Category Archives: Sales Coaching
Move over, baby boomers. You too, Gen Xers. In 2015, millennials became the largest segment of the American workforce, with more than one in three workers being from this generation. Figuring out how to train a multigenerational sales team presents unique challenges for sales leaders, but understanding the difference between generational learning styles will help you be more effective.
There have always been differences in age and experience levels across sales organizations, from recent graduates to those nearing retirement. This presents a business imperative and an opportunity to identify the differences and similarities in learning and communication styles and the implications for coaching and training a multigenerational sales team.
Understanding the Learning Styles of Generations in the Workforce
These days, there can be up to four generations in the workforce. Connecting and communicating successfully across this generational spectrum can strain the ability of sales leaders and those in Learning and Development. The starting point is knowing your audience:
1. Traditionalists (those born before 1945): Generally speaking, most workers in this generation are strongly committed to their organizations. They value teamwork, collaboration, and the development of interpersonal skills. Their learning style is commensurate with these characteristics: they like teamwork and collaboration in the classroom.
2. Baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964): Boomers tend to be very competitive and are success-driven. They look for professional growth, are receptive to change, and consider training to be one » Continue Reading.
Frontline sales management can be one of the most difficult jobs within a sales organization. It can also be one of the most rewarding.
The eternal struggle for most sales leaders is being caught in the sales coaching versus managing conundrum. They intend to coach their people, but tend not to because of time constraints and the demands of managing within their organization.
Leaders can have the best intentions of developing the skills and talents of their direct reports through developmental sales coaching. But the information chaos swirling around them can get in the way. Those in management positions are pulled in several directions. Reviewing and commenting on data, running analyses and forecasts, conducting meetings, and putting out fires are just a few of the demands of today’s sales leaders. The ability to deliver pure coaching is on the back burner far too often. Unfortunately, these time-pressed leaders end up just mailing it in and miss real opportunities to provide developmental sales coaching.
To attempt to compensate for the time-management crunch, frontline leaders will fall into the trap of surface coaching, which are conversations that are purely output- and result-focused. A forecast and pipeline are analyzed, and a typical conversation can center on the current state of those numbers without much dialogue around how change can be accomplished. Sales leaders often don’t dive into the developmental conversation they should be having. It takes real focus to resist the urge » Continue Reading.
The talent pool for sales leadership comes from successful sales professionals. Organizations often reward excellence in selling by promotion into leadership roles. But, what’s missing is the realization that different skill sets are required for selling vs. managing those who sell.
Sale leaders need to build on their understanding of the sales process by adding skills in developmental sales coaching. At Richardson, we define this as an effective and time-efficient incremental coaching process that achieves results and helps make sales professionals responsible for their own development. At its foundation, this involves a shift from being a boss who evaluates performance to becoming a coach who develops team members by empowering their own growth.
What I see most often in new sales leaders is a tendency to be driven solely by metrics. They focus on deliverables from their team: the number of sales calls made, reports filed on time, and sales forecasts. These new leaders have been successful in the field, and they want to continue that success. What they don’t realize is their ability to achieve greater success rests with their capability to effectively manage their team. They need to develop their observation skills to assess how their people are doing and where they might need help. They need to recognize what’s going well, coach to verifiable outcomes, and give constructive feedback to drive success for the individual, the team, and the organization.
Moving from individual contributor to sales » Continue Reading.
How are you planning for rapid sales growth?
I recently met with a prospect who shared his company’s plans for rapid sales growth. I asked about the company’s salesforce and how good the salespeople are. He replied that some are better than others, some are superstars, and some are not as productive as they could be.
I asked what the superstars are doing in meetings with customers that has led to their high success rates. The prospect couldn’t really tell me. Assumptions could be made, but there is very little direct witnessing of the superstars’ selling behaviors.
Then, I asked how the sales managers are coaching the sales professionals, which is one way to gauge the selling behaviors that managers find important for success. The answer was that their coaching styles are more directive. Sales managers are telling their people what to do in each selling situation or, when participating in customer calls, taking over the calls themselves. Their first priority is to get the deal closed, not to develop the skills and craft of their sales professionals.
I immediately sensed a disconnect. If the company is planning on fast growth and hiring more sales people, then relying on sales managers to jump on calls with sales professionals to help them close deals isn’t going to allow the company to scale up very rapidly. This means that its aggressive plans for growth aren’t likely to be sustainable.
If, instead, » Continue Reading.
In conversations I’ve been having lately with prospects and clients, I’ll ask how well their sales professionals are performing on the job. Their answers focus on the more tangible areas of sales performance. They might refer to lagging indicators, such as where the sales person is in relation to quota goal, revenue attainment, number of closed deals, and growth vs. the prior year. On the other hand, they might reference leading indicators, such as the number of opportunities created, value in the pipeline, or number of calls or meetings with prospects.
Even with all of these proof points, what they’re not able to evaluate very well is this simple question: How good are they? How well does each sales professional perform during those crucial moments when they’re interacting with the buyer? This kind of assessment is important because it’s really where the rubber meets the road — in those human moments of interaction.
Part of what differentiates a seller in the buyer’s mind is being able to trust the seller and knowing that the seller understands the buyer’s business and the issues that the buyer face. It is the quality of interaction, more than technical knowledge, marketing materials, or the value proposition, that creates a connection and convinces the buyer that the seller has his/her best interests in mind.
So, when I probe to find out how sellers’ sales professionals are really performing when interacting with prospects, they often don’t » Continue Reading.
Move away from the computer and coach
Time is a limited and much sought-after resource in the sales environment, especially for sales managers who are being tasked to do more with less. Taking the time for coaching sales professionals can seem like an unrealistic luxury, but the time invested can create greater gains and even more time for the manager. We all struggle with making time to coach so that you have to create a cadence.
There are a few secrets that I have found that can improve your sales coaching techniques and make coaching easier and more effective. The first is discipline. As a sales manager, I disciplined myself to make time for “in-the-moment” coaching every single day.
Each morning, I would walk over to the office or workspace of each of my employees. I said, “Good Morning,” and then asked them three questions:
What was their plan for the day? How were they doing? Was there anything that required my immediate attention or that they needed my help with today?
The whole process took about 20 to 35 minutes. It helped me manage my time, coach my people, and deliver on expectations.
I could tell what I needed to do to coach them in the moment by how they answered the questions. This process surfaced urgent items that needed processing, challenges with a client, any lack of focus, attitudes that were forming, and any performance » Continue Reading.
In my previous blog post, I talked about the need to find time for sales coaching moments. One of the greatest myths that sales managers have about coaching their teams is that it takes too much time. Yes, coaching conversations do take time, but when done right, with the right structure and preparation, coaching can be the most effective use of a sales manager’s time. And, it can actually create more time for sales managers, as they find themselves putting out fewer fires. When sales professionals have the skills and the confidence to operate well independently, they become more responsible and accountable for their own results.
In reality, too many managers commit to coaching without a plan. They can spend hours on one coaching session, trying to get the sales professional to change a
handful of things, overwhelming him/her with a data dump of information.
At Richardson, our target for developmental sales coaching is to focus on one, maybe two, changes that can have the most effective impact. Considering that most people can only change one thing at a time and attention spans continue to shrink, a targeted approach to coaching is better received. Short sessions — 20 minutes or less — can be highly effective. Praise alone takes just a few minutes.
When sales managers don’t take the time to coach, they end up doing more work themselves. They either correct mistakes made by their » Continue Reading.
The business world is constantly churning, which puts pressure on organizations to keep up. Most operate in an environment of globalization, more competition from more places, mergers and acquisitions, reorganizations, and technology disruptions. Still, the end goal never changes: to grow the business and optimize resources.
For sales managers, this means not only staying nimble and being able to switch paths quickly but rallying their troops through effective sales coaching so that everyone understands their role and is equipped to contribute. Coaching is no small task, especially as management layers become flattened and those who remain have more responsibility. Today’s managers have to act fast, shift tactics to address priorities of the moment, anticipate changes, and set a vision for his/her people to follow.
Coaching has become a key component of a manager’s responsibilities, but coaching conversations take time. And, finding time for these conversations, one on one, with every member of the team can seem like an impossible task, especially when virtual teams are involved.
There are, however, several ways to create coaching moments that, over time, can work for both sales managers and their sales professionals.
One sales management tip from my own experience as a sales manager involves what I call “fan moments.” The office environment was a tough one, with a lot of pressure to get things done and no excuses. When tensions ran high, people would come into my office so that » Continue Reading.