How to Unlock Your Sales Team’s Potential in 5 Steps

By Drift

how to unlock your sales team's potential

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Refract. Interested in contributing content to the Drift blog? Email Molly Sloan at

As sales leaders, one of our greatest wins and challenges is unlocking the hidden potential across our teams. While we’re inevitably judged on monthly KPIs that are easy to measure, few would argue that the mark of a truly great sales leader is the ability to develop and nurture the talent on their team.

Perhaps more importantly, we all want to work for someone who does this naturally. This kind of leadership creates loyalty, commitment and relationships that inevitably lead to success – for both reps and managers.

Just 3 hours of coaching a month, per rep, can have a 25% impact on revenue according to the Corporate Executive Board. That all sounds so easy, but every manager feels the pain of too much to do and too little time, so how can we make the most of our limited time to unlock the potential of our reps?

Especially when we claim to devote just 5% of our time on average to coaching according to a study by the TAS Group (and by the way, our reps say that’s 2X the coaching they actually receive).

Your team is your greatest asset (and cost). Failing to unlock their potential not only limits revenue, but also increases retention issues. Why would anyone want to work for an organization that doesn’t invest in developing their talent, results, and earning potential?

Here are my top tips to maintain focus and a cadence to ensure you can realize the potential in each of your reps, and equip them for greatness.

1. Observe sales conversations religiously. Unlock the black box where revenue is won and lost.

If you are not observing the conversations, which define success and revenue, how can you really influence results and trajectory?

The following things will happen when you listen to sales conversations:

You’ll find coachable moments littered across each conversation

Some will require corrective feedback, some will need ideas or tweaks and some will provide opportunities to praise and share. But I promise you’ll be shocked how many moments occur in every single conversation.

And once revealed, you’ll wonder if that happens to everyone in the team, every time for that rep, or crave that others replicate those same behaviors.

Data can both reveal and flag those key moments, surfacing what happens in the conversations that define our success.

You’ll discover uncoachable reps

If your coaching and feedback from these pivotal conversation moments doesn’t move the needle, it’s hard to see what will. And you can find that out fast.

By weeding out those who are uncoachable early on you reduce unnecessary costs in terms of both salaries and support resources, not to mention the opportunity cost of sales hires that will never hit quota. With 57% of reps missing quota today according to Salesforce’s State of Sales report, the value in recognizing these issues early, and taking remedial action has huge value – as well as putting coachability front and center in your sales recruitment. 

You’ll accelerate the ramp time of a sales rep on the path to becoming a top performer

A feedback loop, coupled with frequent coaching, are key to ramping salespeople from starter to top performer in the shortest possible time frame.

If you can reduce ramp time to hit quota by 2 months, across just 6 hires a year, you’ll add the equivalent of a fully ramped, quota hitting sales rep to your bottom line – every single year.

2. Share praise, ideas and corrective feedback as a team.

Coaching may be the single most impactful action that managers can take to influence revenue, but it tends to be a 1:1 activity. For time poor managers, this limits the impact they can have.

Group coaching sessions can work beautifully – taking key moments of sales conversations or reviewing a prospective opportunity collectively.

We have a weekly group coaching session every Friday at Refract. Choosing calls or product demos made that week by the team, we skip between key moments to talk through ideas, share moments of brilliance and discuss great questions, stories or tactics, collectively. Sharing different styles and approaches allows us to take ideas from each example to use ourselves.

This also helps create a coaching culture – Encouraging reps to review their own conversations, prospecting and opportunities, gets peers to coach each other, or organizing group coaching of conversations. It helps get everyone comfortable reviewing the best and worst examples to learn from and collaborate on ideas and feedback. Managers can make sure coaching cadences are part of each working week, while maximizing the ROI on their coaching time.

3. Understand what separates top performers from the rest. What do top performers do in their conversations that lead to better outcomes?

What is the commercial impact of cloning your top performers? For most organizations, the gap between the middle 60% of performers and the top 20% is significant. And if you can level up just some of the 60% to become top performers – the payback is significant.

But what do top performers do differently that results in successful outcomes more frequently?

Is it the questions top performers ask, how they phrase them, identifying and exposing a prospect’s pain or value, how they pause and stay silent at key moments, how they ask for the business, revealing stakeholders or understanding the buying process? Every top performer will have a wide array of techniques they are using in every conversation that can uplift peers when shared.

4. Create real world best practice playbooks. What are great ways to present that value, ask better questions or deal with that objection?

How can you turn ‘good’ into ‘great’. It’s not that easy because if your reps ask good questions, give decent answers and have tactics that ‘work’, they never know what ‘great’ looks like. Good is just the best they are aware of – until they see (or hear) great.

Best practice playbooks of sales conversations and moments – asking these great questions, dealing with this objection, telling this customer success story or negotiating a win/win outcome can all be shared, both as they happen and to create referenceable playbooks for both peers and on-boarding new starters.

Imagine if every new starter could dive into great example sales conversations based on types of calls and potential buyers. What impact would those ‘champagne moments’ have on the remainder of your sales team?

5. Develop personalized roadmaps and identify the key development areas for each individual based on their recognized needs and opportunities.

Every rep obviously has their own strengths and weaknesses – both in skills and in sales conversations. But identifying those, particularly in conversations that happen behind closed meeting room doors, at conferences or over the phone, is a difficult task for managers.

Spending the time riding along or joining those conversations is inefficient – especially when conversations that involve hitting a gatekeeper, or a potential buyers’ voicemail, have little or limited coachable opportunity.

By listening to both sides of sales conversations you can begin to unlock often overlooked detail and draw up a plan to close the gap. For example, doing so will help you understand who talks too much, who doesn’t ask enough questions, who doesn’t stay quiet when they need to, who doesn’t arrange next steps, who discounts too quickly. Even the crutch words and phrases that work (and don’t).

By building a profile for each rep and aligning to a learning path alongside personalized coaching, you can address areas that will have impact and results, level jumping performance and revenues.

And that’s how you unlock the true potential of your sales team.