Recently, we had an opportunity to connect with Emily McCall, Sales Training Manager in the Global Information Services Industry, and listen to her 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. She shared a number of unique ideas focused around:
- Sales Coaching
- Sales Management
- What Sets Top Performers Apart
- Advice on Becoming a Top Performer
Early in the interview, Emily said something that really framed the rest of our conversation,
“It’s a lot of work to be a good coach because to be a good coach means to constantly hone your own skill set to learn how to coach and understanding that difference and keeping that front of mind. It’s a lot easier to pull up numbers in the CRM system and talk about them. Managers don’t realize that is managing and coaching is talking about the behaviors that drive those numbers. Managing is easier than coaching. People just don’t have the skill set to be a coach and it’s time-consuming. it requires preparation, and understanding individual differences and preparing mentally for how you’re going to communicate with each individual on your team … numbers don’t have personalities.”
At SalesGym, we have repeatedly found that front-line sales managers often don’t understand the coaching techniques necessary to make a measurable impact on the success of their teams and sales people. This is something that Emily is all too familiar as she pointed out,
“Numbers don’t have personalities. It’s very easy to just show someone numbers and say, ‘What’s going on here? Talk to me about this and because that’s an open-ended question they think that’s coaching.”
We shared with Emily some top line insights from a multi-year research project we’ve done that found at company after company, the front-line managers don’t coach their people in a way that breaks the habits that limit results to get her thoughts on how to solve this problem.. She shared a powerful insight,
“What prevents a frontline sales manager from actually coaching could be they’ve never truly been trained on how to be a good coach. They don’t understand the difference between managing and coaching and so, as a result, a lot of it becomes lip service. When they go through an hour-long ‘how to be a good coach’ or something like that, it just becomes lip service. They leave saying, ‘Yes, I’ll do this’, and then they just immediately fall back into old habits because they know how to manage, they just don’t know how to coach.”
We find that the best Sales Managers consider it a real privilege to guide their people through the learning and development process. The relationship between coach and learner is a sacred and vulnerable space that requires a varied approach depending on the learner’s predispositions. Emily put it this way,
“The whole thing about varying coaching styles based on personality is to get the same result, you have to treat everybody differently to get the same outcome you want. You have to talk to someone who’s an introvert differently than someone who’s an extrovert. You have to treat everyone differently to achieve the same outcome for all those people.”
Emily summed up the impact of effective coaching in a very poignant way when she said,
“The numbers will fall into place if you coach your people to do things well, which ultimately leads to an actual behavior transformation. The numbers will follow.”
While many have held the mantle of Sales Manager, few have truly mastered the dichotomy of Sales Coach and Sales Manager required by the role. Emily characterized the relationship between those two sides of the Sales Leader coin this way,
“Your lagging indicator is your managing, and then your leading indicators are those hard to quantify behaviors that drive that lagging indicator. Coaching helps achieve the leading indicators. Managing ensures the lagging indicators are achieved”
Salespeople tend to be metrics focused and numbers driven. Salespeople like facts, figures, and statistics that quantify their performance in a way that is as black and white as it is brutal. This may explain why so many incredible salespeople get promoted and become mediocre Sales Managers who reduce their people to “their numbers” and talk about improvement, coaching and development only in terms of whichever “key performance indicator” demands attention that week.
Emily offered these words to Sales Managers who desire to do more than focus on the numbers,
“Spend time with your people. Listen to them more than you’re talking to them. Don’t focus only on deals, make sure that you focus on their skills to identify the strengths of your team and leverage people with certain strengths to help develop others who can build that strength.”
She went on to say,
“A great Sales Manager is constantly coaching, developing and teaching. They are not micromanaging, they are helping their people.”
What Sets Top Performers Apart
At SalesGym we are constantly researching the art and science of top performing salespeople and Emily offered some sage observations concerning what makes top performers different. One thing that stood out to Emily is their ability to effortlessly weave in the voice of the customer in the sales presentation. Emily explained,
“Sharing anecdotal information with a customer or prospect is so much more powerful, even more so than sharing statistics. So saying, ‘Here is what is going on in the marketplace and what your peers are experiencing’ is going to have a lot more impact than focusing on statistics and features.”
Emily really hit the nail on the head. Speaking to customers from a third party perspective and sharing anecdotes regarding what their peers have told you they’re experiencing lowers the customer’s resistance to our sales message and also increases their receptivity. This is something that SalesGym’s research has revealed nearly all top performers do and this is a key component to what makes their sales presentation more effective and engaging.
The next area that nearly all top performing sales people excel in is the ability to communicate competitive advantages and differentiating factors to potential clients in a way that is both memorable and meaningful as Emily explained:
“[Most] sales reps could probably give an elevator speech, a high-level 30,000 foot explanation, of why we’re better but it would be the same explanation that you see on the website. Very few can communicate what differentiates them from their competitors.”
“It’s so difficult to convey competitive advantages in a very compelling way because what’s compelling to one customer isn’t compelling to another. So every customer is different, everybody is going to require a different competitive advantage and you have to really listen first before you can tailor that competitive advantage so it has more impact in that specific situation.”
So, just as we need to vary our approach as coaches to adapt to the needs of each team member, we need to vary our communication approach to each customer to have maximum impact on what matters most to them.
Emily’s Advice for Becoming a Top Performer
As our interview drew to a close, Emily offered the following three indispensable pieces of advice to those who are determined to become a top performing salesperson:
“Our top performers are continuously looking for ways to streamline the administrative process as best they can and spending as much time as they can with their customers on the phone or in person and they are looking for ways to get that administrative stuff away from their workflow.”
“Sales is not an innate skill. Being a great salesperson takes time and work and constant refining and understanding of products and clients. The best thing that you can do as a salesperson is to understand your customer and understand your product and then learn how those two can meet in the middle.”
“Find out what the best salesperson in your company does to be successful and emulate them and know how to work hard and work smart. Our best sales people work smart and look for ways to streamline workflows so that you can maximize your time with your customers. When you can maximize time with your customers, you can spend that time with them becoming a trusted advisor to them.”
Thanks to Emily 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.