coaching

Listen Up Sales Leaders; What did over 100 sales professionals express to me about what was important to them in receiving coaching?

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During the writing of my upcoming book (The Street Savvy Sales Leader, due out September 2018, Figure 1 publisher) I interviewed over 100 sales professionals one on one.

One of the questions I asked was to tell me about coaching that you’ve experienced in your sales career that helped make a positive difference for you.

Four main themes emerged over all others:

Number 1: Trust. The reps needed to know that their manager was genuine and sincere and had their best interests at heart. This meant listening to the reps, asking questions and being open to ideas and constructive feedback. If the leader was trusted, feedback was given  freely.

Number 2: It was important that the coaching was specific to each individual’s needs and goals. Reps wanted the coaching to be unique to them personally. They said they much preferred real-world, relatable examples to textbook scenarios. The reps also indicated that they were much more responsive to collaborative coaching rather than a directive style that simply told them how to do a task.

Number 3: Salespeople need coaching not only to come from a credible source but also to be credible. In other words, the Sales leader is leading by example because of their experience and expertise. The rep values the coach’s viewpoint and recognizes the benefit of creative new ideas and strategic account and sales call assistance.

Number 4: Coaching needs to be timely, even in real time if necessary, and relevant. The immediate application of coaching lessons leads to sticky behavior. Regularly scheduled coaching calls will reap benefits.

Below is a summary of coaching fundamentals that I believe are imperative to a successful sales coaching environment.

         1) Coaching practices need to be developed, supported and maintained company-wide.

         2) Coaching is about listening and asking questions; it’s about helping salespeople be self-aware and staying on a continuous path of learning.

         3) Managers need to gain trust in order to coach most effectively, and they need to genuinely care about their people.

         4) Coaching needs to be specific and relevant to the needs and goals of every individual.

        5) Expectations need to be set up front. What are the deliverables and expected outcomes?

         6) Coaching needs to add value and come from a place of credibility, experience and relevance.

         7) Good coaching should help salespeople stay focused.

         8) Coaching needs to be timely and have a regular cadence.

         9) Coaching should be hands-on. Time needs to be spent in the field.

         10) Not only are the best coaches creative and innovative, they also help their people think creatively and be innovative.

During the writing of my book, I went through the process of becoming a professionally certified business coach by Shift Coaching Inc (www.shiftcoaching.ca). It was an extensive process that included several interactive training clinics, a substantial reading list, role-playing, observing practice-coaching sessions and putting in actual real-time, practical coaching hours. In all, the entire certification process entailed well in excess of 70 hours of effort.

I wish I had gone through a coaching process like this earlier in my sales management career, as I would have been a more effective leader and coach if I had. I would recommend becoming a certified coach (from a reputable organization) to any dedicated Sales manager. It will make you a more seasoned, thoughtful and respected Sales leader.

Again, actual coaching means that you need to develop consistent and regular conversations that serve to help the sales process and sales rep development. These conversations need to be planned and must link to what you are trying to achieve as an organization.

 

I would love to hear your viewpoint on the coaching experience, please feel free to comment.

 

To read about other sales leadership topics or to increase your sales productivity check out my website www.streetsavvysalesleadership.com .

Mark Welch

Founder

Street Savvy Sales Leadership

www.streetsavvysalesleadership.com

For individual sales or sales leadership coaching, workshops, contract work, or advising feel free to contact me by email mark@streetsavvysalesleadership.com

 

Sales Metrics-Yes you need it but how much is too much?

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Metrics don’t replace the Art of selling,, they augment it.

I’ve interviewed many sales leaders, accountability around sales metrics was mentioned as a top priority. So, there is no doubt that leaders recognize how important metrics and analytics are in the maximizing of their sales team’s performance.

Sales analytics basically provide information for sales management to assess the sales and marketing efforts. The analytics can help with accurate sales forecasting, more sophisticated funnel management and trends, enhanced buyer knowledge, and performance by rep. They can also facilitate more meaningful coaching conversations by giving managers the data they need to help the reps be more efficient and effective. The balancing act here is to be able to surface the optimal type of information without over burdening the sales teams.

Part of the story is to ensure that sales teams have the support they need, and that they know the “why” behind the data. Any data that can be derived and entered without the need for a field salesperson should be done by sales support when possible. Keep salespeople in the field as much as you can. For data they need to manipulate, make sure it’s easy for them to manage and that they’re able to do it remotely using mobility tools.

 

“What gets measured, gets done.”

–Mason Haire, organization theorist

 

There is no question that sales management needs metrics in order make sure the funnel is as full as it can be and that the sales group is meeting the revenue expectations of the company; however, the amount and type of information required needs to be specific to the unique demands of different businesses.

It’s safe to say that metrics are equally important to the reps themselves, as they own the outcome. The best salespeople know where they stand at all times and what they have to do to be successful. For those who don’t know, it’s up to management to assist and coach in this very important area. It may seem quite intuitive how important this is, but not all sales management or salespeople fully appreciate it.

As Jeb Blount points out in his book, Fanatical Prospecting: “It is no different in sales. Elite salespeople, like elite athletes, track everything. You will never reach peak performance until you know your numbers and use those numbers to make directional corrections.”1

The important thing to keep in mind here is to pick the right metrics that will get you to where you need to go, and ensure you are only using metrics that are necessary. Overdoing metrics will overburden the sales force with activity—that will do nothing more than take them away from filling their funnel and closing more business. 

In determining what to measure its important to measure activity as well as the outcome of the activity. Some sales people will argue, how can you measure what you seemingly can’t control, such as a customer’s decision-making process? or when a deal closes?

The major priority behind sales is to influence the decision making process and to close new opportunities. Yes there can be pieces of the decision process that are difficult to measure and change, and we can’t always predict exactly when a deal is going to close. But it is our role as much as possible in sales to influence, change, and help with buyers decisions, and to close business. So we need to measure both, the activity we need to engage in, and the outcomes we are being asked to perform.

I agree wholeheartedly with Mike Weinberg, who stated, “You cannot build a sustainable productive, healthy sales culture without a laser focus on goals and results. And that’s especially true if you want to maintain a high level of sales talent within the organization. A-players want to be pushed, expect to [be] held accountable for exceeding goals, and won’t tolerate being micro managed.”2

While the metrics are important, it’s equally important how you measure and manage them. As mentioned, top salespeople don’t like to be micromanaged—and they shouldn’t be. But knowing what activity typically drives what result is mission critical. Where the management of these metrics becomes especially important is to manage to the individual needs of each sales person. Each person is different, and therefore, how you coach and manage each person needs to be different. The same goes for metrics: they need to be used, but they need to be used in different ways for different situations.

The importance in using data is not about micromanagement; it’s about helping the reps understand what they need to do in order to meet their objectives. If used in the right way, with the right kind of coaching, the use of relevant data will be welcomed by the sales force, as they’ll  know it will help them be more successful.

Some sales organizations opt to be granular about the reps’ activity. How many sales calls are the reps making per week on average? The old adage, “You can’t sell anything unless you’re actually talking to a customer” is very true. Whether it’s an inside sales role or outside only, the dynamic is the same; and, typically, it’s a numbers game. The more customers a sales rep sees and presents solutions to, the more sales that rep is likely going to make. The issue is how many sales calls are required to be successful, and this is where art versus science comes into the picture. Until you measure the activity and get some history, you’re guessing. You need data.  And of course, where the art comes into play, some sales people will require less activity to reach the same result as they are more effective than their peers.

In enterprise-level large companies with complex sales, it’s less about the number of meetings and other specific measures and more about strategic planning and action plans around specific opportunities.

Remember, one size does not fit all. Align what you are measuring to the role and against the outcome you are after.

I would love to hear from your viewpoint on this topic, please comment below.

To read about other sales leadership topics or to increase your sales productivity check out my website www.streetsavvysalesleadership.com .

Mark Welch

Founder

Street Savvy Sales Leadership

www.streetsavvysalesleadership.com

For individual sales or sales leadership coaching, workshops, contract work, or advising feel free to contact me by email mark@streetsavvysalesleadership.com

 

1)      Fanatical Prospecting, The Ultimate Guide to Opening Sales Conversations and Filling the Pipeline by Leveraging Social Selling, Telephone, Email, And Cold Calling—Jeb Blount, John Wiley and Sons Inc, New Jersey, 2015, page 37

2)      Sales Management Simplified-The Straight Truth About Getting Exceptional Results From your Sales Team, Mike Weinberg, Amacom, 2016, page 13

 

 

Great Coaching is Akin to Sales itself, its part Art and part Science. Why being a "Dashboard Junkie" is not sustainable!

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The Sales leaders of today, as well as overall business leaders and business owners want to win net new business, get more business from existing clients, increase sales productivity, and produce more predictable sales forecasts. To execute on this, they need to increase the sales force’s win rate, and improve the participation rates, i.e., get a higher percentage of reps hitting their numbers. This can only be executed with solid sales leadership and coaching.

 

It is widely recognized that improving sales coaching is the most important ingredient in improving overall sales effectiveness in the sale force. And yet it is also recognized that managers are not coaching enough nor are they coaching effectively.  One of the biggest bangs for your development dollar will be in ensuring your sales management team is effectively coaching and performance managing your sales team.

 

In a study of 2,000 salespeople by the Sales Executive Council, salespeople who received three or more hours of sales coaching per month on average reached 107 percent of their quota, as compared to 88 percent of quota for salespeople who received little or no coaching.

 

That’s a 19% improvement in results from coaching alone.

 

In researching for my upcoming book The Street Savvy Sales Leader I interviewed over 100 sales professionals. Of the sales leaders I interviewed 100% said that coaching was important and played a role in improving sales results, but only 60% said that they  coached regularly (regularly means at least once every two weeks). That doesn’t exactly bode well for ongoing continuous improvement of your sales teams.

 

I know of one employee survey in a large sales organization, where the number one major issue that came out of the sales teams was that they wanted more real time face to face coaching, meaningful coaching. Clearly, sales people are starving for an opportunity to be coached to get better at their craft.

 

When I think of the best managers I ever had as a sales rep it was a manager who really had my back and truly wanted me to be successful. He no doubt wanted to be successful himself as a sales leader, but his way of being successful himself was putting his people first. He was always there to help, to listen, to provide guidance, to provide support in strategic account planning and, support in bouncing ideas. I remember early in my career going into his office with a challenge or a problem, and he always had time for me.

 

You never felt like you were bothering him. He truly wanted me to perform, and to win. Because of that, as a sales rep I sincerely wanted to be successful as much for him as for myself. I wanted to be the best I could be, because I knew if I was, it would help him and if I wasn’t it would disappoint him and I did not want to disappoint him. I remember vividly working especially hard at the end of a year to bring in as much business as I possibly could because I wanted to make sure he made it to Presidents Club. His whole team felt the same way. The whole sales team worked their butts off to ensure he would make it to the Presidents Club trip that year. And he did.

 

During my interviews with sales people, some of those that perceived they had received good coaching made comments like the following; they were, “inspired and motivated to put in the extra effort, it increased my drive”, “when your guided and properly supported, you learn from that and benefit from improved results”, “with transparency and trust, you end up sharing more as a result, so you get to answers or solutions quicker”, they inspire you, build your confidence, when they have your back, you’ll do anything for them”. You think better and focus better because they cared about me.”

 

Powerful words I think, its that kind of followership that gets you Best in Class sales results.

 

Mike Weinberg put it this way, “The very best sales managers are Multipliers. They subdue their own egos for the sake of their people. They understand that their mission is to win through their salespeople. They don’t micromanage every detail. When necessary, they ask insightful questions that challenge the status quo and a sales person’s approach. Instead of jumping in and taking over at every chance, they look for coaching opportunities. Great sales managers deflect the credit; they don’t steal it. And they often jump in front of the bus to protect their people rather than throwing them under it so they look good themselves.” (1)

 

Like many levers to improve sales results, coaching requires the support of the organization, it needs to be a constant and regular cadence. That is, it needs to be conducted on an ongoing basis as an organization practise. There is a skill and a competency to coaching that is underestimated. Coaching is not only looking at numbers, and it is not asking why you didn’t make certain metrics or kpi’s. In other words being a “Dashboard Junky”. It’s not dictating a certain style.

 

Like sales itself, coaching is part art and part science. It’s the great managers who know when and how to apply each.

 

Coaching is not telling the sales rep what to do or how to do something like making a cold call, or closing a deal. The easiest way to manage a sales rep is to simply tell them how to do something. You are the expert, just share your knowledge.

 

Simple, right? The problem is the sales rep won’t learn anything, and you must have the same conversation repeatedly. Sure, it might make you feel good, it’s good for the ego to solve something, to have an answer for some issue, or behavioral challenge.

 

What I’ve learned is that it is far more rewarding to coach properly and more thoughtfully because you really witness how you have genuinely helped someone. You have helped them become better at what they do with lasting effect. It’s a little more difficult, you must put aside your need to solve something quickly and move on, your ego’s need to look and feel like the expert. But in the long run you are not being an effective coach and it’s not scalable if you just dictate or correct. If you coach to lasting effect, the less often they will need you going forward, you won’t have to resolve every problem every time.

 

The questioning process in effective coaching will take more of your valuable time. True coaching is gaining their trust and sincerely working on helping them be better at what they do. The only way to do that is to ask questions, after a call ask them how they think the call went, how they think they could have improved. How did they open the call, how did the customer react to their opening, how did the customer react to their questions? Why do you think the customer reacted that way? What other way could you have tried that might have been more effective? Did you tell a relevant story? What value or insight did you discuss that resonated with the client?

 

This way of coaching forces the reps to really dig in and think about what they’ve done in a given situation. They need to really look at how they planned for the call, what decisions they made in terms of strategy to get to the decision maker. Whatever the issue, ask questions first, then help them solve the problem, or improve the behavior together. If they self identify you will get longer lasting results, and the rep will own the change more fully.

 

I believe that sales management  and effective coaching is the key lever in your ability to create a best in class sales team, without it, you will not achieve your revenue growth targets. I liken sales coaching to the sports coaching we see daily, whether it be team sports like hockey or football, or individual sports like golf and tennis, everyone needs a coach, no matter how good you are. 

 

I recommend that any sales manager that wants to be the best he or she can be should make sure that they receive the coaching training they need to be managers. If your company doesn’t offer it, ask if they will support you financially to get the training on your own. If not I would invest in it on your own, it will definitely pay off in your career and in your teams results.

 

I have spent over 60 hours working on becoming a certified business coach and it has made the world of difference in my conversations with sales people.

I would be happy to refer you to an excellent coaching program if you're interested. Just email  me at mark@streetsavvysalesleadership.com.

 

Yes the manager has to pay attention to the results, the activity, the KPI’s and other metrics, but I believe more importantly, the manager has to pay more attention to real time effective coaching, helping their people be the best that they can be, day in and day out.

 

For more information and insights in regards to coaching and other sales organization thoughts refer to my website, www.streetsavvysalesleadership.com, or reserve an order for my upcoming book, The Street Savvy Sales Leader, A Guide To Building Teams That Consistently Win New Business.

 

Mark Welch

Founder

Street Savvy Sales Leadership

www.streetsavvysalesleadership.com

For individual sales or sales leadership coaching, workshops, contract work, advising, or speaking engagements

mark@streetsavvysalesleadership.com

References;

1.       Mike Weinberg. New Sales. Simplified: The Straight Truth about Getting Exceptional Results from Your Sales Team. New York: AMACOM, 2014, p. 38.