Michael Castelli, President and Principal, Castelli Consulting
Recently, we had an opportunity to connect with Michael Castelli, President and Principal of Castelli Consulting and listen to his thinking on what makes top performing salespeople different, what gives them their competitive edge and what sales leaders can do to train and support them. Michael has built and managed large retail store networks (AT&T and Radio Shack) and has a deep reservoir of knowledge and experience of how to build stronger sales teams. He shared a number of unique ideas focused around:
- Being Impatient is the Biggest Mistake Salespeople Make
- Effective Sales Coaching is a Future Profit Generator
- Tailor Sales Training to the Local Market
- Your Team Has to Understand How Company Goals Tie-In to their Compensation
- Michael’s Formula for Leadership Success
Early in the interview, Michael said something that really framed the rest of our conversation,
“One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that, regardless of experience, average performers tend to sell based on the devices or products they feel comfortable with and understand best. To be a successful “solution’s specialist”, you must truly understand the Guest’s needs & be comfortable selling your entire product line. You need to ask the Guest “qualifying” questions to fully understand their “needs & wants”. You must listen to their answers intently and then build a solution based on what THEIR needs and wants actually are.”
Michael makes a point of calling customers “guests” because that’s the way he sees customers that walk into the stores under his leadership. The thinking is all about creating a fantastic buying experience that guest will remember, recommend to others and look forward to coming back to.
Most salespeople understand the need to adequately discover the guest’s motivation to buy, but too often, stop there and offer a generic solution that “fits” the needs of the guest. Top performs go further and discover the needs and wants and then identify that absolute best solution and communicate it in a way that is truly tailored to what the customer really wants.
Being Impatient is the Biggest Mistake Salespeople Make
We asked Michael his thoughts on the biggest mistakes he sees salespeople make and he explained,
“The biggest mistake [salespeople make] is often impatience. You need to be patient with your Guest in order to establish rapport, listen and then build a solution that is a good fit for that guest. Don’t rush to “close” or be too aggressive. That very often becomes counterproductive. Become a “friend” that’s simply providing a solution.”
The reason this approach works is largely because it lowers the guest’s buying resistance and makes them more likely to accept your recommendation. Using this technique effectively has a significant impact on your relationship and future business with that guest as Michael explains,
“Once you understand what their needs and wants are you shouldn’t immediately jump to a close. Instead, you need to spend time talking about the “value” of the solution and how that solution will impact their daily lives and even how it will help them have more fun. This creates excitement and builds a stronger, lasting relationship between the solution specialist and the Guest fostering future business.”
When we asked Michael how he determines when it is appropriate to go for the close he replied,
“After you establish a solution and have answered the Guest’s questions based on your own experiences. This enhances your credibility in the eyes of the Guest. After they are comfortable and there is trust, proceed to a trial close.”
Effective Sales Coaching is a Future Profit Generator
Next, our conversation turned towards the topic of sales coaching. We’ve heard from many companies that their sales coaching and training programs are the key to building stronger sales teams but it’s hard to get frontline sales managers to do the kind of sales coaching that has maximum impact. When we asked Michael his thoughts on effective sales coaching, he told us,
“Talking too much, not asking good questions, not tailoring the value of the product or service and not knowing how to close professionally all points towards ineffective coaching. Coaching is an investment in the future success of any business and too many organizations want immediate results. Effective coaching is a necessary expense and should be looked at as a future profit generator versus an up-front “cost”. You must invest in the development of your people, even though you don’t get that ‘return on time invested’ until months down the road.”
Not only is the investment in coaching and training necessary for the continued growth and development of the sales force, but it can also help to decrease expenses to the business caused by turnover. Michael explains,
“The biggest expense is turnover and when you think about all the mistakes, it all comes down to ineffective coaching. Good coaching lowers that turnover expense and creates a better work environment, resulting in a more tenured and seasoned sales team.”
Michael drove this point home when he observed,
“Even if you hire great people, if you have ineffective coaching in your organization, they are going to leave you and this creates high turnover expense and reduced profits.”
Tailor Sales Training to the Local Market
Next, we asked Michael about the biggest mistakes he sees companies make regarding coaching and training. Michael replied,
“The biggest mistake companies make is thinking sales training can be cookie cutter. They put together the training program without spending time on the sales floor selling and on the phone speaking to clients. If you don’t do that, your training materials are not going to be realistic. The biggest problem we see with training materials is that the materials are put together at a central location but not tweaked and adjusted to the local market. The fundamentals may be the same but how you handle customers and guests will differ based on the local market. Selling to someone in Manhattan is completely different than selling to someone in a rural market, for example. The Guest needs and wants can be completely different.”
Michael offered this advice to companies who want to tailor their training and coaching but aren’t certain how to achieve that level of customization,
“Watch your most successful sellers and implement their best practices into how you sell in your local market. The sales training needs to be customized to the marketplace you’re in. Embrace and understand diversity in selling styles by collaborating with individuals in each market.”
Your Team Has to Understand How Company Goals Tie-In to their Compensation
As our interview moved to the topicof sales leadership, we asked Michael how top-performing leaders motivate and inspire their salespeople to action. Michael explained,
“In terms of Sales Leaders, one of the biggest priorities is making 100% certain your team understands their compensation plan. When the majority of earnings come from performance, it’s shocking how many people don’t understand their comp plan. Again, this is leadership’s fault. You don’t go to Vegas and sit at the Blackjack table if you can’t count to 21! In order to win the game, you have to understand the rules of the game. Your team needs to understand how activities relate to compensation. When you pump out all those goals and don’t tie it into the comp plan, salespeople push back and it’s often because they don’t understand how it ties together. You need to show your teams…if I do THIS…I will earn THIS.”
As Michael points out, salespeople respond to incentives. A critical part of incentivizing your salespeople to action is ensuring they understand how the larger goals of the organization tie directly into their compensation. If the salesperson has not yet made this connection it can be difficult to motivate them to act or change. Michael put it this way,
“In leadership, if you ask your people to do or support things they don’t understand, then you’re just fooling yourself and ultimately you are pushing a rope. Your people have to understand how doing what leadership is asking will help them and relate it directly to their compensation. If your team exhibits the right behaviors even when you are NOT around…you have yourself a winning team! This comes from buy-in.”
There is little that cannot be accomplished when a motivated and well-honed sales team is running in the same direction as leadership. The challenge lies in how you get to that point. Michael tackles that challenge in this way,
“Good leaders provide clear communication about how to get results, the milestones you’ll hit, and how their people will be measured. You have to provide motivation paired with realistic activities, milestones and KPI’s that will be the measurement of success.”
Michael’s Formula for Leadership Success
Towards the end of our interview, we asked Michael for his advice to Sales Managers who want to experience both success and longevity in sales. Michael revealed that he has developed two acronyms that he has used during his career to achieve those very things. Those are,
- Simplify your plan
- Organize your thoughts
- Articulate clearly - your people need to understand what you’re saying
- Recognize top performers
- Reinforce the team goals
- Reinvent your leadership style as time changes
- Simplicity in all you do
- Effectiveness in all you do
- Efficiency in all you do.
“If you can’t S.E.E. your business [and career] clearly…
you need to change your prescription.”
— Michael Castelli
Thanks to Michael 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.
Get expert sales knowledge with our FREE newsletter
Sign up for our monthly newsletter to access top sales training techniques.