At SalesGym, we interview dozens of leading sales executives every year to find out new thinking and trends on top performers, coaching, and building better sales teams. In a recent interview with Mohit Malkani, SVP Sales in the Tech Industry, he shared some great insights into top performers and how sales managers can generate better results.
Early in the interview, Mohit brought up an aspect of pre call preparation we’ve noticed top performers focus a lot of attention on…
“Without research before the call, you won’t have a very effective call because even though you may have a well-defined value proposition with four or five key differentiators, you may end up starting with the wrong one, because every client is different and pain points are different. If you do some research and know that hey, ‘I think out of my five key differentiators, these two will really hit well with this prospect’, and talk about those two first, you set yourself up for success.”
Mohit also has observed that without some research before the call, salespeople are likely to sound more scripted and less relevant…
The first impression is very often the last impression, and if you start with something which is not relevant to your prospect, then your call won't go too long. -Mohit Malkani, SVP Sales in the Tech Industry Click To Tweet
“One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make when they are calling is they become more like robots and there is no research done before the call. When they make that call and someone picks up the phone, they are already operating from the back foot. The first impression is very often the last impression, and if you start with something which is not relevant to your prospect, then your call won’t go too long.”
Decision maker patience decreasing
What we hear from decision makers over and over is how they have less patience for salespeople that walk in and ask the most obvious, basic questions without doing any research beforehand. In an interview with a SVP of a large telecom recently, she told me, “If I hear one more salesperson come into my office and ask me what problems keep me up at night, I’m going to stand up, walk him to the door and tell him the conversation is over. It’s as if there’s this script of questions everyone’s been trained on and they’re mindlessly following them.”
Mohit has noticed that top performers have a way of focusing on needs and differentiators that resonates with the decision maker…
In the end, the sale happens in the mind of the customer, which many people forget. -Mohit Malkani, SVP Sales in the Tech Industry Click To Tweet
“Top salespeople relate more to the customer and are consistent closers. The good ones really know how to attack the pain points with their differentiators and relate their differentiators to the customer’s pain points because in the end, the sale happens in the mind of the customer, which many people forget.”
Encouraging more preparation
One of the core bad habits that causes many salespeople to get into the pattern of not researching before they go on calls is too much talking and poor listening. Salespeople that talk too much tend to focus on products, features and benefits and that type of selling doesn’t require nearly as much preparation. When you’re selling bigger, broader solutions that requires the decision maker to embrace new decision making criteria, then more preparation is essential. The question is, how can sales managers spark this change of thinking in salespeople?
“So many salespeople are type A personalities and extroverts. When you have a person who’s of that personality on board, you need to teach them how to control the extrovert in them and to be the listener. That is something you can train and if an account manager is talking too much on calls with prospects and customers, it’s because, probably, he’s not been trained too well.”
Establish practice routines
Role plays based on realistic simulations can help salespeople first learn the value of pre call research and preparation and then break the habit of talking and selling before they have listened to what matters most to the decision makers. If salespeople cannot ask good questions and listen in a simple practice simulation, it is very unlikely they can do it under pressure on an actual sales call. This lack of confidence and skill is what leads to more talking and less listening.
“A very big and important part of our process with sales managers is the role plays and feedback sessions. A sales manager has to spend x amount of time every week doing feedback sessions and role plays with their team.”
In working with thousands of sales managers over the last 20 years, we find that a relatively small percentage of them, less than 25%, are naturally attracted to practice and role play with their teams because they like it and get good at it. Most sales managers find it somewhat awkward or settle into the mindset that practice is great, when I have time for it, but I rarely do. This is where executive leadership must step in and build a practice culture as Mohit has noticed…
“If you leave the sales managers alone, and if you don’t coach them, their effectiveness will go down immensely.”
Most of the research we’ve seen on spending, when it comes to training sales teams, is that a relatively small percentage of the overall allocation is actually targeted toward training sales managers how to coach and manage effectively. Add to this the issue that many sales managers were promoted because they were good at sales, not necessarily because they had shown strong coaching and management skills…
“Just because someone was a great salesperson and they got promoted into management, does not automatically make him a great sales manager. Many companies assume that, and that’s where the problem starts, and even though the entire sales team is well trained and experienced, sales numbers still don’t go up and everyone wonders why that happened. Having good managers who follow an effective sales management process is critical to success.”
So, in summary...
- Salespeople get into bad habits like poor preparation and too much talking
- Practice is critical to break bad habits and establish better behaviors
- Most sales managers are not that effective at coaching without training
- Senior management needs to train sales managers how to coach and practice
- A practice culture can only happen when sales managers are skillful at coaching
“To be a great sales manager, set goals and metrics for your teams, and then follow-up, show them, follow up, show them, and keep repeating that” — Mohit Malkani
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.