ACTG Sales Management Blog

Sales & Sales Management Expertise Blog  

Do You Have a Coaching Bias?

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Oct 08, 2020

In every sales training and coaching program we work with individuals to help them write and deliver their phone scripts, value propositions and elevator pitches. These are important components for salespeople to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace. And this exchange should begin the relationship on the right foot by getting the audience engaged.

Here is the approach I use when calling on executives that fit our ideal prospect profile:

Hello John, this is Tony Cole. (pause)

Yes Tony, how can I help you?

Well John, I’m certain of two things: 1. You were not sitting by your phone today waiting for a call from me and 2. If you are like many of our clients there is currently a lot of pressure and concern about making revenue and budget numbers.

Pause – and wait for a response.

Can I tell you why I called? Sure.

Our clients are those that recognize that their current sales structure is perfectly designed for the results they are getting today. And today the results may not be enough to make budget projections. I’m calling to find out how much you, as president of the company can relate to that scenario. Pause. Can I ask you a question?

In a word how would you describe the overall results of your company as it relates to taking the full advantage of the opportunity in your markets? (Assume the prospect says, “pretty good”.)

Why just pretty good? What is missing? (Engagement begins)

You must understand the game

Years ago, one of the lead execs from our client Key Bank shared an article called, “What it takes to be a Coach”. It began with You Must Understand the Game.

9_keys_to_successful_coaching_cover

At the time, most did not understand that the ‘game’ is the game of selling. Managers and internal trainers must really understand the game of selling. Unless internal trainers have strapped a headset on, make hundreds of dials, asked for introductions, been rejected, sold big cases and started with small sales, then they cannot understand the game. It would be like taking flying lessons from a pilot trainer that did all of their flight learning in a simulator. Would you want them as your flying coach?

Most sales managers end up in their manager role because they were good to great salespeople and the company was looking to replace a current position.:

Rarely if ever does that person go through an intense, fully integrated sales training development program to help them effectively execute the required skills of an effective coach.

As an example, in the script above an effective coach will teach their salespeople to get a prospect involved in the conversation as quickly as possible. This is done by executing two steps:

  1. Saying your name and then being quiet
  2. Informing the listener that it may not make sense for the call and ask for permission to proceed

Ideally, the prospect gets involved in the conversation within 3 seconds and then gives the salesperson permission to make their value proposition or elevator pitch. That takes coaching knowledge and skill. You must know the game.

Peter Jensen is an Olympic coach from Canada and author of the book “The Third Factor”. I met Peter at Bill Ekstrom’s EXSELL Conference many years ago. He states that the first two factors for success in anything are nature and nurture. The Third Factor, specific to coaching, is:

You must have a coaching bias.

Need to Improve Your Coaching Skills?

This is what it takes to be successful at coaching: you must love coaching and the game of selling. You must thrive on developing others to be the best versions of themselves. It must be about helping others gain the spotlight, success and financial rewards or a job well done. It requires sacrificing ego and the need to be right for the other person to discover their path, develop their skills and become the expert.

There are assessments in the marketplace to help people identify if they have what it takes. We use Objective Management Group’s Sales Manager Evaluation. Three key findings are identified and scored:

  1. The Will to be successful specifically in the role of manager or sales leader
  2. The Sales Manager DNA
  3. The Sales Manager Competencies

The evaluation provides an index percentage that tells the evaluated sales manager how they rank against other who have taken the evaluation. If their percentage is 80%, they are better than 80% of the managers who have taken the evaluation. Our 20+ history has verified that most sales managers have less than 10% of the skills needed to be an effective sales coach.

In summary, most sales managers struggle to get their salespeople to perform for one of the following reasons:

  • The manager doesn’t have what it takes - the skills - to be good at the job
  • The manager doesn’t take the time or doesn’t have the bandwidth to handle the job and spend appropriate time coaching
  • There isn’t a consistent ‘Sales Managed Environment’ to execute to so that day in and day out, it’s a different process.

We may well be entering into a new reality when it comes to sales and business success moving forward. In order to stay ahead of the curve, and competition, companies need salespeople who are as can differentiate themselves in a virtual environment. They need sales managers or coaches with a coaching bias who can monitor and track each individual’s sales activities, coach, and hold them accountable to behaviors that will produce revenue.

Need to Improve Your Coaching Skills?

Topics: effective sales coaching, Effective Coaching, sales management success, coaching sales people, sales performance coaching

What Does It Take To Be A GREAT Sales Coach?

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Apr 13, 2018

Email jeni@anthonycoletraining.com to request a sample of the Coaching Findings form from the Objective Management Group’s Sales Effectiveness and Impact Analysis. 

Mark Trinkle, our President and CSO, suggested I read a book by Seth Davis titled “Getting to Us: How Great Coaches Make Great Teams.” If you are a sports fan, or a fan of stories about how athletic coaches achieve success, this is a great read for you. But what really matters about this book are the stories around how these coaches achieved success and how they continue to do it today.

Syracuse

By “do it” I mean- how do they take a collection of people and get them to sacrifice individual objectives and come together to achieve great things? You will find that there are similarities in all of the coaches when it comes to drive, passion and an obsession with the game they love. They all have their own styles, quirks and mannerisms. But the ONE big thing they all have in common? COACHING!

They all believe that in order to get talent to perform at it’s very best, to perform at the level expected of them, regular coaching is required. One coach in particular caught my attention when it came to the coaching aspect of their success. That coach is Jim Boeheim – head basketball coach at Syracuse. In the book, he makes a comment that at Syracuse they don’t have the same draw to get those McDonald's All American kids that Duke, Kentucky, Michigan and Kansas have. And so, with the kids he does have, he really has to ‘coach them up.’

COACHING COMPETENCY

coaching competency

What does it take to be a great coach? First it takes managers that have the coaching competencies you see above. All 12 of these skills/behaviors are critical to effective coaching but the competency listed at the very top is the most critical! If a manager has ALL the skills but doesn’t coach and debrief consistently, then the rest doesn’t matter.

Second, you have to have a GREAT coaching environment. As you can see below, 80% of the team is coachable but only 12% of the managers believe they are respected, trusted, and have strong relationships with producers.

coaching environment

And finally, you have to have coaches that are focused on the right things:

  • Opportunity coaching
  • Coaching to challenge
  • Tactical sales
  • Strategic sales
  • Sales process

Absent coaching in these areas creates an environment where salespeople are prone to repeat mistakes over and over, fail to improve skill or change behaviors.

To reference back to Coach Boeheims' story about Syracuse- your situation is probably similar. You don’t get the chance to recruit the McDonald's All American sales dudes or dudettes. You get good people but they need coaching- and lots of it! Having said that, keep this in mind—even though Michigan, Kansas, Kentucky, UConn (Women's Basketball) and Duke get the best of the best- guess what? They still require coaching!

If you need to figure this out, to grow and reach your sales growth opportunity, sign up for our free live broadcast on "The 8 Strategies to Reach Your Company's Sales Growth Opportunity". We will be sharing a research based methodology to sales management that you can execute on immediately!

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Topics: Sales Growth, Effective Coaching, sales managed environment

How to Eliminate the Rollercoaster and Anemic Pipeline Syndrome – 5 Sales Management Best Practices

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Sep 27, 2017

Why are rollercoasters and anemic pipeline syndromes important?  They aren’t important if:

  • You have validity and complete confidence in the credibility of your pipeline report.
  • Your CFO never asks you about solid sales forecasts.
  • You are ok with the unpredictable ups and downs in your team’s production.
  • Your top performers don’t mind carrying the load for the other 66% of the team--who typically generate 10% or less of new business sales. (Get more out of your non-performers)

The rollercoaster/anemic pipeline discussion is important if you need to know the answers to these important business questions:

  • How many new leads are we really generating?
  • How many of those new leads are converting to new opportunities AND what is that conversion rate?
  • What is our real average size account?
  • What is our closing ratio from new opportunities to closed /won accounts?
  • What is the dollar volume or number of new opportunities on a rolling 90 day time frame throughout the year?

Knowing the answers to these questions helps you have better predictability from your pipeline. The answers also helps you develop a more intentional coaching strategy; one that allows you the intelligence to coach your sales people on their specific choke points.

Instead of telling them they need to “See more people”, “Do a better job of closing” or “Increase your average size sale”,  you will have the ability to show the data so that they understand where they are lacking and must increase efforts and/or learn skills. 

Book Your Complimentary Coaching Call

Here are 5 Sales Management BEST PRACTICES to eradicate the rollercoaster anemic pipeline problem, ALTHOUGH you must have a CRM system that does more than just allow your sales people to enter data about leads.

Your CRM tool must have a milestone centric sales process format that collects information about leads every time they go to your site, read an email, or look at your LinkedIn profile.  Your CRM must produce and display a dashboard with all the pertinent information that answers the questions asked above.  And your CRM must have a library of content you can use to help coach your people.  (Ask about about CRM – email mark@anthonycoletraining.com)

BEST PRACTICES:

  1. You have established for each sales person on your team a “Success Formula”. You can go to this link to download a template.  The individual Success Formulas puts you and your sales people on the same page which outlines effort and effectiveness required to meet and exceed extraordinary goals.
  2. You have a Huddle Process to collect real time information on effort. The entire sales process hinges on one step – effort to generate leads.  It is nothing more than effort.  While skill is required, true effort in the form of necessary behavior is critical .  S.  If you don’t have true “hunters”, recruit and replace.
  3. Read and understand what the data for business intelligence. Sales people know when they are not performing well. What they need help with is the “Why?”  The business intelligence you gain from your CRM will point you in the direction of the answer to the question “What should I be doing differently to improve sales?”
  4. Establish coaching plans for those failing (even just 5% off of target requires coaching).

**Side note:  Failing is failing.  Don’t lull yourself into a false sense of security with comments like, “He is close. He is trending in the right direction. He is one deal away from hitting goal.”

  1. Each coaching session must end with an action step: eg. “Mike, what I want you to do now is to call ABC Company and talk to your contact.  Have the discussion we just role–played and report back to me by the end of business tomorrow.”  Without action steps your sales people will leave these 1-on-1 coaching sessions and promptly forget the discussions. Unfortunately by next week you will be wondering what they did differently, if anything at all.

These 5 Best Practices are not meant to be the all-inclusive list of steps required by sales managers to drive sales productivity.  You must still have steps and strategies to motivate your people, recruit more of the right talent, have great sales meetings, develop teams that work together etc.  But focusing on these 5 Best Practices will help you develop a more credible, valid and consistent pipeline.  This is important to you, your people and the company.

Book Your Complimentary Coaching Call

Additional resources:

CRM best practices-An article by Izzy Witts at Bablequest.com

9 Keys to Coaching Sales Success  Are you a great coach?

Topics: Pipeline management, Effective Coaching, sales management, Sales Coaching

How Do You Turn “Old Farts” Into Sales Legends?  Not So Easy 1, 2, 3

Posted by Tony Cole on Tue, Aug 29, 2017

I doubt that you, in public, have a group of producers that you call ‘old farts’ or some other term of endearment.  But what I really wonder is this; Do you have a group that you consider ‘Sales Legends’.  My guess is that the answer is no.  There are reasons for this.

producers, sales legends, sales strategy, top producers

Before I provide suggestions for a solution, let me explain the title:  I recently played in a member guest golf tournament at Triple Crown Country Club with my good friend Jerry Barron.  I’ve known for a long time that since his retirement Jerry plays a lot of golf with his buddies on a regular schedule throughout the golf season. What I didn’t know is that for many years this group was known as the “Old Farts’ gang.  Apparently some people thought that this was a bit insensitive so the pro decided that the group would become known as “The Legends”.

This got me thinking about many of the sales teams we work with and the problems associated with growing revenue when a segment of the sales population isn’t motivated to or can’t grow their book.

The problem associated with the ‘old fart’ team really isn’t about age but rather about three very distinct phases in a sales person’s career.  These phases include but are not limited to those that have been with you a long time and are survivors. Those that do manage a large book of revenue and spend a great deal of time ‘managing the book’ and either cannot or will not grow the book.  And finally you have some people that really are ready to retire but haven’t told anyone yet. Let me clarify these 3:

  • The Survivor: Those who have been with your organization for a long time and who have survived the ups and downs of economic swings and changes in your (re-engineered / right sized) company. These people have stayed just off the radar and when ever talent discussions come up they survive the discussion:  “What do we do with…?”
  • Large Account Managers: The next challenge is with those in the sales population who handle a couple of key accounts or control a large book of revenue that you really don’t want to lose. These people hold you “hostage”.  Your rationalization is that you are afraid that the business will go with them if they leave or you justify keeping them while saying ‘They cover their compensation so they really aren’t costing me anything.”
  • Retired On The Job: Finally you have people who are in fact in the later years of their careers and don’t have the same ‘fire in the belly’ that they did when they first started.  They are empty nesters, have a solid retirement plan, generate a comfortable income from the incentive comp plan and also conveniently may hold the opinion that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

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Case Study:  Why Retiring on the job is a problem for sales companies.  An insurance agency had a group of mature producers who controlled a revenue block of 5,000,000 dollars in revenue.  The holding company of this agency set a growth goal for this market as well as it’s other markets around the country at 20% gross growth per year  (The company made assumptions of 5% unknown losses in revenue and 10% known loses – non-recurring revenue streams.)  This group of mature producers had stopped producing new business and had no motivation to do so.  That meant that the 1,000,000 dollars of growth on the 5,000,000 dollars had to be produced by the rest of the group who struggled to grow their own book!).

Let’s look at some outside-the-box ideas to build a plan to have a team of legends who leaves a legacy of desire and commitment to excellence and a team of rookies who has the right stuff to grow your sales.

Do This 1 Thing: Eliminate sales goals for them and in exchange, change their comp model to one that is appropriate for managing accounts plus an incentive. 

Do These 2 Things:

  • Take the top 1/3 of their book and make it clear that in order to qualify for the maximize incentive comp as an account manager they will be responsible for maintaining their newly assigned book of business at 100%. (1/3 of their book, 33% will equal approximately 90% of their revenue.). 
  • To maintain the book at 100% they will have to engage organizational partners, look for opportunities to discuss other product offerings AND ask these BEST of the BEST for introductions.

This is something that institutions and agencies have attempted to do for years but have failed.  (See data and resources below.)

Do These 3 Things: 

  • Hire a ‘junior’ producer, officer, or advisor and assign the remaining two thirds of the original book to them. The balance of their compensation comes from an incentive formula associated with new sales and cross selling. This person has the responsibility for growing the remaining book and supporting the “Legend”.
  • Establish metrics and ‘high’ standards of performance that will be used to determine success for both parties (entire organization).
  • Implement a performance management culture where mediocrity is not accepted, excuses for lack of effort will not be tolerated and data will be used to gain business insights so your sales manager can conduct 1-on-1 intentional coaching sessions.

I recognize the potential fatal flaw in these steps:  Your high producer might be tempted to take an offer from a competitor that is poaching top talent by offering attractive financial packages to lure them.  The questions you have to ask are:

  • How well has that strategy worked for you in the past?
  • What problems do you inherit when you’ve hired a high priced producer?
  • Does the book of business and list of clients they promise ever show up?
  • How well have you treated your top people all along?
  • When people have left you for greener pastures have you ever heard stories that the promises made to them didn’t come true?

Extra Help – From HBRGiving Top Performers Feedback – A Key to Keeping That Talent With YOU!

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Topics: Effective Coaching, sales tips, getting better sales results, sales producers

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    About our Blog

    Founder and CLO Tony Cole has been working with financial firms for more than 25 years to help them close their sales opportunity gap.  He is a master at using science based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss his weekly sales management blog insights.

     

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