Negotiation strategy – positioning the glass as half full

Negotiation Strategy

Negotiation Strategy

There are a substantial number of skill sets and bodies of knowledge that constitute the discipline of sales negotiation. In the end, however, the ability to craft and execute a thoughtful and creative plan for the negotiation is a bottom line for achieving a successful end result. This is particularly true in major accounts where the negotiation is complex and there is more to lose and more to gain.

In any major account, if the sales team is actively engaged in the negotiation process without a well-conceived and coordinated plan, they are playing Russian roulette with the long-term relationship with the customer and with the profitability of the sales opportunity.

Anchoring your message.  In building a well-conceived plan the importance of anchoring is consistently underscored as one of the factors for getting the job done. The concept recognizes the old adage – “how you say it is as important as what you say.” Whether the glass is perceived as “half full or half empty” all depends on how one frames the conversation about the contents of the glass.

In a sales negotiation anchoring is all about presenting your concessions on a given issue in a way that justifiably emphasizes the value of those concessions.

The most practical and best-supported phenomena in anchoring relates to the notion that individuals generally do not evaluate concessions in an absolute sense but rather as a change with respect to some reference point.

So the anchoring challenge boils down to selecting the most effective reference point. Is it: the status quo, a prior contract, a competitive comparison or some industry standard? In the end, anchoring is part of how you help your customer understand the value of your concessions. And, remember anchoring will always occur, so if you don’t do it your customer will.

Building value.  It is difficult to overemphasize the importance of anchoring. No concession whether it is on price, technical support or any other issue – has a fixed inherent value.

As part of the anchoring process top negotiators build and verify the value of a concession before they offer it. In doing so in major accounts it is important to remember different people in the account may have different views about the value of a concession.  So how you go about optimizing the value of a concession is position specific. In that regard, the opportunity may exist to use others, such as your internal champion, to influence the value with the major players in the decision process.

A final point. The least desirable outcome is offering in good faith a significant concession, only to find out after the fact, that it had very little value to the customer – hence, the deal was lost. Of course the best situation is to provide a concession of significant value to the customer that “costs” you very little. The moral of the story: being smart about customer value is just as important in a negotiation as it is in any other aspect of selling.

Download our free eb00k – Mastering Magor Account Negotiating now.

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©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

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Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving … and for many a long weekend filled with fun, football, and perhaps some shopping.

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Virtual reality – a new day for medical product launch presentations

Virtual Reality and Sales Presentations

Virtual Reality and Sales Presentations

Each year medical companies develop a dazzling array of new products.  Some are minor upgrades.  While others are extraordinary new products designed to be game changers or, in some cases, “bet the company” entries into the market.

Unfortunately after all the market assessments, business plans, beta tests, and approvals many new medical products fail to achieve the anticipated commercial success. Why so?

Well, sometimes the product design was fundamentally flawed.  In others, the product concept was backed by poor market research.  In still others, the timing was just off.

Yet, even when all these problems are addressed, and increasingly they are, failure too often remains the final result.  Reason – the commitment to train the sales team to sell the new product is not commensurate with the potential of the new product. This omission constitutes a strategic oversight.

Even an extraordinary new product will not sell itself beyond early adopters. The sales team needs a comprehensive body of product knowledge and they need to fine-tune and adapt their sales skills to the customer requirements related to the new product.  They need the knowledge, skills and tools to present the product to their customer base in a compelling fashion that differentiates the product from a wide array of competitive offerings – the more innovative the new product, the truer this proposition.

There are a number of new and exciting answers as to how to better prepare a sales team to sell a new product ranging from sales simulations, to customer value profiles to tools for presenting and demonstrating the new product.

Here, let’s just explore one exciting option for the latter – using virtual reality as a tool for bring heretofore unimaginable imagery to the entire range of the benefits of the new product. Several weeks ago I had the privilege to talk with Matthias McCoy-Thompson co-founder of Agora VR an exciting, innovative company in the virtual reality market that is knowledgeable about the medical market.

For those of us concerned about providing sales reps with the presentation tools that can make a difference, the conversation provided some interesting insights about the use of virtual reality as a tool for medical product presentations:

  • It’s here now.  The impact of any new technology, such as virtual reality, tends to follow the classic S-Curve.  Therefore, it is very easy to overestimate the impact in the short-term and underestimate the impact in the long run.  When it comes to using virtual reality we are now past the inflection point on the curve – developing and using a virtual reality presentation is now a realistic alternative.
  • It’s truly compelling.  Unlike the traditional technologies for product presentations, most of us have had limited experience with virtual reality.  You can get a first order look via sample videos by going to the Agora VR website and if you wish to continue the search journey the folks at Agora can be a helpful guide.

One of my specific walkways from the videos and conversation with Matthias was the power of the technology for demonstrating implantable medical products such as stents and orthopedic replacements.  Reason – it is now possible to create a virtual reality model of the implant site into which the viewer can be placed so they can actually experience, for example, a stent being implanted.  Implanters can experience the subtleties of implanting and  learn how to deal with possible complications and operative considerations.

  • It’s just the beginning.  In considering the applications of virtual reality for product presentations it is well to remember it is not a mature technology.  Because it is an emerging technology there are associated up and down sides to consider.   We have referred to a number of the upsides.

Regarding downsides – because it is new technology, prices are manageable but still higher than they will be in the coming years.  There are also implementation considerations to address such as providing the customer the required viewing equipment.  Such downsides mean care should be taken as to when and where to consider a virtual reality presentation as a viable option.  The more innovative the product, the higher the upside market payoff, and the more difficult it is to demonstrate the unique benefits, the more seductive the option becomes.

During our conversation, Matthias noted four additional points in regard to using virtual reality as an option for medical product presentations:

    • Image quality. Virtual reality can make you feel like you’re in the same room as a potential customer. No, we are not at the Star Trek holodeck level yet and perhaps never will be in regard to some of that technology.  Right now, it still feels a bit like talking to a video game character but as motion and 3D image capture technology improves over the next few years the difference between a real life meeting and a virtual meeting will dramatically diminish.
    • Financial considerations. As to some cost estimates a good quality mobile virtual reality headset today costs as little as $600 (including a high-end smartphone) and doesn’t require a computer or any additional equipment. Fully animated 3D models of nearly anything imaginable can be created for a few thousand dollars. If a company already has 3D models of their products, it’s often fairly easy to repurpose them for a virtual reality presentation.
    • Analytic feedback. Analytics systems in virtual reality can be extremely robust. Data can be captured on a wide variety of variables from how long users looked at certain aspects of a product, to how engaged they were during the sales presentation. The sales presentation can then be altered based on the data and perfected over time.
    • Availability. Virtual reality is a reality.  Companies are presently using it for a wide variety of sales and marketing initiatives.  And, the good news is the initial research out of the Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab shows that virtual reality presentations can be powerful motivators for people’s buying behavior.

The answer to the question of whether the use of virtual reality is a viable option for presenting and demonstrating any particular medical product is sometimes yes and sometimes no.  However, the more important proposition is the technology has reached a point where the question is worth asking.

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

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

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Sales productivity – time to push the more button

Sales ProductivityCompanies spend a tremendous amount of time, money and effort every year to improve the productivity of their sales teams.  The intervention strategies range from sales training efforts to coaching initiatives to sales tools to marketing materials.  These efforts tend to be laser focused on helping sales reps enhance their ability to sell more effectively.

All of this, of course, makes great sense since companies in B2B markets recognize that it’s increasingly difficult to win by product alone. Companies need a competitive sales team and what it takes to be competitive is greater than ever.

The strategic question facing companies that are serious about improving sales productivity is whether there are stones unturned.  Are there other areas of focus that could improve sales productivity that historically have received less than the optimal attention?

Our answer to that question for most companies is – yes.  And, our suggestion is “push the more button”– that is help sales reps be able to spend more time selling versus doing something else. Here let’s restrict the definition of selling to planning, doing and reviewing actual interactions with customers.

How great is the opportunity?  Substantial.  Emma Brudner reported the results of a sales productivity study where sales reps spent only 33% of their time selling.  Other studies have reported the figure to be a low as 10%.  It is difficult to impact the bottom line by helping salespeople get better at something if they aren’t doing the something.

So let’s take a look at some ideas that companies might implement to increase the time sales reps have available to spend on selling versus tasks such as: searching for or developing content or carrying out administrative activities or completing CRM tasks.

  • Take a time profile snapshot.  We have found that many front-line sales managers have only a vague impression of how their sales reps are prioritizing their time.  If a company emphasizes the need to have a more accurate answer, a number of good things happen.

First, the sales managers isolate some of the best practices for optimizing the time spent on selling – that is what are the good folks doing on a good day.  Second, they can determine which sales reps need the most help. Third, they can identify the time sinks and fourth, they can identify whether it would make sense to invest in tools or additional support personnel to help the cause.

  • Help front-line sales managers be a filter not a funnelAll sales managers get a tremendous amount of internal requests from top management related to answering ever-popular questions such as: Are you meeting your sales figures?  Here the trap is passing all these requests directly on to the sales team and getting them bogged down with paperwork and activities that reduce selling time.  The most effective sales managers handle it differently.  They are a “filter not a funnel.”

Simply put, they filter the information “coming down” from the division or central office and only funnel to their sales team the information the sales person needs to succeed.  They eliminate the clutter going to the team thereby freeing up time for the salespeople to spend on selling.

  • Recognize and reward.  Reinforcement works.  There are incentives for all sorts of sales activities.  So if a company wants to increase the time spent on selling, they should put in place ways of recognizing and rewarding reps that are getting it right.

If you need some encouragement for “pushing the button,” make a rough estimate of the impact on revenue if each rep spent 10% more time interacting with customers – for an additional shot in the arm think of the secondary payoffs.

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

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

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Sales training – more of the same never results in something different

Sales training

Sales training

If you look back over the last decade, a number of industries have gone through dramatic change. They have changed what they buy, how they buy, and what they are willing to pay for it. The future will produce more of the same with the changes likely to be even more dramatic.

If your customers are making changes of substantial magnitude, then the case is made that it’s no longer business-as-usual for your sales team. It becomes a matter of doing something different rather than simply doing a better job doing what you are doing. The required shift in sales isn’t incremental; it’s transformational.

Because it is transformation, the design work involves more than just some word changes to the title page of your sales training documents.  Doing something different requires a greater time commitment, a different type of training design and greater top management engagement. 

How do you design sales training when companies need to help sales reps do something different rather than just doing a better job doing the same thing? First, let’s explore that topic from a sales leadership perspective, then drill down and examine what it means for designing sales training.

Understanding the leadership task. Not long ago CSO Insights published a report entitled Sales Management 2.0: Optimizing Sales Performance that included two outstanding articles on sales transformation from a leadership perspective. They pointed out four particularly important pitfalls:

  • Under commitment. “If your management team does not fundamentally believe that successfully redesigning your sales process is one of the top strategic challenges your company faces, don’t even start a sales transformation project.”
  • Lack of coordination. Successful sales transformation projects require an enterprise-wise orientation. “If you let each of your departments attempt to deal with their portion of the sales process independently, you may create a configuration that even Rube Goldberg couldn’t figure out.”
  • Champagne dreams and beer budgets. “Trying to implement a sales transformation cheaply is another common mistake.” The key is to “figure out what you want to achieve, determine what it will cost to get there, compare the benefits to the costs and then decide if it a good investment.”
  • Expecting to “just add water.”  Designing and implementing a sales transformation effort is not a quick fix. It is unlikely that Version 1.0 will be a perfect fit for your organization. “No new sophisticated sales effectiveness strategy will work perfectly the first time.”

Exploring sales training design lessons. All that leadership stuff must be addressed before crafting a sales training intervention that will help the sales force understand the new sales process and develop the skills required to implement it. However, once done, what are some of the lessons for designing an effective sales training component for a sales transformation initiative?

  • Understand the difference. The profile of the sales training solution is strikingly different if the challenge is to help a sales team take the next step at getting better at doing what they are doing versus doing something different. Achieving the latter requires greater design innovation, a longer timeframe and a more comprehensive plan for skill acquisition.
  • Build upfront understanding and enthusiasm. Before the sales training, the leadership team must set the stage for the sales training. This includes communicating what is to be done and why it is being done. The sales team needs to see why the sales process needs changing, what the new process and skills sets look like, how others are also being asked to change and what the anticipated payoffs will be.
  • Select the right partner(s). There are 100s of viable sales training companies if you are selecting a sales training vendor for your national sales meeting to deliver a sales training presentation. The number is dramatically reduced for a sales transformation project. The best fit will, of course, depend on the specifics of the transformation being planned – nobody is the best across-the-board. However, there are some overarching considerations. Your partner needs to have the capability and the commitment for: understanding your industry and culture, committing the A-team, bring innovative design and implementation expertise, and being receptive to alternative pricing models.
  • Spotlight the pivotal job. The front-line sales manager is the pivotal job for driving the success of any sales transformation effort. They need to be engaged in defining the new sales process and take a leadership role in introducing it to the sales teams. They will also be the key element in helping the sales people learn the new required skills. They need trained first – and subsequently they should participate in the sales reps training – most importantly, they need to be committed to providing coaching over the long haul.

Remembering some basic principles. If the industry you sell into is undergoing transformational changes in the way they buy, it is likely that a parallel effort will be required on your part from a sales perspective. From a competitive standpoint it does not pay to be the last holdout for the ways of yesteryear. Three final principles are worth keeping in mind:

  • Changing behavior is tough. Your sales team has been doing what they have been doing for a long time – changing technology is easy compared to asking people to change their behavior.
  • Walking before running is okay. Once the change reaches a certain level, it is worth considering doing it in phases or using a “skunk works” approach to work out the problems.
  • Sticking to your guns. Sometime doing the change, a crisis such as a fall in revenue will occur; this of course is the time when the brave of heart must step forward.

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

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

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Sales culture – put the horse before the cart

Developing a sales culture

Developing a sales culture

Traditionally when talking 
about sales best practices, most of the emphasis has been placed on individual sales rep and
 sales management skill sets. But the more we have studied high 
performing sales teams, the more we have come to realize that the
 cart has often been placed before the horse. Perhaps sales teams
 would be even more successful if greater emphasis were initially directed towards creating a culture that drives individual excellence.

Here are four ideas we have found that help create a culture of sales excellence.

  • Rewarding creative attempts as well as results. Today sales reps must function in very disruptive buying environments. To succeed they must try out different ideas for doing old things and new ideas for doing new things. This requires risk. Sometimes they will get it right; sometimes they won’t.  So the sales leadership needs to create a culture where taking a well-planned risk is rewarded.
  • Helping salespeople learn vs. telling them what to do. When it comes to establishing a culture of support one of the biggest traps for Sales Managers is coaching to their favorite plays – that is suggesting what they did in a similar situation. First, that was then and this is now. Second, we all have our own strengths and weaknesses, so your sales rep may not be able to pull off that play that was so successful for you and they may be able to plan and execute a play you could not.
  • Encouraging team efforts. Customer expectations are changing. Today customers are looking for sales reps to be trusted advisors vs. product facilitators. In many cases the sales rep alone cannot reasonably supply all the desired expertise – hence the emergence of the team sale vs. the lone-wolf model. But effective sales teams do not just spring up on their own; they require a culture where team efforts are encouraged, trained, and rewarded.
  • Profiling successful models.  One of things we know about any organizational environment is that bad news tends to document itself – not always the case with good news.  When someone or some team does something that is in line with the desired culture, make sure those actions are documented for awareness and reference.

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

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

 

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Sales training – managing a conundrum

Sales training

Sales training

Here’s the conundrum …

  • You have a 250 person sales team
  • You are a new, first time Sales Training Director
  • You replaced a sales manager who did no sales training for a long time

To add urgency, revenue numbers have been stagnant for too long. The VP of Sales now feels that sales training is definitely needed and it needs to be done in short order.  And by the way, it needs to work.

Context. To complete the picture, let’s just note a couple of contextual factors that make the path forward a little more challenging.

  • Sales training is not inexpensive.  If you go with an outside vendor and customize the training materials, the training will be in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $1200 per sales rep.  This may or may not be a shared vision.
  • Expectations are likely to be dated.  Your company has not done any sales training for a long while; therefore the expectations are likely to be all across the board.  Some people will flash back to training they liked 10 years ago in another company – others will question “why now” after all this time and still others will have a completely unrealistic vision of what it takes to get sales training right, for example, all that stuff about reinforcement and coaching.
  • Lots of options.  If this challenge was on the table 10-15 years go, there were not many viable sales training vendor options from which to select.  Plus, they were all household names in the industry.  Today that is no longer the case.  There are now many great choices, a fair number of which may be unknown to the key players in your company.  Not only are there more sales training companies, these companies deploy significantly different approaches.  Now, there are clearly upsides to this development – but the downsides are there as well.

Selection dilemma.  So, who is your sales training partner going be?  How do we narrow down the list of prospects?  After you have generated an initial list, clearly you need to check with some other companies that have used that sales training vendor and ideally it would be great to see a program or at least review the program materials.

Let’s take that last must-do step – reviewing program materials.  Here, the second-order question is how.  Is there a “gatekeeper” criterion – a criterion that should be applied first and must be met?  To qualify, this criterion would need to be both critical and easy to measure accurately.

Gatekeeper Criterion.  When it comes to sales skills training we suggest the Gatekeeper Criterion relates to the amount of time devoted in the program to practice and feedback.  For sales skills training programs at least 50% of the classroom time should be devoted to practice and feedback. 

To meet this criterion ook for other approaches for knowledge transfer such as online training.  So what is done in the classroom is that which can uniquely be done in a classroom – that is high-level practice and feedback.   

It’s suggested the “at least 50%” criterion can be achieved across content areas and levels of training from new hire to advanced salespeople.  Going a step further, the best option is a customized sales simulation where 80-90% of the classroom time is spent on practice and feedback. 

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

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Best practices for improving sales process

Sales Process

Sales Process

Listen to a conversation about the need for improving sales process and it usually begins like this:

  • “We have very aggressive sales targets and we’re just not getting there.”
  • “We’re not leveraging our own best practices – a lot of our sales reps are simply doing what they did the last time.”
  • “Our customers’ buying process has undergone dramatic changes but we’re still selling like we always did.”

Whether or not you have consciously decided to address the topic of improving your sales process – it is happening everyday.  It is whatever your salespeople are doing on a given day to improve their navigation of the customer’s buying process. So it makes good sense to gain control.  If not you will end up with everyone doing their own thing and having a fair number of sales reps being less effective than they could be if you pursued a systematic approach to improving the sales process.

Today companies in most markets are undergoing transformational changes. They are changing what they buy, how they buy and what they are willing to pay for it.  If customers change their buying process, you need adapt and adjust you sales process.

If you commit to developing a more effective sales process, there are two fundamental best practices that deserve attention.

1. Start with definitional clarity.  Defining the term “sales process” is a classic example of the blind men and the elephant.  Everyone touches the “elephant” but when they compare notes there is no agreement on the nature of the beast.

Sales process is a concept that unfortunately means something different to everyone with whom you talk. Some would say if you put in place a new questioning model you have changed your sales process. Others would say that is simply adopting a new questioning model. Try it.  Ask around – it is a good bet you will get not just different answers but entirely different types of answers.

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 best suggestion is to 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 and avoid using the term interchangeably with concepts related to sales models and frameworks.  So if you decide to put in place a new questioning model, you have not changed your sales process.  You have just adopted a new questioning model.

2. Avoid unbridled compliance.  It is not a good idea for a whole bunch of reasons to have everyone do their own thing – that has never been a road to success and it is a particularly unwise journey in today’s market.  That’s an easy one.

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.

An obvious example of this would be a company that has separate sales forces for different markets such as a national account sales team and a territorial sales team.  The most effective sales process for these two markets would be substantially different.  The somewhat more understated point is the caution holds even within a given market.

On the sales process within a given market, on a scale of “everyone does their own thing to blind compliance” we suggest being somewhere in the middle.

Summary point.  A company is wise to 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 innovation and discourage the positive deviants among you from exploring the ideas that will define what success looks like tomorrow.  Unalterable commitment to any system in a dynamic environment negates your ability to deal with the ever present new and unknown.

There are a couple of keys to making all this work.

  • Know the adopted standard process really well – make sure you don’t end up deviating out of lack of awareness and knowledge of how the process works versus a planned deviation.
  • If you are going to deviate seek advice from someone like your sales manager so you do it smartly.

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

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

 

 

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Sales management coaching training – necessary but not sufficient

Sales coaching puzzle

Sales coaching puzzle

A while ago we received a call from a company wanting to talk about coaching training for their front-line sales managers.  They were real cheerleaders – they believed sales managers were the pivotal job for sales success and coaching was the sales managers’ key responsibility.

Since over the years we have published a lot about sales coaching and designed some very successful sales coaching training for clients, we thought we might be able to help. But as the conversation unfolded that “we might be helpful” thought began to fade.  Here’s why.

From a getting sales coaching training right perspective, they had taken all the traditional steps and had executed them to perfection.  It certainly was  fair to say they had done “everything right.”

First, they trained their sales reps in classic fundamental selling techniques so the managers did not have to start at ground zero.

Then they trained their sales managers in coaching techniques.  We first thought perhaps they might not have done such a good job at training their sales managers to coach – but it wasn’t so.  They had designed a customized sales coaching simulation that was close to what we would have proposed as the highest impact training design.

They also took a subsequent step.  When a new sales skill was introduced they trained the sales managers first and then had the sales managers participate as coaches during the program for the sales reps.

After all that, we asked: What were the sales managers doing or not doing that needed to be fixed?  Here the answer was interesting and a good lesson for all of us concerned about sales coaching.

From their analysis, the basic problem was what we would label as the “doing and telling” trap.

- Doing.  Rather then coaching, too many of the sales managers fell back on what they were use to doing, really good at doing and in some cases preferred doing – which was selling. 

A number of the sales managers had been promoted from internal sales rep positions and some maintained close ties to their favorite accounts – often failing to completely turn over those accounts.

In other cases when the sales manager went on sales calls where the pre-planned purpose of the call was coaching, they would just jump in and take over the call at the first sign the rep was not doing “the right thing.”

- Telling.  Despite the training when it did come down to coaching, the approach used by some sales managers could be summarized as follows:  “I’m the expert – I’ll diagnose what’s wrong and suggest what you should learn. Your job is to practice what I recommend.”

The company was, we think rightly, concerned that this implementation approach was not the best path forward.  We suggested they might consider an approach that could be described this way: “You are the one responsible for the learning.  I’m responsible for helping you become more aware of your performance and expand your learning choices.”

We discussed with our new friends their observations were not atypical.  Even if you do a great job in sales coaching training, it is easy for sales managers to fall into the traps they had identified.

So regardless of the type of coaching training, specific steps need to be taken during the sales coaching implementation to address these traps because they are likely to occur and are unlikely to be self-corrected.  Most importantly, they will probably high a significantly negative impact on the sales coaching initiative.

Following the sales call we spent some additional time thinking about what it takes to implement an effective sales coaching effort and what ideas we might pass along.  Let’s take a look:

Overarching principle: great sales coaching is a puzzle of many pieces.  The major walkaway is that skill development and hence training is only one piece of the puzzle for getting coaching right.  To optimize the potential of coaching, it is necessary integrate coaching into the culture of the organization and that requires viewing the challenge through multiple lenses.

Implementation ideas.  Although solving the larger puzzle is company-specific, here are some ideas to consider:

- Management selection process.  Often companies will just select from their pool of high performing sales reps – the higher on the list, the greater the chance of being selected.  If sales coaching is a priority, think about what other criteria might be important.  For example, have they shown any interest in coaching in previous positions or outside of work?  Have they served as formal or informal mentors for other sales reps?

An additional perspective is to consider the “soft skills” that people tend to possess that become effective coaches.  Integrity Selling have done some great work on this topic – Are Communication Skills Really Soft Skills?

- Time management.  In many cases, sales coaching fails not because of the lack of skill on the part of the sales managers, but because they simply run out of time.  Coaching gets pushed backed to Friday and it never happens.

This is a problem that can only be solved by the top sales leadership.    Sales coaching takes time. If you want sales managers to start committing more time to coaching, to what do you want them to stop committing time?

-Recognition and rewards.  Ask the following question: What are the forms of recognition and rewards for those that do a great job coaching?  If all “pats on the back” are about what deals were closed today, then coaching is unlikely to flourish.   The problem with sales coaching is the results usually do not turn up in the short run – the real payoffs occur down the road.

-Participation in additional training.  When the sales team is introduced to a new sales skill or process make sure the sales managers are included in the sales  training.  You can’t coach it if you don’t know it.

Here the best model is to introduce sales managers to the content first, then have them participate in the sales rep training as coaches.  The more difficult the content, the more important this design idea becomes.  The difference in the performance change out on the job can be dramatic.   

-Coach the coach.  If you are a company with a small sales team, say fewer then 10 sales managers, or a larger company where only a subset of sales managers need help, then adopting a coach-the-coach model can be an idea worth trying. The best approach is to solicit help from an expert in sales coaching in your industry.

-Blueprinting. Usually there is a subset of front-line sales managers that are getting it right. If that is the case, blueprint how they do what they do, codify it into a set of best practices and leverage the findings to help others.

Making coaching happen.  If you talk with sales managers, most think coaching is a good idea and that it makes a difference and they are right. CSO Insights reports that 20% more reps achieve quota at companies that develop effective coaching efforts.

So the issue is how to get it right and here we suspect it’s true – sales coaching training is necessary but not sufficient.

In many situations coaching fails not because of the incompetency of the sales managers – they have experience with what sales excellence looks like and they have a good sense about coaching.

So it is not about incompetency; it’s about ineptitude – that is the lack of being able to make happen something as difficult as coaching on a continuous basis when operating in a demanding and complex environment.  Sometimes the ineptitude is due to a lack of awareness on the part of the manager but more often it is related to factors that are in part or totally outside of their control.

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

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

 

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Building sales management excellence: 12 questions for getting it right

Sales Management Excellence

Sales Management Excellence

Herminia Ibaraan, an INSEAD professor, published a provocative book arguing that in today’s market if you desire to get better at management you must venture outside your comfort zone.  Being stuck in outdated mindsets or ways of doing things will not lead to success.

The message is: to achieve success, managers must learn to pivot – that is do something different rather than just getting better at doing what they are doing.

Although the book was about management leadership in general, we felt the message was particularly important for front-line sales managers.  There is little doubt that front-line sales managers are the pivotal job for building an effective sales team.  If you find a company with an outstanding sales team, it is likely you will also find a cadre of outstanding sales managers.

So, if you are a sales manager, how do you move from here to there – from being okay to being outstanding?  We would suggest that the discipline of asking yourself a set of questions about what is going on is a great first step for making that happen.  Here’s a short list:

  1. What is going on in the buying environment that would impact how we sell?
  2. How do the changes in the buying environment impact our overall strategy for business development?
  3. What skill sets does my team need to adapt and adjust to the changes that are occurring?
  4. How should I prioritize my coaching time?
  5. How can I optimize the quality of feedback I share with my sales team?
  6. How can I help my sales team better leverage institutional resources?
  7. Under what conditions should I participant in sales calls – how does that differ by the individual team member and type of call?
  8. What can I do specifically for top performers? under-achievers?
  9. How can I increase the percentage of time my team spends selling to customers?  What is the major time sink?
  10. What can I do to increase the overall motivation of my sales team?
  11. What is one innovative idea I should try to increase the sales   productivity of the team?
  12. What is the one skill I must get better at?

In Sales, the need for improving management leadership is something that is ever present.  However, from time to time the scope and scale of the disruptions in the market are at such a level, the importance of getting management leadership right moves to center stage – this is one of those times.

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

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

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