If you’ve been obsessing about company values and culture, have you fallen behind the times? It’s worth asking that question as our economy rebounds from the events of the past year and a half and employees voice new priorities, ranging from flexibility to compensation and benefits. It helps to think of virtual sales coaching as one of those benefits.
Virtual Sales Coaching
For generations, sales coaching, if it happened at all, took place in person. New reps attended sales presentations and lunches and learned how the masters succeeded. Reps also scored tips from managers who accompanied them on ride-alongs. These one-on-one sessions, as reps and managers traveled to and from meetings, included a mix of observation, feedback, encouragement, and a few laughs at the prospect’s expense.
Improved video technology has encouraged more prospects and clients to embrace remote sales meetings and presentations. In addition, your sales reps may be working from remote locations and may have never met you in person. This situation can contribute to sleepless nights for a sales manager. But if you incorporate virtual sales coaching into the benefits you offer your reps, you’ll help them improve their video presence along with their sales skills.
The Challenges of Going Virtual
Your reps might complain, as many do, that they’re losing sales because they couldn’t connect with a prospect in real life. Some problems can be directly linked to how well your reps have mastered technology. Insist that they practice giving presentations using your company’s video chat tool as well as the tool preferred by the client. Remind them that they are expanding their skill set by developing a solid comfort level with a variety of tools.
You can gauge how well they’ll do with these tasks by reviewing the results of sales skills and psychometric assessments you give them. From there, you can personalize their virtual sales coaching by using a platform that feeds them bite-sized advice via email or chat tools on how to improve their sales process and their presentations.
Virtual presentations differ from the in-person experience in several key ways. Your reps should practice the technology in advance. But they also should remember not to fill slides with tiny print that attendees may have trouble viewing. In addition, because it’s challenging to "read the room" during a virtual presentation, reps should be brief and focus on driving verbal exchanges between attendees.
Compensation and Spiffs
While virtual sales coaching can make a huge difference in retaining sales professionals, some reps will continue to value compensation above all other factors. If you’re supervising sales reps who sell third-party products to consumers, you may face a unique situation: manufacturers that pay spiffs or an incentive every time your rep makes a sale. Higher spiffs encourage reps to emphasize a specific vendor’s product features. In some cases, manufacturers will pay sales managers a spiff for each unit their reps sell while offering only training to the reps.
Academic research shows, not surprisingly, that this strategy will not incentivize reps to sell more. Sarah Magnotta, an associate professor in the marketing at Towson University’s College of Business and Economics, points out “the manager legitimizes the salespersons’ pursuit of spiffs and makes it feel acceptable.” But if managers are getting the cash payouts, reps may not feel particularly motivated to sell a particular vendor’s products.
To be sure you’re motivating reps, review the structure of non-traditional deals like spiffs and work with manufacturers to establish a payout system for both sales managers and reps. And remember that providing tools like virtual sales coaching can boost retention while helping reps make their numbers.
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