When we interviewed Jody Garcia, Vice President of Consumer Sales and Service with AT&T, she shared with us a wealth of ideas about how to build strong sales and customer service teams with the kind of coaching that produces lasting results. Jody has led large teams in global telecommunications companies and she shared some fantastic insights into how to accelerate the progress of large sales and customer service organizations:
- Meet Each Team Member Where They Are
- Solve the Problem First
- Salespeople and Athletes
- Follow Up is the Differentiating Factor
- Jody’s 5 Keys to Better Results from Training and Coaching
- Solid Advice for Sales Managers and Salespeople
Early in the interview, Jody said something that really framed the rest of our conversation,
“The best coach or manager is one who is very involved in understanding how to meet each employee where they are within their own given learning curve. They take a moment to celebrate the successes along the way and insert themselves to provide coaching and follow-up to make each of their team members a success. They build relationships based on trust and respect and those are the teams that thrive.”
What we’ve learned at the SalesGym, in working with sales and customer service team coaches over the years is, just like Jody says, the best coaches find a way to connect with each team member individually and also create a culture where practice and follow-up happens in a systematic way. Coaching is an art and a science and it all begins with building trusting relationships with each team member.
Solve The Problem First!
In large contact centers, where customer service reps generate a lot of sales through cross selling and up selling, it’s important for leaders to stay focused on customer needs, which often starts with a concern or problem they’re having. Jody explains,
“The first thing that gets in the way of a really effective salesperson is someone who doesn’t handle the customer’s issue before jumping into their sales transition. They rush past that, whether it’s due to management style or compensation structure or whatever other internal drivers there may be. They are more focused on getting to the sale and they miss fully taking care of the real reason the customer called.”
Sales Leaders are going to get better results if they create a culture and system where team members focus on solving problems in a way that creates stronger customer loyalty first. That loyalty and feeling of being served creates greater receptivity to cross selling ideas and makes selling easier. Sometimes, cross selling strategies actually create more resistance, making it harder to generate more sales. Jody explains,
“In years past, call centers were so focused on the average speed of answer, average handle time, all of those diagnostic productivity metrics which unintentionally ended up driving undesired behaviors. That is not to say they are unimportant, but it must be balanced. There needs to be a real willingness to step back and say, ‘Just do the right thing.’ If a salesperson is going to be effective, they need to be quick and complete in solving the customer’s problem and not so worried about the metrics. At the end of the day, if you do the right thing, you’ll be able to drive the right results.”
Salespeople and Athletes
The goal of training and coaching is to create a competent and confident salesperson that can solve problems, find solutions and communicate in a way that creates more opportunity on every customer contact. Jody explains,
“When salespeople are not confident and competent, they are all over the place and it starts by not listening and then not being certain about what questions to go after and they end up with a very disoriented sales call.”
Jody shared with us that the way athletes train and improve is a good model to consider when approaching sales teams …
“When you think about an athlete, you think about the constant training and skill development in all areas of the game (physical, emotional, strategic, tactical). Athletes are disciplined, self-driven and committed to being the best. They are also open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. They are constantly practicing, constantly raising the bar, and pushing and pushing. It’s the same in a sales environment and those that really do that with discipline and daily commitment are those that are always #1. They become the people you’re looking to reach out to emulate or looking to lift up to share.”
Follow Up is the Differentiating Factor
Elite sports team coaches have taken coaching to the next level because they are relentless at improving training, measuring progress and following up until each team member is performing at their highest level. It’s this same kind of unbending discipline that frontline coaches need to learn. Jody explains:
“The reason companies struggle building successful frontline coaches, is a lack of real discipline in the follow-up. Oftentimes, you insert training initiatives and bring in outside resources and everybody gets hyped up and committed to supporting it and then it fizzles out. That failure is twofold, there isn’t an effective enough job building the competency all the way ‘up the line’ of the organization so that when the training completes, or a consultant leaves, there is daily reinforcement to support the training with the frontline manager and the rep. Secondly, companies forget to skill ‘up the line’ so that they create that continuity in executing day in and day out.”
It all starts with Sales Leaders teaching newer coaches to create an environment that is positive. Certainly, there need to be consequences for team members that can’t or are unwilling to perform, but a positive environment is where growth is accelerated, as Jody explains,
“Managers who operate out of fear and intimidation may be able to drive short term results, but there is no way they can sustain outstanding performance over the long term. The best managers create long-lasting results and are continuously building on “beating their best” and raising the bar on performance. This creates constant momentum and can be used as a stepping stone for great repeatable performance.”
Jody’s 5 Keys to Better Results from Training and Coaching
- "The best sales training is less generic and really connected and relevant to the salesperson's world. So, integrating what that call experience looks like and working with them one-on-one gets them much more engaged and excited and talking in a real way that they can connect with."
- "You have to be fearless and create those coaching pauses in order to take an organization to that next level. If you want to be a top organization, or you want to invest in taking a mediocre organization to the top, you have to be willing to create those pauses to invest in your employees. Your employees need to feel like you are all in behind them.”
- "In a sales environment, people tend to have way too many metrics that they look at. We are so data rich and everything becomes a critical metric, yet the reality is there are probably only two or three metrics that you really need to look at and that should be the focal point of your sales meeting because that creates the right kind of balance to be able to perform."
- "The trainer should work in tandem with the coach and the second and third level manager so that any one of them can step in to coach with the same expectations."
- "The best sales meetings have a really clean agenda that focuses on a couple key areas that drive sales rather than the whack-a-mole approach where you have an agenda based off the metric your boss is driving that week. Great meetings also build from sharing and celebrating successes, so salespeople leave inspired with just a few things they are confident they can apply for success." "The best sales meetings have a really clean agenda that focuses on a couple key areas that drive sales rather than the whack-a-mole approach where you have an agenda based off the metric your boss is driving that week. Great meetings also build from sharing and celebrating successes, so salespeople leave inspired with just a few things they are confident they can apply for success.">
Jody’s Advice to New Managers
“To be successful as a manager, it’s got to come from within and you’ve got to be able to seek out those that are best in class. You have to be willing to work hard and not be afraid to shift gears. So, if something’s not working, you need to step back and ask yourself, ‘Why’, and if you can’t figure out why, you need to ask someone to help you identify what’s standing in your way. You can’t have any ego in the equation and you’ve got to demonstrate that you are really looking to build a career in a genuine way. Respect in this business is building your skill set so that the company benefits, the customer benefits, and so do you.”
Jody’s Advice to Salespeople
“In sales, you have to be self-accountable and you have to have real drive and initiative. From a tactical perspective, find the top sales person who’s in the organization and side-by-side, ask them what they’re doing and really see what you can do to create a relationship so that you have an internal mentor. The next step to success is to be relentless about asking your coach for coaching. If you’re not getting what you believe you need to build the skill set and confidence, ask elsewhere and don’t be afraid to do that. Then, practice like crazy!
Thanks to Jody for the interview and solid tips on how to generate stronger sales teams!
For videos on how to increase sales utilizing the SalesGym’s “Compete Selling” approaches, check out our SalesGym YouTube Channel!
SalesGym is a research, consulting, and training company that works with and learns from sales teams all over the world and has refined a coaching and training process that trains sales teams the way elite athletes are trained. More insights and articles from us can be found on our RESOURCES PAGE.
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