ACTG Sales Management Blog

Sales & Sales Management Expertise Blog  

Effective Sales Coaching: The Game of Selling

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Sep 22, 2023

Years ago, one of the lead execs from our client KeyBank shared an article called, “What it takes to be a Coach”. It began with: You must understand the game.

Many leaders do not understand that the ‘game’ is the game of selling.  Managers and internal trainers must really understand the game of selling.  It takes strapping a headset on, making hundreds of dials, asking for introductions, getting rejected, selling big cases and starting with small sales, to really understand the game.  Otherwise, it is like taking flying lessons from a pilot trainer that did all their flight learning in a simulator.

Most sales managers end up in that role because they were good to great salespeople and the company was looking to:

  1. Replace a manager
  2. Find a way for professional advancement
  3. Look for a way to keep a salesperson that is slowing down and has a ‘book’ of business

Rarely if ever does that person go through an intense, fully integrated sales management training development program to help them effectively execute the required skills of an effective coach. Nor do they have a good handle on “what” to do; the sales coaching best practices. The 7 critical coaching competencies from Objective Management Group, our sales evaluation partner and pioneer in the industry, are listed below. How effective are your sales leaders at executing these activities?

Screenshot 2023-09-22 at 2.48.22 PM

Peter Jensen is an Olympic coach from Canada and author of the book “The Third Factor”. Peter states that first two factors for success in anything are nature and nurture. The Third Factor, specific to coaching, is: You must have a coaching bias.

A strong sales leader must have the coaching bias and they must love to coach the game of selling.  They must have a love for seeing and hearing people develop into the best versions of themselves.  That is what it takes to be successful at coaching.  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.

The challenge for most sales managers or sales leaders is to have the ability to exhibit and execute these skills of being a strong leader:  Strong identity, self-assurance, credible authority, knowledge and a foundational vision, mission and goal orientation.  Strong leaders do not need to be in the spotlight, do not act like they know it all and ask questions instead of always providing answers. These are the important sales coaching best practices that drive effective sales coaching.

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

  1. The Will to Manage
  2. The Sales Manager Sales DNA
  3. The Sales Manager Tactical Competencies

The evaluation provides an index percentage that tells the evaluated sales manager how they rank against others who have taken the evaluation.  Our 30+ history has verified that most sales managers have less than 10% of the skills needed to be an effective sales coach.

In summary, most companies with a manager level in their organization fail to get their salespeople to perform for one of the following reasons:

  • The manager doesn’t have what it takes- the skills to be effective at sales coaching
  • The manager doesn’t take the time or doesn’t have the bandwidth to handle the job, maintain a book of business, take care of operations and anything else that might be in the job description
  • There isn’t a consistent ‘Sales Managed Environment’ to execute to so day in and day out, it’s an inconsistent coaching process.

Do your sales leaders understand the game of selling and have the coaching bias that can make them and effective coach?

Need Help?  Check Out Our Sales Growth  Coaching Program for Managers!



Topics: Sales Training, banking sales training, sales training tips, effective sales coaching program

The Importance of Understanding Your Customer’s Decision-Making Process

Posted by Jeni Wehrmeyer on Thu, Sep 14, 2023

The buyer’s journey has been a critical topic of discussion for salespeople and marketers for a decade now. We have come to recognize how essential it is to understand how a prospect recognizes that they have a problem, how they go about searching for a solution and how they evaluate those solutions to make a resource choice and a decision.

The importance of that step, the customer’s decision-making process, may just be the most important step in the buyer’s journey. Salespeople can gain a great deal of information from CRMs and lead nurturing data and best practices from industry research systems like Relpro and IBISWorld, however, these will not give them insights into a prospect’s specific decision-making process. There are nuances in every company as to how they approach an important purchase and elite salespeople are skilled at asking great questions in order to uncover those in their qualifying discussions.

Questions to Ask About Your Customer’s Decision-Making Process

One lead (or prospect) lead nurturing best practice is to just be direct, ask the question. We coach salespeople in the commitment step of the sales process to simply as them “When you’ve made a decision like this in the past, what was your process?” Simple enough but the prospect may give a surface answer, making it seem much simpler than it is of course. Of course, you must have already uncovered that you are working with the decision maker but rarely in a substantial purchase, is there just one making the decision. They may be the ultimate decision maker but the decision impacts others that they will want to gain input from. Skilled salespeople help the prospect think through this by drilling down from their surface answer and will ask further questions such as:

  • “Will that be the same process you follow this time?” and
  • “How long does that normally take?” and
  • “Who will this change impact in the organization?”
  • “Who all needs to fall in love with this solution to gain approval?” and
  • “Can I go with you to present to the committee?”
  • “How will you tell your current provider?”

The bottom line, it may not matter how much your direct contact likes the solution you have recommended, if the customer’s decision-making process is unknown, you are at risk of losing the deal. Those important questions need to be asked and salespeople who master these close more sales.

From the coach’s perspective, one of the findings from our partners at Objective Management Group is; Managers who are effective at helping their salespeople get prospects to commit to a decision have 40% more top performers than managers who are ineffective at coaching on decision making.

Why is this so predictive of success for coaching? If managers are helping their team to regularly uncover the decision-making process and gain commitment, then they’re probably coaching on several supporting skills also. Getting a prospect to agree to a decision means the salesperson has uncovered a compelling reason for them to buy, they have thoroughly qualified the opportunity, and presented a need and cost appropriate solution at the right time. This takes active listening, many insightful and challenging questions, and the ability to pushback appropriately on potential stall tactics.

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Topics: Sales Training, banking sales training, sales training tips, effective sales coaching program

The Importance of Feedback in Sales

Posted by Jeni Wehrmeyer on Fri, Sep 08, 2023

Graduating from college, I went right into a high-pressure sales job selling newspaper advertising for The Dallas Times Herald in the burgeoning Dallas, Texas marketplace. It was a hustle out there as we competed with The Dallas Morning News who had a greater share of the subscriber and ad revenue markets. At that time in the 80s, Dallas had small businesses and strip centers popping up every day and I would literally case my territory at least every other day so that I could be the first in the door, when a store opened. Because if I was not and the ad showed up in The Dallas Morning News, here is what happened…

8 am daily paper check with our entire sales team and manager and each region did it at the same time, every day. Paper check meant, our boss opened the competitive papers and asked us about any businesses advertising in our territory that we did not have running in our paper. This was of course, in front of the whole team. So, my first lesson on the importance of feedback in sales was frequency and consistency matter. I knew that I had to be ON IT or look like a weak link on our team. The second lesson about the importance of feedback was transparency. We all went under the same daily scrutiny and although this was painful at times, it also brought us together as a team. It was competitive, it was fun and we rooted each other on. This feedback process also allowed us to share some best practices and teach the newbies so that they knew what was coming and how to get better.

Adaptability in sales is essential and that is another lesson I learned at The Dallas Times Herald. During my 6 years there, my territory was split 4 times so I gave up strip centers and advertisers to my co-workers and had to go deeper into my current client base, selling them more or finding new ones in a smaller territory. I was blessed with a North Dallas area and was able to adapt and continue to outsell my complacent Dallas Morning News opponent.

My boss, a wonderful guy named Eddie, was a master at understanding the importance of feedback and would always find a time to point out the wins, the great sales, the creative approaches and he was famous for slipping us producers a $50 here and there as a bonus. Which of course, we went out and blew that night at the Elan, dancing and drinking a few cocktails. I grew to love feedback, as all salespeople should, but of course, the quality of it matters. Coaches should be direct, fair, instructive and consistent in their feedback to make it work its magic. Not everyone is as lucky as I was to have an accomplished and encouraging coach.

The coach is so important when it comes down to it. I would certainly not have been as motivated or as skilled or as inspired to canvas my territory, stay out late and build ads until 8 pm at night without Eddie. So how do coaches become better?  Here is one great resource from our partners Objective Management Group: The Ultimate Sales Coaching Guide with another downloadable below.


Download our Free  9 Keys to Successful Coaching eBook



Topics: Sales Training, banking sales training, sales training tips, identifying sales coaching needs, effective sales coaching program

Building an Effective Sales Coaching Program in a High-Tech World

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Aug 30, 2023

To compete in the marketplace today, companies must first, identify the sales coaching needs of their managers and the strengths and weaknesses of the salespeople they coach. We know that in order to differentiate in business today, salespeople must be consultative, have great interactions with clients, provide solutions that solve their problems, and also create revenue for the company. Their sales coaches play a large part in their success.

How does a company create an effective sales coaching program? Experience tells us that most companies are good at setting sales goals and measuring results, but the statistics around frequent, one on one coaching tell a different story.


Weaknesses of Sales Managers as Coaches

Let’s look at the weaknesses of most managers as coaches:

  • Do not consistently coach and debrief.
  • Ineffective at joint sales calls.
  • Do not ask questions.
  • Have a need for approval from salespeople.
  • Rescue salespeople.
  • Do not have a sales process.
  • Ineffective at commitments.
  • Beliefs do not support coaching.
  • Do not have goals and a plan.
  • Do not know what motivates salespeople.

Less than two percent of managers are adept at identifying sales coaching needs and coaching those needs. There are many reasons for this, but among them are: they themselves were not coached or they had a bad experience with coaching; they were elevated to a team lead or manager position based on their sales success and not their coaching performance; and they have not had any coaching training, either formal or informal.

There are some simple, concrete steps managers can take to initiate an effective sales coaching program. It begins with managers developing an understanding of what motivates their salespeople. Less than seven percent of sales managers know the personal goals for their people. Since most salespersons today are intrinsically versus extrinsically motivated, this is key in the manager-salesperson relationship as well as the salesperson-client relationship. 

Effective coaching occurs when a manager is proactively asking questions of their team members, giving feedback on a regular basis, and showing a genuine interest in the development of the salesperson.


Successful Sales Managers Should

To get started, managers should:

  1. Set time aside for a personal goal discussion

This should be done in-person or via a video conference call so that there is eye “contact.” Salespeople are motivated first by their personal goals. The goal is the find out what drives the producer and what is important to them. Encourage them to dream big and free think about their life goals, including family and personal aspirations. No goal should be too big or too small. After that, goals should be translated into SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Based) goals.   

  1. Set Professional Goals

Begin by asking the salesperson to consider how meeting their professional goals can help them reach their personal goals. Working with the salesperson, set professional goals that not only include targets for sales, cross-sell, and retention, but also what the salesperson has shared is important to them.

  1. Set weekly check-ins

Establish a rhythm for follow-up and discussion about both the salesperson’s personal and professional goals. These check-ins should include managing activities identified in the plan, holding salespersons accountable to activity levels, helping to identify choke points, coaching how they are doing what they do, and asking for the opportunity to observe sales calls and encouraging de-briefs.

Developing an effective sales coaching program is ultimately about developing a meaningful human connection, a relationship. This has to begin with the sales manager and the salesperson before it can translate into a salesperson and client relationship. When this is accomplished—and it’s not a one and done proposition, but an art that requires regular attention—companies can develop a service to sales career path for its salespeople that leads to success for all.    

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Topics: Sales Training, banking sales training, sales training tips, identifying sales coaching needs, effective sales coaching program


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    Anthony Cole Training Group has been working with financial firms for close to 30 years helping them become more effective in their markets and closing their sales opportunity gap.  ACTG has mastered the art of using science-based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss our weekly sales management blog insights from our team of expert contributors.


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