This is How Sales Managers Should Coach Their Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Mar 13, 2013 @ 06:03 AM

HallOfFameLast week I posted an article that linked to two additional articles I wrote for EcSELL Institute and Top Sales World.  [Speaking of Top Sales World, they just published a page showing all of the greats (I'm honored to be included) that have been inducted into their Sales & Marketing Hall of Fame in the past 3 years.]  Apparently there were issues with those links from last week because I got dozens of emails letting me know that you couldn't get to those two articles.  I will share the article I wrote for EcSell below.  Sales Management must spend 50% of their time coaching salespeople like this: 

An enormous part of developing salespeople these days is helping them to differentiate themselves from your competitors.  Effectively applying a consultative sales process helps to accomplish this.  Executed correctly, the salesperson has a conversation with a decision maker that is unlike any conversation the competition has had.  It uncovers the compelling reasons for spending money, changing vendors, buying a product or service and, as important, buying it from you.  That creates urgency, and an incentive for a prospect to self-qualify.  The end-result should be a prospect that is willing to spend more to do business with you, and a sales cycle that is not based on winning the price war.

A salesperson told me he met with a customer that had taken their business to a competitor because of price.  It sounded like they were getting what they were paying for: 

    • Paying more for freight,
    • Finding variations in the product,
    • Stocking more inventory than necessary because of availability problems

The salesperson accomplished enough to uncover some issues and while these aren’t compelling reasons, additional questions would lead us there.  To keep the story short and get to my point, let’s assume that the salesperson did enough correctly to continue moving the opportunity forward.   

The Salesperson Comes to You Having Said This to the Former Customer 

“If you had access to local delivery, through a distributor, and the price was competitive, would you consider looking into this?” 

Step 1 – Can you identify what’s wrong with his outdated trial close?

Step 2 – Can you articulate why it’s wrong?

Step 3-  Can you explain the root cause of why it happened?

Step 4 – Can you role play the solution?

Step 5 – Can you get to lessons learned? 

Coaching – Step 1

Forget for a minute that the call to action was horrible; “Look into this” instead of “Pay a little more for my help solving this problem”.  

That wasn’t the worst of it.  

The horror of the salesperson’s question was that he introduced an unnecessary criterion - competitive pricing - for doing business with him.  

Coaching Step 2 - What’s wrong with that? 

Two things: 

    1. Even if you wanted to be the low priced seller, and you don’t, after that question, if you don’t come back with a competitive price you don’t get the business!
    2. He didn’t need to offer competitive pricing because he sold value!  He identified the problem and has a solution for the problem.  That is the value someone will pay for and he undermined it by bringing the customer’s attention back to price! 

Coaching Step 3 – What’s the Root Cause? 

The salesperson was afraid to ask the customer to pay more so there are 4 potential weaknesses at play, as well as the possibility that he hadn’t remembered the correct way to ask the question.

    • Discomfort talking about money prevented him from addressing it
    • Understanding of Price Sensitivity because that’s the way he buys
    • Need for Approval caused him to believe the customer may not like him anymore if he asks a tough question.
    • Self-Limiting Belief that he needs a competitive price in order to get the business 

Coaching Step 4 – Can You Role Play the Solution? 

Salesperson: “How important is it to have continued availability of quality, local inventory?”

Customer: “Extremely important”. 

Salesperson: “Tell me how that would affect your business. 

Customer: “I’ll have control over costs and availability.” 

Salesperson: “Peace of Mind?” 

Customer: “Exactly.” 

Salesperson:  “And, in order to solve this problem, get local, as needed, quality inventory, eliminate your enormous freight costs, and restore peace of mind, are you willing to pay a little more for my help and solve this problem once and for all?” 

Coaching  Step 5 – Lessons Learned

I hear an awful lot of salespeople complaining that they can’t sell in their business unless they have the best price.  The reality is that there are only four reasons why price becomes an issue:

    • The salesperson made it an issue (experience)
    • The salesperson accepted that it was an issue (non-supportive beliefs)
    • The salesperson didn’t know how to prevent it from being an issue (tactics)
    • The salesperson was foolishly calling on purchasing instead of an actual decision maker who owned a problem or an opportunity. (strategy)

What did you learn?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales skills, sales management, Sales Coaching, EcSELL Institute, sales weaknesses, sales enablement, sales effectiveness, Top Sales World

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016 and this one for 2017. Read more about Dave.

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