The Story of the Sale: How to Use Proposals in Sales Call Coaching

What do most sales calls look like? They’re a back-and-forth of questions, answers, tangents, and discovery. What do most sales call coaching sessions look like? Linear, do-this-then-that checklists that don’t fully prepare sales reps for the messy reality of a successful sales call. Here’s how Proposify’s VP of Sales uses proposals to train his salespeople on the practical skills that help them tell the story of the sale and win with it.

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6 min. read

What do the most successful discovery calls look like?

In a word, messy. Like this:

Gong found that successful sales reps make their discovery calls more like a tennis match. Questions are peppered throughout the call, answers are long and detailed, and there are follow-up questions posed as necessary to gain clarification. There’s a natural back-and-forth to the conversation without monologued pitches or front-loaded interrogations.

This means that good discovery calls don’t follow an easily predictable pattern. So why are sales managers and sales reps still training for discovery calls using scripts, templates, and checklists?

Proposify’s VP of Sales, Daniel Hebert, says he started out using linear coaching methods like these but the training didn’t really hit home for his reps until he tied it to a different document.

Your proposal is the story at the end of the sales cycle. It’s a summary of all the discovery you’ve done.

Here’s how he uses the proposal to prepare his sales team for the messy reality of successful discovery calls.

A single source of truth for discovery and closing

Why does tying discovery training to a closing document like a proposal work so well? Because each deal is unique and a proposal reflects that better than any generic script or template could.

“What we found is that our proposals are fairly elaborate, about 10 pages. It’s not just, 'Here’s the pricing,'” Daniel explains. “Plus, we have to sell in different ways, to different people, in different functions. We sell to people in both marketing and sales, for example.”

Working backwards from the proposal helps sales reps connect the dots between a solid discovery process and creating proposals that get approved by buying committees.

The proposal “is the summary of your entire discovery so without a good discovery process, you can’t send a good proposal out

Daniel points out that before you can reflect any of those specific deal details into your proposals you need to make sure that they’re captured in your CRM. Daniel and our Sales Ops Analyst Colin built out all the critical deal details—pain points, decision criteria, timelines, and so on—as fields in each opportunity in Salesforce.

Then, when coaching, Daniel uses those key points in coaching, with the sales rep mapping the Salesforce fields into the proposal and tying them to specific points in the sales cycle and discovery process. Like, when would you find out the information you need to complete the executive summary? At what point would you dig into the details you need to inform the pricing page or a statement of work?

Once the sales reps have their proposal mapped out with discovery details, Daniel moves on to role-playing the discovery calls themselves, using an example from the sports world to structure these sessions.

Practice vs. game day

Many sales coaches set up their call coaching sessions as a run-through of an entire call. In a 45-minute session, they go through an entire half-hour call with the sales rep, with 15 minutes for feedback. Instead, Daniel says, centre the role-play session around skills and repetition.

Think about how an athlete trains. For every hour they spend in-game, they spend two or three in practice sessions. Sales call coaching sessions should look and sound like practice. That way, the pressure is off and the real preparation can happen.

“I’m Canadian so I use hockey as an example,” says Daniel. “When hockey players practice, the coach doesn’t just say, ‘Okay, form lines and let’s play a full game.’ No, it’s broken down into chunks.

You do things over and over and over again. That’s what good sales coaching role-play looks like. It’s repetition

Those ‘chunks’ are drills. It’s how both hockey players and sales reps learn the skills that will help them stick-handle any real-life situation. But, as Daniel points out, when you only practice something start to finish, it doesn’t become a skill. It becomes recall, like a mental discovery call checklist. I do this, then I do this, and then this.

And that can be enough to put disco calls on ice.

Go out of order in order to learn

So, how do you coach for skills and not just recall? This is where the proposal comes in clutch again.

Daniel uses the proposal sections as a guide to jump around when practicing discovery calls. Learning the individual skills and behaviours without a specific order makes a huge difference in how a sales rep uses them on actual calls, he says.

“When I role-played a call in sequence with a sales rep, he got it. But it got encoded in their retrieval memory where it’s just purely knowledge; not skill, not behaviour. When he was quizzed on different parts of the sales process, he could recall it. But then when it came time to do live calls with customers, if something happened that wasn’t in the order we practiced it, it threw him off. He didn’t know what to do.”

Instead, Daniel approaches coaching as if he and the sales rep were writing a proposal together, going section by section, scrolling up and down through the document. “Open it up, there’s the cover letter. Here’s where we summarize the pain. Let’s go and role play that piece for three to four minutes until you’re good with that.”

That way, he says, they can run through 10 to 12 role-plays hitting different parts of the sales cycle in a one-hour coaching block. Then each of those pieces and skills can be remixed into an amazing discovery call that helps the rep fill in the details in the story of the sale.

More data-driven coaching that moves the needle

Of course, discovery calls are only one part of the sales coaching process. Check out more from Daniel in this webinar with Mark McWatters, VP of Sales at Ambition, where they talk about all things sales coaching from discovery calls to electronic signature.

Another great way to find a path through the messiness of sales coaching is data. Mark and Daniel’s video chat below also includes insight into new research featured in Ambition’s upcoming State of Sales Coaching 2020 report and Proposify’s latest edition of our State of Proposals 2020 report, which features updated information on how proposals are changing during the pandemic.

The Story of the Sale: How to Use Proposals in Sales Call Coaching

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