Build a Data-Driven Coaching Program in 3 Easy Steps

At SAP, we’ve achieved tremendous results marrying traditional sales coaching techniques with data analytics and insight.

As the sales enablement community pushes forward with the adoption of chatbots and other advancements to online/digital learning, it’s important we bring with us, and, indeed, retrofit more traditional sales enablement methods for use in the Digital Age.

One-on-one coaching—a time-tested yet increasingly overlooked approach—is a great place to start, especially when it comes to sales enablement. In fact, according to an analysis published by Harvard Business Review, coaching can “improve performance up to 19 percent…even moderate improvement in coaching quality—simply from below to above average—can mean a 6 to 8 percent increase in performance across 50 percent of your sales force.”

At SAP, we’ve achieved tremendous results marrying traditional sales coaching techniques with data analytics and insight. Here’s how you can bring a similar approach to your organization in three easy steps:

Step 1: Define success

Run a careful analysis of your sales executives’ current performance. Next, hold interviews with sales leadership to define which key performance indicators (KPIs) and skills (e.g., forecasting, pipeline management, time to revenue, etc.) that, if improved upon, would help reach your quota and revenue targets.

Interviews and surveys also can be used with members of your target audience (sales reps in SAP’s case) to understand a typical day/week in the life of a sales rep, as well as his or her desire for/perceived value of coaching. This data, when cross-referenced with performance data, can be used to unveil common characteristics of top performers.

Step 2: Identify your coaches

With your KPIs identified, you can proceed with one or a blend of the following steps:

  • Identify employees already trained in coaching
  • Provide training to upskill employees in coaching
  • Use third-party certified coaches

At SAP, we were able to leverage a large number (approximately 600) of trained and certified coaches within our organization. Coaches can come from a variety of backgrounds and roles because their “expertise” is the art of coaching and helping guide people toward finding their own solutions.

When assigning coaches to sales executives, avoid direct reporting, or even same-team, relationships. Using sales coaches who are not direct managers ensures that coaching conversations are strictly coaching sessions (as opposed to check-ins or status updates).

Step 3: Implement your data-driven coaching program

By using Big Data and personalization, you can ensure coaching sessions are guided by facts and not intuition. Combine sales data with analysis and marry the resulting insights and recommendations with one-on-one coaching sessions.

At SAP, we provide monthly reports focused on the relevant KPIs to both coachee (sales executive) and coach. The reports compare the coachee’s performance against that of the top-performing salesperson in the coachee’s line of business and region. A coachee responsible for selling HCM software in North America, for instance, would be compared against the top-performing salesperson selling HCM software in North America.

Data and insight contained in the reports help the sales executives and coach decide how best to use their time together.

Key Takeaways

  • Use data analytics to help guide coaching sessions. Produce reports that generate data from your organization’s customer relationship management (CRM) and human capital management (HCM) systems, which help coachees select topics to be coached on.
  • Any employee who has taken a coaching training can coach others regardless of role.
  • Coaches do not need to be in the same location as their coachee to hold effective coaching sessions. Coaches in different time zones can have sessions over the phone with great success.

As vice president of Sales Coaching at SAP, Mark Crofton leads a team of sales enablement professionals responsible for boosting the performance of SAP’s 10,000-plus colleagues in sales and sales-related roles around the world. The team’s primary focus is the collection and in-depth analysis of sales executive performance and skill proficiency data—then used to provide sales executives with highly relevant, personalized learning plans and one-on-one coaching from certified, internal coaches. Prior to his current role, Crofton led the SAP Academy for Sales (SAP’s flagship training program for Early Talent) and was SAP’s VP Sales, Latin America. Crofton was also a consultant with McKinsey & Company and worked with Thomson Reuters in client services, pre-sales, and sales. He has a BA from Tufts University and an MBA from Columbia Business School. He is fluent in Spanish and German.