Sales Coaching: Lessons from the Mets’ Psychologist

Sales Coaching

Sales Coaching

While hardly a new idea, professional sport teams increasingly are hiring psychologists to work with their players.  Individual athletes, like golfers and tennis players, are too.  In all cases the goal is the same: Gaining an edge and lifting performance to the next level.

Since I happen to be a psychologist by education, I wondered what type of advice my professional colleagues are providing and whether it might be helpful to Sales?  I came across an article in the NY Times by Tim Rohan sharing how the Mets are using a sport psychologist.  Since Mets did make it to the World Series, it seemed like a good case study.

While specific advice differs for each athlete, several Mets players have reported that the Mets’ psychologist Jonathan Fader’s advice has been particularly helpful reference how to handle those critical moments where stress is off the scale.

The Mets coach, Terry Collins summarizes Fader’s overarching message for handling those high stress moments as follows: “Slow down – instead of rushing, take a second, take a breath, assess where you’re going.”

With that little nugget in hand, a couple of points in regard sales coaching came to mind.  First, like sports there are those high stress moments that occur from time to time. So the fundamental mental challenge exists in both professions.

Second, from our observation of salespeople, a frequent response to those stressful moments is the exact opposite of “slow down.”  Often the sales rep speeds up – talking more, talking faster, and providing yet another feature of the product.

So the simple advice from Dr. Fader about “slowing down” may not be all bad.  We would add a good idea would be: “Stop talking and start asking.”  Asking a question provides a way to slow down, to listen and gain some time to figure out where to go next.

As the rookie Mets starter Noah Syndergaard noted: “It doesn’t matter how physically talented you are; if you’re not able to conquer your own mind, you can’t really do much.”

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2015 Sales Momentum, LLC





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Shape the customer’s decision journey – create a unique competitive advantage

Customers Buying Journey

Customers Buying Journey

McKinsey & Co’s David Edelman and Marc Singer recently wrote about the world of consumer buying.  We thought the overall conclusion also had relevance for the B2B market.

According to Edelman and Singer – “the traditional funnel model in which customers begin with a set number of brands in mind and then whittled them down until they decided what to buy—has been usurped by a customer decision journey model. This journey involves the buyer taking advantage of technology to evaluate products and services more actively, adding and removing choices over time. And it includes a feedback loop, where customers kept evaluating products and services after purchase, pressuring products to perform and brands to deliver a superior experience on an ongoing basis.”

We believe what they concluded is worth exploring for both B2C and B2B sales: “Companies can not only react to customers as they make purchasing decisions but can also actively shape their decision journeys.”  

In the B2B market if you can shape the buying process that becomes a significant competitive advantage.  Let’s look at a few ideas for meeting this challenge.

1. Putting the buying process first.  Too often sellers implement their selling process the same way regardless of the buyer.  This can easily lead to misalignment.  For example increasingly the buying process for many customers is non-linear whereas most selling processes are based on a linear framework.

A second common situation is the buyer is 20% through their buying process before they even contact the competitive selling organizations.  If you begin on Step 1 and the buyer is already on Step 3 you are off to a bad start.

So as the first step in your sales process you ought to develop a comprehensive understanding of the buyer’s journey and where they are in that process.  With that understanding at hand you have an opportunity to shape the decision process.

2. Shaping the Decision Criteria. For any major decision the customer will develop a set of decision criteria to decide between you and the competitors. You can help shape the formulation and utilization of those criteria.

The first step is determining the customer’s initial set of decision criteria and how you measure up against those criteria. Here it is important to remember the fit is a two-way street. You must determine in an objective fashion the degree of fit between the customer’s decision criteria and your capabilities. In addition, you must obtain the customer’s perception of that fit. It is often the case that the two assessments are not in alignment and a part of your shaping strategy is what to do about the misalignment.

For example, there are times when there is a misperception about one of your capabilities. A second example is when a customer deems a particular decision criterion to be extremely important and it is your experience that priority is misplaced.

The key is to be in a relationship with the customer where you are functioning as a trusted advisor so you can have an opportunity to reshape the decision criteria in way that helps the customer make a better decision and puts you in a better competitive position.

Edelman and Singer sum it up this way:  Effectively navigating customer journeys requires the journeys to be treated like products that need to be actively managed, measured, and nurtured. The goal is to help the customer improve the effectiveness and efficiency of how they buy in a way that also improves your competitive position.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2015 Sales Momentum, LLC






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Sales and the art of chitchat

Sales Chitchat

Sales Chitchat

Customers want fresh ideas and creative insights to address their needs that are both new and challenging.  Increasingly customers want sales reps to be an advisor they can trust, not simply a product facilitator. This means sales reps must be able to move beyond product pitches and conduct business conversations.

Business conversations are often thought of as serious discussions and compelling conversations. That’s certainly true. But, there are “social conversations” that salespeople often have with customers – and with potential customers. We assume, however, that social conversations are not serious sales interactions and most salespeople are naturally good at small talk – so how to have these social conversations is usually neglected in sales training.

But as Elizabeth Bernstein recently shared in the Wall Street Journal there are a number of hidden benefits for those who are good at the art of chitchatting a/k/a schmoozing a/k/a having a social conversation – so perhaps it’s not wise to totally dismiss the relevance. As to the second point about being accomplished – perhaps, but the reality is many salespeople tend to get complacent and rusty on many of the fundamental sales skills – including chitchatting.

So for those who buy the idea and might be a bit rusty Bernado Carduci, Director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast, says: “you can develop your conversational intelligence by focusing on the other person and making it easy for the other person to be engaged.”  Bernado’s ideas were for social conversations across a wide spectrum of situations, we made a few changes for the world of sales:

  1. Getting started.  Start with a comment about something you share – a sport, a common interest or a shared background. This illustrates a desire to talk.
  2. Initiating.  Provide some information about yourself – make it easy for the other person to do the same.
  3. Selecting a topic. Together find a topic of conversation. Ask questions and build on earlier comments. Be ready with alternative topics if the initial one doesn’t flow in the conversation.
  4. Seeking a balance. Seek balance in the conversation. Be careful not to talk too much – judge when to offer some information about yourself and how to engage the other person.
  5. Exiting. Exit gracefully by signaling when the conversation is nearing the end and transition into the next conversation.

There are several sales situations where the ability for having a social conversation might be particularly important – three standout:

  1. Initial sales call with a new customer
  2. Social interactions with a new or existing customer – or a prospect
  3. Networking opportunity, such as a business conference

Becoming trusted by your customers requires more than simply having information and insights.  It requires the ability to participate with the person on the other side of the table in an engaging and compelling conversation.  Sometimes those conversations are classic business discussions; sometimes they are more social in nature.

Take another look at these 5 steps in this Wall St. Journal infographic.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2015 Sales Momentum, LLC


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Happy Halloween

Ghosts and goblins galore

Tricky witches at your door

This is the time for spooks and bats

Halloween spirits and black cats

But don’t forget nifty treats  … and to fill up on some sweets!

Happy Halloween to all!

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Getting sales process right

teeny Whether or not you have put in place a sales process – it is happening everyday.  It is whatever your salespeople are doing Monday morning to navigate the customer’s buying process.

The real problem is not, therefore, a lack of sales process.  The problem is too many companies do not systematically manage and evaluate their sales process.

In today’ markets buyers are changing how they buy but sales organizations often fail to adjust and adapt their sales process to the new reality.  The end result over time is a misalignment between how buyers buy and how sellers sell.

In B2B sales you can do a whole lot of things right but if your sales process is misaligned with the buyer’s decision process all those good things are for not.

So this is worth getting right.  Let’s explore this “getting right” journey by examining two pitfalls that need to be avoided.

Lack of definitional clarity.  Sales process unfortunately is one of those concepts that means different things to different people.  Some will say if you put in place a new questioning model you have changed your sales process.  Others would say executing such a change is simply adopting a new questioning model.

Try it.  Ask around – a good bet is you will not just get different answers but entirely different types of answers.  The point is – to make something better everyone needs to have a clear and common vision of the topic at hand. It’s about being on the same page.

Our suggestion is restrict the term sales process to mean the overall set of steps you take from the beginning to the end of your sales cycle to win the business versus using the term interchangeably with concepts related to selling techniques, models, frameworks, and best practices.

Unbridled compliance.  It is not a good idea for a whole bunch of reasons to have every sales rep do their own thing – that is not a road to success.

On the other hand, in today’s disruptive buying environment it is equally true that unbridled compliance to a standard sales process can have its own pitfalls.

The greatest risk of unbridled compliance to any standardized process is that it only works when a sales rep is following a path that leads to success.  In the B2B market the problem is many companies are going through transformational changes.  These changes are impacting what they buy, how they buy, and what they are willing to pay for it.

So, a strategic caution: Are you doing a good job driving compliance to a sales process that is more about what and how your customers were buying five years ago versus what they are doing here and now?

On the sales process scale of “everyone does their own thing to blind compliance” we suggest being somewhere in the middle.  Introduce a well thought out sales process because it can contribute to replicating success and scaling the business.  But, beware of overdone rigor and excessive compliance.  The latter will tend to eliminate the innovation that will define what success looks like tomorrow.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2015 Sales Momentum, LLC

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Becoming a sales detective

Sales detective

Sales detective

There is little doubt that salespeople in the B2B market are finding their buyers’ journeys more complex and more subject to change than ever before.  These added complications are due to factors from the disruptive trends of the time to the simple fact that more people are engaged in the buying process.

If buyers change how they buy, then sellers need to change how they sell.  Assumptions once held to be universally true need to be reassessed.  Sales skills need to be updated and realigned to meet the new journey and expectations.

One aspect of meeting this challenge is the recognition that more unknowns will exist.  Some of unknowns will be ease to identify.  As a matter of fact, the customer themselves may surface the new problems or objections that must be addressed.

The more problematic unknowns are those lurking underneath the surface.  The ones that negatively impact your probability of winning the business yet are never discovered or discovered too late.  Let’s call these high impact unknowns Consequence Issues.

So as our detective friend Sherlock Holmes might note – “the game is a foot.”  How do we detect these Consequence Issues?  What are the clues that something lurks just beneath the surface?  Let’s explore those questions by examining some research from my old colleague Neil Rackham related to conditions that tend to increase the probability of the existence of a Consequence Issue and some early warning signals of actions by the customer that all is not well.

Early warning conditions.   Four conditions that increase the probability of a Consequence Issue occurring are as follows:  

  • Large decisions
  • High visibility decisions
  • Competitor’s association with the customer
  • Unfamiliar technology or methodology for the customer

Customer actions.  What might customers do that are signs a Consequence Issue is likely to impact their decision process? Here are 6 behavioral signs.

  • Resurfacing of previously resolved issues
  • Unrealistic concerns about price or performance
  • Unjustified postponements
  • Unwillingness to meet
  • Withholding information
  • Unnecessary worries about implementation

Summary.  The major challenge related to Consequence Issues is usually not their resolution; it’s surfacing them in the first place.  In that regard as our fabled detective would share “it’s elementary” – just follow the clues.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2015 Sales Momentum, LLC


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Online sales training – it’s time for a second look

Online Sales Training

Online Sales Training

Recent years have seen tremendous disruption in how customers buy. And if buyers change how they buy – salespeople need to change how they sell.

Customers need fresh ideas and creative insights for addressing a set of needs and opportunities that are both new and challenging. They expect sales reps to be knowledgeable about their industry, company, and issues at a higher level of proficiency than ever before.  They expect insights not product pitches. The want trusted advisors not product facilitators.

So how are we doing in meeting this challenge?  Well, once again it is a bit of a good news – bad news story. The bad news is few companies are completely prepared for the changes taking place.  The good news is there are more effective and affordable training options to correct that deficiency than in times past.

There are any number of reasons behind the good news story from new innovative sales training companies to exciting developments in instructional technology to some really smart analytical tools.

Let’s take a deeper dive into just one of the possible assets for doing a better job doing what we need to do to help sales people meet the challenges of today’s markets – online sales training.

What happened on the first look?  Most companies with a B2B sales team have investigated or implemented online sales training in the distant past.  Unfortunately too many came out of that exploration with less than a stellar opinion of the merits of online learning.

In some cases the Learning Management System cost too much and was a nightmare to implement.  In others the training system was installed and the reps did the training but they didn’t learn very much or they never finished it because it was too boring.  Well that was then; this is now.

Why the second look?  In the last several years tremendous advantages have occurred in online sales training. Today there are some great learning management systems from companies like Bridge and Absorb if you want to develop you own training and online universities like Udemy if you want to sign up for some great existing training options.

Some of the specific reasons for a second look are as follows:

  • Access 24/7
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Review previous lessons whenever you want.
  • Available on computers, tablets and smartphones
  • Join in on online discussions
  • Eliminate travel expenses
  • Minimize time out of the field
  • Try out exercises to apply learning to your own accounts

As the future unfolds there is little doubt that most companies will need to make a greater commitment to sales training if they are going to develop and maintain a superior sales team.  One component of the answer lies in leveraging the advantages of online learning.

Our best sense of the most effective option is a hybrid solution where part of the training is conducted online and part in the classroom.  The guiding principle is conduct in the classroom only that training that can uniquely be done in the classroom – think advanced skill training where optimizing practice and feedback is key.  Do knowledge-based product training and sales fundamentals online.

For more information about online sales training visit our Sales Horizons website.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2015 Sales Momentum, LLC


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Sales training and national sales meetings – an odd couple – An STC Classic

A Classic - '63 Corvette

A Classic – ’63 Corvette

As the fourth quarter begins, many VPs of Sales and Sales Training Directors will be focusing on closing Q4 strong and positioning their sales teams for success in 2016.  One item on many agendas will be the annual sales meeting, often sometime during Q1.

Over the years we have attended a number of our clients’ national sales meetings.  Great events!  Lots of good things usually happen.  Salespeople exchange ideas and best practices, sales leaders make compelling presentations (Microsoft comes to mind) and yes, everyone has a really good time.  As a matter of fact, we have such a fond impression of these events we hope, even in face of present trends, that they are not eliminated or replaced by some virtual technology.

We have noticed, however, that some companies strive for a bridge too far and attempt to conduct serious sales training at their national sales meeting.  We would suggest that in most cases this is not a good idea.  At national sales meetings, sales training usually doesn’t turn out very well and the attempt plays havoc with the other benefits that are derived from the event.

Now, it is clear why companies proceed down this path – it’s about money.  Adding it all up, the percentage of money that it takes to implement a company-wide sales training program that is attributed to travel and expense can be as high as 40%.  So the logic goes: If we have all the sales reps together why not save that T&E expense and do our sales training at the national meeting?

And why not? Because, as we said, the sales training usually does not work as well.  Why?

  • Sales rep attention.  At a national sales meeting a significant number of the sales reps would rather be someplace else, and doing anything else than sales training.  This is particularly true if previous meetings have been more like the ones we just described.  In other words,  sales reps had a different expectation about what would be happening.
  • Timing problems.  Most national sales meeting are jammed pack with activities some emerging at the last minute. So more often than not the amount of time devoted to the sales training is insufficient.  In the worst cases, several hours are lopped off the training at the last minute to make agenda time for a new priority. So the sales training ends up being a half-day on Friday afternoon with salespeople leaving early to catch their flights home.
  • Before and after sales training.  It is will know that what happens before and after the training is as important as the training itself.  If that simple idea is ignored, the training becomes just an event.  A typical consequence – without reinforcement 87% of the skill developed in the training is lost within 3 months.  Now, if the sales training is conducted at the national sales meeting, how much pre and post special care and attention will be given to the training given all the other priorities that are on the front burner before and after the national meeting? For those who have not had this experience, the answer can come perilously close to being counted in hours versus days.

So while it’s possible to save some money, at what cost?  What are some alternatives?  If you have a large sales team where bring them together is expensive from a T& E perspective, how can you conduct some effective sales training and minimize that travel expense item?.  Let’s look at a couple of ideas that hold promise.

  • Try on-line training.  In the last several years on-line training has improved dramatically; it is now an effective, efficient, and affordable way to implement a wide variety of sales training programs.

It is particularly effective for conducting any type of knowledge based learning such as: product, marketplace, and technical training.  Although the opportunities for practice and feedback are limited, on-line training is also effective for delivering sales skills training focused on developing initial awareness and understanding of the best practices for any consultative selling model.  When using an on-line approach for sales skills development, the practice and feedback needs to come about via sales management coaching.

  • Bring the training to them.   Rather than bring the sales reps to the training do it the other way around – bring the sales training to them. Try conducting the training over several sessions dedicated strictly to the training at the “district” level.  Move a small group of dedicated trainers to each district to maximize the consistency of the sales training.  Make sure you leverage the advantage of the location of the sales training to engage the local sales managers in the training for the sales reps.

We would suggest that both sales training and national sales meetings are important.  But when done together, they are indeed an odd couple that does not get along so well.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2015 Sales Momentum®

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Happy Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day to all of our Sales Training Connection readers. We wish you a strong sales finish to 2015.

Janet and Dick

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