I am often asked by management teams to participate in their sales meeting. They look for me to provide feedback, as well as perspective, based on my customer experiences around revenue development. Many of these meetings incorporate team-building events – perhaps at a tropical location or golf resort – while others are more dialed down and focus on a theme such as setting the company’s vision. Whatever the atmosphere, I enjoy the opportunity to provide insight into customer needs, preferences and pain points while observing the company’s top performers.

Not long ago I reflected on what makes a good sales manager outstanding, after all, a terrific sales manager is central to the success of a sales team and the overall performance of a business. We know a manager’s primary role is to develop the sales rep and the sales rep’s main responsibility is to develop opportunities and win business.

But not everyone gets from A to B. Here are four skills that a sales manager must master to become great and keep the pipeline moving.

  1. Determine Objectives: I have seen managers who set objectives based on their personal experiences with no buy-in from their sales reps. Does this sound familiar? “All sales reps must call on five opportunities a week and make 20 cold calls a day.” While this method may work, a better approach is to establish objectives with your sales reps. For instance, “Here are the revenue objectives we are trying to meet this year. What do you think we need to do to achieve this objective?” Managers who can secure buy-in from their sales reps and set clear, well-defined objectives will foster amazing performance.
  2. Schedule Reviews to Share Agreed Upon Information:Once objectives are set and expectations are clear, what happens next? Letting your sales rep “wing it” is not the answer. It’s crucial to provide guidance and structure. If the objective is to win $500,000 of new business, you and your reps should discuss the types of customers they need to talk to. How many of each of those customers should they talk to to reach their goal? Are corporate systems in place where reps execute follow-up correspondences? Emphasize the importance of being proactive, addressing client needs and maintaining professionalism in all communications. Have reps share their customer touchpoints with you for accountability. Walking them through follow-up expectations and processes will create a framework for repeatable success.
  3. Evaluate and Coach: In my experience, you can learn a lot about a sales rep’s performance from a prospect’s reply to a follow-up correspondence. Are enough letters being sent to show an ample pipeline? Is the rep talking to the right people? Are customer goals clearly stated and can your service or product move the customer closer to those goals? Letters should tell all these things and more. After your evaluation, choose one or two skills to coach your reps on. Do more than that and your limited time together will feel jam-packed and your coaching will be overwhelming. Tackle one skill at a time to foster improvement. For example, try role-playing with a rep and listen to how he or she positions your company’s capabilities. Tackle another skill the next time you talk or meet and solicit feedback on how the skill is developing.


  1. Offer Feedback and Reinforce:Look for what your sales reps do well. You’ll need to continually reinforce the positive to maintain the foundation you are building on with your reps. If objectives have not yet been achieved, focus on what’s going right and how a particular skill helped to get them halfway there. Then, work together on skills that will get them the rest of the way.

American business magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller said, “Good management consists in showing average people how to do the work of superior people.” By mastering these four skills managers will get superior people producing superior results.

If interested in developing these skills, reach out to learn more about our workshops and services.


We’ve all received questionable sales advice at some point during our careers – some from mentors or managers, some from peers, and sadly some even from training experts and consultants who are paid to know better.

We’ve spent some time scouring the web to uncover some of these pearls so we can share them here with you here. Enjoy!

1. “Here is a script, read it…”

Nothing says “I have no clue what you do” more than using a generic sales script. Reading from a script is impersonal and prevents you from having a genuine two-way conversation and building rapport.

2. Sales is just a numbers game

Sales is not just about numbers, and cold calling alone is not going to drive results. If you’re only relying on cold calls alone and not finding genuine leads who are actually interested in your product, you’re wasting your time and their time.

3. “Selling is telling”

This one made us laugh – it’s got a quite a ring to it, you must admit. Unfortunately, it was actually a common theme to training programs during the early 80’s. How wrong it was, yet, unbelievably, so many “sales professionals” thought it was right!

4. Always be closing (ABC)

This one conjures up an image of the stereotypical used car salesman. Unfortunately, as any good sales professional knows, customers hate being pushed and really hate pushy sellers. Customers want you to have their best interests at heart and to help them make the best decision, even if that decision is to buy elsewhere or not to buy at all. That’s impossible when you’re concentrating exclusively on closing the sale.

5. Mirror and matching

This one has to be our favorite – as if sales people don’t have enough to handle building rapport, adding valuable insights, asking the right questions and taking great notes. Do we really expect them to cross their arms when the prospect crosses their arms? Really?

What is the worst sales advice you’ve ever received?  Don’t be shy…chime in! This stuff is too good not to share.


learnPeople have been studying the science of learning for thousands of years – dating all the way back to the time of Plato and Socrates in Ancient Greece. Educators seek to improve the way they teach students, parents look for ways to improve the way their children learn, and organizations strive to improve the development they offer to their personnel.

At Flannery Sales Systems, we are also staying on top of the latest in learning development, as we seek to make a lasting impact for our clients. The science of learning is constantly evolving, and we continue to adapt our curriculum to leverage the latest in learning advancements.

Here are some learning practices that we employ daily in our work with our clients:

  • Self-discovery. People are most convinced by ideas that they themselves conceive; so don’t resort to a lecture style classroom if you can help it. Provide small group labs and workshops where students can be an active part of the learning process.
  • The experience matters. People learn best when they are in an engaging environment with a trusted instructor. They must be kept interested and entertained. Stories work well. Humor doesn’t hurt either.
  • Tailor, tailor, and tailor. Before you instruct a group, take some time to understand your audience. What is their age, gender, and education level? Where are they from? What are their interests?
  • Edu-tainment. Edu what? Edu-tainment is the idea of mixing education with entertainment for more effective learning. This is an increasing trend with the millennials, who have been raised to believe that learning should be fun.
  • Reinforce. Statistics vary on the number of times an idea needs to be presented before it can be ingrained. But what remains consistent is the theory that repetition matters. And in today’s always-on, hyper-connected world, the amount of times you need to present an idea for it to have an impact is only getting bigger.
  • Practice. Practice makes perfect. Well, maybe not perfect, but certainly better. Practice is key to successful learning, as people need the opportunity to “try on” what they have learned in order to fully master it.
  • Promote a “growth mindset”. This has been a hotly researched topic lately, led by Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck with the publication of her 2006 book entitled “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Having a growth mindset means that you believe that it is hard work more than innate ability that drives advancement. Students that come in with a growth mindset tend to progress farther as they actively strive to learn and improve.
  • Technology. It goes without saying that advancements in technology have revolutionized the way we learn. Technology can be used to reinforce a classroom-style learning environment, or provide “distance learning” allowing people to learn anywhere, anytime from the convenience of their laptop, iPad or any connected device.

What advancements in learning will we see in the coming years? While we don’t know for certain, we can be sure that they will include ideas new and old, and leverage technology and edu-tainment to reinvent the way people develop and grow.

scammperrWhat makes a great sales leader? Ask this question to a dozen sales executives and you may get a dozen different answers. Many great sales leaders rise up through an organization by being top performers themselves and leading by example. Others are known for recruiting top talent, providing excellent coaching and mentorship, or successfully aligning sales incentives with company goals.

All of these are important; however, one of the most vital traits of a sales leader is one that often goes unnoticed. That is their ability to tap into innovation or “out-of-the-box” thinking to help their reps unstick a stalled deal. Removing roadblocks for your team will help them achieve their monthly targets and, in turn, help your organization meet or exceed revenue goals.

But just how does a sales leader tap into that innovative thinking? One of the most effective ways we have found is through the use of a tool called SCAMMPERR. SCAMPPERR is an acronym for nine thinking techniques that help you come up with creative solutions to problems. We’ve seen it shortened to SCAMPERR or even SCAMPER, but in our minds, using the full set of techniques gives you the best opportunity for creative problem solving.


When you and a sales rep are trying to remove roadblocks in important deals, use the cues below to force yourselves to think in an arbitrarily different way.

S Substitute: What could be substituted in the situation to make the solution work?

C Combine: How could ideas or elements be combined to provide a solution?

A Adapt: How could the solution be adapted to make it work?

M Magnify: How could ideas or elements be magnified to make the solution work?

M Modify: What could be modified within the solution to make it work?

P Put: What might be put to a different use to make the solution work?

E Eliminate: What could be eliminated from the situation to allow the idea to work?

R Rearrange: How could elements be rearranged to enable the solution to work?

R Reverse: How might the solution be turned around to make it work?

Putting SCAMMPERR into Action

So how might you use SCAMMPERR to work with your sales team to remove roadblocks in stalled deals? Let’s look at an example.

When I was leading a team selling daily deals to local businesses, one of my reps was trying to sign a contract with a large amusement park, but the deal was stalled. The business was unwilling to significantly discount their ticket prices as they felt it would be too costly and would tarnish their brand. This had the potential to be a huge deal for us, but as the objections seemed insurmountable, my rep and I sat down together to see if we could come up with an innovative way to get the deal through. We used SCAMMPERR to guide our brainstorm.

After going through all the cues, it was “C-combine” that eventually led us to our answer. What if we combined admission tickets to the park with a local hotel stay? Local hotels already offered the park discounted room rates, so if we could get the hotel to kick in a bit more of a discount along with some other perks such as a free meal and parking, we could come up with a very compelling package price. Because the discount was now being applied to several businesses and not to the amusement park alone, they were not as concerned about negative impact on their brand. We presented our solution to the business and they were delighted. The deal closed and produced more revenue than any other offer that year.

Do you have examples of sales leaders using innovation to help their teams unstick stalled deals? Do you foster out-of-the-box thinking in your sales organization, and if so, have you used a tool like SCAMMPERR to drive results? We’d love to hear from you!