Every month, we interview sales leaders from a variety of industries looking for insights into what salespeople and sales managers are doing and can be doing to improve performance. One theme we’ve been hearing frequently is that sales managers need to become better coaches and spend more time developing talent and not just managing metrics.
Some interesting thoughts on coaching and building better sales teams came out when we talked to Maria Howard, Vice President with Korn Ferry and Drew Ribarchak, Senior Director of Ticket Sales in the Sports Industry.
Maria shared with us a key insight into how better sales leaders think…
Great sales leaders aren't hyper-focused on metrics, even though sales is probably the most metrics driven part of an organization. They are focused on the behaviors that lead to good results. -Maria Howard, Vice President with Korn Ferry Click To Tweet
“Great sales leaders aren’t hyper-focused on metrics, even though sales is probably the most metrics driven part of an organization. They are focused on the behaviors that lead to good results. So even though you may have a five million dollar quota, and I know as your manager every day, every week or every month how much you sold, the conversations we should be having is how you’re doing it. Leaders need to understand the behaviors and the ways that sales people are showing up that drive their numbers and not just focusing on have you sold X,Y or Z for me lately.”
The key here is to understand and focus on the behaviours, skills and habits that drive results. Sure, we need to know and understand the numbers, no doubt about that, but most salespeople want to generate better results and aren’t trying to fail. They get better results because of good habits and skills. Great sales managers have a positive impact on this with focus, observation, practice and feedback.
Drew Ribarchak adds another critical element, the emotional component…
If you’re too focused on metrics, and you’re not taking into account the emotional aspect...then you are going to struggle as a sales manager. -Drew Ribarchak, Senior Director of Ticket Sales in the Sports Industry Click To Tweet
“If you’re too focused on metrics, and you’re not taking into account the emotional aspect of who you are working with and how they are impacted, then you are going to struggle as a sales manager.” Drew hit on a key insight which is; salespeople are emotionally motivated and we need to tap into this. When we take the time to truly understand each of our salespeople individually in terms of how they’re motivated and their emotional drivers, we’ll get better results.
Great sales management is about helping salespeople tap into deeper motivational reserves to build better habits and routines that lead to better results. Just as an athlete must establish training and improvement routines and put more and more effort into achieving their goals, salespeople need to train and practice to master the craft of selling.
What sales habits limit results?
At the SalesGym, we practice and coach salespeople all across the performance spectrum every day and observe them on sales calls and in simulations. What we see are four core habits that significantly reduce results for a large percentage of salespeople when it comes to what is actually happening on live sales interactions with prospects and customers:
- Too much talking on sales calls
- Poor questioning … either too obvious, not relevant or not challenging enough
- Inability to communicate compelling value and competitive advantages on what matters most to the prospect or customer and clearly defines what differentiates your company from your competitors
- Inability to control the sales conversation and lead it to a desirable conclusion
There are certainly many other skills and habits that get in the way, but these four are where most sales managers should initially focus in order to get the quickest results possible. Truth is, we’ve been hearing from sales managers for decades that these are the biggest mistakes salespeople continue to make. Maria shared a key thought as to what it is sales managers are doing that allows these limiting habits to continue to root…
The challenge managers face is building in feedback and coaching, not as an event, but as an ongoing process that is just as normal as anything else is in their business. -Maria Howard, Vice President with Korn Ferry Click To Tweet
“The challenge managers face is building in feedback and coaching, not as an event, but as an ongoing process that is just as normal as anything else is in their business. Most sales leaders know how to do really good business reviews with their team, but I would challenge, are they in the same conversation, having the behavioral discussion?” And this is key! Sales Managers must drill down and get into the behavioral aspects of helping average performers sell the way top performers do.
Limiting habits Sales Managers get into that enable poor performance:
Sales team habits that reduce results are generally because of four habits that Sales Managers form:
- Focusing too much on metrics and not enough on skills and behaviors that can be improved
- Avoiding or completely ignoring practice and simulation drills with their salespeople
- Neglecting the all important role of TEACHING the basic selling fundamentals
- Inability to combine honesty and direct, helpful feedback to help their team improve
Great coaches teach and reinforce. Recently, I was coaching a retired Laker that played for Phil Jackson, the famous NBA coach that won a record 11 NBA Championships. When asked what it was like playing on his team, the reply was primarily about how focused the coaches were on teaching the fundamentals of basketball…the basics…over and over and over until every player on the team could execute. Imagine what would happen to a sales team if the sales manager would coach and practice the way elite athletic teams do! As Maria mentioned, too often the sales managers spend too much time analyzing numbers but not really getting down on the practice field to do something about it.
Basic Sales Fundamentals Include
Just like Phil Jackson taught his team a set of basic fundamentals, if you’re going to teach selling fundamentals and build a solid team that can execute, then you need to really focus on the teachable selling skills. Although there are many sales processes and sales cycles out there, these are the universal selling skills, the sales basic fundamentals, that matter most in terms of interacting with live prospects:
How to start a sales call with a great, customer focused agenda
- Asking questions, listening and asking relevant and effective follow up questions
- Using effective insights to challenge the limiting thinking of prospects the right way
- Summarizing at the right time to check in and transition
- Tailoring the value proposition and differentiating factors to what matters most to that prospect
- Closing for clear action steps
- Maintaining control of the sales call and sales process
These are all skills that can be taught and improved. The key is to get into a steady routine where coaching and practice happens every week, like clockwork. Just like going to the gym consistently every week and working out the right way will lead to better conditioning. A good place for many sales managers to start is to observe their salespeople on sales calls or in simulations and rate them in each of these key selling skills to see where they are. Then, of course, apply training, practice and repetition to steadily move the needle.
Remember, One Size Doesn’t Fit All!
It’s important to remember that salespeople are individual humans first and we need to adapt to their strengths and needs. It is a mistake to try and get every person on the team to be the same or, even worse, to sell the same way the sales manager does. Different people have different strengths and can succeed in different ways. As long as they can execute the fundamentals, we need to be flexible to let their individual personalities and strengths shine. Drew reminds us of this with this key insight…
You have to stay consistent in terms of goals and our overall communication of what is happening in the organization, but realize everyone's an individual... -Drew Ribarchak, Senior Director of Ticket Sales in the Sports Industry Click To Tweet
“Managing today is balancing how to have a consistent message to the team while at the same time coaching people individually while reacting to their individual strengths and weaknesses and what motivates them. You have to stay consistent in terms of goals and our overall communication of what is happening in the organization, but realize everyone’s an individual and treating them each differently is extremely crucial.”
The 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.