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How To's for Sales Leaders

Great Sales Coaches Help Reps Learn from a Loss

Blog image sympathyNobody, no matter how good they are at selling, has a 100% win rate. That means all of us have to learn how to deal with losses. As a sales manager, your job is to help your team learn from these losses. A lost sale is a failure only when we, individually and as a team, don’t learn from it.

Having a positive attitude is especially important in the sales profession. And when a salesperson loses a big deal, it is easy for them to get down. That’s a normal human reaction. But if your salesperson stays down, that’s not good. And one way to help salespeople process their lost sales quicker is to teach them how to “look for the lesson” in every lost sale.

My wife is working hard on her golf game, with a goal to break 100. Every time she goes out golfing she carries a little notebook in her golf bag. At the end of the round she writes down what she learned. And you know what? Yesterday she shot a 99. Yea! So one step you could take is to get your salespeople to keep a list of things they learn about selling from each deal.

Another way to help people learn is to share your experiences with similar situations when you were a rep. What went wrong in your situation? What did you learn to do differently because of it?

Also, encourage salespeople to share their experiences with you and the rest of the team in order to help others avoid similar problems in the future. Here are some questions to consider asking the rep:

1. What went right in this sales opportunity?

2. What was the first time you suspected that something was wrong with this opportunity? Was it not until the very end, or were there signals or symptoms you can recognize now as you think back?

3. In what step of selling did the deal go astray? Was it at the beginning, with qualification? In the diagnostic questioning phase? A failure in our competitive strategy?

4. What additional questions should you have asked and when should you have asked them?

5. Were there additional decision makers that you should have been in contact with? How could you have done this?

6. Is there anything you could have done differently to recover once you recognized the deal was in trouble?

7. Is there any chance you can you get back in there, do it better, and win this customer back? If yes, what would it take? If no, what can we take away from this situation so we get a different outcome next time?

The above questions can be a great motivational tool because you focus on learning rather than assigning blame. Just remember that it takes guts to admit mistakes — especially in front of others. So create a culture of openness in your team.

The 5 Biggest Mistakes New Sales Managers Make

Your transition from salesperson to sales manager is one of the biggest challenges in the sales profession. It requires a complete change in thinking. Overnight, you go from being in control of your own destiny to having your performance ratings determined by the results other people produce.Problems we Solve

In fact, the more successful you were as a salesperson, the more difficulty you will have in the transition. Successful sales reps-turned-managers have a very hard time giving up the things that made them successful in their original sales job.

Many new sales managers understand they’re facing a big change. What they lack is a clear understanding of “OK, now what do I do?” Without guidance, they’re prone to making five big mistakes. Here’s an overview of those mistakes and what you can do to avoid them.

  1. Thinking more like a buddy than a boss. A good buddy is someone who is a friend to you during both good times and bad. A good boss is someone very different. A good boss should praise positive achievers and reprimand negative performance. It is this transition from good guy to bad guy that many new sales managers have difficulty with. Especially when, in the recent past, they were a peer to the salespeople who now form the bulk of their sales team.

The fix: Keep reminding yourself that you are there to be a leader, not a cheerleader. Be upfront in explaining the reasons for the management decisions you’re making—and learn to live with decisions that are not popular with your team. Be clear about and enforce the consequences if sales people do not comply with your decisions.

  1. Follow your instincts and keep selling (which prevents team development). This is a vicious cycle. When a new sales manager keeps selling rather than focusing on teaching others how to sell, sales team results seldom measure up to expectations. The new manager then gets more pressure from above to increase sales and interprets that as a calling to do even more personal selling. But that just demoralizes salespeople because they think they’re not good enough in the management’s eyes… and customers think the rep calling on them must not be very good if the manager has to keep stepping in. So sales decline further.

The fix: Just stop. If you notice a sales rep making a mistake in a meeting with customers, bite your tongue. Remember: The sales experience is no longer about YOU. What has to matter to you most now is NOT how effective your salespeople are when you’re working with them, but how effective they are when they are working on their own. Resist the temptation to step in, play hero, and save the day. Instead, figure out how to develop the sale rep’s skills so he/she won’t make the same mistake next time around.

  1. Overly trusting of your reps’ sales forecasts. In your previous life as a peak performing salesperson, you became accustomed to making or exceeding most of your personal sales forecasts. Now, as a sales manager, you might tend to be overly optimistic and highly trusting of your reps’ sales forecasts. Big mistake.

The fix: Ask more probing questions of salespeople about their important sales opportunities in order to recognize problems with deals and forecasts sooner. Timely intervention by you is crucial for getting opportunities back on track. One of my favorite probing questions to ask a salesperson is: “What actions has this customer taken which have led you to your forecast of this deal?”

  1. Being a reactive fire-fighter. New sales managers often perform the role of an administrative assistant to the sales team. Recently I was asked by a prospect, “Does your sales leadership program included delegation skills?” I responded that many sales managers have more difficulty with the issue of reverse delegation – that’s where salespeople rush to hand over their problems to their manager. That take-charge mentality possessed by new sales managers leads them to get involved in many problems and fires that can and should be resolved by others.

The fix: The next time one of your salespeople says, “Hey boss, we have a problem I need to share with you.” You say simply– “So….what do you think you should do about it?”

  1. Underestimating poor performance issues. New sales managers are often tempted to give underperformers the benefit of the doubt. If you back off of dealing with a poor performer, you’re sending a message that poor performance is acceptable. That’s a message everyone on your team will hear!

The fix: Assume performance problems are like an iceberg: there’s much more to the problem than you can easily see on the surface. One maxim of effective sales management leadership: the sooner you address a poor performance situation, the less negative emotion will be involved in fixing it. Dealing with performance issues NOW gives the under-performer a chance to correct the situation before it comes so bad that their job is on the line. A bad month can be tolerated, but a bad year cannot.

Download our new article “Holistic Competencies for Sales Team Management

Two Sales Coaching Strategies to Boost Sales Performance

Recently I conducted a webinar for a large company whose sales managers had completed our Sales Coaching & Leadership Workshop a few months earlier. I started by asking them, “What is the most significant change you’ve made in your sales management style in the last 60 days?” There were two themes I heard about most.Busy person graphic

The first was, “I start and end every day with coaching. Big change!”

Though coaching is something that sales managers tell me they want to do more often, they all seem to struggle with truly making it their #1 priority every day. Why? Because they’re too busy responding to emails, dealing with unexpected problems, answering calls and texts, finishing work from the day before, etc.
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Creating Your Coachable Sales Team

What is coachability? When I ask sales managers in my sales management workshop this question most of the time there is confusion as to the correct definition of coachability. Just because a salesperson seems to have an agreeable and receptive nature doesn’t mean they are coachable.Blog image file for coach

At one level, determining coachability is simple: if a sales rep changes what they are doing based on feedback and your constructive suggestions, then they are coachable. If they smile and nod and thank you for the great advice but don’t subsequently make any changes, they aren’t coachable.
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Boost Sales Team Morale in 3 Weeks

How do you boost sales team morale in just 3-weeks?

Calendar Image Recently a Sales VP who had just attended one of my Sales Coaching & Leadership Workshops asked me that very question. He was under a lot of pressure from his CEO to improve sales team health and increase sales, so he needed some concrete steps he could implement immediately. Here’s what he and I came up with for his 3-week plan.

Week 1: Update Roles & Responsibilities

The company this VP worked for had undergone some major shifts in recent years. Their market was expanding, partly through increased specialization of offerings. The VP now realized that the job descriptions for the sales rep position were out of date and didn’t accurately reflect the changes in the business and markets that had occurred.
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Why Salespeople Don’t Use CRM & What to Do About It

Albert Einstein had a sign on his office wall: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

Albert should have been in Sales Operations, because his sign explains why so many companies who make huge investments in CRM systems like SalesForce.com and others can be totally frustrated with low sales rep adoption rates and inaccurate forecasting results: Not everything that can be counted counts.

Why do so many salespeople resist the usage of CRM systems? One reason is that because of flawed CRM funnel structure, sales managers are unable to coach salespeople effectively. While managers can monitor activity levels after-the-fact, flawed funnel structure inhibits managers’ ability to coach sales skills, strategy, knowledge, etc. So your reps don’t sell more when they put information into CRM, and they wonder, “Why am I doing all this extra work? What’s in it for me?”
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A Tale of Two Sales Funnels

This is a story about two companies’ sales funnels. One company has a sales funnel that improves win rates, the other doesn’t.

“Company A” uses the most common approach, orienting its sales funnel to the steps of its sales process: qualifying, solution identified, quotation provided, demonstration delivered, etc. You know the drill.

Company B uses a funnel based on the customer’s buying process. Each stage of the funnel identifies specific actions that customers take when they are moving forward in their buying process. It is these “customer go forward actions” that salespeople seek to achieve as they progress an opportunity through their funnel.
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Four Simple Tips for Better Sales Coaching

Looking for practical advice on how to do more and better sales coaching? Here are four tips to get you started.Image we are here to help

1. Stop doing e-mail first thing in the morning. Instead, coach somebody.

You know what happens when you check your e-mail. There’s some  “hair-on-fire” issue waiting in your in-box that demands your immediate attention. But nine times out of 10, it’s a distraction that is important to somebody else but not to you. And once you head off down that road, another distraction pops up. The next thing you know your day is gone and you never had a chance to coach anybody.
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A Sales Coach Learns from Others How to be Great

How you have been managed by others influences how you manage your sales team today. No doubt, you have learned to lead others largely from your previous experiences – from both the best and worst practices of others. Often this technique of learning from your bosses works well, but sometimes it does not. Here’s one example.

Jack is a sales director for a leading technology company who shared the following story with me recently. I had asked Jack to tell me about his “worst boss ever.” The boss had been a micro-manager who tried to control everything. The boss’ management style had driven Jack absolutely crazy. So much so, that Jack changed jobs and became a salesperson at a different company.
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