Carla Moore / Vice President, POS Strategy and Education HBO
Recently, we had an opportunity to connect with Carla Moore, Vice President, POS Strategy at HBO, and have a discussion about 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:
- Selling Means Serving
- Top Performers Listen First
- Coaching Means Connecting
- Empowerment Leads To Development
- Consistency Is key
Early in the interview, Carla said something that caught our attention and set the tone for the rest of the conversation,
“Too often some salespeople assume that because their product is the best, they think they are the best. In reality, the best salespeople understand that service is sales… it is problem resolution, it is providing scenarios on how the product can fit into the customer’s lifestyle and their world. Many salespeople miss this piece in selling to their customers.”
This proactive mindset is something that we have seen while coaching top performers across various Industries. They aren’t just focused on the quality of their product, they are focused on finding and tailoring their offerings to the needs of their clients. In order to do this, salespeople have to thoroughly understand the client and their needs. They can’t provide one size fits all solutions, they have to be genuinely curious, ask great questions, and actually listen to the answers.
Top Performers Listen First
This is something that has consistently come up in the hundreds of interviews we have done with sales executives, and something that Carla has found to be true in her own experience. Being an attentive listener who can identify important information isn’t an inherent natural ability, it’s a skill that requires work and a disciplined mindset to develop and maintain. As Carla puts it:
“Top salespeople want to develop their craft, they authentically want to be good salespeople. They don’t fall into the trap of going through the motions and packing it in by relying on scripts. Top salespeople seek a deeper connection and engagement during the interaction to truly understand their customer in order to provide the right language and the right solution.”
“Top performers listen more and talk less. Savvy listeners know how to serve up the exact solution to fix a customer’s problem.”
Coaching Means Connecting
Sales Managers know the value of listening carefully and designing solutions to fit the needs of each particular client, but still have difficulty getting their teams to consistently sell, using this approach. In fact, in our most recent research study we found that it was one of the 4 bad habits Sales Managers said 70% of their people fell into. The first step in correcting the problem is being able to observe it, and this is an area where Carla really focuses on. She prefers a hands on method of identifying the needs of her salespeople:
“Observation is key… it’s going in the field with your people, watching them in action and seeing them face challenges and how they handle them. This sounds obvious, but managers don’t do it is because it takes extra work and takes them from their desks. Observation and coaching is a lot of work, time and resource investment for just one person, imagine a large sales team. But, if you want to bring people up, if you want to get people to their maximum level of contribution on the backend, leaders must put in this type of contribution on the front end.”
She drove this point home further when she discussed what she has seen from her most successful Sales Managers:
“They are coaching their sales people and are hands-on by being fully engaged in helping their reps refine and develop their craft because they are on the front lines with them and not stuck in offices. They inspire their teams and give them what they need to succeed as they work towards goal achievement.”
Her focus on the inspiration element in the second half of that statement is often the missing piece in many sales driven cultures. While it is important to identify the areas of improvement needed by the people on your sales teams, they also need to commit to the improvement goals in order to generate the internal motivation required to effectively correct those mistakes. This is something Carla addressed when she said:
“Coaching and leading is more than just hitting quotas. You have to know how to connect, engage and inspire others to bring their best ideas to work. Coaches and managers have to embody this desire for growth and development themselves in order to bring that to their front line sales teams…and that’s not always easy. It is easier to avoid it than to be in it.”
This is something we have seen countless times over the years working with sales teams across all industries. Having leadership fully engaged with the front line sales force, and setting the tone from the top will create a culture of personal development that becomes contagious. Our experience tells us that this is true, and as Carla observes:
“Understanding the culture, the people and the rhythm of the company is key to winning. You may not make it if the culture doesn’t support who you are or your brand or how you show up in the world.”
Empowerment Leads To Development
When it comes to getting the culture right, it all starts with actions of those in a leadership role. The truth is, that often times people filling those roles don’t have a deep understanding of what their vision is, or how to model ideal behavior. Carla pointed out that for many managers, the principles of leadership are unclear:
“Leadership is still a concept that a lot of people haven’t grasped. Leadership is more than just a title or showing others how good you are. It’s about showing your teams how good they are and how they can get even better.”
The perspective she has, of viewing leadership as the process of showing a team what they are capable of, and giving them a path to get there, is a critical point. A team that is guided in the right direction, understands their mission and sees great sales behavior modeled by their leaders, will feel sure of their actions and empowered to make improvements. However, the action can’t be driven in a purely top down way if you want to see development and eventual autonomy for your teams, as Carla observed:
“Leaders, at times, move immediately into problem resolution. They go to their salespeople saying, ‘here’s how you fix it, here’s the next step or the next action item for you.’ It’s more important to help salespeople identify and solve problems on their own. Bring them in for coaching and work through problems together. Then it is on the manager to observe performance to see if they have shifted behavior or determine areas where more training is needed.”
Consistency is Key
Once a sales leader has identified needs such as improving the listening skills of their team, or focusing on developing a more engaging coaching culture, the next step is implementation. What we have found in working with our clients’ sales teams, is there simply is no substitute for consistent practice. As Carla said when discussing coaching methods:
“Consistency is key, one time coaching doesn’t work. You’ve got to be there and be consistent so your team can begin to demonstrate and master the skills you want them to develop.”
She went on to further discuss her own experiences in more depth:
“I would guess 80% of all sales leaders are not coaching enough or not coaching with good demonstration. There’s not enough consistency and not enough demonstration by coaches and in order to draw out the best performance in salespeople it requires more than what is happening now. Managers may think they are coaching but true in-depth talent driven, specific and consistent positive coaching just isn’t happening.”
“Performance driven coaching isn’t 1 on 1 huddles or come into my office and let me tell you what you are doing wrong. It requires hands-on teaching and intentional engagement. And unfortunately, in my opinion, only 20% of managers are actively engaged at a high level and coaching for better performance.”
These observations are insightful, and aligned with the data points in the research we have been doing over the last several years. Coaching for ideal sales behavior takes engagement, effort, intentional thinking and consistency to properly develop. It does take time and effort, but the difference implementing those fundamentals can make is often jarring for those who haven’t done so before.
Thanks to Carla 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.
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