There are five specific events, points in time, and conditions when it is appropriate to ask for help. Before I explain those, let me go to my favorite source for analogies - baseball - to show how this is true. A quick Google search indicates that I have woven baseball into 435 of my articles - nearly one third of them, so why baseball again?
When I wrote Baseline Selling in 2005 (as I write this article 10 years later, the book is still ranked #10 on Amazon.com in the sales category!), I identified 53 baseball terms, scenarios, and conditions that were analogous to selling. And that was well before I began weaving in sales management scenarios!
So first a little baseball and then the sales analogy. A fastball hit me square in the knee today.
When our son turned 11, he had become a pitcher and since I wasn't a pitcher when I was younger, I knew that I could not teach him the proper mechanics of pitching, so I got him a pitching coach.
I have been coaching him in baseball since he was old enough to stand and when he turned 12, he stopped listening to me. "I know Dad!" "Stop Dad!" "Just pitch it to me, Dad!" When he stopped listening to me, I got him a hitting coach that he would listen to so that he could continue to develop as a great hitter.
When he turned 13, I could no longer play catcher to his pitcher. I have bifocals, making it extremely difficult to track a hard-thrown knuckle curve ball from 60 feet away in the dim spring light at the end of a long, hard work day. Today, when that fastball hit me square on my knee, I knew that I needed to find someone that he could pitch to so that he doesn't have to worry about killing me!
This spring, as he nears his 14th birthday, he has been invited to play on the high school varsity baseball team despite only being in the 8th grade. This will present a whole new challenge for him and require even more repetitions, in even more areas of the sport. I don't have enough time to work with him as often as he would like. I got him some more help.
Top 5 Conditions:
- Exceeds my capabilities
- Not listening to me anymore
- Can't do it anymore
- Limited bandwidth
- And if I lacked having some to call, then Lack of Resources
If you sell an outsourced service, you can replace #2 with "not scalable."
But this message is primarily for the Presidents, CEO's, Sales Leaders and Sales Managers who don't recognize numbers 1-5 above.
There are so many companies whose revenues are not coming close to reaching their potential because their leaders fail to recognize the 4 scenarios above. In addition, some sales leaders believe that if they have to get help from the outside, it makes them appear weak. Nothing could be further from the truth. In my experience, when companies bring us in to help and revenues begin to soar, it makes the sales leaders look like the heroes!
Let's look at them again.
Exceeds my capabilities - You need to coach your salespeople up, but you can't coach them to be any better than you were. The key is to recognize that while you may have been a good salesperson, you may not have been a great salesperson, and may not have had your success selling the way that salespeople must sell in modern times. Modern selling requires a consultative approach where salespeople are the value.
Not listening to me anymore - It happens in sports where managers and coaches are fired because their players have stopped listening. Salespeople stop listening too - they tune-out their sales leaders - when they have heard it all before. It is very difficult to coach someone up when they aren't listening to what you are telling them.
Can't do it anymore - Sales leaders often reach a frustration level where it is no longer possible for them to provide the kind of coaching that their salespeople require. They sense that it just isn't working, is wasting time, and they stop.
Limited bandwidth - Coaching should consume 50% of a sales leader's time. At least 20 hours per week of good, quality, impactful coaching. Yet most sales leaders don't have nearly that much time to coach. This week, I spoke with a Sales VP who reads this blog and he has 12 direct reports with more on the way. Even if he could spend 50% of his time coaching, how can he possibly provide thorough coaching to 12 people in 20 hours per week?
Sales teams must perform. And increasing goals, plans, budgets, expectations and quotas place additional pressure on sales leaders to get the most from their teams. Can we really expect sales leaders to accomplish that without help?
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