiquing. Use the coaching points you identified earlier to direct the conversation to the session’s learning objective, then sit back and let other people talk.

After all, you need to engage the group. You don’t want to be grandstanding – you’re reviewing the recorded call in a group context for a purpose. You want to effectively crowdsource a diverse range of ideas about how to improve sales calls, and ultimately, gain better overall results for your team.

Step Three – Leverage coaching techniques

Try incorporating the following coaching techniques to highlight the learning objectives of the group call review:

  • Label. Ask the team which verbal techniques and communication principles have been used, i.e., Was that an open or a closed question? Did you hear a situational, problem or value-based question?
  • Pause. Wait for a moment to allow each group member to contribute an insight at various points. Prompt people to speak up by asking them as a team what could’ve been done differently. Pause even more than you think is necessary! Sometimes it can be really tough to be able to review a recorded call in its entirety. So you will frequently need to pause the recording during your session to ask people to share their feedback, ideas and thoughts.
  • Refer back. Refer to some of the previous sales training you’ve conducted to reinforce what your team’s main areas for improvement might be. Make the session very much an ongoing objective coaching conversation rather than a subjective short-term one.
  • Roleplay. Ask the team the same questions you think a client might ask. This way, you’re going to hear a couple of different perspectives on how to approach a call.

Step Four – Engage everyone

Make sure you engage everyone from within the group. Commonly utilised in the medical profession for people to adopt a new technique, is a 3 part process that you may like to use:

  1. Learn it
  2. Practice it
  3. Teach it

So to create any behavioural change, everyone needs to be able to diagnose where there is an issue and prescribe a solution in a group setting!

One thing you might want to think about is appointing one particular individual as a chair. This could be a high-performing sales rep.

Bonus call feedback tips

Before I sign off, I want to give you a couple more best practices to follow when it comes to generating and providing constructive call feedback.

DO’s

  • Keep it positive. This is constructive coaching, with a heavy focus on ‘constructive’, not negative. Start by discussing positive past sales performance.
  • Recognise that it isn’t easy being vulnerable in front of a team.
  • Allow plenty of time for the group call review.
  • Ensure that everyone is diligently taking notes.
  • Refer to documentation or objectives that you’ve established through a previous review period.

DON’Ts

  • Overload them with feedback, stick to 1-2 elements.
  • Provide broad non-actionable feedback.
  • Refer to how well you have done something. When providing examples, look for third party stories or ask someone else to lead.
  • Take advantage of people’s vulnerability.
  • Rush it, allow plenty of time for the call review.

Wrapping up

The value that you will get out of constructive call feedback is immense.

Just like in the case of professional sports teams, if you regularly reflect and review your individual and team performance, you’re very much going to be on the right path to achieving peak productivity and outcomes.

Happy selling!

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