In the Sales Training Connection we’ve talked about the importance of several skills that top performing sales people need to incorporate in order to be more effective at selling strategically.
Let’s move to the next step and look at four best practices for coaching sales strategy.
Select the Right Account. A classic trap for sales managers is spreading their coaching efforts too thinly. If you want to improve your strategy coaching, a good place to begin is to select the right accounts on which to focus your efforts. Several selection criteria may be considered, but one stands out – high revenue potential.
Rarely do sales people have all accounts with equal potential for revenue growth. Together with the sales person, the sales manager should target for strategic coaching those accounts with the greatest potential for revenue growth. How many accounts? The best advice for maximizing your strategy coaching time is: do a really good job coaching a few, high-payoff accounts. Given the “too-thin trap”, it’s probably best to limit your coaching efforts to two or three key accounts per sales person.
Establish the Expectation for Preparation. There is no such thing as a generic winning strategy when selling in a complex market. Capturing the business is not about selecting a strategy; it’s about formulating a strategy. And formulating strategy requires having better information. For an effective and efficient strategy coaching session, sales managers should establish the expectation that sales people come to the session with the right information in hand. At a minimum, the sales person should have information about the business situation in the account, the account’s business objectives, and details about the buying process and players – plus some initial thoughts about your solution.
Focus on Strategy and Skills. When formulating a strategy for a complex account, it’s a mistake to coach strategy independent of skills. Even the best strategy will fail unless what goes on in front of the customer is executed skillfully. This means the last step in any strategy coaching session should be planning the first call in executing that strategy. In some cases, it may be appropriate for the sales manager to go on the call to help the sales person sell. Or, the call could serve as a coaching opportunity to further develop the skills required to carry out the strategy.
Leverage Time. The greatest barrier to coaching is lack of time. By selecting the right accounts and establishing expectations about preparation, you can improve the efficiency of the coaching effort. Another way to leverage time is to consider alternatives to one-on-one sessions. While skill coaching is usually done individually because of the observation and feedback elements, strategy coaching often lends itself to small groups. Often, the types of accounts and the dilemmas faced will be common to many members of the sales team. In this case, it’s feasible – even advantageous – to involve two or three members of the team in a strategy session, because everyone will benefit from discussions of all the targeted accounts.
There is little doubt that the best sales people sell strategically. And, the best coaches are really good at helping them learn how to do it. The key to effective sales strategy coaching is for sales managers to think about both what to coach and how to coach it.
Check out other posts on sales effectiveness at the Sales Training Connection.
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