By Lisa Clark
You’ve heard the mantra: Execution is the key to sales strategy. Sales reps are the face to healthcare providers, and the last mile to achieving your revenue targets and growth initiatives. But without CRM systems that automate sales processes and churn out data about them, sales managers are ill-equipped to manage their teams and improve the abilities of sales people.
That’s right, people.
It’s no secret that more confident and skilled sales reps sell better and have more success.
Yet the human side of sales acceleration can get lost in the emphasis on automation and processes. In the United States alone, we spend $5 billion a year on sales training in large part because we want and need our reps to be confident in their skills and knowledge.
Still more than one-third of pharma sales reps today – even those with lots of market, product and disease state training – still show up at sales calls unprepared or unable to apply the knowledge and skills they need to be successful. It’s a major contributing factor to why sales professionals “strike out” about 70 percent of the time with qualified prospects.
According to Demand Metric, which examined those “bad sales meetings” with qualified prospects, some 59 percent of bad sales meetings result in an immediate opportunity loss, and another 13 percent that in long-term revenue loss. Altogether then, 72 percent of bad sales meetings ultimately end in lost revenue.
What’s more, research corroborates that while there indeed is a positive correlation between sales training spend and sales performance, any measurable improvements are not sustainable – and real knowledge transfer doesn’t always happen. A separate analysis of this “forgetting curve” shows that within days and weeks, nearly 80 percent of new information is forgotten.
Most managers today agree that sales coaching is the No. 1 activity based on the overall impact on sales effectiveness. Other research by CSO Research showed that companies with outstanding sales coaching skills have 10 percent higher revenue plan attainment than companies where coaching skills only met expectations.
However, when your top sales performers are promoted to the role of manager without having any direct sales supervisory experience, they discover there’s a big difference between being a great closer and being a great coach. More often, they don’t know where to begin.
Most companies invest little time in coaching their coaches. And many of the prescribed methods, like ride-alongs and joint account calls, just don’t scale in the real world.
The result? Even when sales management is totally committed to any new initiative, the ability to follow through with coaching and mentoring just doesn’t happen.
Using performance-driven analytics, organizations can provide their front-line sales managers with highly action insights to effectively “coaching” their way to a more effective sales force – a team that is equipped to have consistent and value-added conversations with customers that generate more sales.
The key to this is to apply data in a radically new way by:
1) Gathering data that quantifies where individuals are today – what they know and don’t know, where their strengths and weaknesses are – and helping sales managers visualize ways to apply that to their sales coaching.
2) Using a proven method to apply that data to change behavior where necessary – a method that works with the pressure-packed, on the go life of the sales manager as well as the sales rep.
According to Aberdeen Research, companies that carry out post-training reinforcement at least once a quarter see 20 percent more of their salespeople achieve sales quotas.
Using this approach, life sciences organizations such as American Medical Services have driven post-sales training event mastery scores from a baseline of 68 percent to 92 percent, with over 96 percent engagement in a matter of months – far exceeding results from doing post-event quizzes and webcasts to reinforce critical sales knowledge.
At the same time, sales and training managers were suddenly backed by concrete, meaningful data on their people to facilitate highly personalized coaching and spot other potential performance gaps.
With continuous sales improvement driven by data, organizations can turn average sales teams into high-performing ones – while embracing the humanity that is the reason we put people, not systems, in front of the customer.
Lisa Clark is vice president of marketing at Qstream. She has 20 years of experience building high-value software companies, brands and market share, including at Avid Technology and Centra Software. Email Lisa at email@example.com.