How do you coach a salesperson to improve their sales results using digital tools like LinkedIn?
It seems like an easy question. All you need to do is present it at a sales meeting, maybe send a few articles you found, and that should be it. Right?
Unfortunately, lurking underneath the seeming simplicity of digital selling are a number of complications that differentiate these new sales activities from business as usual. If you try the training and coaching approaches that worked in the past, you’ll soon find yourself stuck in the mud.
So let’s look at some ways you can leverage sales coaching to drive online selling skills in your team.
Digital Selling is Rarely Linear
One of the biggest challenges for modern sellers is that the direct connection between activity and results has started to uncouple. That doesn’t mean that a salesperson’s activities don’t matter. But it does mean that the effects of a salesperson’s activity are not always obvious and immediate.
In Hyper-Connected Selling, I write about how the sales world isn’t linear like it was. In the past, all you had to do was pound the phone or knock on doors until you hit a target number of appointments or sales. That creates a situation where the connection between activity and results was much more direct.
In that transactional model it was much easier to see which specific activities drove what specific outcomes. That made it much easier to train and manage to help salespeople accomplish those outcomes.
Technology Has Changed the Skills Salespeople Need
But that is disappearing because those transactional sales roles are being replaced by automation. This is the world modern salespeople have to wrap their heads around.
Consider this: If your sales job is truly transactional, automated platforms can do a better job. But salespeople are still going to be needed for more complicated and complex sales. Those are the ones that take time and multiple touchpoints… and aren’t linear.
And that’s why it’s so important for your salespeople to develop these skills. These are trends that aren’t going to disappear. In fact, a 2019 Gartner study found that “The typical buying group for a complex B2B solution involves six to ten decision makers‚ each armed with four or five pieces of information they’ve gathered independently.”
So to stay competitive, you have to develop the skills that can influence a long sales cycle with multiple stakeholders. And that’s where online tools like LinkedIn come into their own.
How Sales Coaching Helps Build Digital Selling Activities
Your job as a modern sales leader is to help your salespeople move through this evolution. Coaching is a great tool to help carry them through this transition.
It’s important here to remember the distinction between management and coaching. Sales management tends to focus on metrics and pipeline. It’s concerned with what the salesperson has sold and what they are about to sell.
Management works best for activities where there is a direct connection between cause and effect, e.g. “You aren’t selling enough so make more calls.” There is still a time to focus on the sales management aspects of your role: quotas, forecasting, pipeline, etc.
But that falls short when trying to develop these indirect components of digital selling. You can’t necessarily map digital selling tactics to a spreadsheet.
That why coaching can help build the long term skills that your people need. It’s a powerful opportunity to leverage a small amount of time with your salespeople for a large payoff. And when you consistently and regularly spend one-on-one time with your salespeople that focuses on helping them improve their online skills, you’ll see improved adoption and execution of those skills.
3 Coaching Guidelines
How do you coach and develop skillsets around activities that often don’t have a direct and immediate impact? You don’t have to leave it to chance. Here are 3 ways to lead your people to long term success.
Define Online Activity Metrics to Track
Most sales organizations are wired to focus on activities and results that have a clearly defined and direct connection. For example, most organizations will track lead calls/emails, the number of interactions based on those outbound activities, and whether they were converted to sales.
Since selling activities on LinkedIn aren’t always as direct or immediate, it can be valuable to define activities that will keep sales reps moving towards positive results. For example, if you are using Linkedin’s Sales Navigator, you can use SSI as a proxy metric because it encompasses many of these activities. But you can also break down different activities that will create long-term effects. Some ideas include:
- How many connections did you add to your network this week?
- How many times did you post (video, image, article, etc.) and on what topics?
- What engagement did you have with someone else’s content?
- Did you research prospects and customers this week and what did you find?
- Did you connect offline with any of your online connections?
Encourage Research and Relationships (And Show Them How)
Speaking of research, LinkedIn gives sales professionals insight into their prospects and customers that they’ve never had before. They can research people that they’re dealing with directly, but also the individuals that surround their prospects and the organization as a whole. The surge in account-based selling indicates that taking this holistic approach to selling can be valuable.
So you can help your sales team walk through their opportunities and develop strategies for moving forward. Sales managers have always had a hand in helping sales reps manage and develop their pipeline. Now it’s even more important.
Show your reps how to dive into LinkedIn profiles and activity to decipher possible buying signals and best next steps:
- Does the contact reference words/phrases/lingo in their profile that highlights key issues?
- Are they active on LinkedIn – which will help determine whether reaching on through LinkedIn makes sense?
- What were their previous jobs that might have helped shape their perspective?
- Are there posts that you can engage with?
- Do you have shared connections that could introduce you or do you share anything in common you could reference?
Help Them With Scheduling
There are a lot of demands on a salesperson’s time and attention. As their manager, you probably put many of those demands on them. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get trapped in doing urgent and not important activities. Time management, and more importantly, priority management isn’t an intuitive skill.
Salespeople let social media activities slide because they have so many other activities yelling for their attention. But then they are sacrificing long-term success for a smaller short-term payoff. And as we’ve seen, that short-term payoff is diminishing quickly.
But you can help them develop habits around using LinkedIn and other digital platforms effectively. Work with them to carve out blocks of time to share content, build their network, and research their prospects.
- Add 5-15 minute blocks of time into their week for quick scans of their newsfeed to engage with prospects and customers.
- Add time to review their profile to make sure it’s optimized.
- Set up meetings with the marketing team to collaborate on content that the sales team can share.
- Create time in the schedule to do prospect research
- Help them manage their offline networking time to add even more connections.
These three areas are just the start. Your most important role as a sales leader is to see the broader picture to help your team develop the skills and abilities to succeed in the modern business world. And by helping them engage with their prospects and customers online, they’ll be on track to do just that.