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How To's for Sales Leaders

3 Habits of a Great Sales Coach

A lot of companies approach us with the question of how they can develop great sales coaches. Among other ideas we discuss, I focus on three sales manager habits that I know constitutes “great” coaching because I see the positive results afterwards.

Sharing their real-life experiences

A common complaint I hear from salespeople is that their manager is good at pointing out problems with what the salesperson is doing (or not doing), but then doesn’t help the rep work through a solution. As the reps tell me, “I don’t mind being told what I do wrong, but If I already knew how to do it better, I’d be doing it.”

Great coaches share their personal war stories to help bridge this gap. They talk specifically about what they did when they faced this problem in the past.

To get you started, use the simple magic phrase of “For example.…” When you take the time to share your stories and examples you show salespeople not only how to get better but also that you truly care about their success.

Coaching their salespeople to slow downslow down image

I recently watched a professional baseball game where in the 9th inning the home-team pitcher was struggling on the mound. The manager went out to the mound and said a few words. After that, the pitcher struck out the three remaining batters and won the game.

Afterwards the manager was asked by a reporter “What did you say to your pitcher?”

Said the manager, “I told him ‘slow down, don’t rush your pitch.’” The manager went on to say that a common mistake he sees pitchers make is that they can become so focused on what happens when the ball crosses home plate that they forget about the mechanics of what they need to do to make an effective pitch.

Great coaches know that sometimes the best advice is counterintuitive. You might be tempted to tell your people to “sell more, sell faster.” But the baseball coach’s principle holds true for salespeople: they can become so focused on achieving the result that they lose touch with what they need to do to win.

So coach your reps to slow down and focus on the mechanics of preparing for meetings with customers. If they think about what they have to do to get a customer to move forward, something important happens: your salespeople will outsell your competitors at each step of the sales process. And then you win the game.

Balancing To Do’s with To Don’ts

One of the most common time management techniques that effective sales managers use is working from a prioritized To Do list: writing down a list of daily tasks, prioritizing them from most to least important, then working on the number 1 task until it’s done. Fine. Been there, done that.

Great coaches take this practice a step further by developing their own To Don’t list as well. At the end of the work day, they reflect back and ask themselves, “What did I do today that did not have a meaningful impact on the growth of my team?” Perhaps they got distracted by a customer satisfaction problem that could have been handled by a salesperson, or allowed themselves to be interrupted by someone who was not on their sales team.

Great coaches learn to identify these timewasters and stop allowing themselves to become distracted by them. Fewer timewasters means more time for coaching.

At the end of the month you are judged on your team’s quota attainment. And because quota is always going up, you must find more time in the future to invest in your people. Follow the lead of great sales coaches and look at all the unproductive tasks that you allow yourself to get distracted by.

Here a suggestion for tomorrow: identify your three most important priorities for tomorrow. (I hope one of them is to coach a salesperson to improve.) Keep these three priorities top of mind throughout the day. When an urgent issue presents itself – just say no. Or better yet, shut off the cell phone and get out of your office to do a ride-along with a salesperson.

Download our new e-book “6 Strategies for Superior Sales Coaching now!!!

 

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.

“I guess its unfair to ding sales reps when we as a company haven’t clearly defined their jobs,” the VP told me. “We need to have much more specialized job descriptions to eliminate ambiguity.” So that become the VP’s task #1. He and I started by reviewing the current job descriptions for the sales position with his sales managers.

The sales managers’ next step would be to meet with peak performing reps who were successful at selling the new specialized products and ask about the skills, knowledge and competencies they applied to excel that were not in the current job description. He and his managers then assembled their findings, put them in writing, and then began communicating findings regularly to the sales team.

Week 2: Set Standards for Attitude Excellence

High expectations are the key to everything. To drive better performance, ask yourself, “What are the qualities and characteristics of my #1 salesperson?” Chances are you’ll identify several characteristics such as competitive, great work ethic, accepts responsibility for solving customer problems, team player, etc. And what do all these have in common? They’re not skills, they’re attitudes.

What is currently in your company’s job description for the sales rep position: are they skills or attitudes? Answer: they’re skills. The implication is that you haven’t yet defined what distinguishes your top salespeople from everybody else. And if you haven’t defined it, then your salespeople surely don’t know it.

How can we expect enthusiastic morale on our sales team if we don’t first define what it is - and then describe in specific terms for salespeople how they can adopt a more positive disposition.

When you define your standards for attitude excellence, and you communicate those as expectations on a regular basis, you encourage all of your salespeople to emulate these qualities on a daily basis. And then…..your team’s morale improves.

Week 3:  Improve Sales Forecasting by Creating Sales Process Milestones

Like many sales leaders, this VP also complained about his team’s inability to accurately predict monthly or quarterly sales. The sales “roller coaster” created a lot of stress for everybody, and that’s not good for morale. So he and I identified a key flaw in his company’s system that added more stress for everybody: they made predictions based only on sales rep activities, not on customer activities.

As I discussed in a recent blog post, Why Salespeople Don’t Use CRM & What to Do About It, accuracy in sales forecasting requires that you align your sales process with your customer’s buying process.

So my client’s third task was to work with sales managers and reps to develop clear descriptions of what his company’s customers do as they move through their buying process. “I want to have these milestones spelled out so my salespeople are more focused on achieving customer actions and me managers can be more effective in coaching their reps,” the VP said. “I want my managers to be able to discuss what steps each prospect either has, or hasn’t taken. Then managers can talk with the rep very specifically about what reps need to do to prepare themselves to advance the client through the next milestone.”

Together, these three steps provide a pretty good starting point for anyone who wants to improve sales team morale.

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?”

To explain flawed funnel structure, here is a typical funnel structure built into a CRM tool. The funnel is based on the steps of that company’s sales process:

  1. New opportunities
  2. Qualification
  3. Needs analysis
  4. Value proposition
  5. Proposal
  6. Negotiation/close

Notice that these steps describe what the company expects a sales rep to do, not what it wants customers to be doing. When you track sales this way, an opportunity can appear to be progressing quite nicely because the salesperson is doing everything the funnel describes. But if the customer slows down their buying process, or if your rep makes a mistake, nobody knows until it’s too late; because neither the rep nor the manager is measuring the success of each step by tracking buying behavior.

Let’s assume, for example, that your sales rep has moved swiftly through their sales process and got as far as submitting a proposal. But you have no idea whether the customer understands their needs or if they understand the economic impact if they do nothing. A sales-process-focused CRM doesn’t tell you if the customer is comparing your solution to those of your competitors or has established the priority of their buying criteria.

So when CRM indicates that the rep submitted a proposal, you might think that deal is almost done. But the reality could be very different. And your sales manager has missed a lot of opportunities to coach the rep to get better at helping the customer complete their actions of buying.

As Albert told us, not everything that can be counted counts. Where your sales rep is in the sales process doesn’t count. What does count is – what is the customer doing? Where is the buyer is in their buying process?

When you have this kind of sales-process-focused disconnect built into your CRM system, managers have no option but to use data like call frequency as a policing tool. I have not yet met a salesperson who enjoys getting interrogated.

How then can a company create a situation where sales reps are more motivated to use the CRM system? The key is to re-align your funnel – and your company’s sales process – on the buying process. This will help you in three ways:

1. Improve forecast accuracy by forecasting based on customer-go-forward actions

When the sales funnel is aligned with the customer’s buying process, each stage of the funnel identifies specific actions that customers take when they are moving forward in their buying steps. Tracking that a customer has, say, allocated funds for a buying decision or has acknowledged to your rep the importance of your company’s differentiators is a lot more meaningful in terms of evaluating the status of a deal than knowing that your rep has completed needs analysis.

2. Sales increase because your reps are keeping more prospects moving forward

Part of defining your customers’ buying process is being able to identify when they have completed one step and are moving on to the next step – that is, identifying “exit criteria” for each buying step. Salespeople can then consider the criteria in CRM to help them answer the all-important question for sales call planning: “What specific action do I want my prospect to take at the end of this meeting?”

Do you agree with me on the following point? – Most salespeople sell too fast, especially during the early stages of an opportunity. Concentrating your reps’ attention on achieving the exit criteria will help reps slow down each meeting and help your customers to complete their buying process more quickly (for more information on this topic, read my 2011 book “Slow Down, Sell Faster!”) http://www.amazon.com/Slow-Down-Sell-Faster-Understand/dp/0814416853/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1398015807&sr=1-2&keywords=slow+down

3. Improves sales managers’ visibility in the funnel so reps receive better coaching

When you’re tracking deals in CRM based on customer progress (not just sales rep activities), you will notice sooner if a deal slows down or falters. That means you as a manager have a chance to get involved sooner and coach the rep how to get the deal back on track. Voila! – The rep has now benefitted from your CRM, and will see much greater value in keeping their records up to date.

In short, when you have clearly defined exit criteria for the buyer in each stage, you’ll get far more impact with both your CRM and sales coaching. Sales forecasts become more accurate because you’ll know more about where your customers are in their buying process; a rep’s overly-optimistic and subjective opinion is replaced by far more objective evidence of buyer behavior. And coaching discussions with reps will be more effective because you’ll be focused on developing reps’ skills in moving customers through their buying process.

To get higher CRM adoption do what Albert Einstein would do – start counting what counts….. buyer behavior.

If you are interested in our Buying Process Funnel model please contact me Kevin@toplinleadership.com

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.

Company A’s funnel causes everyone, both salespeople and sales managers, to focus on the steps of their sales process. Sales opportunities are tracked based on sales tasks performed by the salesperson.

Because of the inward focus of Company A’s funnel, a sales opportunity can seem to be progressing quite nicely because the salesperson is doing everything the funnel described. But if the customer slows down their buying process or the rep makes a mistake, nobody knows until it’s too late because neither the rep nor the sales manager is measuring the success of each sales call based on customer actions. They often get blindsided when a “sure-thing” is lost, or goes radio-silent.

In short, the sales behaviors defined in Company A’s funnel are an inaccurate metric because sales reps are so often out of sync with customers’ views.

Another flaw in Company A’s approach is that it is based on sales process statistics that are lagging indicators (data collected after a process is complete) – such as how many calls, appointments, demos, and quotes have been made. Therefore, most coaching done by sales managers at Company A is what I would describe as “performance management.” That’s where a sales manager reviews what a sales rep has already done. Typically, then, the manager cracks the whip by saying, “make more calls, and do it faster!” Meanwhile, the rep is thinking, “That’s the same advice you gave me last month and it didn’t help.”

Over at Company B, things are run differently. A few years ago they became alarmed about poor user adoption of their CRM system. Salespeople were not inputting information in a timely manner, so the accuracy of the information being recorded was questionable. Not good.

Company B recognized that simply providing more training on CRM usage wasn’t the answer. They wanted their sales force to be more motivated to use CRM. But that would only happen if sales managers used CRM to become more effective sales coaches – proactively coaching salespeople through big deals in a constructive way so that reps won more deals and made more money.

Providing sales managers with improved visibility on customer actions in the earlier stages of a deal was a big reason why Company B switched the focus of their sales funnel to be focused on the buying process. Most sales managers are instinctively drawn to intervene in the latter stages of a deal, to help close it. But from the customer’s perspective, it’s in the earlier stages of the buying process when the size of the deal is determined – so better sales coaching during the earlier stages of an opportunity is crucial to making major sales.

To build their Buying Process Funnel, Company B identified buyer actions for each stage of the buying process. These became criteria in the sales funnel that indicate a customer has completed one step of buying and is moving on to the next. Salespeople can now review those criteria to help them answer the question, “What specific action do I want my prospect to take at the end of this meeting?” They want to get the customer to commit to go-forward actions linked to these criteria. The better a sales rep becomes at having customers complete next-step actions, the smoother and more predictable the sales funnel becomes.

Now, if and when a buyer chooses not to move forward, a buying process action criterion is not met and so alarm bells go off at Company B. Sales managers are alerted to the problem right away, and can intervene while there is still an chance to fix the problem and get the opportunity back on track.

Company B has discovered that with a Buying Process Funnel they get far better usage of their CRM system by both reps and managers. Sales coaching is improved. Sales forecasts are more accurate because everybody is more focused on what the customer is doing.

For years, most sales organizations have a self-concept that “we are customer-focused.” But in practice the tools many of them have been using are built around their sales process. This disconnect leads to ineffective sales coaching and poor win rates.

If your organization suffers from some of these same problems, take a hard look at your company’sales funnel, and the sales training program it maps to. Implement a buying process focused sales funnel in 2014!

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.

The fix is to make a coaching interaction with a salesperson the first thing you do every day. Schedule a coaching session with a rep for 8-9 AM every day.

2. Coach forwards, not backwards.

Many sales managers wait until a rep badly misses a forecast before “coaching” that rep back to life. It’s as if the manager is saying, “If you’re bad enough I’ll coach you.”

The problem with this backward-looking approach is that your coaching is disconnected from the rep’s behaviors — you don’t really know where the rep went wrong, just that they got a bad result. So you have no choice but to fall back on that tired old sales management maxim, “Make more sales calls!”

To be a more effective coach, intervene much earlier in the sales process so you can “coach forward.” Pay attention to the things your reps are doing during the first round of interactions with a customer or prospect. How good are they at helping diagnose customer needs? At defining solution criteria? At reaching multiple decision makers? Getting better at these early-cycle skills will have a much greater impact on results than simply making more calls!

3. Think outside the box to get salespeople to work harder.

One sales manager I know asked his sales rep what she planned to do if she exceeded her annual sales goal. “Buy a new car,” said the rep. A few weeks later the manager showed up for a ride-along driving a rental car that was the same make and model of car that the rep’s goal was to achieve!

Get creative with the motivators for your reps. Think about both their personal goals (like a new car) and professional goals, such as having them attend a meeting with your company’s senior leadership.

4. Act as if you care.

I recently asked an audience of sales managers, “What is your best-kept secret to being an effective sales coach?” One manager answered, “Act as if you care.”

Everybody in the class broke up laughing, because of course we all already know and do that, right?

Not so fast. As a coach you show that you care through your consistent follow-up on coaching conversations. When you coach a rep to make changes, you must then monitor the rep’s behavior to make sure those changes have been made… and if not, provide more coaching so that the changes are made.

As you can see from this list, improved coaching doesn’t have to be very complicated. I’m sure you know how to implement these four tips … so the real question is whether you are willing to make some simple changes in your own approach so that your team will benefit from better coaching and improved results.

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.

A few years later Jack received a promotion of his own – to a sales director’s responsibility.  He resolved to himself that he would not become a micromanager. He was determined to avoid that same fate at all costs in his own management style. And so he adopted a more participative, “hands-off” management style. Everything worked out great, right? Wrong!

Jack’s company conducted an extensive survey of their sales force and asked questions of salespeople about their managers. The feedback Jack received was startling – on an 80-question survey, his sales team had rated him dead-last when responding to, “Views one of his/her top priorities as developing my individual skills.” Ouch!

Jack realized that he had over-corrected. While he had intended to avoid micro-managing, his own sales team had come to view him as a boss unwilling to coach.

As part of his anti-micromanager approach, Jack would often wait until the final stages of a sales opportunity – as the rep’s forecasted close date arrived – – to do “opportunity coaching” with his reps. Which meant that he didn’t have any insights in to what a rep had done until the fate of the deal was already sealed. And the reps perceived his “suggestions” as criticism, because the correct time for applying his suggestions had already come and gone. Jack realized that he had become a Monday-morning quarterback.

One of the definitions of a good sales leader is someone who can lead and motivate a sales team. Jack’s #1 priority was the coaching and development of his salespeople. Jack realized he needed to have a look in the mirror and make some significant changes in his leadership style.Man in the mirror

After seeing the results of the survey and asking questions of his reps, Jack made the connection between his detached coaching style and some of the missed forecasts and sure-thing deals that had been lost at the last-minute.

To fix this problem, he focused on creating, by his words and actions, a culture of proactive coaching and teaching. And you know what Jack discovered? He had put his past negative experiences with the old sales manager aside, and was comfortable in his new role as a hands-on sales coach and teacher.

Getting involved in reviewing progress much earlier in a sales cycle gave Jack better visibility on what was going on. Now he knew exactly what each of his salespeople needed to do to get to their next level of development. Sales productivity went up, as did morale.

Perhaps most importantly, Jack learned that effective leaders must be willing look themselves in the mirror and consider the possibility that there is room for self-improvement. And then, seek feedback from your reps about what changes you can make. Jack’s three favorite questions to ask his reps are:
1. What are you getting from me that you find most helpful?
2. What am I doing that doesn’t help you at all?
3. What could I start doing to help you more? Why would that help?

Develop in yourself the quality of introspection. Continually look in the mirror and seek to make changes in your own leadership style to improve yourself and your team’s results.

Trust, but Verify to Win More Forecasted Deals

Blog Image boy with arrowOne of the biggest frustrations sales managers have occurs when deals forecasted by salespeople to close – don’t close. What’s the problem here? Both salespeople and sales managers are optimists by heart. So it’s easy for sales managers to believe reps’ rosy forecasts, especially when the sales rep has performed everything described in their company’s sales funnel or CRM.

During the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan used the slogan “trust, but verify” when describing his policy toward the Soviet Union. And this is the same slogan that effective sales managers need to keep in mind when talking with salespeople about important sales opportunities.

Effective sales managers know how to temper the salesperson’s enthusiasm by finding ways to verify their reps’ optimism.

A VP of Sales came to this conclusion herself during a recent sales management workshop. Her main “aha”, she said, came when I was talking about how to improve the outcomes from opportunity management and sales forecasting. I’d challenged the audience of sales managers and VPs of Sales to think about how they really know what the customer is doing at each step of the sales process, because the customer’s actions are a much better indicator of progress than a sales rep’s actions.

As she thought about her own company’s sales funnel, the VP realized that it didn’t reflect customer actions at all. And the “won-lost” analysis her sales organization did occurred far too late in the sales cycle. That led to a disconnect that made it hard to identify the mistakes that led to a loss—and obviously did no good in helping a sales rep repair the damage and salvage an endangered deal.

The VP told me, “If a salesperson told me they’d nailed a presentation or had a sale that was a sure-thing, I’d believe them. But now I realize I have to get more validation based on what our customers are doing. That means I have to adopt a more investigative coaching style and get involved much earlier in the sales process.” That’s trust, but verify.

And so that’s what she did. Now, she asks buyer-focused questions about forecasted deals that will reveal whether a sales rep has a handle on what is going on – or not.

For example, early on, she asks, “What is the title of the decision-maker with whom you’ve been meeting? What do they care about most?”

She has the rep document this information in the CRM… and then by comparing records from different sales, she can see the level of decision-makers that a rep has been meeting with on the largest opportunities.

Also, she’ll talk to a rep before they submit a proposal or do a demo and ask, “Who is our competition? What will the customer think are our strongest points compared to that competition? Where are we weak?” A sales rep who is clueless about who he/she is up against is not prepared to deliver a presentation.

Asking more probing questions of reps serves three important purposes:

First, she knows a lot more about what the customers are doing in their buying cycle, and therefore has much more realistic forecasts.

Second, it helps her understand at a much deeper level where her reps are strong and where they are weak. So she can be a better sales coach.

Third, she sees mistakes her salespeople make much earlier in the buying cycle than she did before. So she can step in and apply her superior sales skills sooner to get the deal back on track – before it’s too late.

Improving sales managers’ visibility and coaching of the earlier stages of a deal is crucial to winning bigger deals and keeping the top of your funnel filled with higher quality sales opportunities.

Hiring Tips for a Sales Manager Position

Far too many times I have had SVPs and CEOs report to me that the only thing they paid much attention to when hiring sales directors and managers was whether the candidate had a successful portfolio in revenue attainment. Yes, managing sales numbers, quotas, and data effectively is very important in a sales leadership role. But a sales director or sales manager can only achieve their numbers through others — so they also have to be effective leaders of people. Any firm that is looking to hire or promote into a sales leadership position should become aware of the qualities that make leaders successful.

Here are suggestions for four questions you should ask candidates who are interviewing for a sales leadership role.blog checking boxes

“What do you think the difference is between being a sales rep and managing a sales team?” What you want to hear in clear and concise language is the understanding that sales leaders need to get things done through the people that they manage, not through their own sales efforts.  You don’t just want to hear a report on how many of the reps made quota, or details of a few big deals they have worked on. What you want to hear is someone who can focus on developing overall team health, developing the performance of everyone, not just one or two people.

“How would you determine the areas for improvement for your salespeople?” A candidate who is less likely to be an effective manager will talk only (or mostly) about doing win/loss debriefs,  focusing primarily on data/results/outcomes. A better candidate is the person who recognizes they can have a bigger impact on outcomes if they look at the input side of the sales performance equation— i.e., the daily behaviors and activities of their salespeople. By looking at inputs, a sales manager can detect reps’ mistakes sooner and make the necessary corrections by helping the rep set goals, providing more timely coaching, following up on rep commitments, and so on.

“What type of manager rubs you the wrong way?” The answer to this question will help you understand the natural tendencies of the candidate. What you’re hoping to hear are answers related to behaviors you want your sales leaders to avoid—for example, comments about sales managers who don’t engage with sales reps or who step in and take over too quickly so that the reps never learn for themselves how to improve. (As an aside, you can also use this question with current sales managers to help you during a 360-type of evaluation.) A sales manager recently told me he didn’t like managers who would try to micromanage top performers. However, when the company surveyed the sales team they discovered that the reps didn’t view this manager as a good leader. They saw his “hands off” approach as an unwillingness to provide coaching, skill building, and feedback to his salespeople. This sales manager learned an important lesson – that how he saw himself was not necessarily how his team saw him. And so he changed.

Assuming the candidate has some experience as a sales manager, ask him or her an open ended question like, “Tell me your secrets to managing and leading a sales team – what do you do specifically?” Then listen carefully for their answer. Less capable applicants will answer in non-specific ways, and then quickly pivot to what they know how to do best… they talk about sales techniques.

By asking more questions targeted at testing the candidate’s understanding of how to lead a team, not just managing the numbers, you’ll end up with more effective sales leaders who can create high achieving sales teams.

What External Factors Motivate Salespeople?

Many sales managers with whom I have worked believe that motivation comes solely from within, not from external factors. Managers who think this way disconnect from the idea that they have an impact on sales rep motivation; they think motivation is just part of a sales rep’s internal makeup and therefore don’t see motivation as part of their job description.

We all know that there is a large internal component to motivation. But there are also external factors at play that affect the level of motivation —money, achievement, recognition, and responsibility, for example. These are all factors that you as a sales manager can influence with effective sales coaching skills.

Here are three suggestions for things you can do as a sales manager to stimulate motivation levels on your team.blog image think big

Help your sales reps to create stretch goals. Often we sales managers focus entirely on sales quotas and ignore sales reps’ personal goals. But it’s these personal goals that are the fuel that sparks personal achievement. Discover what your reps are passionate about in life, what drives them to succeed. The goals may include college tuition for children, paying off the mortgage, or even running a marathon. Help them to connect the dots between what they achieve on the job and what they can achieve in life, and they will be more likely to create stretch goals — and believe they can attain those goals.

Delegate problems back to the sales rep. Resist the temptation to be everyone’s problem solver. When sales reps try to hand off their problems to you, don’t accept their “gift.” Instead, ask them, “What have you done about it so far?” and “What do you think ought to be done?” Then encourage active problem solving, engage in role-playing activities, and promote team collaboration to help them understand the best way to attack their problem. Work to develop sound bites or methods of breaking through common problems that reps may encounter during the sales process. When you improve your sales team’s ability to solve problems on their own, you increase self-confidence and motivate them towards achieving even more.

Provide early-pipeline coaching. Because they have to be concerned about “what is closing this month,” sales managers often don’t initiate pipeline conversations with their sales reps until a deal is in later stages of the sales funnel. But by that point, there is very little they can do as a sales manager to affect the outcome — the size of the deal and the probability of success are largely determined in the earlier stages of the pipeline. The failure of the coaching effort, in turn, can have a demotivating impact on sales rep success. To win a sale that is downstream in the pipeline, sales reps have to master the upstream steps — such as identifying multiple customer needs, reaching multiple decision makers, understanding the competition, and tying your solution to the customer’s priority requirements.  Work with your reps when opportunities are still young, and your coaching efforts will have a bigger effect.

How Untrained Sales Managers Impact Sales Growth

Many companies spend heavily in sales rep training, but are sometimes disappointed when they see little impact on sales growth. Ironically, lack of results from sales training can often be traced to a lack of sales manager training. New skills or methods that reps pick up from sales training fall by the wayside because untrained sales managers often aren’t effective at holding salespeople accountable for implementation.Blog Post -confusing directions

Untrained sales managers are prone to a number of problems that can hinder their effectiveness and limit the achievement of their sales teams. Unless they are provided with the knowledge and skills on how to be a sales leader, untrained sales managers may cause the following problems:

Fall back on their sales instincts rather than develop a leader mindset. Because they don’t know how to be an effective sales manager, a promoted salesperson may feel the adrenaline rush again of being that “über-salesperson” and want to chase the big deals. Chasing the big deals means they will spend most of their time with their top salespeople. That leaves the rest of the sales team—the people who need the most help—to sink or swim on their own without a leader/coach.

Focus too much energy where it does little good. Untrained sales managers, commonly, focus much of their coaching time on their poorest performers. In other words, reps don’t get coaching unless they do really poorly! One-on-one coaching will have a much bigger impact on the middle performers — people who are showing promise and eager to learn. Improve their skills and you’ve got more peak performers!

Lack consistency. If a sales manager has no training, they have no predictable management process or common coaching language. This can become confusing to sales reps if the coaching message is not well defined, or is subject to change. This can affect the sales manager’s credibility, and the confidence of the sales team that the process will actually led to sales success. It also makes measuring results very challenging. We all know that a common sales process is crucial for effective selling – so why not have a common sales management process, too?

Not manage time effectively, or know how to set and enforce priorities. Sales managers can easily become buried in “stuff” work, and have reactive “hair on fire” responses to problems, leaving them overwhelmed as a result. They’re working harder than ever but are unable to catch up, and have no time for what should be their #1 priority, to coach salespeople.

Fail to develop or enforce performance standards. Inexperienced or untrained sales managers often don’t know how to develop and enforce high standards on their team. They can’t define for their reps what a “success profile” looks like—the skills (abilities) and wills (attitudes) needed to excel in the profession. If they don’t know what success looks like, it’s impossible to steer people in the right direction.

Fail to follow-up. Untrained sales managers make suggestions to salespeople on how to improve and then assume that person will implement their suggestions. Managers who fail to follow-up create a team culture that’s lacking in accountability.

For these reasons and many more, sales manager training is critical.

Sales managers are often top-performing salespeople who have been promoted into management positions. Their background and experience has honed their sales skills, but done nothing to prepare them to be manager-leaders. That’s why, to get the most out of your sales training investment, the best first step is to focus on your sales managers — make sure they have the tools and training to do their jobs more effectively!

 

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