Run Better Sales One on Ones for Account Executives
Sales one on ones are the most important activity for sales leaders at every level. Sales managers need training and enablement to be great at one on ones. Investing in sales one on ones will have big returns in terms of improved sales results.
The problem is that many sales managers are promoted from the ranks of the most successful account executives (AEs). They show up at work as a sales manager and need help with sales one on ones.
Coaching AEs is really challenging. AEs need critical selling skills that are difficult to measure and challenging to coach. Even the most experienced managers have trouble coaching critical selling skills such as (1) qualifying opportunities, (2) overcoming objections and (3) taking control of the process.
Data can help sales managers. But there's a disconnect between the data that is easy to measure (e.g., calls, emails, meetings, demos, bookings) and the data that sales managers need to figure out what's working and what isn't. Check out Jason Jordan's book, Cracking the Sales Management Code, for a deep dive on the disconnect between sales performance management and the sales activity metrics that are usually measured.
In this post, I'll share Rekener's experience with using data to enable sales managers. We'll review three must haves for sales managers to run great one on ones with AEs.
- Mutual Buy In. Sales managers and AEs will have constructive one on ones if they both have clear visibility into what's working and what's not working. When a sales manager and the AE can agree on the problem spots, the AE will be more open to coaching.
- Clear Diagnosis. Sales managers need to be able to diagnose the underlying selling skills that need improvement. Focused coaching on a small number of high value sales skills will produce big dividends over the long term.
- Specific Direction. Data can also be used to help AEs prioritize specific accounts, contacts and leads. This can have an immediate impact on results.
Start With Mutual Buy In
Sales managers can't improve sales performance if AEs won't listen to coaching.
When it's two months through a quarter and a team of AEs is way behind on the bookings target, the sales manager needs performance to improve quickly. An AE who says "I got this" isn't going to listen to coaching. A sales manager who can help an AE see and understand the problem is going to get better results.
Data can help. For example, let's say that we have an AE named David who has strong early stage pipeline but is way behind in retiring quota. In their one on one, David's sales manager needs to get David to see the challenge and take ownership of it. Here are three metrics that the sales manager can use to get on the same page with David.
- Quota Retirement. This is the ratio of new bookings to quota. When there's only half a month left in the quarter and quota retirement is only 20%, it's clear that there's a problem. For your more visual learners, it is also helpful to see bookings vs quota over time to visualize the gap.
- Pipeline Coverage. Pipeline coverage is the ratio of open pipeline to the quota remaining in the quarter. If your AE has strong pipeline coverage (typically 3x or greater), then the sales manager can focus on how to move the pipeline forward. If the pipeline is weak, then the focus needs to be on closing everything they have.
- Forecast Coverage. Forecast coverage is the ratio of forecast to quota for the quarter. Forecast can be based on the judgment of the AE, or it can be calculated based on historical conversion ratios. If the forecast ratio is over 100%, then your AE has a shot of hitting the number, and it's time to focus on closing open pipeline.
The following screen shot is a good example of a one on one dashboard for David. It is very clear where the David stands in terms of Quota Retirement and Pipeline Coverage. He has a long way to go in order to hit his number for the quarter. It's also clear that there is problem with close rate for new business. With clear data like this, David is more likely to be open to coaching.
Diagnosing Problems in Sales One on Ones
Sales managers need to be able to diagnose the reasons for performance problems.
In the case of our AE named David, the problems are clear. David is generating plenty of pipeline, but he isn't closing. His close rate has been bad for the last three quarters. As a sales manager, you need to diagnose the reasons why.
Opportunity conversion funnels are a great tool for finding bottlenecks in the process. In the screen shot below, it is clear that David is having trouble with Product Capabilities/Differentiation and Business Justification stages. With this data, David's sales manager can diagnose at least three possible reasons why.
- Lack of product knowledge.
- Challenges overcoming competitive objections.
- Challenges with business justification.
These are fundamental sales skills that can be improved with coaching. They won't produce immediate fixes, but they can help David get better over time.
As with all diagnoses, these need to be tested. David's manager can test them by listening to David's calls on the sales floor, or by using a conversation intelligence tool such as Chorus.ai or Gong.io.
Help AEs Take Action Based On Specific Direction
Ideally, AEs will walk out of your one on one meetings with specific directions that can have an immediate impact. In David's example, there are two weeks left in the quarter and he is way behind. It will be helpful in the long term to diagnose problems with sales skills such as qualifying opportunities and overcoming objections. But David needs results now. As a sales manager, you need to help him figure out exactly which accounts to call.
If your sales motion is account based, then your sales managers need visibility into activities at the account level. This is very challenging in the modern account based sales environment because AEs can have hundreds of accounts, or even thousands. It isn't possible for the sales manager to troll through the customer relationship management (CRM) platform to review the status and activities of that many accounts.
The solution is to roll up activities at the account level and then roll those accounts up to the AE. With large numbers of accounts, this needs to be automated.
The following screen shot illustrates how a sales manager can filter David's accounts to identify only accounts with open pipeline. This analysis reveals that some of these accounts have not been called or emailed recently (see the green highlighting). As a sales manager, you can direct David to focus on these accounts and either move them to deals or close them as lost.
Sales Rep Scorecards Can Help
Rekener's Sales Rep Scorecard app is the fastest and most powerful way to give your sales leaders (at all levels) the visibility they need to run great one on ones. We crunch the data so you can focus on crushing your numbers.
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Alex is CEO and Founder of Rekener. Previously, he served as President and COO at ZeroTurnaround and as President of the Delta Division of BBN Technologies. At ZeroTurnaround, he grew high velocity inside sales by 6x in 3 years. At BBN, Alex co-founded RAMP and AVOKE, both recurring SaaS businesses based on BBN's world class speech recognition and natural language processing tech. Alex started his entrepreneurial career as founder and COO of NBX Corporation, which led the transformation of business telephone systems to Voice over IP. Alex’s companies have generated $500M in liquidity events and more than $1B in sales.
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