Whenever I speak or write about what makes a truly excellent sales leader, I always end up talking about coaching. That’s not because coaching is the only thing that makes a great sales leader. It’s just really, really important.
Coaching is something that eludes a lot of sales leaders, and most training efforts fail to reach their objectives. Why?
The answer lies partly in what’s expected of sales managers in the eyes of senior leadership.
Most sales cultures lead a sales manager to believe that reporting numbers is their top priority.
It’s obvious that their top priority should be improving numbers – what’s often not so obvious is how that is accomplished.
Improving a sales organization’s ability to consistently hit its number is accomplished through coaching each representative up to a higher level of sales performance, which results in increased sales.
When all that is asked of a sales manager is to create pivot tables and reports, sales managers become inspectors and not coaches.
Pivot tables and reports are nothing more than exercises of examination, and constant inspection of them creates a false sense of security among sales leaders because they are working under a common false assumption: that results will improve with higher levels of inspection.
Ironically, the opposite is true. Just ask any sales professional or manager how many hours they have spent presenting data and what observable difference it made in their ability to improve revenue.
Actually, don’t waste your time; the answer is virtually none.
For an outside-of-sales example, just imagine a football coach whose team is trailing at halftime.
Once in the locker room the coach attempts to inspire his team by shouting, “I looked at the scoreboard. You didn’t score enough points! You need to score more points!”
How is that helping his team improve? It’s not.
He’s just stating facts about numbers -- numbers his team already knows. He’s inspecting, not coaching, and the second half of the game will be much the same as the first.
So, if inspection of numbers doesn’t move the needle on revenue, what does?
Coaching. Focused skills, tactics and strategy development through one-on-one coaching of sales professionals with their managers is the answer.
When I find organizations steeped in introspection and short on coaching, it’s usually because of a lack of understanding of how to coach up or an unwillingness to invest the time and effort.
I am here to assure you that you can learn to be a good coach and doing so won’t be incrementally more difficult, time-consuming, or onerous than what you’re doing now.
In fact, done well, effective sales coaching will save time by replacing many of the counterproductive activities you’ve likely taken on.
Here our top 3 tips for effective coaching:
1. Use motivation other than money.
We tend to think that salespeople are only motivated by money and that they’ll do anything to get more, but the data suggests the opposite. Most sales reps today are intrinsically motivated.
When coaching your sales team, you must remember that each person is unique, and likely motivated by different things. Think outside the box with competitions around a specific goal -- a prize for the winners -- or rewards of extra vacation time. Conduct a formal evaluation of your sales force to help you determine the source of their motivation.
2. Clarify your expectations.
For ongoing coaching sessions to really move the performance needle, everyone must begin with a common goal. Clarifying your expectations upfront is, therefore, essential.
Hold each other accountable to a schedule, create clear goals, and focus on building and nurturing your relationship. A deeper connection will improve your results.
3. Share a Common Way of Tracking Progress
No one is more accountable for the team reaching its goals than the sales manager, therefore, the manager needs to create a clear, effective way of tracking progress.
In theory, the path to your goal should be clearly outlined in your CRM, but, for the most part, the truly valuable and actionable information will be found in the story the data tells.
Most salespeople use their own subjective criteria when reporting on their pipeline to managers and themselves, which leads to inaccurate forecasts and missed goals. A shared way of tracking progress is essential.
When it comes to sales coaching, there is no magic wand to wave, and there are many more characteristics that make up a great sales leader and a great coaching program.
When you’re ready to implement a coaching program that will produce a dramatic difference in the output of your sales organization, give us a call.
When we talk about Sales DNA, we’re talking about how a salesperson thinks.
We’re talking about how their thinking drives their reactions in certain key selling situations. Their thoughts, positive or negative, will have a significant impact on their actions and therefore their results.
When sales DNA appears as a weakness, it’s what sabotages a rep’s ability to execute.
We have a tendency to think of Sales DNA in very black and white terms: you either have positive DNA/thoughts or you don’t. And, while there is an element of truth to that statement, it misses a very big opportunity: that those salespeople whose thoughts are not always supportive can (and should) improve upon it with practice.
Professional athletes all have natural DNA, both mental and physical, that supports excellence on the field, but every one of them still practices for hours daily to improve their performance.
If they slack off, they lose their edge.
If they slack off self-defeating thoughts and insecurities can begin to creep into their minds. They’re not exempt from practice simply because they’re naturally gifted.
The same goes for good salespeople.
In training, salespeople learn how to improve their execution of sales process, listen and question better, qualify prospects better, so that, when they’re actually in front of a prospect, they don’t become overwhelmed and revert to old, familiar selling behaviors.
And, that’s the really difficult thing -- to overcome the tendency to backslide into old ways of selling.
It’s like a coiled spring: You can pull on it and it feels as though you’re changing it, but the second you release the tension, it reverts back to its original shape.
Improving Sales DNA requires much more effort and time than improving selling tactics and techniques because any one of a salesperson’s six Sales DNA competencies -- which are what comprise a rep’s Sales DNA Score -- can present itself as a weakness:
How can you change the shape of a spring? You just keep stretching it -- over and over again, stretching it further and further each time you do it.
Eventually, you’ll change the characteristics of the metal, and it won’t return to its original shape anymore.
But, that takes time and tremendous effort, and most people will quit during the process.
Sales leaders are no different. Most find it very difficult to help their salespeople overcome their DNA weaknesses because the work is not easy. It requires tremendous amounts of repetition, positive affirmations, permissions, workarounds, and role-playing.
Change doesn't occur quickly.
When you’re coaching a good sales rep and you see their DNA snap back into an old place, don’t quit. Picture the spring, and know that, with additional attempts, you’ll eventually change its shape.
It won't happen immediately, but your salespeople will eventually change and overcome negative sales DNA provided neither of you gives up.
Coaching like that is hard work. Practicing like that is hard work.
When you’re ready to get help, give us a call.
If selling was easy, companies would pay high school kids minimum wage to do it instead of investing millions in hiring, training, process development, and incentives like lucrative compensation plans.
Selling, particularly in today’s information-rich, buyer-centric environment, is hard for even the most seasoned sales reps. For reps new to the industry or the organization, the task of selling becomes even more difficult.
The bar is set high, and the learning curve is steep. You can’t really expect success right away but people do. I think that’s why so many sales reps quit so early in the game (or get fired). Lack of immediate success in making quota is incredibly disheartening.
It is tricky to say exactly how long it should take for a new sales representative to be selling with the company and closing enough deals to be making quota.
It depends on quite a few variables including whether the sales person is coming into a lead-rich environment or if they’ll be responsible for generating their own leads. In a lead-rich environment, the time frame for success could be mere weeks. Sales reps responsible for their own leads could have a ramp-up period of several months.
But, leads aren’t the only issue, and it’s important that you know what to expect from your team so that you can:
I’ve had the pleasure of directly hiring and promoting amazing sales reps across different geographies and industries, as well as coaching sales executives on how to successfully do the same. While no one can pinpoint exactly when a salesperson will be up and running at full speed and meeting sales goals, there is a way to roughly set your expectations.
There are six factors in total that determine the time to success, 3 on your side and 3 on the salesperson’s side.
Let's start with you. Consider:
All of these work together. If you have a six-month sales cycle, a three-month learning curve, and it takes 3 months to transition from their old world to your business, that translates to 12 months of pipeline building before you can reasonably expect your new salesperson to start closing business.
On the salesperson side, consider:
Wouldn’t it be great to know those things before you hired them? Can you imagine the frustration it would prevent? The money you’d save? A good hiring strategy will allow you to select the right salespeople from the start, experience far less turnover, fewer delays in growing revenue, and stronger sales teams.
If you’re interested, give us a call. We have access to the most predictive, accurate, and customizable candidate assessments in the world and can help you on your journey to smarter hiring.
Bottom line? Know what to expect and when to expect it from new sales reps.
Sales leaders are taught to set sales goals, both for individual salespeople and the organization as a whole, and that by doing so they’ll sell more, make more money, and climb the ladder of success.
I want to ask you, has that promise come true for you?
For most people the answer is no, or at least not completely.
I can say this with certainty because not hitting budget is the number one reason people reach out to me in the first place. I’ve had hundreds of discussions with sales leaders across the country revealing the frustration of people who have set sales goals and failed to consistently achieve them.
The issue is that sales goals by themselves don’t work for most people.
Now, don’t jump to conclusions. Goals are important, and I believe you must set them in order to find success in sales.
The issue with the simple advice of, “Set goals,” is that it’s incomplete and fails to reveal the reason why salespeople so often miss the mark and fail to achieve those goals.
The truth is that there is a small percentage of sales professionals for which setting goals is highly motivational and routine. It is the personal characteristics of those individuals that cause goal setting to work or not, and that is the variable you need to consider.
To understand how to make goal setting an effective catalyst to your success we need to look at the DNA and skill set of a relatively small group of salespeople for whom goal setting is known to be effective in achieving their desired outcomes. Once you know what those characteristics are, you can begin to identify strong candidates when hiring and alter the behavior of your current sales force so you can achieve a higher level of sales success.
The Secret of People Who Achieve Their Sales Goals.
There are two core characteristics or abilities that drive the achievement of sales goals: a sense of urgency and a willingness to consistently take action.
In order for salespeople to be successful, visualization of goals is not enough. They must also have a strong internal sense of urgency, desire, and commitment to achieve those goals.
For these salespeople achieving goals is priority #1. It’s not a “nice to have” or something that can get tackled later. Successful sales people are constantly in pursuit of greater success and achievement.
In addition, “smart” goal setting is really important because your salespeople must be able to believe that their goals are a reality even before they are achieved. That’s where strategizing with a coach can be very effective -- someone who has the tools to effectively evaluate each salesperson on your team and provide you with the insight needed to understand which of your existing salespeople possess this internal drive.
Nothing will come from simply asking for it. Your salespeople must do the work, and this time with more purpose, more intensity and more consistency.
Work produces results. It’s something I discuss with every client, that when salespeople finally begin to execute a well thought out process with consistency, when they laser in on the actions that will deliver results, the pipeline builds and new business begins to close. This is not “wishful thinking”. This is reality.
The reality is that a relatively small number of salespeople have a natural sense of urgency combined with the commitment to take consistent action, and that’s the reason so many goals fail to be met. The secret to achieving sales goals requires both urgency and action.
Now that your wheels are turning, you’ll want to focus on perfecting a hiring process that identifies the characteristics of a strong sales candidate. Note that a sense of urgency and action aren’t the only components! There are actually many; but, urgency and action are two of the most impactful.
As for your existing sales force, if you have the right people in the right roles, we can take steps to improve their behaviors. That will come as we begin to develop your overall sales process. Of course, there is a strong possibility that you don’t have the right people in the right roles and will need to make some changes. We’ll address that, too.
You now know some of the secrets to achieving your sales objectives. When hitting your revenue numbers hits the top of your priority list, give us a call.
One of the important areas we focus on when coaching sales managers is helping them teach their salespeople how to sell “value”.
The importance of selling value is a concept that has been bandied about quite a bit in the context of selling, however, the vast majority of salespeople struggle to understand and apply the techniques necessary to build value in the mind of their prospect or buyer.
The first step is to get clear on the fact that the seller does not define value, the buyer does.
The problem starts when a company attempts to define value for their salespeople and then trains them to articulate value through the features and associated benefits of their products and services.
The problem with this approach is it creates “misalignment” between the rep and the buyer and as a result erodes credibility.
The salesperson shows up and launches on a feature dump in an attempt to impress the prospect and build interest. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the information the rep is providing is usually of little interest to the prospect and not relevant to their situation.
As a result of people having little to no patience, and a very short attention span, it’s imperative that we only present what we know to be of interest to the buyer. This creates and maintains alignment.
The key to selling value is to ask enough relevant questions to unveil the prospect’s compelling reason/s to buy.
This is the phase of the sales process where many salespeople miss the mark. Instead of teaching salespeople to how to pitch the features of products and services let’s teach them the intelligent business questions to ask. This is guaranteed to create involvement on the part of the prospect and alignment.
A common mistake made by salespeople is to assume they know what the prospect’s definition of value is without asking.
When that incorrect assumption is made the salesperson then focuses all of their questions and presentation highlights on incorrect information which prevents them from building the level of credibility and trust necessary to differentiate themselves and close sales.
This is a really important concept to understand because it changes the way your team should be selling: away from feature and price-focused discussions and toward linkage and expressions of value.
If you focus on what the prospect defines as “value”, the price becomes less and less important. If you neglect to focus on the prospect’s vision of value, they will default to price each and every time.
If you find your team putting too much emphasis on price, and discounting, here’s what we suspect is happening:
That’s not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.
Now, for the good news: You can teach your team the principles, strategies and tactics inherent in selling value through proper training, coaching and role-playing. Often it’s not their fault; they don’t know what they don’t know.
If you would like to discuss these concepts in more detail please contact us via email or phone.
We’re here to help you get started on the process of consistently selling value.
You know your sales team is capable of so much more, but your struggling to figure out just how much more and what actions to take to get them up to the next level.
Giving thought to and identifying the unique makeup of each of your salespeople will go a long way in maximizing your sales team’s performance. When you have the wrong person in the wrong role, they will not reach their full potential; will fear for their job, will become distracted and ultimately descend into a downward spiral.
The first dynamic we must understand when it comes to effectively qualifying deals is that the act of qualification and maintaining a full pipeline are inseparable entities. They are joined at the hip and both must be healthy.
It is virtually impossible for a Salesperson to effectively qualify deals when they are suffering from a dry pipeline.
When your pipeline is dry you will get desperate.
Coaching Salespeople up to the next level is more complicated than many Sales Managers realize.
The most common approach is to focus exclusively on selling skills such as:
Although the above skills are critical to success they represent roughly half of what is needed for a Salesperson to consistently perform at a higher level.
The Objective Management Group has researched and verified a number of additional key areas that support, or detract from, sales success. Here are 3 of them that are referred to as Sales DNA:
Depending on your product or service, decision makers are usually in a leadership capacity and as a result possess an element of influence and authority.
As leaders their feet are held to the fire for performance and results. They are under daily pressure to deliver specific outcomes and move the company forward.
As leaders they are the ones in the company who care the most about the problems you fix and the opportunities you enable them to leverage. They are the ones ultimately responsible for the performance and success of their company, organization or department and this fact keeps them on the lookout for ideas and options. (I hope you see the opportunity in that reality and find it encouraging!)
The intensity of a Salesperson’s desire is based on how badly they want to succeed.
A Salesperson’s commitment is based on their willingness to do whatever it takes, ethically and professionally, to achieve their goals.
In your quest to elevate the performance of your sale’s organization it’s important for you to understand, for each Salesperson and Sales Manager, their level of desire and commitment.
Sales management expert Duane Cashin has lead award-winning sales organizations and trained sales teams for companies of all sizes. He’s earned membership in Presidents Club and Circle of Excellence, successfully built and sold his own multi-million-dollar business, and enjoys sharing his passion for sales.