Sales & Sales Management Expertise

Do You Have Sales Growth Problems?  Solution #1: Coach the team you have.

Tags: Sales Growth, Sales Manager, coaching salespeople, effective sales management

In a remarkable show of grit, the University of Alabama clawed back from a 20-point deficit against the University of Minnesota, though they eventually lost by 5. Most of you are probably thinking 1 of 2 things:

  1. I don’t care about Alabama basketball – that's just something that happens between football season and spring football practice.
  2. They still lost so why is this relevant?

It’s relevant because of a detail you wouldn’t know about unless you watch college basketball or follow sports shows regularly. For those totally out of the loop, in basketball each team has on the court at any one time 5 players. Due to an injury, a player fouling out and several players being ejected from the game Alabama played the last 10+ minutes of the game with just three players on the court!

Avery Johnson, the head basketball coach for Alabama, was asked to explain how he believed his three guys managed to pull off the most amazing loss in NCAA history. His response was that they practice a lot of defensive 5 on 3 basketball. There is no reason to go into the details of that here other than these two important things:

  1. Understanding the situations you know you are going to be in at some point during the game is imperative.
  2. Coaching your players on how to react and what to do in those situations is crucial for your success.

How is that any different than sales? The short answer is that it is not. So why doesn’t it – coaching the team that you have - happen?

  • Hiring managers believe they are hiring people with the appropriate skills and know how.
  • Most managers don’t believe that their salespeople need practice of basic fundamental sales skills – if they did, more sales training and 1-on-1 coaching would be taking place and more people on the sales team would be hitting their goals.
  • More time is spent on crafting the ‘deal’ then on practicing what to do when:
    1. The decision maker doesn't’ show up for the presentation
    2. The company hasn’t committed to leaving their current supplier, relationship, banker, insurance broker
    3. The prospect wants you to ‘sharpen your pencil’
    4. The prospect wants to ‘think it over’
  • Most sales managers – yes this might include you – haven’t been trained on effective coaching, don’t schedule time for coaching opportunities, don’t demand role-playing in sales meetings and confuse performance management with coaching.

Our assessment and research of dozens of companies with dozens of sales managers tell us that less than 10% of sales managers have the appropriate coaching skill set.  As you can see from this Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis snapshot of this sales organization the sales managers who are employed there have 44% of the required skills and are 59% effective when coaching. 

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In addition to effective coaching (Download Keys to Effective Coaching E-book) a Sales Managed Environment requires performance management, effective recruiting, motivation that works and upgrading the sales team.

Here are a couple of ideas worthy of consideration and implementation:

  1. Carve out time and be a slave to your schedule for 1 on 1 coaching to specifically improve skills and change behaviors
  2. Make sure that in every sales meeting you have a segment on sales skills improvement that includes drill for skill and role-playing
  3. Every week in your schedule you should have time for the ‘situation room’. This is the opportunity to conduct pre–call strategy sessions and post meeting debriefs
  4. Instruct and demand your sales team schedule joint calls with you once a month. 
  5. Make documentation of ALL activity in your CRM a requirement to get reimbursed for business expenses. 

In a 1,000 word blog we cannot solve all the sales problems outlined in the beginning but tackling coaching is a great start. For another step in that direction take action NOW. For a free sample of the Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis click the botton below.

Free SEIA Sample

Fishing for Prospects

Tags: Prospecting, Qualifying leads, coaching salespeople, create & convert leads

I’m sure majority of people have heard the Chinese proverb “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” This, of course, means it’s more worthwhile to teach someone to do something (for themselves) than to do it for them (on an ongoing basis).

Well, I’ve created a new proverb. A sales proverb, if you will:

“Give a salesperson a prospect, and you strengthen their pipeline for a day. Teach a salesperson to prospect, and you strengthen their pipeline for their career.”

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Makes sense, doesn’t it?

A lot of the companies we partner with supply their new, or tenured, salespeople with leads consistently. In theory, this sounds great but it can cause problems long term. If you are feeding leads to your salespeople on a regular basis we encourage you to continue to do so. However, your salespeople can’t and shouldn’t rely on them as their main resource for potential business. They should be capable of replicating the process and generating their own opportunities. If they produce solely off of inbound marketing leads, the salesperson will just survive and not thrive within your organization. If they don’t know how to effectively create, cultivate and generate leads they will only do what is required of them to sell and close the leads they’re given, won’t try and uncover other opportunities and in the end, you, the sales manager, and the salesperson, will be disappointed with their performance.

And it’s not just a matter of teaching them how to prospect but how to prospect effectively. Anyone can go out and get a list of names but how they contact those names, what they say, what questions they ask- all play a role in effectively “fishing” for leads.

So how can you help your salespeople?

Start by setting a new lead expectation. Making it mandatory to produce fresh opportunities on a weekly basis will force your salespeople to go out and make the dials. Next, identify your “Zebra” or ideal prospect persona. For a better understanding of the concept and best practices on identifying “Zebras” watch this short Sales Guy Unplugged video. Don’t let your salespeople call on anyone other than those that fit the personas identifies. After, research the best ways to reach your ideal prospect. Is it via email or phone call? Is LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter their preferred social media platform? Knowing how and where to reach your target persona will positively impact your salespeople’s’ ability to hunt, qualify and discover potential new business.

A salespersons job, though difficult to do, is not difficult to understand. There are 3 major components: go out in the marketplace and uncover opportunities, qualify those opportunities and close for the business. Don’t let your salespeople get by on just your internal leads- fishing for prospects is 33% of their job.

Need more help? Download our free E-Book “Why is Qualifying a Prospect so #%&@ Hard”. This book is packed with practical information that you can put into practice today to immediately increase your sales. Also, listen to the recorded live broadcast of Anthony Cole Training Group’s President and Chief Sales Officer, Mark Trinkle, covering “How to Create, Cultivate and Convert Sales Leads".

Listen to the Recording Here!

Sales and Super Mario

Tags: Prospecting, Qualifying leads, coaching salespeople, create & convert leads

Last week, my fiancé and I were gifted a new Super Nintendo Classic with all the originals preloaded- Donkey Kong Country, Street Fighter, Zelda and of course, Super Mario World. Now I realize only a certain group reading this will know the exact system I am referring to but my theory still applies to Atari lovers, Gameboy enthusiasts and even those of you who know nothing about gaming and gaming consoles.

The first night we picked up the retro remotes we discovered something—these games are hard! Particularly Super Mario World. Being someone who grew up with this technology, I thought getting back into it would be simple. I was wrong. I was so excited to be playing again I found myself running the course, taking risky jumps, trying to collect all the coins I could and would end up falling to my virtual death or getting hit in the head by a turtle shell. I realized that I had an opportunity to make it through to the next level but I wasn’t doing what was necessary to convert that opportunity into a win. I rushed through. I took risks that weren’t worth it but I made them anyway because it was the only play I had. And then I had an epiphany- the same thing happens in sales.mario2.jpg

One of the problems we hear our clients talk most about is their ability to grow sales and its direct correlation to their salespeople’s ability to create and convert opportunities. Lead generation and conversion requires two things: effort and effective execution. Majority of the time, we find that the effort is there but the execution could use work. If you were to ask your salespeople to show you their pipeline for the next 30 or 60 days, what would it look like? There are probably enough opportunities but are they properly vetted? Does the lead or prospect qualify to do business with your organization? Does your company qualify to do business with them? Or are they just in there to make it look like your sales person has a full dance card for the next month? Weak, unqualified pipelines make cowards of us all- we don’t want to throw the unqualified ones out because if we did, what would we have left?

Salespeople tend to rush through the sales process after hearing the littlest pain indicator or buying signal. They feel the quicker they move, the more likely the prospect is to say “yes” at time of close. However, that’s rarely how it works out. Usually when we rush, we are left with “think it over”, stalls and objections or the prospect decides not to answer calls or emails at all. So, what can your salespeople do TODAY to help fix the problem?

  1. Slow down! Don’t rush the sales process. When we rush, we get inconsistent results and are likely to face more problems on the back end.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions. The #1 reasons salespeople struggle with creating and converting leads is because they think they need to be liked in order to get the business. This will keep them from asking great, robust questions that allow them to properly qualify for the opportunity. It will also help your salespeople stand apart from their competitors.
  3. Use our free tool “Qualify Your Prospects” to help your salespeople better qualify and then have them remove prospects from their pipeline as soon as they realize there isn’t anywhere to go. They don’t need to continue wasting their time with another “discovery call” or follow-up email. Put them in your tickler system and move on to the next lead.

There are many other techniques to help your salespeople keep from getting hit in the head with “think it over” turtle shells. Sign up for our free live broadcast, “Learn How to Create, Cultivate and Convert Qualified Leads for Great Sales Growth” for more tips and tools! Your salespeople will learn proven methods to find and connect with real buyers in this new world of selling.

Sign up for How to  Create, Cultivate & Convert Sales Leads  Live Broadcast!