• One-on-One Coaching for Key Account Managers

    04/27/2016 in Sales Coaching

    How can coaching on key account management help you? Managing key accounts requires that you use a strategic approach with your most important customers in order to build deeper and broader relationships that create mutual value and growth. In the One-on-One Coaching for Key Account Management Package you will learn to be more strategic using five sales strategies, to develop a plan for each key account, and to sharpen your ability to influence customers and colleagues.

    So, Why are Influence Skills so Essential at Key Accounts?
    Influence skills are a core competency for sales and business professionals yet many people never consciously think about sharpening their ability to influence customers, colleagues, and others. Influence skills are critical for anyone who manages and interacts with key accounts.

    Your coaching conversation on influence skills with your key accounts will help you to:

    • Learn how to present your value proposition to the decision-makers in a clear, compelling, and persuasive manner.
    • Improve your ability to influence gatekeepers to gain access to decision-makers.
    • Strengthen relationships so that one or more people at the key account become your champion

    Your coaching conversation on influence skills internally will help you to:

    • Convince others inside your company to do something special for a key account in order to help you win a sales opportunity or protect your current business.
    • Convince your colleague to make a joint call or presentation with you for a key account.

    All STAR coaching packages may be customized. Visit our Selling Essentials, Sales Negotiation and Custom Coaching packages for more information. Contact us at info@salestrainingandresults.com or 781-934-0900 to inquire about changing this package to suit your needs.

  • How Can Coaching on Essential Selling Skills Help You?

    04/27/2016 in Sales Coaching

    How can coaching on essential selling skills help you? The best sales professionals excel at three things: 1) Planning for a sales call, 2) Using a Sales Call Process as a roadmap during a sales call, and 3) Following up after a sales call. The One-on-One Coaching Package for Selling Essentials will help you improve selling skills and techniques, identify and overcome weaknesses, and increase sales.

    During the coaching conversation we focus on the essential selling skills that should be done before, during, and after each sales call?

    1. Plan for a sales call – We realize that you can’t and shouldn’t try to plan everything. Otherwise, the call will sound scripted. However, a failure to plan usually means that the sales call will not go well.

    2. Follow a sales call process – Many salespeople overlook some critical tasks and actions that should be done during a sales call. For example, they minimize the time spent in the Opening Stage, which means that they do not build rapport or strengthen the relationship with the customer. Average salespeople tend to rush to the closing stage and fail to do a thorough job of asking questions and selling the value of their company, products, and services.

    3. Follow up – Many sales opportunities require more than one sales call to eventually win the business. Follow up refers to both the actions that you need to take, and to assess if the customer has made a decision to move forward.

    All STAR coaching packages may be customized. Visit our Sales Negotiation, Key Account Management, and Custom Coaching packages for more information. Contact us at info@salestrainingandresults.com or 781-934-0900 to inquire about changing this package to suit your needs.

  • Customize a One-on-One Sales Coaching Package

    04/26/2016 in Sales Coaching

    Why should you utilize a sales coach? Research demonstrates that when it comes to sales professionals, nothing influences the bottom line results more than a solid coaching program. Because sales professionals naturally are confident, competitive and self-motivated, they tend to be more invested and engaged in the process of self-improvement. STAR's coaching process provides a two-way conversation and other resources that will help you assess strengths, identify weaknesses, practice new skills, and meet your sales goals.

    STAR’s Coaching Packages offer an accelerated way to meet the desired goals of coaching. In addition to 1-on-1 coaching conversations, we blend together a combination of eLearning modules, online self-assessment surveys, and other resources such as articles.

    Best of all, the sales coaching is tailored to you - both the content and the schedule. We begin with a preliminary no-cost, no-obligation phone call to assess your individual needs. We then mutually agree on which coaching package is best for you. You can select from three popular STAR coaching packages (Selling Essentials, Sales Negotiation, and Key Account Management) or design a completely customized coaching package.

    Each STAR Coaching Package includes:

    1. Free 10-15 minute Introductory Phone Call: This free call will help you determine which coaching package is right for you.

    2. One Hour of Phone Coaching with your expert sales coaching consultant. Prior to the call you will:

      1. Online Skill Assessment Survey- Personal assessment is an integral part of learning.
      2. Sales Skills Reading: A 6-10 page selling skills article that will be discussed during the coaching conversation.
      3. Online Learning- You will choose two pre-recorded online learning modules that each run about 1 hour in length. 

    3. Many choose to schedule additional coaching sessions – Two to three coaching sessions is common, but you choose as you go.

    Contact us at info@salestrainingandresults.com or 781-934-0900 to inquire about a coaching package to suit your needs.

  • Mentoring and Coaching: Ben Franklin had the Right Idea

    02/10/2016 in Sales Coaching

    "Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn."

    ~ Ben Franklin


    STAR’s Sales Meeting Kits and eLearning training modules can be used as mentoring and coaching tools. These tools work especially well as developmental opportunities for your top performing and high potential salespeople. Managers can select a topic amongst our Sales Meeting Kits and eLearning modules, then ask a salesperson to learn that material and teach a session on that topic at the next sales meeting. This gives the salesperson an opportunity to really learn the material well enough to present it to colleagues.

    For example, suppose that one of your salespeople excels at selling on value and you feel that the rest of the sales team could improve in that area. Assign the Selling on Value Sales Meeting Kit to that salesperson, which would provide him or her with everything needed to plan and teach a short skill-building session.

    An added benefit is that this also gives that salesperson an opportunity for presentation practice. This works especially well with a high-performing salesperson who may already be a leader on the sales team, but it can also work well with a less-experienced and high potential salesperson who you think is ready for the challenge.

    You can also use the Sales Meeting Kits and eLearning modules to initiate a mentoring program. Many companies use some kind of mentoring system for new salespeople. Mentoring, coaching and sales training are all fantastic ways to develop the skills of all members of your sales team.

    For example, suppose that one of your more seasoned salespeople excels at handling objections and one of your newer salespeople is really struggling with responding well to objections. You could assign the Essential Selling Skills Handling and Preventing Objections elearning module to your newer salesperson and ask the more seasoned salesperson to mentor the newer salesperson by working with them to brainstorm and practice techniques to help improve his/her comfort level and ability to handle sales objections.

    The goal of any mentoring, coaching or training activity is to teach new skills and adjust certain behaviors in order to meet the sales objectives that result in increased sales. A sales manager’s most important responsibility is developing the skills of his/her sales team. Utilizing the talent within the team is a smart way to accomplish the job! The advantages can be seen on both sides of the relationship. The mentor/coach gains confidence, and the mentee or person being coached learns new techniques and improved skills.

  • Less Talk and More Dialogue - How to Be More Effective as a Coach in Sales

    09/10/2015 in Sales Coaching

    A popular option in our coaching workshop includes the opportunity to video sales managers conducting a coaching session with one of his/her salespeople.  After viewing themselves the managers almost always feel that the coaching sessions would have been more effective if there had been more dialogue.  For example, a typical comment from managers is "I wish that I had talked less to the salesperson and made it more of a conversation.”

    It is very common for managers to spend too much time talking and not enough time at questioning and listening.  Here are some suggestions to help you coach more effectively.

    GETTING STARTED: Keep it Positive and Open-Ended
    Many managers like to begin with an open-ended question such as, "How do you feel the sales call went?”   This question is good but can unintentionally get the conversation off on a negative because many salespeople will initially answer with something that they felt was done poorly on the sales call.

    To minimize the tendency of a salesperson to be too critical or negative of himself/herself, a better way to phrase this initial question is to say instead something like:  "I thought you did many things well during the sales call, which I’ll share with you, but I’d like to begin by hearing from you.  What do you think went well during the sales call?”

    Then, ask some follow-up questions to the answers that they salesperson provides.  For example, if the salesperson gives a general answer such as "I thought that I did well at getting the customer to tell us a lot about their needs,” you can ask additional questions such as "Tell me about what you did to make this happen well” or "Can you give some examples?”

    By focusing initially on the positive aspects of the sales call, it allows you to then coach the salesperson to develop and use these strengths on subsequent sales calls.

    AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT: Two Ways to Make This Constructive
    After you finish the positive portion of the coaching conversation, you can then transition to any areas for improvement that you observed during the joint sales call.  There are two ways to go about this.

    First, begin with an open-ended question such as, "What do you think could have been done better during the sales call?” Depending on the salesperson’s answers, you then coach accordingly.  Your responses can range from "I agree and here are some suggestions on how to do that differently”  to "I think that you’re being too harsh on yourself and felt that you actually did that better than you think.”

    Second, after you’ve completed the open-ended questioning, you can then transition to something specific that you observed during the sales call.    Say something like, "In addition to what you just said, I noticed one or two things that could have been done differently.  (You then cite those items)  How did you feel about it?”

    To ensure that the salesperson knows that you are there to help him/her rather than to be critical, also emphasize and say something like, "You do so many things well. If we can just fine tune and help you on this (specific skill/topic), it would make you even more effective.  What can I do to help you to improve in this area?”   Then, the two of you can mutually agree on a development plan.

    Additional resources for Sales Coaching: Coaching for Sales Success workshop, Sales Meeting Kits, and additional Coaching Blogs. If you happened to miss our free Coaching for Sales Success webinar, you’ll be happy to know that we recorded the event – it’s only 25 minutes long.  Let us know if you’d like to receive the free coaching planning form and white paper that was sent to all participants. 

  • Free Coaching for Sales Success Webinar

    05/14/2015 in Sales Coaching

    Do you know who to coach on your sales team to generate the best results? 

    Do you know how to coach effectively (do it well and do it quickly!)? 

    Did you miss our free 25 minute live online training session "Coaching for Sales Success”?  

    How to avoid the 2 most common coaching mistakes made by sales managers: 1)Who to coach on your sales team in order to generate optimal sales results and 2)What to say during the coaching conversation - practical language so that you can talk with, not at, your salespeople and mutually agree on an action plan.

    Email info@salestrainingandresults.com if you'd like to receive a free coaching article and planning form that participants received.  

     

  • A Roadmap for Coaching Conversations

    11/17/2014 in Sales Coaching

    Could you use a roadmap to help you get started or keep you on track for some of those intimidating coaching conversations?  

    We don’t believe in scripts, but we do believe in the tremendous importance of following a process when coaching.  The examples below can serve as a model or a roadmap for your coaching conversations.  Modify the coaching conversation to fit your style and the specific salesperson.

    Coaching Conversation Example 1 -  During a joint sales call you observed something that you see as a coaching opportunity:

    1. Always start with praise: "I really liked how you presented our recommendation to the customer, especially the benefits to the customer for making the switch to us.”
    2. Transition to stating the skill or topic to be coached, while still keeping a positive tone: "When the customer objected that they were happy with their current provider, I thought you handled it well. However, since this objection is a common one, I’d like to talk today with you on other ways to respond to this objection.”
    3. Ask questions to make  it a coaching dialogue (this is the most overlooked step so ask as many questions as possible to get the salesperson’s perspective, rather than telling him/her what to do):  Then ask a series of questions: "What worked well with the response that you used in today's sales call?" "Is there anything that you might have done differently?" "What about some of your other customers - how might you respond to a different customer, given a similar objection?"  Offer additional options or suggestions and ask for feedback to keep it a dialogue.
    4. Mutually agree on an action or next step: "When do you expect to make another sales call where a similar objections could come up? How about if we schedule some time to talk prior to that call?  Afterwards we can schedule a debrief when the call is over."
    5. End with a positive: "I’m glad that we talked about this. Don’t overlook all the other positive things that you did on today’s sales call.”

    Coaching Conversation Example 2 - You are having a conversation with one of your salespeople and he or she asks for your advice on the following situation: 

    1. Always start with praise: "I am glad that you’re asking about this issue.” (suppose it is a new salesperson who is asking for your advice about ‘raising a price’) 
    2. Transition to stating the skill or topic to be coached, while still keeping a positive tone: "I’d like to spend some time with you to discuss some effective ways to implement a price increase.  Because you have such good natural skills, I’d like to hear your thoughts first.”
    3. Ask questions to make  it a coaching dialogue (this is the most overlooked step so ask as many questions as possible to get the salesperson’s perspective, rather than telling him/her what to do):  Then ask a series of questions: "Imagine that I am the customer. What would you communicate to me about the price increase?” (respond as a customer typically would)  "What would you say now?” "Think about one of your actual customers.  What would be a different way to raise prices with him/her?” Offer additional options or suggestions and ask for feedback to keep it a dialogue.
    4. Mutually agree on an action or next step: "When do you expect to make an actual sales call to raise prices?  How about if we schedule some time to talk prior to that call? And then we can debrief it when the call is over.”
    5. End with a positive: "I’m glad that we talked about this. I know that you haven’t raised prices yet with any customers but everything that you said today will help you do it well.
    Coaching is the most important part of a sales manager's job. For additional coaching resources, read more Coaching Blogs, visit our Sales Meeting Kit pages and learn more about Coaching Services and Sales Management Workshops.   

  • Sales Coaching Doesn't Have to Take Long!

    11/06/2014 in Sales Coaching

    We repeatedly hear comments from sales managers such as:  
     "I know that coaching is important but I don't have enough time to coach."
     "Because I have limited coaching time, I only coach my poorer performers."
     "How much time should I spend coaching?" 
    What can possibly be more important than developing the skills of your salespeople to sell more effectively? Coaching salespeople is the most important part of a sales manager’s job. Here are some practical tips and guidelines to help you spend more quality time on coaching:
    1. You don’t have to spend a lot of time coaching.  (In fact, a study by the Sales Excellence Council demonstrated a 17% increase in performance for those coached more than three hours per month, as compared to those coached less than two hours per month). For sake of an example, if we assume that you manage a team of 4 to 5 people, this means that your total coaching time per month would be 15 hours or less.  If you allocate your total coaching time per month into daily or weekly coaching events, you should be able to reserve that time without taking away from your other responsibilities.

    2. Do a series of bite-sized coaching sessions.  A 15-minute conversation or meeting with an individual salesperson can be used as a focused coaching opportunity.  For example, when debriefing a joint sales call during which an objection came up, use the time to ask the salesperson questions such as, "What are some other ways that you could have responded to that objection?”

      The point that we’re trying to make is that you likely have a lot of opportunities each day to do a series of 15-minute coaching conversations. We don’t expect you, or encourage you, to spend three consecutive hours coaching a salesperson.  A series of shorter coaching conversations is better than one long coaching session.

    3. Some of your people don’t need as much coaching time as others.  Recall that a common mistake is for a sales manager to only coach his/her poorer performers.  We want you to spend time coaching everyone, including encouragement, praise, and motivation with your top performers. A little bit of coaching time with top performers will go a long way.

    4. Some coaching can be done with your entire sales team rather than individually.  For example, at one of your regular sales meeting, consider doing some focused skill-building.  STAR’s Sales Meeting Kits are a do-it-yourself resource that would allow you to do this in a time-efficient way.  

  • How to Lead a Coaching Conversation

    10/20/2014 in Sales Coaching

    One golf lesson will probably mess up your golf game, but a series of lessons with the same coach are likely to get you to the next level.
     
    Salespeople benefit from coaching just like athletes do.  A well-coached salesperson is more likely to improve their sales skills and have increased motivation to strive for a higher level of achievement.
     
    Coaching by a sales manager is the most critical component of a manager’s job. Sales coaching improves sales performance, confidence, and results. In fact, research by the Sales Excellence Council showed an increase of 17% in performance for salespeople who were coached more than three hours per month, in comparison to those who were coached fewer than two hours per month.
     
    Make it a priority to get into a regular coaching routine. Follow the process below when leading a coaching conversation.

    Getting Started
    1. Put the salesperson at ease. 
    2. Briefly cite the purpose:
         -one or two areas for discussion
         -your expectations for performance vs. actual performance     
    The Dialogue
    3. Clarify issues, ask relevant questions. Listen! Ask follow up questions.
    4. If possible, cite some positives to convey confidence. 
    5. Demonstrate support by offering resources to help the salesperson's improve. 
    The Resolution
    6. Agree mutually on an action plan, including when you will discuss again.
    7. Ask the salesperson to summarize the action plan.
    8. End on a positive note and commit to providing feedback.

    Additional Coaching Resources:
    Blogs on Coaching
     
     

  • Sales Training Without Sales Management Support Has Limited Value

    09/11/2014 in Sales Coaching

    At a recent meeting with a high-level sales executive at one of our long term clients, he asked me this question:  "What is the most important thing that you’ve learned about sales training?”

    I replied that, based on over 23 years as a sales training consultant, the single most important thing that I’ve learned is that…sales training without sales management support has very limited value.  Specifically,  if sales managers don’t actively participate in reinforcing the workshop concepts,  bottom line results don’t improve much, or at all; and the training concepts and skills quickly decay in terms of retention and use by the salespeople.

    To say it more positively, if you want to generate the maximize Return on Investment (ROI) on your sales training initiative, coaching by your sales managers is absolutely essential.  

    Let’s explore in more detail why coaching is so essential.  In the words of my mentor from when I started in the sales training business, "…the value of coaching by a sales manager should be so immediately obvious that it requires no further study. Coaching is something that every manager should do.”

    Quantifiable data supports the value of sales coaching. A study by the Sales Excellence Council in 2007 showed that sales managers who coached their reps by more than 3 hours per month demonstrated sales performance at 107% of sales goals. By contrast, sales reps for whom sales managers spent less than 2 hours per month per representative performed at 90% of sales goals.  This data demonstrates that coaching contributed to a 17% performance improvement, and was the difference between exceeding sales goals or not making goal.

    Not all of our clients even bother to look at any metrics with regard to sales training initiatives.  The extra effort to measure can be eye opening, as one STAR client found.  STAR was hired to conduct a sales training program that included sales coaching training.  The client measured sales before and after the training initiative and ultimately realized a 64% increase in sales, measured one year after the completion of the training program and coaching initiative.  A prior sales training initiative, which focused on selling skills but did NOT include coaching, realized sales gains in the 10% to 15% range.  You can see the significance of the coaching component.  

    We always recommend to every client that sales coaching be an integral part of every sales training initiative.  Sales coaching will improve sales performance and results yet many sales managers don’t find the time to coach, or some don’t have the skills needed to coach effectively.  To learn more about coaching, click here for our article titled Coaching for Success.

  • Coaching should be a Continuous Cycle, Not a Once-a-Year Event

    08/21/2014 in Sales Coaching

    Do you know what the two most common mistakes Sales Managers make with regard to coaching their salespeople?  
     
    The first mistake is they throw their hands in the air and claim they are simply too busy to coach. Often a sales manager is also playing the role of the super seller, rather than sales manager. Is that a trap you 've fallen into?  
     
    The second mistake is they spend far too much time coaching the poor performers. Unfortunately, this mistake is both common and costly. Sound familiar?
     
    Think of coaching as part of a continuous cycle of performance management. The most important step in the performance management system is to have a  fair and open conversation that clearly communicate expectations. Remember last week's  blog was about the 4 E's of Coaching (Expectations, Education, Exampling, and Encouragement)?  
     
    Your job as a sales leader is to develop each person on your team.  You do this by defining and setting expectations and goals, assessing performance, and finally providing coaching and counseling. This continuous cycle involves coaching and mentoring your salespeople to reach their annual sales goals and personal development plans. Counseling comes into play when you need to work with an employee to solve a performance problem that is causing him or her to perform consistently below expectations. This is the essence of sales leadership and it has to be a continuous cycle to function optimally.  
     Performance Management System
     
    Read more related blogs on Sales Coaching and Sales Management.  Visit our online Sales Meeting Kits page so you can run a skills clinic to develop the skills of your salespeople. STAR's Sales Management Workshops are fully customized and include Coaching for Sales Success, Leading with Influence, and Key Account Management for Managers.
     

  • The Best Coaches Excel at the 4 E's

    08/14/2014 in Sales Coaching

    Sales Coaching is the process of working with a sales professional to reinforce or change selling behavior in order to improve sales results.

    As a coach, your job is to create and foster an environment for improvement. You accomplish this by asking questions, listening, offering encouragement, and communicating expectations. You facilitate problem solving, and provide access to information. Your goal is to transfer a feeling of ownership so that the person stays present in the coaching conversation and ultimately feels empowered and motivated to act and improve.

    The Best Coaches Excel at the 4 E's: 

    Expectations - The number one reason why people don’t do what a manager expects is due to confusion or lack of clarity about expectations.  Clearly state the expectations and standards of performance.  Discuss and explain with each person why and how these expectations are important. 

    Education - The best coaches are the best teachers.  Once you have communicated your expectations, then it is only fair and reasonable to teach the person how to do a particular skill or task.

    Encouragement - Improved performance is a combination of increased competence and confidence. Do not underestimate the motivational power of offering encouragement and praise.   

    Exampling - Nothing communicates more strongly than to lead by example.  Your willingness and ability to demonstrate and model the skills and behaviors is a critical step.  

    The best sales managers spend more time coaching and developing their entire sales team because they have learned that sales coaching is essential to generating improved sales results.  Average managers, by contrast, don’t spend as much time on coaching their sales professionals and when they do coach, they don’t coach as effectively. Visit STAR's Coaching for Sales Success page and One-on-One Coaching pages for more information. Want to teach your sales people how to improve sales skills, such as their pre-call planning ability or how to handle objections better?  Visit STAR's Sales Meeting Kits page for more information.

  • Coaching is Crucial

    05/22/2014 in Sales Coaching

    Effective sales management has an impact on sales results.  Sales managers play a crucial role in the sales effectiveness of each member of the sales team and must excel at coaching. We highly recommend that managers get in the habit of using some of their regularly scheduled sales meeting time by selecting a topic and conduct a skill-building sessions for the entire team, and then in the days and weeks ahead follow up with some one-on-one coaching conversations with each sales person.  

    Sales managers are often selected for the position after they’ve become top-earning sales professionals.  This means that they don’t always have the necessary skills to coach effectively. One of the most daunting responsibilities of the sales manager is to help their salespeople improve their skills to ensure that they are capable of meeting and exceeding sales expectations. 

    Here are three tips to keep in mind so that your coaching has the maximum impact:
    1. Upgrade the middle tier. One of STAR’s clients is a sales manager who is a very pro-active sales coach. He likes to divide his sales team into three tiers – Top, Middle, and Bottom.  He spends the most coaching time with the middle tier because he has found that it is easier to migrate the middle tier to become top performers than it is to coach the bottom tier upward. He doesn’t ignore the top tier and bottom tier but spends a disproportionate amount of coaching time in the middle.

    2. Vary your coaching style for each individual salesperson. Helping a salesperson to improve his or her sales skills involves a good coach or leader who can see what this person needs. The job of individual coaching is a big one, since each person on the sales team has various strengths and weaknesses to address.

    3. Spend more time coaching. Sales managers are busier than ever and often reduce the time spent coaching in order to do other tasks.  Yet, why eliminate or reduce coaching?  What else has such a positive impact? If you spend more time coaching and less time on other activities, you should see a net positive.  Think of it this way – the quality of your coaching conversations AND the quantity of your coaching time, work together to upgrade the skills of the sales team and will generate better sales results for your region.

  • Coaching and Mentoring Your Top Sales Performers

    11/12/2013 in Sales Coaching

    We’ve had the opportunity to work recently with top sales performers from a couple different STAR clients. It reaffirmed the concept that most top sales achievers utilize someone as their mentor.  After all, top sales performers are no different than top performers in other fields, such as world class athletes or musicians.  For example, think of any top athlete.  You would be hard-pressed to find one who doesn’t use a coach. A fantastic resource that I highlight recommend on the topic of top performers is Geoff Colvin’s Talent is Overrated.  

    You should treat your top sales professionals exactly the same.  Assign someone to be his/her mentor.  The sales mentor is someone who is willing and able to give the top performer candid feedback so that this particular salesperson can continue to develop and excel as a sales professional. 

    Who can serve as a mentor?  The most likely and effective person is the salesperson’s immediate sales manager. Yet, many sales managers fail to perform a mentoring role, typically due to two reasons.  First, they mistakenly believe that there is limited room for improvement with the top sales performers.  As such, they don’t spend time coaching them.  In our experience, not only is this not true, but most top sales performers are self-motivated  to improve, and any improvement by them will often translate to dramatic increases in your sales and profits.

    Second, the sales manager doesn’t serve as a mentor because he/she doesn’t know how to coach the top sales performers. With top performers, it is much more important that the sales manager dialogue with the salesperson rather than tell the salesperson what to do.  For some advice on how to do this well, see our earlier blog titled "Less Talk, More Dialogue.”   

    In some instances, someone other than the sales manager should be the mentor.  A good example would be to assign a senior salesperson as a mentor to a more junior, high potential salesperson. I actually did this many years ago when I was a regional sales manager for an outside and inside sales team. One of my best, and more senior, salespeople was genuinely interested in helping newer salespeople who joined our team. He did a great job at nurturing and developing their skills. 

    In other instances, especially if it is useful to bring in the perspective of an outside third party, you can hire and engage sales consultants as mentors for your top sales performers.  STAR’s consultants do provide one-on-one sales coaching or talk to you about how you, the sales manager can do this yourself. Sales managers interested in improving skills of their salespeople should visit the Sales Meeting Kits pages.

  • Less Talk, More Dialogue - How to be More Effective as a Sales Coach

    11/04/2013 in Sales Coaching

    We’ve recently finished some coaching workshops that included the opportunity to film each sales manager conducting a coaching session with one of his/her salespeople.  When asked to self-critique these filmed role plays, each manager said one area for improvement as a coach would have been that he/she should have talked less TO the salesperson and asked more questions instead. 

    Each manager felt that the coaching sessions would have been more effective if there had been more dialogue. For example, a typical comment was "I wish that I had talked less to the salesperson and made it more of a conversation.” 

    Based on what we’ve seen consistently over the years with sales managers who attend our Coaching for Sales Success workshop, as well as the sales managers we work with during one-on-one sales coaching sessions, it is very common for managers to spend too much time talking and not enough time at questioning and listening. 

    If you agree that you’d like to improve in this area, here are a roadmap and some questions that you can use when coaching a salesperson. 

    GETTING STARTED: Keep it Positive and Open-Ended

    Many managers like to begin with an open-ended question such as, "How do you feel the sales call went?” This question is good but can unintentionally get the conversation off on a negative because many salespeople will initially answer with something that they felt was done poorly on the sales call. 

    To minimize the tendency of a salesperson to be too critical or negative of himself/herself, a better way to phrase this initial question is to say instead something like:  "I thought you did many things well during the sales call, which I’ll share with you, but I’d like to begin by hearing from you.  What do you think went well during the sales call?” 

    Then, ask some Follow-Up Questions to the answers that they salesperson provides.  For example, if the salesperson gives a general answer such as "I thought that I did well at getting the customer to tell us a lot about their needs,”  you can ask additional questions such as "Tell me about what you did to make this happen well” or "Can you give some examples?” 

    By focusing initially on the positive aspects of the sales call, it allows you as the manager to then coach the salesperson to develop and use these strengths on subsequent sales calls. 

    AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT: Two Ways to Make This Constructive

    After you finish the positive portion of the coaching conversation, you can then transition to any areas for improvement that you observed during the joint sales call.  There are two ways to go about this.

    First, begin with an open-ended question such as, "What do you think could have been done better during the sales call?” Depending on the salesperson’s answers, you then coach accordingly.  Your responses can range from "I agree and here are some suggestions on how to do that differently”  to "I think that you’re being too harsh on yourself and felt that you actually did that better than you think.”

    Second, after you’ve completed the open-ended questioning, you can then transition to something specific that you observed during the sales call. Say something like, "In addition to what you just said, I noticed one or two things that could have been done differently.  (You then cite those items)  How did you feel about it?” 

    To ensure that the salesperson knows that you are there to help him/her rather than to be critical, also emphasize and say something like, "You do so many things well. If we can just fine tune and help you on this (specific skill/topic), it would make you even more effective.  What can I do to help you to improve in this area?” Then, the two of you can mutually agree on a development plan. 

    This blog is not intended as a script but as a general resource. We’d love to hear from you, specifically questions that you feel are effective for sales managers to use when coaching salespeople.

  • Four Critical Tasks for Sales Managers

    06/20/2013 in Sales Coaching

    "You can't lead anyone else further than you have gone yourself." - Gene Mauch

    Four Critical Tasks for Sales Managers 

    1. Sellers need to spend time on prospecting for new business.  Sales managers need to set clear expectations with each seller about the need to do more prospecting. But, the manager needs to do more than just set expectations. A challenging economy is a great time to be more creative in your prospecting. Brainstorm with your sales team about the best products/markets/regions to target in your prospecting efforts.
    2. Managers need to spend more time motivating the sales team. It is easy for sellers to get discouraged when customers are slowing down and reducing the frequency and quantity of their orders.  Use positive feedback and reinforcement whenever possible. Celebrate a new piece of business. Congratulate a seller who retains a critical piece of business, because a business downturn is when you are most at risk of losing business. Sales managers interested in helping their salespeople improve their skills should visit the Sales Meeting Kits page to learn more about how to utilize that valuable time wisely during regularly scheduled sales meetings.
    3. Lead by example.  Partner with your salespeople at current clients, especially key accounts. Now is the time to go on more joint sales calls, even if the purpose of the call is to simply thank a current customer for their business. Personally get involved in prospecting for new business.  Spend some time each week calling or emailing new prospective customers.  This will help to motivate the sellers, and shows them that you are willing and able to bring in new business yourself.
    4. Influence other departments to get involved in the sales process.  STAR has endorsed the concept of team selling for several years, but a down economy is a great time to communicate throughout your organization that everyone, not just the sales team, needs to work extra hard during difficult times. If every person at your company who interacts with current and new customers can do something extra to impress a customer, you will do a better job at customer retention than your competition. 

    Contact us to learn more about our One-on-One Sales Coaching Services and our Coaching for Sales Success Workshop.  


  • Coaching Tips

    06/14/2013 in Sales Coaching

    Tips for Coaching Your Salespeople and Employees

    "A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way."

    -John C. Maxwell  

    So why don't salespeople, and in general, employees do what you expect?

    There are three main reasons why employees don't do what a manager expects them to do.  Based on a survey from our Coaching for Sales Success Workshop, the number one reason is that the manager's expectations are not clear.  Has the sales manager clearly communicated to each salesperson how much time and sales activity should be spent on prospecting? If not, many salespeople will spend too much time in their "comfort zone," resulting in too much time with existing clients and not enough time prospecting for new business.    

    The second reason for non-performance is that the salesperson or employee does not have the skills or knowledge to perform the desired task or expectation.  If you suspect that this is the underlying issue, an appropriate action by the manager would be to provide training for that employee. 

    Finally, if you, as the manager, have clearly stated your expectations AND you know that the employee possesses the necessary skills and knowledge, but the employee is still not doing the task, it is likely to be a motivation issue. This third reason why salespeople don't do what you expect can be more difficult to resolve.  Consequently, motivating employees is clearly one of the most critical roles that a manager must perform well.  The best managers are especially good at motivating their employees.

    All three of the above performance issues can be addressed by pro-active coaching by the manager. 

    Coaching Tips and Suggestions

    The best managers are also the best coaches.  A common characteristic shared by top managers is that they focus on developing the skills and capabilities of their entire team.  Below are three tips and related suggestions on how to become a more effective coach.

    1. Your starting point must be "setting clear expectations."

    It is worth repeating that the number one reason why salespeople and employees in general don't do what a manager expects is due to confusion or lack of clarity about the manager's expectations.  Do not assume that all employees are clear about your performance expectations and goals. You must have an ongoing dialogue with all of your employees to ensure that expectations are clearly understood.

    An additional and less obvious tip about setting expectations is that many managers believe that employees will be more empowered if the employee sets his or her own expectations and goals. To a certain extent this may be true.  However, numerous studies have shown that there is a significant difference between top performers and average performers with regard to setting expectations.  Top performers will self-select challenging performance expectations and goals.

    By contrast, average performers tend to set modest targets. A common example that we hear from many sales managers is that their average sales performers do a poor job of allocating their available selling time, meaning that they don't spend enough time with the right accounts. A manager must ensure that his or her people are spending time on the critical accounts and other top priorities.

    We encourage you to let your employees set their own expectations, but you must be prepared to "raise the bar" if the employee's goals will not allow you to implement your overall strategy and reach desired business outcomes. 

    2. Next, you must "inspect what you expect."

    As a manager, you cannot simply stop at setting clear expectations, but must monitor and follow up on those expectations.  Active monitoring by the manager has several advantages, notably that corrective action can be taken if the actual performance by the employee does not meet desired performance expectations. 

    In fact, failing to "inspect what you expect" is one of the more common mistakes made by managers. Managers are so busy with other tasks that they don't follow up with employees until the annual performance appraisal.  This is often too little and too late, and will in many cases demotivate employees because by then the performance appraisal feedback is a surprise. The best managers provide frequent feedback, which gives the employee the opportunity to improve and demonstrates to the employee that you are serious about him or her accomplishing the goal or task. 

    Frequent follow-up by the manager can also help to motivate each employee.  If an employee has been successful and made progress toward meeting the expectation and goal, the manager should then praise him or her for meeting or exceeding expectations.  We encourage managers to reward and praise employees when it is warranted.  A series of small successes will soon become self-sustaining when the manager uses praise and recognition. 

    3. Coach everyone, especially your top performers!

    This coaching tip can actually generate the maximum results for the minimum amount of time invested by the manager.  Ask yourself this question: do you spend most of your coaching time with your poorer performers, or most of your coaching time with your better performers?  The majority of managers raise their hand for the first choice. What would happen if instead you spent more time developing the skills and capabilities of your top performers; for example, perhaps one of your younger salespeople is a "diamond in the rough" and simply needs some fine-tuning to get to the next performance level. 

    Of course managers should not stop helping their poorer performers. The best managers develop the capabilities of their entire team. However, a common mistake by many managers is to ignore their best performers because they're doing well without you, and instead spend their limited coaching time with their poorer performers only.  Don't make this mistake. Try this last tip for one month and see what happens.

    If you are interested in learning more about other aspects of coaching, please visit us on the web to learn more about our Coaching for Sales Success Workshop.  and our one-on-one coaching service.   

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