The Founders of the SalesGym started observing, training and coaching salespeople and managers in the late 80’s. We’ve worked with top performers and lots of average performers too. Since those early days, we estimate we have worked with over 125,000 salespeople, in sales teams all over the world. Teams from all types of companies in B2B, B2C, strategic long cycle, enterprise, transactional and comprehensive solutions and every selling approach in between. There are five things that haven’t changed much at all in the last 30 years when it comes to habits that sales teams get into that hurt results:
- Salespeople talk too much on sales calls and don’t ask the right questions and listen enough
- Too many salespeople “wing it” on sales calls and don’t prepare enough
- Far too many sales calls/meetings end without achieving a clear action step that moves the sale forward
- Too many Sales Managers do minimal, if any, sales coaching to break bad selling habits and become overly tolerant of ineffective selling skills
- Sales training often focuses on topics that are new and compelling vs breaking bad selling habits and practicing selling the way top performers do
There are many great Sales Managers and Coaches out there and plenty of top performing salespeople that work hard at improving and mastering their craft, but a much bigger percentage of these people acquire stubborn bad habits that stall progress and frustrate sales executives. Unfortunately, traditional training seminars and approaches don’t seem to have much impact on the people that fall into these bad habits. We’ve found, through extensive research and testing, it takes a new approach to training and coaching to impact the people stuck in these limiting habits. It takes a more assertive approach often used with elite athletes, musicians and dancers. Salespeople have a lot more in common with star performers than they do with the more operationally focused people in their companies and they need to be managed, coached and trained much differently.
The Obvious Sales Mistakes…
Huge gains have been made in technology, data analysis, understanding the sales cycle and pipeline/territory management in the last 20 years. More often than not, when we observe a cross section of salespeople interacting with prospects, customers and clients, whether it’s B2B or B2C, we see the same mistakes:
- Too much talking
- An agenda that is not planned out or effectively organized
- Poorly organized questions that are too obvious, annoying or not relevant
- Inability to notice obvious signals from the prospect that result in missed opportunities
- Not really listening or connecting emotionally with the customer or prospect
- Inability to verbally tailor their solution and messaging to what matters most to the prospect or customer
- Disorganized sales conversations that end without clear next steps
- Sales approaches that are so stiff and scripted that they are wrenching for the customer or prospect
And here’s the thing … every one of these mistakes is relatively easily fixed. But only after someone in an executive role gets serious about sales coaching.
“The best sales managers have lower tolerance for poor selling skills and habits. They give their people a clear choice … get good, get moving or find another organization to work in, which is exactly what great sports coaches do. If you want a place on a Phil Jackson, Bill Belichick or Joe Paterno team, you gotta work, strive to improve and put everything you’ve got into practice.” — Michael St. Lawrence, Founder SalesGym.
Sales Managers Allow & Enable These Mistakes
Great training and coaching is about DISRUPTING these stubborn habits and generating rapid improvement. In this article, we’ll share some thoughts from interviews with various Sales Leaders we’ve met including Ryan Mainey with Freeman Decorating Services and Chris Sutter with Mobile Mini. This article series and the upcoming book is not just about what the problem is, because that’s the easy part … it’s about what to do to fix it.
Expert Coaching Must Become A Priority…
Ryan Mainey sums up the coaching challenge well,
Too many organizations aren't declaring coaching as an important performance metric for that front line sales manager. -Ryan Mainey with Freeman Decorating Services Click To Tweet
“Too many organizations aren’t declaring coaching as an important performance metric for that front line sales manager and unless an organization declares it an important performance metric to their success, then that Sales Manager is going to default to a well-known metric of success which is the revenue next to their name.” Putting pressure on sales metrics is an easy and often comfortable default reaction for many sales managers, but it doesn’t change behavior on sales calls.”
In order for a competitive swimmer to swim faster, the coach urgently stressing “swim faster … swim faster!” is probably not going to achieve much. This swimmer needs strength, flexibility and technique coaching to improve. A child sitting down at a piano with no one to teach and correct them is unlikely to learn or achieve mastery the way a child that gets weekly instruction, coaching and correction will. This obvious learning fundamental is often completely ignored when it comes to sales teams. Far too many sales managers are using elaborate reports and analysis to say over and over, often very creatively … SELL MORE … SELL MORE!!! This is a results limiting approach.
Chris Sutter put it this way when asked, what do successful managers do to create a winning team?
The development of sales reps is probably one of the most difficult activities to accomplish, but managers need to embrace the harder things that generate the best results. -Chris Sutter with Mobile Mini Click To Tweet
“They coach! They have to do it consistently and every single day… the development of sales reps is probably one of the most difficult activities to accomplish, but managers need to embrace the harder things that generate the best results.”
Great Coaches Need Three Things
Great teams practice frequently. The best Sales Managers we have met over the years figure out a way to practice more with their teams than their competitors do. They win the way great sports teams win. To coach effectively, you need:
- Top performer best practices
- A practice system
- A culture that embraces and masters practice
It all starts with knowing your transferable best practices. This is a big topic, but what we’re talking about is the basic stuff like, knowing your competitive advantages, sales process, sales messaging, how to ask better, more assertive questions and how to close for bigger, bolder next steps. This is a great place to start if you want to build a better sales team. We find that a small percentage of salespeople, even from the very best companies, can consistently list their 5 highest value competitive advantages and communicate them in an interesting, and persuasive way. We test sales teams every day and Sales Executives are literally dumbfounded at how inconsistent their people are at answering some of the most basic questions every prospect or customer most likely has:
- Why should I meet with you?
- What do you specialize in?
- What makes your company, product or service better than your competitor?
- What solutions do you have that are truly tailored to my needs?
- Are you the kind of person I can trust to recommend solutions that are truly in my best interest?
- What added value do you bring to the table?
We’re not talking about a 60-second elevator speech, we’re talking about the core concerns that nearly all decision makers or influencers have when choosing who to buy from. Best practices are all about figuring out how top performers communicate and then training the rest of the team on their approaches. Most salespeople that produce poor results have disorganized and ineffective communication habits that have to be broken and then rebuilt. And this happens with best practices, a practice system and steady coaching. Once again, this is exactly how elite athletes are trained.Practice and repetition becomes really valuable because great salespeople are authentic. -Ryan Mainey with Freeman Decorating Services Click To Tweet
“Practice and repetition becomes really valuable because great salespeople are authentic. And they’re disciplined and they’re self-aware and part of that self-awareness to me means that they know what it takes for them to articulate their message in a compelling and authentic way. So you have to practice it like a robot to get good enough so that you can sound like a real person under pressure in a live selling situation.” — Ryan Mainey
Ask yourself what exactly your top performers are doing differently?
Once you know this, you’ve got a start on tapping the potential of best practices. If you can create a way to demonstrate top performer best practices and run practice exercises frequently, then you’re even further along. Chris Sutter clarifies the importance of sales messaging…
To differentiate yourself, you have to know your competitive advantages cold. -Chris Sutter with Mobile Mini Click To Tweet
“You don’t have to be superhuman in sales…it really is a commitment to your brand and what product offering you have in the marketplace that you can offer as a differentiator to your customers. To differentiate yourself, you have to know your competitive advantages cold.”
Michael St. Lawrence adds, “What I’ve found on project after project is that the best way to really understand the sales team is to ask a cross section of the team to tell me, exactly how they would tell a good prospect, in a concise and persuasive way, what it is that makes your company, products and services different and more valuable than your competitors?
More often than not, this is where training should start because this is that foundational sales messaging that, once learned and mastered, positively impacts the rest of the sales skills.”
Radically Disruptive Sales Coaching Action Steps
- Test your team. Ask them to identify a high potential prospect they’ve met with recently … and imagine they are on the phone with that person and he/she asks?
- Figure out your best practices around sales messaging. It is very difficult to be effective at selling without good sales messaging and it’s nearly impossible to train or coach salespeople without effective sales messaging. Start by identifying how to communicate your company’s 5 most powerful competitive advantages.
- Create a practice system and schedule. Just like athletes, dancers and musicians need to show up for practice every week, so do salespeople. Practice is much more effective when it’s consistent and frequent
- Do this simple but effective self-analysis exercise. Identify what you need to do now to become more effective at the kind of coaching that creates more top performers.
“It all really starts with best practices around competitive advantages and sales messaging. These are the basic ingredients that salespeople have to work with when communicating with prospects and customers. If they don’t have total command of these ingredients, then they improvise, talk too much, go with the flow and simply fail to say the things that have real persuasive impact.” — Michael St. Lawrence.
One exercise we strongly recommend and that our clients tell us helps build more sales coaching awareness is to use this self analysis tool CLICK HERE. If you analyze yourself, we’ll send you how you compare to other sales managers along with some ideas on how to improve. The first step to improvement is to become aware of strengths and weaknesses and this tool will help you in this area.
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.