Sales Coaching

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By Steve Schmidt, Partner

“If you want to interact effectively with me, to influence me, you first need to understand me.” – Steven Covey

A powerful statement. Simple and eloquent, profound and meaningful.

Taken a step further, we might add that you also need to understand yourself. After all, you can’t really communicate effectively with someone else without first recognizing how you prefer to communicate—and how you may be perceived by that person as a result.

But once you have the foundation, the bigger leap—one that only a few truly master—is to understand and adapt to the person you’re communicating with. That’s where your biggest opportunity lies.

As most of us are keenly (and perhaps, at times, painfully) aware in our relationships outside of work, people view the world through different lenses. This, in turn, affects how they communicate and like to be communicated with. We do our best to work through the communication challenges because, as much as technology has infiltrated everything our daily lives, we still strive for those personal connections.

The same applies in the workplace. New technologies and fads come and go, but being able to understand what your customers value most and then being able to effectively communicate with them from that vantage point is often what differentiates you and your organization from your competition. It’s also what forms the basis of strong, sustainable customer relationships.

A Corporate Executive Board study found that 53% of customer loyalty is driven by the sales experience. This supports the notion that perceptions are reality. So an important question for you to think about is this: How are you perceived by those you’re communicating with? Your ability to connect with people certainly weighs on that perception.

And the next question is, are you doing everything you can to build deeper, trust-based relationships?

The Behavior Styles Connection

You probably have some familiarity with the concept of Behavior Styles. It’s literally been around forever. Even Socrates grasped the value of understanding different behavioral approaches as he helped shape Western philosophy and evolved his Socratic method. The Behavior Styles Assessment, which reveals your personal Behavior Style and helps you understand the Behavior Styles of colleagues and customers, gives you a way to create personal chemistry and build rapport with diverse people—fundamental skills in sales, management, personal relationships and everyday life.

Let’s take a closer look at how Behavior Styles can help you strengthen customer relationships and improve your sales effectiveness.

In his classic book The Loyalty Effect, Frederick F. Reichheld says that the best way to move from transactional, rational dialogue to a more meaningful exchange is to focus on creating an emotional bond. When you communicate in such a way that your clients and co-workers feel valued, the outcomes of your conversations will yield better returns.

Easier said than done? Well, with the right level of awareness and commitment, anyone can master the ability to sell, serve and coach others by understanding and adapting to different Behavior Styles. The information you learn about their Behavior Styles can help you shortcut the process of connecting with them in a more personal and meaningful way.

A rule of thumb is to follow the three A’s:

  • Awareness of your personal communication preferences and how you may be perceived by others
  • Alignment of your communication strategy to another’s, once you determine their primary Behavior Style
  • Action, including successfully adapting on the fly as you communicate with others

The Compound Effect of Loyalty

Why should you bother? Ultimately, your ability to communicate effectively with clients and prospects—to move from transactional to emotional conversations—is what can move them from neutral to satisfied to loyal. And once you reach a true “partner” status, that loyalty will compound itself. Your loyal, fully engaged clients are not only willing to spend significantly more wallet share, they’re also the ones who will go to bat for you, becoming your best sources of referrals and new business.

No matter how much technology evolves, sales is a business of relationships. Having meaningful conversations that engage people in a way that they value is always going to be one of your most powerful selling tools. And that means you have to understand their Behavior Style so that you can focus in on what they care about most.

How many of your customers are fully engaged? How might more effective, engaging communication (as defined by the customer) help you achieve both your goals and theirs?

If you’re a leader seeking that competitive advantage, ask yourself this: What am I doing to equip my team to maximize every interaction?


Re-blogged from Integrity Solutions

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By Bruce Wedderburn

As a sales leader, you’re there to make a difference—a difference in team performance. You’ve looked at the range of experience on your team and seen multiple opportunities for growth, so you immediately implemented the latest sales and marketing thinking to pave the way for double-digit gains over the next 12 to 24 months. It’s the kind of vision and take-charge leadership that has impressed organizational leadership.

The only problem is, the expected sales gains from your initiatives have been slow to materialize. As the months have progressed, others in the organization have begun expressing doubts about your strategy. Worse still, you’re beginning to have your own doubts.

This isn’t unusual. As organizations look for organic growth in increasingly competitive markets, leaders are searching for the latest technology, the next app, that one competitive strategy that will elevate them above their peers. But despite all of the new advances and approaches, the reality remains: Your salespeople still have to have conversations with customers.

Another sobering reality? More than any other factor, the quantity and quality of those conversations will determine whether or not your organization reaches its sales goals this year.

We recently conducted a research study in partnership with the Sales Management Association, and the findings were illuminating. We learned that there’s not one but three critical conversations every salesperson must focus on for the organization to consistently realize its growth goals. Improving any one of these will increase your team’s productivity. Improve all three and you’re on your way to a breakout year.

Here’s what those conversations are:

  1. The conversation that salespeople have with their customers. Customers have more access to more information than ever before, and that’s driving increased commoditization in your industry. As a result, your customers’ perception of “value” has shifted from what you’re selling to how you’re selling. In other words, your salespeople’s interactions are where the real value is today—the value that will differentiate you from the competition. It’s in these critical conversations that salespeople can move the discussion away from price and begin building the elusive “Trusted Advisor” status in the customer’s mind. Succeeding with this conversation is mostly about your salespeople’s skillset.
  1. The conversation that salespeople have with themselves. These are the conversations that all of us have dozens, if not hundreds, of times each day. We each have a set of inner beliefs about who we are and the level of success we deserve to enjoy. Countless external influences over the course of our lives—parents, friends, relatives, teachers, co-workers, clients, spouses, good experiences, negative ones, highs, lows—have contributed to these beliefs and shaped who we are, our level of confidence and what we say to ourselves about ourselves. For salespeople, this inner talk affects what level of buyer they will call on, how many customer meetings they will have, how they feel about prospecting, how they respond to being coached, their vision for their career, how they handle rejection, how they handle success, whether or not they will improve, and the hundreds of experiences that make up a sales or management career. This all affects a person’s attitude and confidence. Succeeding with this conversation is mostly about the salesperson’s mindset.
  1. The conversation that salespeople have with their coach. Coaching is a key determining factor for growth and one of the great buzzwords of our times. However, when and if sales coaching actually happens, it’s nearly always focused on how to improve the first conversation—a salesperson’s ability to interact effectively with the customer. It rarely addresses the other critical conversation, the one that both salespeople and managers are having all the time—with themselves.

What the Pros Know About Success

Professional athletes know that the three S’s— stamina, strength and stretching—are essential for success, and so they constantly work at training and developing all three. Most recreational athletes, on the other hand, work at improving only one or occasionally two of these critical fitness qualities.

In the same way, all three success conversations can and should be constantly developed. Your salespeople’s skillset and mindset can both be improved through training and coaching. And when their skillset and mindset are working together, supported by effective coaching of both, your sales organization will be on the way to new levels of success and satisfaction.

Too many organizations look to external factors such as new technologies and the latest fads for the answers to growth. That’s like a professional tennis player who looks to the latest advances in racquet string technology, cloud-based ball tracking systems and energy-rebounding shoe design while overlooking the importance of improving foot-speed, confidence and fitness.

Without mastering what’s most important, the rest doesn’t matter.

What conversations are your salespeople having?


Re-blogged from Integrity Solutions


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There isn’t a sales person alive today who doesn’t know that they shouldn’t be selling product, but instead should be selling to help meet the needs of their customers.  The problem is that, despite this, customers are still reporting a very low level of value from time spent with sales people. Why the disconnect?

As customers, we’ve all been on the receiving end of one or more of the common selling strategies. Here are a few you’ve probably seen:

  • A product focus is when salespeople spend most of their time showing and talking about their product or service, its features, advantages and benefits. Objective: Help people understand their product or service so that they’ll want to buy it.
  • A transaction focus is used by salespeople whose main goal is to “get people to the yes”-in other words, to agree to buy whatever they’re selling. Objective: Make the sale, whatever it takes.
  • A customer-needs focus is when salespeople go through a discovery process to determine if customers have needs, wants, problems or objectives they want filled, satisfied or solved. Objective: Establish a need before initiating any selling activity.

Thinking back to your experiences as a customer, how did you feel in these different scenarios? Were you bored? On the defensive? Did you learn something about your needs or discover a pressing challenge that you hadn’t even realized existed before? Or did you just want to get off the phone or run for the nearest exit as fast as you could?

With both product- and transaction-focused selling approaches, the salesperson is essentially trying to convince you that this product or this “deal” is so great that you simply must have it. Their success comes down to how effective they are at persuading you to believe their position.

In fact, many salespeople will say they take a customer-needs-focused approach, but their actions say otherwise. You can tell because they’re still falling back on this idea that they need to sway you or influence you to do something (the implication being that it’s something you don’t really want to do). No wonder customers often feel like they need to push back in these situations. It’s basically a battle of wills, one that’s being fought on a simmering ground of doubt and distrust.

With a true customer-needs approach, on the other hand, the salesperson is focused on helping you get a clearer picture of your own situation so that, together, you can identify what the requirements are and how they can best be satisfied. Their success comes down to how effective they are at bringing your true needs to the surface and the overall value they deliver in filling those needs.

Instead of trying to convince you to buy something, these salespeople spend most of their time finding out if you have needs that they can address. No solutions are even offered until your wants or needs have been admitted.

Here’s the kicker: Our research shows that when people sell this way, they can experience a 15 to 30 percent increase in their sales.

To understand why, we have to look at what we know about the art of persuasion: The more we attempt to persuade people, the more they tend to resist us. But the more we attempt to understand them and create value for them, the more they tend to persuade themselves.

What is your focus?

If you’re in sales, one easy way to identify your own central sales focus is to think about how you spend your time when talking to customers.

Do you spend most of your time in the first half of your contact talking about your product or service? Or do you spend most of your time asking questions that focus on the customer’s needs?

In the interview stage of an effective customer-needs-focused selling process, you should be spending at least 80% of the time listening. And when you do talk, it should be mostly in the form of questions and paraphrasing back to customers what they tell you to make sure you understand them. You explore, ask questions and get feedback, and you make no attempt to sell anything until the customer:

  1. admits needs, wants, problems or objectives they want filled, satisfied or solved.
  2. agrees that not only do they have needs but that they are open to solutions.
  3. agrees to talk to you about a solution.
  4. confirms that they can make purchase decisions.

Generally, if they don’t agree to all four of these steps, you probably don’t have a good prospect. Or they aren’t the real decision makers. Or they don’t have a compelling reason to take action. Or they aren’t favorably disposed to buying from you.

Take a closer look at your own approach to make sure you’re truly focused on creating value for your customers rather than wearing them down to buy from you. One of the most important questions you can start with is this:

In your typical selling situations, who does most of the talking?

If it’s you, chances are, your focus is more product-oriented or transactional, and it’s likely keeping you from reaching your full sales potential.

Re-blogged from Integrity Solutions.

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You hire two people with the same qualifications and skills. One succeeds; the other fails miserably.


Part one of Optimizing Performance for Strong Results, a two-part podcast interview with Integrity Solutions’ Mike Esterday, takes an in-depth look at this phenomenon and explores specific strategies you can take to unleash a stronger drive to achieve within your entire workforce.

As Mike explains, rapid change-in politics, government and businesses across every industry-along with increased competition, pricing pressures and product parity have raised the stakes on performance. At the same time, many managers are struggling with how to coach, recruit and work with the growing population of Millennials in the workforce. As a whole, this group has a stronger desire to find purpose in their work, and if they don’t find it, they’re willing to leave. And that means retention has become a pressing concern as well.

The good news is, the issues are connected: If we can light that fire within our people, they’ll not only be more likely to succeed, they’ll be more likely to stay.

Why So Many Training Strategies Miss the Mark

How many people have plateaued in your organization? How many do you believe can move off that plateau and perform at a higher level?

In the podcast, Mike shares that when he asks that second question, the answer he typically gets is about half. But what many managers don’t realize is that lack of belief in their people has a direct and negative impact. People pick up on it, and so they perform to the level that they think their managers expect of them.

“All growth, whether personal or corporate, begins with expanding mental paradigms,” Mike says.

Most people perform at the level they believe they should be performing at, he explains. In other words, our actions, behaviors and even our abilities are bounded by our comfort zones. To improve performance then, training and coaching need to focus on stretching that “area of the possible.”

But most don’t, at least not effectively. Mike explains the simple reason why:

“That soft stuff is hard! It’s a lot easier to teach people product specs, selling techniques, managing numbers and activities. It’s tougher to get at attitudes, beliefs and achievement drive.”

But those factors are the “turbo chargers” for most people’s success.

The other key? A learning process that gets people to learn and practice skills long enough that they become part of their natural behavior.

The Importance of Purpose

Purpose is also a major factor in growing performance, Mike says. Organizations that focus on purpose tend to light that internal fire more. In the podcast, he explores three components to this focus:

  • Purpose of the organization: Communicating clearly why we’re in business
  • Purpose of the job or team: Lighting the “personal why” by clarifying the purpose of the individual’s or team’s role and how it links to the organization’s purpose
  • How that purpose creates value for the customer: Understanding the impact on the customer

This last point is critical. Customers can tell what our intentions are when we interact with them. Are your employees thinking, “How can I get this transaction done?” or “How can I fulfill their needs?”

When people shift their view from believing the purpose of their job is to sell products to believing the purpose of their job is to improve lives, they’ll release more achievement drive, and that will increase the activities they need to do to succeed.

And that, Mike says, is how you create meaningful work.


Re-blogged from Integrity Solutions.

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“Baseball is 90% mental. The other half is physical.” -Yogi Berra

I love that quote. It fits so well into the world of sales, where salespeople are regularly expected to give more than 100%. And while it’s certainly true that half of sales success can be attributed to skills, it’s also true that there is a strong mental component to being “at the top of your game.” In both professions, coaches have to focus on more than just the player’s tactical skills. They need to focus on the whole person: body and mind.

What good coaching looks like?

At CSO insights, we define coaching as “a process which uses structured conversations to help salespeople develop their performance in the short and long term.” I like that definition for several reasons:

  • It focuses on the dialogue that needs to happen between salesperson and manager. Coaching is not about performing the role for the salesperson—a trap many first-time sales managers fall into. Coaching is not about telling what to do. Instead, it’s about asking the right questions to help the salesperson develop adaptive selling skills that allow them to reach ever-higher levels of performance and self-sufficiency in a dynamic selling environment.
  • These conversations are structured, following a proven approach for improving performance in sales and service roles, tailored along the entire customer’s journey. They are not drive-by criticisms that leave the struggling person more demoralized than motivated. Nor are they “atta-boy” comments about good performance that do nothing to turn around problem areas.
  • The focus is on both the short- and long-term performance goals. Coaching that focuses only on the short term will never create sustainable performance improvements.

Our work also emphasizes the need for front-line managers to focus both on managing the activities and coaching the related behaviors that lead to results and can be managed directly. That last component is vitally important. Many new managers make the mistake of focusing on end results, e.g., quota attainment, but not enough on how to get there. In their defense, it’s often not their fault. This is the way they were managed, and they are just modeling the non-coaching behavior of their previous bosses.

The problem is that you can’t really “manage” a quota or revenue. You can only manage the activities and the related behaviors—pre-call prep, adherence to proven sales methodologies, tailoring the value messages, collaborative selling techniques, etc.—that lead to this desired outcome.

The conference on the mound

Baseball isn’t nearly as popular in Europe as it is in the U.S., but given how much traveling I do in America, I’ve watched a game or two. I can’t say that I’ve grasped all the nuances yet, but one aspect of the game fascinates me: the conference on the mound. To me, this is coaching put to the test.

This conference seems to happen most often when a pitcher is struggling. The coach, followed by the catcher, trots out to the mound for a short, private confab with the pitcher. I’m not sure what gets said, but I doubt the coach is instructing the pitcher on the finer points of throwing a curve ball. The time for that has passed. Nor do I think the coach is threatening the pitcher: Strike this guy out or you’re finished! That would hardly be helpful in an already stressful setting.

More than likely, the coach is sharing some perspective on the game that the pitcher doesn’t see because he’s under so much mental stress. It also seems likely that he’s offering a few words of encouragement, maybe even asking the pitcher how he’s feeling, e.g., How’s your shoulder holding out? He wants to make sure the pitcher still feels confident in his ability to perform. It’s the ultimate moment of truth for coaching because there isn’t much time for the discussion, and everyone, including the coach, is under pressure.

Sound familiar?

A typical sales or service coaching session is no less pressure-filled for all involved. And the same strategies that work so well on the mound apply here, too. That’s why Integrity Solutions’ laser-like focus on the mental side of the frontline manager’s coaching responsibilities is so important—and so effective. Their % drivers of high achievment sets a pitch-perfect tone for a productive coaching session by encouraging the coach to create a supportive environment focused on how the person can succeed rather than dwelling on what’s going wrong. Not only does this approach help the person improve their performance, it helps keep their attitude positive and their head in the game.

No matter who the players are, that’s a winning formula.

Tamara-Blue-5-213x220Guest blog contribution
By Tamara Schenk
Research Director, CSO Insights

Reblogged from Integrity Solutions.

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“No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are, you’re going to win one-third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference.”
-Tommy Lasorda

Even world-class salespeople don’t win every deal. In fact, the best of the best are willing to walk away from deals that aren’t win/win-the solution doesn’t address the challenge, for example, or the buyer is demanding price concessions but offering nothing in return. They understand that their time is better spent focusing on the remaining one-third that are both winnable and winning.

In sales, just as in baseball, coaches make all the difference. In my last post, I talked about how coaches need to have the skills and mentality to coach the whole salesperson: body and mind. It may sound like a relatively easy thing to do, but as anyone who has ever been a front-line manager in a dynamic sales or service environment and/or a highly competitive market knows, it’s not. However, one thing I can tell you that we’ve learned from both anecdotal evidence and our research: This kind of sales coaching works!

Let’s take a closer look at what it all means for your sales coaching and leadership development strategies—particularly if improving win rates and quota attainment are important goals for you in 2017.

4 Levels of Coaching

Before we get into the results from our research, it’s important to have a common understanding of the different levels of coaching. To set the stage, I’ll use sports as an example again, but this time, I will focus on the sport’s youngest players and how they are coached and developed.

In youth sports, every team has a coach, but what that coach does varies widely between teams—even teams in the same city and at the same age level. Some coaches operate as though their role is nothing more than an overseer, there to make sure the kids play nice and don’t get hurt. Others make a sincere attempt at teaching the kids to play the sport, but since they don’t have real-life experience playing the game themselves, their efforts are relatively ineffectual. A few lucky teams have coaches who know both how to coach children and how to play the sport.

Almost every sales team has coaches as well: typically, the frontline sales managers. Like the youth coaches, their experience and skillset varies widely. So, too, does the level of guidance they get from sales leadership. We’ve formalized this into a coaching model that covers four levels:

Ad-hoc coaching: At this level, the approach to coaching, including whether it happens or not, is up to the individual managers. Left to their own skills and devices, the quality of coaching at this level varies widely. If the managers were never coached well themselves, their efforts will reflect that. It’s at this level that we most often see managers trying to “coach” results—“How will you make quota this month?”, instead of coaching the behaviors and activities that lead to results.

Informal coaching: At this level, the organization recognizes that coaching is vital to success, but it is probably still struggling with what works. There is no formal coaching process defined. Tools to support coaching efforts are few and far between, and there are no established best practices.

Formal coaching: A formal coaching process exists at this level, ideally derived from the customer’s journey. The frontline managers have been trained and educated, and they are required to use the coaching approach to improve performance. Enablement produces coaching guidelines and tools and provides related training sessions to develop the managers and to support their efforts. Best practices are documented and formalized.

Dynamic coaching: The ultimate goal, dynamic coaching, only happens when the formal coaching approach is also tightly aligned with the enablement approach, ensuring that coaching reinforces the enablement investments. At this level, there are principles and best practices, and frontline managers have developed a coaching fluency that allows them to adapt their approach to a dynamic selling and buying environment. Ideally, frontline managers are measured and compensated in part based on how they coach and their commitment to consistent and effective coaching practices.

 Sales Coaching: The Results Are In

With an understanding of the four levels of coaching, let’s look at what our research tells us. Our 2016 sales enablment organisational study uncovered a clear improvement in both win rate and quota attainment as organizations moved from ad-hoc coaching to dynamic coaching. Win rate jumps to an astounding 17.4%.

Amazingly, the study also found that 72% of sales organizations have only an ad-hoc or informal coaching approach. Another 21.7% said they have a formal approach, but only 5.3% said it is aligned with their sales enablement programs.

For organizations looking to create a sustainable competitive advantage, a formal coaching program may be just the ticket.

Tamara-Blue-5-213x220Guest blog contribution

By Tamara Schenk

Research Director, CSO Insights


Reblogged from Integrity Solutions.

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Most of us recognize the need for managers, but if we’re honest, we don’t really like being managed.

This is especially true if being managed is really code for being micro-managed, or criticized, or fixed. I don’t want to be scolded, condescended to or threatened. Yet those behaviors might sound familiar to you because this is still how many organizations approach managing their people.

How about performance reviews? Anybody love those? Well, maybe the high achiever, the boss’s ace who knows he or she will get nothing but praise. But for most of us, the performance review feels like the manager just arrived at the scene of a car wreck that was our fault.

Is this exaggerated? Am I just creating a “straw man”—or is there a nugget of truth about how managers work in your organization? There is little doubt that many companies today struggle to form that healthy relationship between manager and team member. What a tenuous connection this can be.


Perhaps it is time to move from managing to coaching.

Managing vs. Coaching

Of course, many people might still balk at the idea of being “coached,” especially if it’s like my high school coach who thought that the best way to correct mistakes was to yell at me and make me run laps. That sounds a lot like the managing described above.

So, what’s the difference between managing and coaching? Are they the same thing? Aren’t coaches really managers who like sports analogies? No. Not even close.

Managing is administrative (schedules, appointments, accounts). Managing is operational. Managing is transactional. Managing is governance. This is why few people want to be managed. But do they want to be coached? Do they want to be led? I think they do.

Think about the Olympic athletes who rely on their coaches to help them push through both internal and external barriers to not just achieveathlete-flames world-class performance but also to make real on their promise, to deliver their personal best. Coaching is personal. It’s relational.

Coaching is leading. It’s inspiring. Coaching looks forward and backward. It’s not only reviewing the tape; it’s installing the game plan. It’s practicing the game plan, and it’s “repping.” Coaching is intentional.

Here’s what coaching also is. It’s believing in people, perhaps even more than they believe in themselves. It’s seeing their potential, building them up, encouraging, empowering, equipping, and caring. It’s helping people unleash the potential and the achievement drive within them. It is guiding them to discover for themselves just how good they can be.

If this is coaching….who wouldn’t want to be coached?

Try turning a manager into a coach this way and see what happens. Once your team member understands how coaching can improve his or her career and life, the entire manager-team member relationship will be changed forever and for the better.

By the same token, if this is coaching, who wouldn’t want to be the coach? Who doesn’t want to enrich the lives of others? If I, as a manager, can truly empower someone to reach a level of performance even they did not think was possible—to put my fingerprints on their success and leave a legacy in their life—what a great privilege! What a joy!

What a difference managers who coach can make…


By Jim Ryan
Business Associate


Re- Blogged From:- Integrity Solutions


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Should you take the risk and promote your top-performing salesperson to manager?

The stakes are high. You’re not only going to lose a great player on the field, you’re also making a bet that their outstanding current performance will translate into this new role.

The debate over whether the best salespeople will make great sales managers has been going on for decades. While in many professions, there’s often a logical career progression up the ranks to management, it’s not necessarily so clear-cut in the world of sales.

One of the reasons is that many of the factors that make a salesperson a top performer are quite different from what it takes to be an effective sales manager. A few of those characteristics might even hamper their success as a manager.

But maybe a more productive starting point for the conversation is to consider what makes a great sales manager in the first place. Is it micro-managing, picking up the slack, criticizing poor performance or stepping in to “fix” what’s wrong?

Not hardly.

And while there are certainly operational aspects to sales management—staffing, reporting, planning, budgeting and other activities—the ultimate goal for every sales manager is to make sure their salespeople are able to reach their full potential so that they can not only hit their numbers and build a strong, loyal customer base but also be more fulfilled in their work and committed to the business.

In fact, you could say that the great sales managers are those who move people from where they are today to where they want to be.

Fittingly, that’s also one of the historical definitions of the word “coach.”

Why Companies Struggle to Develop Great Coaches

In a recent Sales Management Association research report on Hiring Top Sales Management Talent, coaching ability ranked among the top five competencies companies consider when evaluating a salesperson’s qualifications for a management promotion. Considering how integral coaching is to the role, this isn’t surprising. But what’s worrying is the fact that firms in the study rated their effectiveness at developing managers’ coaching ability at only 50 on a 100-point scale.

Where are they going off track? Well, they could be overlooking one the most important factors in coaching success.

No, it’s no some magical skill or technique. While there are some skills every sales manager needs to develop to be a successful coach, coaching ability is more than a skills issue. Values, a genuine belief in people and a desire to help them grow are often far more influential when it comes to a manager’s coaching effectiveness.

Here’s why: When employees fail to achieve desired results, managers often assume they’ve peaked in their performance and stop challenging them to improve. Once employees discover the level of performance managers will accept, they settle in. We call this “The Law of Limited Performance.” This limiting loop of beliefs is a self-fulfilling prophecy on both sides of the equation, and it inevitably results in lower productivity and untapped potential.

So while many companies may offer their managers training on how to coach their salespeople, if they miss this key factor, their efforts will invariably come up short.

Putting Values and Beliefs in Focus

Being able to run the operation is very different from having the awareness or the critical coaching capabilities to inspire team members to grow, improve and deliver what is possible.

The question is, how do you develop this core coaching success factor? How can you improve the odds that your great salespeople—or even your great sales managers—can be fully successful in the role?

Any training that you implement should be grounded in helping managers understand and learn how to break The Law of Limited Performance, starting with their own beliefs about their role.

Self-reflection is the first step in making the shift. Here are five questions that will help them gauge their own readiness and begin to understand the mindset, values and beliefs necessary to be an effective coach:

  • Do I believe the coaching is developing potential in people?
  • Do I believe I have the ability to be highly successful as I coach?
  • Do I live by and model values of integrity, honesty and sincerity?
  • Am I willing to do all the activities required to be a successful coach?
  • Do I have an unwavering belief in the potential of my people?

Coaching is as much about the manager’s own development as it is about developing the performance of their people. The good news is, developing those hi-potential players and managers into great coaches is more than worth it. A Bersin by Deloitte study found that the organizations that effectively prepare managers to coach are 130% more likely to realize stronger business results.

Here’s the even better news: It’s not just business; it’s personal. If you’ve ever had someone in your life who helped you recognize your potential and see greater possibilities, then you know the powerful difference a great coach can make.




By Mike Fisher

This blog was originally published through our partners at The Sales Management Association.

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Sales Training

What’s easier? Getting a customer or keeping one?

What’s cheaper? Getting a customer or keeping one?

Whenever we ask a sales leader these questions, the answer is always the same: No doubt about it, it’s easier and cheaper to keep an existing customer than to go out and get a new one.Opposites

Yet many companies still spend a disproportionate amount of money and time on sales training compared to their investments in the development of customer service skills. As the environment gets more competitive and the war for sales talent heats up, this is a trend that could have very serious business consequences.

The Cascading Impact of Poor Customer Service

Here’s a scenario that will be acutely familiar to many salespeople, particularly those who are dealing with complex, long-term sales cycles.

The salesperson spends several months—or even years—developing a relationship with the potential client, who we’ll call Jim. Over time the salesperson builds up a reputation as a partner and trusted advisor, one who is committed to uncovering Jim’s needs and supporting his individual and broader goals. Eventually, the deal comes together and Jim makes the purchase.

But then one day, a problem, question or need comes up that requires the help of customer service. As a prospective client, Jim had the time and attention of the salesperson who was focused on understanding his issues and finding the best solutions for them. Now, as a customer, Jim feels like he’s being rushed through the call by a customer service rep whose primary goal seems to be to run through a script to get a quick resolution—whether it meets Jim’s true underlying need or not.

It’s not that the rep isn’t nice or friendly necessarily, but the problem hasn’t been solved, at least not beyond the surface level. As a result, Jim has to keep calling back or stumble his way through the issue on his own. He grows increasingly frustrated and annoyed, thinking maybe this solution wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Or maybe that salesperson was pulling one over on him.

In an instant, the trusted advisor and partnership status is gone. And it’s only a matter of time before Jim is, too.

“It took me 18 months to get that sale,” the salesperson thinks. “And customer service lost it in less than six weeks.”

It gets worse: It’s not just that customer.

Twenty years ago, it took a relatively long time to build a bad reputation. Today, with the megaphone of social media, it can happen in seconds. And when it does, all that good will your salespeople have worked so hard to build up will be wasted, creating a deeper hole for everyone to dig out of.

Many salespeople we’ve spoken to who’ve been burned before aren’t risking it any more. They’re protecting their accounts by stepping in and handling the customer service issues themselves. That way they can be confident the person will be listened to and understood and that the problem will be fully addressed.

But if they’re focused on customer service, then that inevitably means they’re taking time away from their primary role—selling and growing the business. Not only is that borrowing against future revenues and commissions, it’s not the kind of work most top-notch salespeople want to be doing.

So consider: How much sales did that one instance of poor customer service really cost you?

4 Reasons Why Customer Service Training Doesn’t Always Help

Because of these tangible financial, talent and long-term business consequences, when we work with companies on sales training initiatives, we’ll typically ask them what their budget is for customer service training. A lot of the times the answer we hear is simple: “We don’t have one.”

But even those that do have a program in place can be missing the mark.

Here are some of the reasons customer service training fails to solve this problem:

1- It focuses on scripts rather than a problem-solving process: Without a concrete process and formula for problem solving, consistency is tough to maintain—from rep to rep as well as from call to call. While most reps love to help people, everyone has an “off” day or moment. A process keeps you focused on task and helps consistently draw out what you do best so your bad day doesn’t win out.
2- It’s primarily product focused. Product-focused training focuses on the issues that might go wrong or common questions about the product. It doesn’t help people develop the skills and insights to engage with customers based on their needs and behaviors. And because problems are often unique, it doesn’t necessarily help the rep get to the true realization of the issue.
3- Success is measured by call volume/length of calls: If reps are being measured by how quickly they can get to resolution or how many calls they take in a day, it’s not likely they’re going to be able to get to the root cause of problems and get the issue fully addressed.
4- It’s disconnected from sales training: Having a common language and approach is the expectation in sales. But it doesn’t always carry through to customer service. Considering customers may interact with various different reps when they call, a common sales language (not a script!) that extends from before the sale to after is essential to ensuring the company’s values are consistently demonstrated.
When was the last time you conducted customer service training? Was it just a “one-and-done” initiative? Are you focusing on what really matters? Make sure you’re not inadvertently sabotaging all the good work you’re doing on the sales side.

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A few weeks ago, we discussed coaching essentials and, in particular, how much time best-in-class performers spend on coaching their salespeople so that everybody wins. Let’s take another look at what coaching is and what it isn’t:

Sales coaching is a leadership skill to develop each person’s full potential. Sales managers use their domain expertise, along with social, communication, and questioning skills, to facilitate conversations with their team members that allow them to discover areas for improvement and possibilities, to break through to new levels of success. Successful coaches are also able to reinforce salespeople’s values and beliefs about selling as a way to create value for customers. As a result, it’s a practice that connects with people’s hearts as well as their minds, helping them develop confidence, see past their own self-imposed limits, and take ownership of their success.

Coaching isn’t about catching mistakes and solving people’s problems. Nor is it reviewing opportunities based on questions like, “What’s your forecast this week?” or, “I need you to increase your pipeline.”

The foundation for effective coaching: A coaching framework

Effective coaching doesn’t just happen. One of the key factors high performers have in place to ensure that coaching is successful and delivers increased sales performance is a coaching framework or process. As our data shows, the lack of a coaching process is still a big gap in sales organizations: 45% of respondents from our 2015 Sales Enablement Optimization Study reported that coaching is left up to the managers, 25.5% have an informal coaching process, and only 20.2% indicated they have a formal coaching process. These numbers reveal a huge opportunity for improvement, because as we’ll see, formalization pays off. Significantly.

A coaching framework consists of a formal coaching process that follows the customer’s journey mapped to your sales process. Additionally, you need various coaching services to bring coaching alive in your organization. These might include guidelines that have coaching questions for each stage along the customer’s journey covering different use cases.

Coaching services also encompass development programs for the sales managers, giving them the foundational learning they need to develop their coaching skills generally and specifically as it relates to sales. Learning best practices, such as ongoing reinforcement, application, and follow-up are also critical.

Last but not least, coaching should leverage technology. The more data a sales manager has access to, like the actions salespeople have taken, content that has been shared, and how the prospect has reacted, the more effective a coaching process can become. In an ideal world, the salesperson should have received new ideas on actions that were not successful to sharpen the deal strategy or the engagement model.

Creating an effective coaching framework starts with mapping the organization’s sales processes to the customer’s journey to see how each phase of the sales professional’s journey corresponds to the customer’s journey, and even more importantly, the required gates between each phase. For each gate on the customer’s side, there has to be an equivalent on the sales side.

Companies then need to ensure that coaching sessions reinforce and enforce that both activities from the customer and the sales side have actually occurred. For example, it is not enough to know that the salesperson has sent the prospect a needs analysis review email. They also need to ensure that the key stakeholder has emailed back confirming the sales professional’s assumptions or clarifying any misunderstandings.

To get started, your coaching framework should cover the most essential coaching areas: coaching on skills and behaviors as well as lead and opportunity coaching. Both areas have overlaps, as coaching on an opportunity may also address behavioral issues. On the other hand, whenever an organization is going through a sales transformation, for instance, from product selling to value-based selling, coaching on skills and behaviors should be the priority. Most of the time, successfully changing behaviors takes time and an excellent coaching approach to making the changes sustainable. Therefore, the combination of initial training sessions for salespeople and ongoing, specific coaching sessions on skills and behaviors should lead to initial success (low-hanging fruit)and drive sustainable change in salespeople. Gentle change is lasting change, and it needs a well-thought-through coaching approach, as described above.


Formal coaching drives win rates of forecasted deals up to 9 percent!

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As mentioned above, formalizing coaching is not meant to keep you busy. Instead, implementing a coaching framework is a necessity if coaching is to drive sales results. Our data shows a significant impact. Think about what a 9% increased win rate for your forecasted deals could mean. We are sure this is a number you cannot ignore!

Coaching matters. Coaching matters even more when it’s set up the right way. Formalize your coaching approach to driving sustainable sales results.




About the Author




Tamara Schenk, Research Director, CSO Insights

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