11/9/16 Interview with Qstream
Let’s Get Real.
In this series, we interview sales tool providers and get real about the problems they’re solving and why you should care (or not).
This week I interview Duncan Lennox, CEO of Qstream.
Nancy: I ask guests to answer the first question using what I call the “You know how…” format. Tell us, what does your solution do?
Duncan: You know how a majority of sales organizations don’t provide adequate coaching for their sales teams? In fact, one recent study showed that a whopping 77% of firms don’t provide sufficient coaching. The problem stems from the fact that sales managers often lack the time, and sometimes the skills, to effectively coach reps. Not surprising when you consider that the salesperson to sales manager ratio is roughly 6:1, and many sales managers tend to be top salespeople who were promoted to the rank of manager without the experience or skills to successfully coach reps.
Top sales reps recognize the value of coaching, so it’s time for sales leadership to properly support it. In fact, a 2016 Sales Talent Survey by SiriusDecisions showed that 70% of high performing sales reps see good coaching as the most significant contributor to their success, but only 6% of sales managers indicated they were completely able and ready to coach and mentor new hires.
Companies spend a lot of time and money building their sales funnel, yet they’re often surprised when they don’t see the results they expected. That’s because turning a prospect into a customer requires salespeople who can add value beyond presentations and product facts. They need to be capable of having conversations about challenges that buyers actually have – in markets that are constantly changing. And that’s where effective coaching can really move the dial, by addressing what’s human about selling – salespeople.
Nancy: That sounds like a problem worth solving (and a worthy solution). But let’s get real, sales and marketing organizations have a lot of challenges and they have to make choices about which to solve first. Why shouldn’t they continue with things the way they are if they’re getting by? What are the ramifications of not solving the problems you outlined?
Duncan: Given that the ultimate goal of sales organizations is to drive revenue, and coaching programs optimized for quality and quantity can help grow revenue up to 16.7% faster, this is a problem worth prioritizing.
There’s also significant impact beyond revenue generation. Sales reps, particularly Millennials, who don’t experience on-the-job coaching and career development may leave a company sooner than those who do, leading to higher turnover. Firms that invest in sales team reinforcement strategies can improve quota attainment and increase retention, while also reducing turnover. With the cost of finding, replacing and training a rep estimated to be well north of $100,000, that’s a hefty price to pay for failing to retain a rep.
Nancy: What types of questions should sales leaders ask to decide whether solving this problem should be a high priority?
Duncan: Sales leaders should ask themselves this, “If I can ensure my sales teams adequately identify and address coaching opportunities at scale, potentially increasing average annual quota attainment by up to 20%, how much quicker can we reach our revenue goals?”
The issue sales leaders struggle with is how to make their managers better coaches – at scale. Good sales coaching is about listening and demonstrating what good looks like – not simply telling reps what to do. It’s important to evaluate what each sales rep is prepared to bring to every customer interaction throughout the entire sales process. After all, real sales skills go beyond metrics like number of calls completed or number of deals closed. With technology platform advances that combine science and data, these skills can and should be measured and managed proactively.
In one study by Sales Management Association, managers ranked coaching higher than lead generation, compensation, and sales methodology based on impact to sales effectiveness. That’s because at the end of the day, coaching directly affects sales effectiveness, which, in turn, directly drives revenue for the business.
Nancy: This question is your choice. What do you want to answer that I didn’t ask?
Duncan: I’d want you to ask, “what’s the key to effectively coaching sales reps to drive deals, without adding more demands on existing workload and without relying on hunches?”
And the answer would be: data. Given that most sales managers don’t have the skills, experience or time to coach effectively, it’s important to provide them with the insights they need to deliver good coaching and not just a checklist of things they should probably do when they get around to it. Then measure the effectiveness of that coaching. The benefit of this approach is that it engages time-constrained sales managers in the process of coaching, and provides the data they need to make coaching tasks both accountable and actionable.
Using a data-driven sales acceleration platform with CRM-integration can help sales managers quickly target and prioritize 1:1 coaching plans and identify team-wide gaps in required knowledge or behaviors, while sales leaders can see where their teams stand in terms of coaching actions and overall effectiveness. Using real-time data-driven coaching that addresses the “human” side of sales acceleration (the skills and capabilities of salespeople), and not just process metrics, can prepare sales teams for interactions that win customers.
Nancy: What should people do next?