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 Johnny Grant – Vice President Sales – Lifetouch, he shared some solid insight into top performers and the impact coaching can have.
Johnny asserts that top performers start by putting more effort into preparation, before and after the sales call. When we asked Johnny what he sees as the most limiting bad habit salespeople get into, he told us…
One of the worst habits we see reps get into is lacking the discipline around notes and then next step planning. -Johnny Grant - Vice President Sales - Lifetouch Click To Tweet
“One of the worst habits we see reps get into is lacking the discipline around notes and then next step planning. It often seems like, ‘What was the point of that call? Are we moving ahead? What is the follow-up action item? What was agreed upon? What progress did you make?’ It seems so many reps really get stuck in not having a good plan going forward, a plan in regards to how to attack those accounts.”
Top performers take more time to prepare for sales calls
We find, when we interview and work with the top performers in leading companies, they have clearer objectives before the sales call begins. Average and poor performers tend to wing it and erroneously think their spontaneity and ability to get in synch with the decision maker is enough … and it usually isn’t. Johnny put it this way,
If salespeople don't know where they're going, in regards to a call, don't know how or what they're trying to accomplish, how are they going to get there? -Johnny Grant - Vice President Sales - Lifetouch Click To Tweet
“If salespeople don’t know where they’re going, in regards to a call, don’t know how or what they’re trying to accomplish, how are they going to get there?”
A pre-call planning routine is essential
More often than not, top salespeople get into a consistent routine to prepare for their sales calls, similar to how a pilot gets ready for his next flight. Decision makers tell us repeatedly they expect salespeople to be more prepared today than ten years ago because they tire quickly of the obvious questions that could easily be answered before the call with a little research. The phenomena of discovery fatigue is something they have mentioned to us repeatedly. Good sales coaches establish the expectation that their salespeople establish a productive pre call planning routine and inspect what they expect. Johnny adds,
“Our top people take time to plan. They know where they’re going and what they’re going to be doing. The top managers are coaching to what’s coming and they focus on the process, not what happened.”Our top people take time to plan. They know where they're going and what they're going to be doing. The top managers are coaching to what's coming and they focus on the process, not what happened. -Johnny Grant - Vice President Sales - Lifetouch Click To Tweet
Pre Call Planning Basics
- What is the stretch and fallback outcome I want at the end of this call?
- What can I research about this company and prospect that will be helpful to me and show the prospect I’m prepared?
- What questions do I need to ask so I can be more helpful with my solution?
- What are our competitive advantages and differentiating factors that are most likely to resonate with this decision maker and how can I communicate them in a concise way?
- What solutions for other customers might be helpful in terms of success stories I can share?
- What are the questions, concerns and likely biases that are in the mind of this prospect I need to be prepared to address?
- What game changing insights can I bring into this conversation to impact the decision maker’s thinking in a positive way?
- Who are all the decision influencers I need to meet and help understand our unique value proposition in a way that will be helpful to them?
- Finally, what is my agenda for this call and how will I communicate that in this call?
Better coaching leads to better planning and preparation
There’s no way around the simple, but undeniably true management fundamental … “If you want to manage it, you need to measure it.” It’s really not that hard to find out if salespeople are planning their calls, but remarkably, a lot of sales managers don’t do it.
Here’s a simple process to use a few times a day that will quickly instill the pre-call planning habit into a sales team:
- Ask a salesperson what’s the most important call they have coming up in the next few days … ask them to give you the name and company.
- Ask for the stretch and fallback objective or goal to the call
- IMPORTANT! … Ask the salesperson to give you their agenda to start the call as if talking directly to that decision maker.
- Ask what are the 3 most critical questions they have prepared for that call
- Respond with coaching and feedback at the end
Now, you can go a lot further than this, but doing this simple exercise a couple of times a day will create a real shift in the sales team. They’ll soon get it that you’re serious about pre-call planning and, more importantly, you’ll get real time input into how prepared your salespeople are for their most important calls.
Top performers practice more
In working with sales teams from leading companies for 30 years, we have found nothing that has a more profound and positive lasting impact than instilling a practice culture in the sales team. It’s the exact same principle that elite sports teams employ to win championships. It’s how a musician becomes a virtuoso and a broadway play becomes a smashing success. Practice is the x-factor and the best sales managers work actively to incorporate training and practice into every week. Interestingly, as Johnny has observed, top performers thrive on practice and feedback,
There's just a difference in regards to top performers that they're so focused on improving and they're the guys who are always learning. -Johnny Grant - Vice President Sales - Lifetouch Click To Tweet
“When we look at our top professionals, they’re professional, they’re practicing, they’re listening to something between calls, they’re really pushing their managers to make them better and excited to do ride-alongs and provide feedback to others on their teams. There’s just a difference in regards to top performers that they’re so focused on improving and they’re the guys who are always learning.”
The best place to start, when it comes to practice, is with communicating a great customer-focused agenda and developing 5-7 concise and effective differentiating factors that end with engaging, open ended questions. Doing practice on these two areas, in sales meetings, on ride alongs and in skills clinics will build the foundation to work on more areas of the sales process. Without a good agenda and differentiating factors, salespeople are going to talk more, listen less and miss the cues that lead to better results. The more group practice you do, the more influence top performers will have, as Johnny explains,
“We’ve really been pushing those top performers into the spotlight and it’s really made a difference because that’s something that can be modeled. People will start reaching out to that person who’s performing and they help and encourage the kind of overall organizational collaborative culture where you celebrate and push top performance.”
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.