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Establishing the right environment for coaching is as important as the actual coaching exercise. In my early sales career, some of the best information I received from my sales managers came after hours in ad hoc conversations on how to best position an opportunity or attack the competition, which helped me establish winning behaviors and habits.

Sales Manager Responsibilities

Sales managers have many responsibilities. Although the buyer/seller engagement gets most of the attention, the second most important relationship is between the seller and his or her manager. Do the sales management behaviors you have in place put you in the back or front position in line? Are you proactively leading from the front of the line, or trying to push your team from the back?  Which position would be the most advantageous for you and your team?

In many organizations, sales managers take pride in the fact that they are “behind” their team.  They take pride in being available whenever they are needed to come in and close a deal, discuss what went wrong after a loss, and check-in on progress throughout the sales cycle. These are examples of pushing from the back of the line. However, being at the front of the line is much more beneficial to both managers and their direct reports. How do you ensure you’re leading from the front of the line? Consider these four must-dos:

1. Manage Expectations – This concept is the polar opposite of figuring out what went wrong after losing a sale. Clearly defined sales process expectations are valuable in winning a sale. Ken Blanchard, author of the “One Minute Manager” makes the following statement: “As a manager, I’ve found that people are amazingly good at meeting my expectations, but only when they understand exactly what those expectations are.” If you set clear expectations for your team at every stage of the sales cycle, they are more likely to plan ahead to achieve a more productive sales engagement, increasing the probability of a win.

2. Review and Plan – This is where accountability comes in. A verbal summary of a conversation between a sales representative and a prospect is only subjective without customer validation. Require a consistent follow up to each sales call which includes a brief written summary of the conversations and clear agreed upon “next steps.” Schedule weekly performance assessments with each member of your team to encourage skill attainment and to address skill deficits.

3.  Coach and Confirm – Once skill deficits are uncovered, use the following tips for leading a coaching session:

  • Be honest, open, respectful
  • Give feedback in private (praise in public)
  • Review expectations
  • Be specific about deficit components
  • Ask for their perspective on deficit and possible causes
  • Ask for their ideas for skill fulfillment
  • Be prepared with some suggestions
  • Determine clear next steps and follow-up

4. Reinforce – Make sure your selling behavior is something worth emulating for all of those in line behind you. Remember the child’s game of “Follow-the-Leader”?  Management behavior will reinforce habits that are good or bad. As you lead, they will follow. 

Get behind your sales team by doing an “about-face” and leading from the front of the line. Manage expectations, review and plan, coach and confirm, and then reinforce. 

 

People are most convinced by ideas they themselves originate, so getting your prospects to define their own objectives and challenges is critical to getting their buy in throughout the sales process. 

The following are three types of questions designed to get your prospects talking about their challenges. 

Open Questions.  Your prospect has discussed his primary business objective – now how do you get him talking about why he’s not able to accomplish that objective. These questions are designed to do just that. They uncover the tip of the iceberg, and are the first step in the discovery process. 

  • “What are the main concerns you’re having with respect to…..? 
  •  “Usually people come to us for help in one or more of the following areas (list 2-3 problems you solve for people); are any of these issues for you?” 
  • “Tell me more…” or “Tell me why…” 

When you ask questions like this, look for the prospect to make statements like: 

  • “My sales are not where I want them to be.” 
  • “We’re spending too much on….. 
  • “We’re not happy with….. 

 

Cause Questions.  Now that you have the problem defined, the next step is to look for what’s causing the disparity.  Typically, there are several causes.  Pay close attention as these are the issues you will ultimately try to resolve. This information leads you to your presentation. 

  • “What are the reasons this is going on?” 
  • “Why do you suppose this is happening?” 
  • “Do you know what’s causing these problems?” 

It’s vital for you to understand – even better than the prospect – what’s causing their challenges.  You’ll hear things like: 

  • “Our current supplier is having quality and delivery problems.” 
  • We don’t have the right software and our people need training.” 

 

Keep Them Talking. Learn to direct the conversation and keep your prospects talking.  When they are talking, they are giving you valuable information. When you’re monopolizing the conversation, you’re losing an opportunity to discover what will motivate them to take action.  Add these types of questions to your repertoire and you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the issues. 

  • “Tell me more about that.” 
  • “What else is there?” 
  • ”Is there anything else?” 
  • “Could you be a little more specific?” 

With these three types of questions, your sales reps should be able to encourage prospects to fully define their key challenges, which is a critical first step in the qualifying process. 

           

From the location of his first sales training meeting in 1987, and the Olympics in ’96 to today, John is in Atlanta, Georgia.

Altitude helps in physical, spiritual and mental ways. Take a look and a listen. Watch video above.

An excerpt from San Diego Voyager Magazine.

 

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Flannery Sales Systems, LCC – What should we know?

At a cocktail party or BBQ I say we do Sales Training. What we really do is help our customers to refine and implement a repeatable process to drive revenue. If I say the latter at a social event, people walk away (joking). But if I am speaking with a Commercial Leader of a mid to large size organization, they get it.

Because the work we do is fundamental to the tactical execution of the GoTo Market strategy. And companies spend millions on getting their strategy right. We help our customers to improve the quality of the Sales opportunities they develop, and to increase the overall revenue in their pipeline. All Sales organizations are focused on this, and we enable it with a skills-based program that is custom built for our customers based on the markets they compete in and how organizations BUY, not how they should be selling.

Sales effectiveness is about understanding buying, not refining your sales pitch. The source of pride for us is twofold. First, we have helped the individuals in our customers’ organizations to improve their success. This is important monetarily, but even more so when you hear the effect it has on their families – that makes my heart sing.

And second, there are seven customers who have come back to buy from us again: four have bought from us twice, and three have done so 3 times. It may not be seen like a lot, but we only have 3-4 customers at a time and have worked with 56 overall, so the repeat business says we are doing something right.

What sets us apart is our team. I know that may seem trite or overused, but people buy from people, and we have super individuals at FSS who make the difference.

This guest article was written by Chris Bullick. Chris is a Principal Consultant who is the Creator of the Sales Diagnostic Questionnaire (“SDQ”), he provides analysis and strategy for go to market strategies, corporate messaging, pipeline metrics, relationship building and winning presentations.

I was speaking with a wildly successful colleague recently and she relayed the story of her latest accomplishment.  The company she was selling to was not necessarily in buying mode.  They reached out to a few vendors to conduct general capabilities presentations.  She had never met the buyer.

My friend’s presentation blew the doors off the buyer.  The buyer immediately put the wheels in motion to contract with my friend’s company to provide services to his and they never talked price until the actual closing. 

When I asked my friend what did the trick, she said her team prepared as if it was biggest and most important finalist presentation they had ever participated in.  

Best Practice: Treat every meeting like a finalist presentation.  Learn how to prepare for the big day.

She brought the team who would service the account, the potential account manager, a regional executive and a video from her company’s CEO imbedded into her PowerPoint that was customized for the prospect.  She noted that her biggest competitor was presenting right after her.  They sent one person and she learned later that their presentation was a generic one-page marketing piece. 

Best Practice:  Bring the team.  It’s great practice for those who are not in front of customers every day.  If you don’t win, you still may be setting the table for the future with that prospect.  Learn how to get your whole team comfortable presenting. 

Imagine that!  Allocating resources full bore on a deal with a low probability of success.  Do other organizations do that?  The answer is not many.   A lot of organizations handicap themselves out of deals.  They look in their CRM and see that they have tried to sell to that buyer in the past without success.  They think the buyer is just kicking tires or leveraging them on price.  Another great excuse is they haven’t met the buyer yet.  They place a low percentage of winning in the CRM. 

The organizations that handicap themselves will not allocate resources on a low percentage deal.   They will tell their sales people not to spend so much time on a deal like that, don’t burden marketing, don’t take anyone important and use generic marketing materials.  In doing so, they take the passion, urgency, energy and enthusiasm out of the deal.   They have set themselves up to fail. 

Best Practice: Don’t skimp on preparation and resources. Learn how to prepare the right way and bring the right resources to every meeting.  

Winning companies tell their sales people to jump in with both feet.  It’s alright to drop everything, muster your resources, and prepare with a mindset that you are winning the business right then and there.  When you present with conviction and purpose it reveals your company’s attention to detail, planning and execution.   

Your sales team is one of the greatest assets your company has. A late businessman, William Clement Stone, once said, “Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman, not the attitude of the prospect.”  But how do you maintain your company’s strong standing and keep the company moving forward? One way is to turn simple habits into effective sales strategies.

Here are some great practices to help maximize your sales performance:

  1. Analyze Your Success – Don’t wait for the metrics and stats given to you by your manager to track your progress. Analyze each sale and failure to see how you can improve for the next time. Not only will this help you for future sales, but will also show your manager how on top of your work you are. It’s a win-win.
  • Encourage Your Prospects to Engage Before the end of a Meeting – Many sales people wait until the end of a meeting to allot time for questions and comments. Why wait until the end? Tell your prospect at the beginning of the meeting to ask questions or explain their concerns when one arises. This small change can increase your closing ratios significantly.
  • Never Skip a Follow-up Opportunity – Most sales don’t close on the first contact, maybe not even on the second. It can take multiple touches to get your potential clients to trust you and your product. Do not hesitate to follow up. These opportunities just may be your actual sale.
  • Know What You Want – Have a purpose before starting your sales. What goal do you want to achieve? The best sales people know what they want before starting so they know how to manage their buyers and every action they make gets them closer to success.
  • Celebrate – Celebrate after each sale. This is a habit that can be done with the rest of your team. Hang up a bell that you can ring each time you close a deal or find something else to let others know you’ve helped the company get one step closer to your goal. Celebrating is a great way to boost morale.

As a sales rep, you are a key player in your business. Focus on building simple habits that reinforce key selling behaviors and, when implemented, help create effective sales strategies. Are there other habits your sales team uses to maximize performance? We’d love to hear them!

John and the FSS team traveled to Rome in the first week of February to work with a global commercial translation services company.

Many of us have attended sales training classes or retreats that weren’t very valuable or impactful.  Why is this?  There are several key attributes that sales trainings must incorporate in order to be successful.

They are:

  • Learning relies on self-discovery. Many sales leaders do a good job talking to their sales teams, but not necessarily training them. In order to really learn, sales teams need to come to key concepts on their own. The art of good training lies in fostering that discovery.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Training is about teaching a new skill or behavior, and in order to master that, sales associates need a safe environment to practice what they’ve learned and receive timely, constructive feedback.
  • Training shouldn’t be theoretical. Training should be specific and applicable – sales associates should be able to use what they’d learned right away to achieve better results.
  • Training without process is pointless.  Once trained, sales teams need process to incorporate their new skills into a regular operating cadence. This tactical execution is critical if training is to lead to sustainable, repeatable sales growth.

Sales leaders tend to be great sales performers, as well as great people developers. The best leaders are able to effectively recruit, coach, and inspire. But, most sales leaders do not have the expertise to facilitate great training. And considering the cost of putting on a training event (travel, facilities, curriculum development, lost sales time), this is one area that companies can’t afford to get wrong.

Although training alone does not equate to sales results, a great training platform coupled with excellent recruiting, a well-defined process, and effective leadership is critical to sales success. You can’t produce repeatable revenue without effectively training your sales team.