At SalesGym, we’re always on the lookout for sales executives that have interesting and timeless insights into top performers, coaching, and building better sales teams and we recently interviewed Christine Allers, VP Sales Learning and Enablement at Fin Tech Industry, and she shared some powerful insights into what it takes to manage and build strong sales teams. Her ideas centered around:
- Promote the right people into sales management
- It takes openness to learning to grow as a salesperson and achieve success
- Good sales management is about leading and teaching
- Coaching and advising salespeople
Early in the interview, Christine brought up a point that is critically important and often overlooked when selecting the right people to lead the sales teams,Being really good at selling does not necessarily equal being really good at managing. -Christine Allers, VP Sales Learning and Enablement at Fin Tech Industry Click To Tweet
What we have found, in working with companies all over the world, is that too often, salespeople are promoted into sales management more as a reward for their superior selling results than because they are the best person for the job as Christine points out,
“Most companies promote successful salespeople to sales management positions. The skill set for a sales manager is different than for a salesperson. Then we throw coaching at them. We teach them how to coach, but since it’s never been part of their job description and it’s not something that they necessarily want or know how to do, they can’t really appreciate the importance of it. So training will fail if; one, the person does not acknowledge that it’s part of what they’re supposed to be doing, two, they want to and are incented to do it, and three they like to do it and have some ability to do it.”
The best people to manage sales teams are interested in team success and get a lot of joy and satisfaction out of serving others to get them to the next level. Many top performing salespeople are simply not wired that way and it can hold an organization back if they promote the wrong people.
“The worst thing that can happen is when a sales manager that is good at making sales calls and then that’s all they want to do, all day long, and they keep a book of business for themself and just wind up competing with their reps.”
Successful management is largely about giving credit away and enjoying the success of others. Managers that seek the spotlight and have a hard time celebrating the success of others have a harder time of it.
Helping salespeople sell the way top performers do
Christine pointed out that the most effective salespeople are capable of helping decision makers think differently,
“The best salespeople are planting the seed with a prospect in a way that creates a level of curiosity so the potential buyer is thinking about solutions differently and that needs to happen before you start pushing product.”
Most of us would love to see more of our salespeople sell this way but the key is, how do we help the middle performers make that shift and Christine gives some clues into how to make that happen,
“Salespeople listen to other salespeople. It’s the best way that salespeople will learn because they need to be able to make the connection to a deal or a client, otherwise, it’s esoteric and they’re not making the connection.”
As such, we suggest it is extremely important in your sales team meetings, to allow salespeople to share what they are doing that’s working and give peer-to-peer feedback. This is also a great way to observe which salespeople have a natural ability to be helpful to other members on the team.
It’s also critical for sales managers to observe their salespeople interacting with prospects and customers, as Christine points out,
“The best sales managers are certainly not taking over the call or meeting. They are doing timely coaching, which is most effective when it’s immediate, and Socratic, helping the salesperson figure things out instead of just telling them. There’s a disconnect, sometimes, between sales, learning, and practice.”
Christine asserted that honest debriefing of selling situations, especially when they didn’t go well, is a key to raising self awareness and accelerating improvement,
“There is tremendous value in reflecting and being accepting of the fact that you’re going to make mistakes and that those mistakes are really, really good opportunities to gain more self-awareness. Salespeople don’t always embrace debriefing on situations that don’t go well, which are often the best ways to really learn. Sometimes you have to feel how bad something went so you remember and do all you can do to avoid it in the future.”
Coaching and advising salespeople
One of the keys to being a strong sales manager is to deliver feedback and insights to the sales team in a natural and conversational way as Christine explains,The conversations that are most effective, from sales manager to salesperson, are those where the salesperson doesn't feel like they are being coached. -Christine Allers, VP Sales Learning and Enablement at Fin Tech Industry Click To Tweet
Sales managers often have to play the role of counselor and advisor to their sales teams. It’s critical to help each salesperson become more open to feedback,
“People who are open to feedback and have a humbleness to them do not make the same mistakes twice. They’ll still make some mistakes, but they’ll keep learning from them. Young people nowadays try so hard to be perfect; it can be exhausting, stressful and unhealthy.”
Finally, Christine offered some helpful advice to salespeople,
“If you, as a salesperson, talk too much on a sales call, but you don’t know that you talk too much, or you had a meeting that you thought was fantastic regardless of what anyone tells you and you’re always rationalizing things, you’re not going to grow, you’re not going to learn, and you’re not going to be as successful as you can. Being open to having that discussion with yourself, with a manager or with a peer on things that don’t go well will absolutely help you grow.”
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.