Sales teams are always looking for ways to improve their performance. And while onboarding and orientation are important for new salespeople, the practical experience of making sales calls is still one of the best ways to learn how to sell.
That's where shadow calling comes in. Shadowing a more experienced salesperson on calls can help newbies learn the ropes and improve their performance quickly. It's a win-win for everyone involved: the company gets better sales results, and new salespeople get the experience they need to succeed.
Let's look at what shadow calling is, its benefits, and the steps you need to take to make it work for your company.
One of the main objectives of sales development representatives (SDR) is to make sure that a new salesperson can quickly and effectively follow scripts, handle objections, and build rapport—all while trying to close a deal.
Shadow calling (also known as a ride-along) can be highly beneficial. It's the process of having a new salesperson "shadow," or listen in on, calls made by more experienced salespeople.
The shadowing salesperson doesn't participate in the call but can take notes and learn.
Several benefits come from shadow calling. For starters, it helps new salespeople learn from more experienced ones.
This type of mentorship helps new salespeople learn best practices, gain insight into objections, and better understand how to effectively sell products or services. It gives them a chance to see how the experts do it and learn from their mistakes.
Additionally, shadow calling allows new salespeople to build relationships with veterans, which can benefit professionally and personally.
Finally, shadow calling is a two-way street. Not only do new salespeople benefit from it, but more experienced salespeople can also use it as an opportunity to improve their performance by getting feedback.
This feedback can help them identify areas where more experienced salespeople can change to improve their sales techniques.
There are four fundamental ways to implement shadow calling:
In this method, a less experienced salesperson is paired with more experienced ones at random to listen in on live calls. This is a good way to expose new salespeople to different styles and techniques.
The downside of this method is that the lack of consistency can make it difficult for new salespeople to identify effective methods.
Mentorship: Pairing with the Same Person for an Extended Period
In this method, a new salesperson shadows an experienced mentor for an extended period.
This allows a relationship to form so that the more experienced salesperson's style, technique, and method may be taught.
The downside of this method is that it requires mentors who are capable of strong teaching outcomes to be successful, so it can be difficult to scale effectively.
Listening to Recorded Calls
With this approach, new salespeople don't participate in real-time calls. It's highly scalable, and new salespeople can learn at their own pace.
The downsides of this method are that it requires some frontloaded work to set up, a lack of dynamic interactive feedback, and timeliness (old calls may have obsolete products, services, or applied policies).
(Live) Product Demo Training
In this method, new salespeople need to learn everything about your product that's needed for the demo sales script. Learning from a real production environment is very cumbersome - it requires a lot of effort to configure for each person and just doesn't scale.
Instead, you can use Interactive Product Demo Platform to provide an exact copy of your product in a rock-solid personal demo environment that can be replicated quickly for each sales rep with the click of a button. They can learn various aspects of the product on their own and get feedback using analytics data on where they clicked around.
Which One is Best?
The best method for shadow calling will depend on many factors, such as the size of your sales team or the amount of experience your new salespeople have.
If you have a small team, it might make more sense to have new salespeople shadow the same person for quite some time.
On the other hand, a larger team might make more sense to randomly pair new salespeople with more experienced ones.
Shadow calling steps can vary from company to company, but let's try categorizing each step into three—pre-call, joining the call, and post-call.
The sales development representative will choose an experienced salesperson to partner with a new salesperson during this stage. If your company has a policy where salespeople can only be shadowed with their permission, then the sales development representative will ask the experienced salesperson if it's okay with them to be shadowed.
The sales development representative will also brief new salespeople on what to expect during the call and give background information as useful context.
Four of the most important things to know before shadowing a call are:
Joining the Call: Advice for the New Salesperson
As a new salesperson shadowing someone more experienced, if you're doing it in-person, make sure you sit in a way that's not too intrusive yet still allows you to take good notes. Also, try to observe the experienced salesperson's body language and tone as you listen.
Throughout the call, make sure to take good notes.
Some questions to address in your notes are:
After the call, the new salesperson should debrief with the experienced salesperson. This is a good time to have a Q&A session.
It's also a good time to share observations. This feedback can help improve sales technique and performance.
Some questions to ask:
When done correctly, shadowing calls can be an extremely effective way to teach new salespeople the sales methods and culture at a company they've just joined. It allows them to hear real conversations, observe experienced salespeople in action, and get feedback from them afterward.
There are many different ways to approach shadowing sales calls, and which one is the right one depends on a variety of factors, from the institutional to the individual. Regardless of the specific method or methods chosen, the important thing is that shadowing sales calls is a kind of participant-observation that lands effectively with new salespeople, teaching them how to close deals in a cost-effective, scalable way.