Once upon a time, a savvy sales leader hired a sales training organization to improve his team’s sales performance. His reps learned all the newest sales methods available, and they were all convinced they’d knock their sales quotas straight out of the park for years and year to come.
But then it came time to apply what they’d learned. Sales performance levels stagnated. Quotas weren’t met. Reps either didn’t change, or changed briefly and then reverted to the old way of doing things.
The company’s senior execs were left scratching their heads. Maybe there wasn’t wisdom in investing in sales training after all, they wondered.
Not exactly the fairy tale ending that the sales leader had hoped for. Why?
At Richardson, we know that the best sales performance system in the world is only effective if sales performance is sustained. Did you know that salespeople will forget 87% of the information they absorb during sales training within one month?
If you want your salespeople to remember more than 13% of what they learn during sales training, you need to coach them regularly, preferably one-on-one. You also need some great technology that reinforces the new techniques when you can’t do it in person. Most sales leaders know this approach.
But what many sales leaders miss is the opportunity to get salespeople to practice what they learn during sales training by asking the right questions.
Questions are the fabric of effective sales coaching conversations. They should influence every sales coaching opportunity to reinforce sales training.
Questions are also the best way to deal with objections to new sales systems. So when you hear…
- “I’ve tried that before and it didn’t work.”
- “I’m just not comfortable with that approach.”
- “You don’t understand my customer.”
- “I don’t have time for that.”
… respond with questions that will inspire your reps to buy into what you want them to do. Say things like:
- What happened when you tried that before? What was the same/different about the situations?
- What is making you uncomfortable about doing it this way? Who on our team does that well? What are they doing that you could do?
- Tell me more about your customer.
- Let’s take a look at your schedule. What does your typical week look like? If you had X more hours, how would you spend them?
Get to the bottom so your salespeople can rise to the top.
Encourage your sales reps to open up so that you can find out what’s really behind their objections. Just as if you were in a sales call, make it a conversation, not an inquisition. Listen carefully to what is — and isn’t — being said. Does a salesperson lack confidence in his ability to implement the new techniques? Or, does he simply feel overloaded and overwhelmed with too much else on his plate? Watch for some of these Top Ten Reasons for Change Resistance from Dr. A. J. Schuler.
Drive the discussion with questions designed to get our salespeople to explore what it would take for them to make the new methodologies and practices that they learned work. Discussing possibilities makes for better sales performance than looking at roadblocks.
Another way to be more effective with sales coaching is to practice the message you want to get across. Chris Mott has some good advice on how to do this in his blog post, Prepare for Sales Calls and Coaching by Planning the Conversation.
With the right questions — and a strategic mix of sales coaching and technology — your reps will turn their own hesitations into self-created inspiration for change.
And then, you can all live happily ever after.