Improve Sales Coaching in Your Organization By Ditching the 80/20 Rule



Now more than ever, science has become a part of sales and improving sales coaching efforts within your team. We have data on almost every aspect of prospecting and the sales process in general. Data tells us everything from the best time of day to make calls to the effectiveness of your pre-call prospecting efforts.


We use all of this data to make informed decisions that will improve sales coaching and ultimately, our rate of appointments set. Yet, there is one aspect of sales calls we don’t have down to an exact science: the ratio of talking to listening.


B2B Sales Coaching Myth


If you’re in sales coaching, you’ve probably heard about or even coached reps on the 80/20 rule, in which a sales rep is supposed to listen 80% of the time and only talk the other 20%. That rule is bogus. As a sales rep, you want to educate prospects on your offer. How can you do that if you’re only listening?


Sales reps should be talking more than 20% of the time, so here is a better sales coaching tip: for cold or warm calls, the ratio of talk to listen should be closer to 50/50. Think about it. If you have a great offer, why would you only spend 20% of the conversation talking about it?


Improve Sales Coaching in Your Organization


If you want to improve sales coaching efforts in your organization, ditch the 80/20 rule immediately. The optimal talk-to-listen ratio is 50/50, because on a cold call, you have to say something interesting or compelling to earn the right to ask questions, which then gets them talking. If you're only talking 20% of the time and listening 80% of the time, something's off about your cold calling process.


Sales calls are about directing the conversation in a way that is advantageous to your offer. In a way, you’re helping the other person help you, by asking questions that lead to an opportunity to talk about how you can help them. You can’t steer a conversation when you’re only talking 20% of the time. I’ve never understood B2B sales coaching theories that revolve around listening to the majority of the time during a sales call conversation.


How To Impact Sales Coaching


If you want to impact sales coaching efforts in your organization, create a real plan around how much reps should talk and how they’re going to earn the right to ask big, open-ended questions. Of course, not every conversation will flow with your playbook, but if your team has a plan, it’ll be easier to keep them on topic.


As a rule of thumb, I tell my team to follow this strategy and also incorporate it into my sales coaching tips: create and use context as a preface to pique interest, then ask big, open-ended questions. You’re more likely to get a prospect talking if you establish context, then create interest, before finally asking questions.


Tell your reps the target talking time during these conversations is around 40-60%. You should establish your value and then ask questions. Most of your talking will come in the beginning and then in the end once you ask questions and move to the closing pitch. This plan is a surefire way to improve sales coaching efforts in your organization.


The key is maintaining a smooth rhythm to the conversation. It's like in a speed date, you don't go ask big open-ended questions, like show me your W2. Instead, you get all the little kind of pleasantries out of the way and then have more of a back and forth dialogue.


When developing a sales call conversation plan, remember, the prospect needs to be convinced that they should keep talking to you and eventually give you their business. That won’t happen if you’re only listening.


If you’re interested in learning more about sales coaching tips and how to improve sales coaching within your organization, contact us today. We can talk more about setting up a sales coaching plan for your organization’s specific needs!


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