Did you ever wonder what the sales conversation is supposed to sound like? Not the one you’re thinking about (between the sales person and the prospect), but the other one. The market is full of books, blogs, and articles on the important conversation between sales people and prospects. This very blog space addressed the topic of using conversational skills to differentiate oneself in even the most lopsided of sales environments. If you’re curious about that, click here to read the article. And if you haven't read Frank Belzer's article from yesterday, click here. He addressed the important topic of how organic growth impacts sales architecture. In that article, he gets more to the point of today’s topic by looking at the structure of the sales team as it grows. When it has grown organically (read “without strategic planning”), it is not always supportive of the kind of management required to compete and win in today’s business climate. And it’s this very structure which helps create an environment to foster the right kind of conversation happening in your company, with discipline and skill, every day.
Very likely, the single most important conversation, which has to happen so that your salespeople can have the right conversation with prospects, is with their sales manager. Do you know what that sounds like today? We have metrics of all shapes and sizes. We look at calls, leads, inbound leads, qualified opportunities, revenues, margins, recurring revenues, demos, proposals, and on and on. Some sales organizations have a daily handle on these metrics and can even speak about the gap between exactly where they are today and where they want to get to. Most can’t.
But, how many CEOs, sales VPs and other leaders understand what the conversation between sales management and sales people should sound like compared with what it sounds like today (that's if there is a conversation actually taking place)? How many know how critical this daily activity is to the success of the organization? How many are listening and measuring the quality of this conversation? Our research at Kurlan & Associates reveals that only a tiny fraction of companies can say they do. And fewer know just what that conversation should sound like.
In today's sales environment, we now know that up to 50 percent of a sales manager's time should be spent coaching sales people. This is not to be confused with mentoring, motivating, or jumping up and down with your hair on fire. Coaching is different, and it's the key to sales success.
Coaching is a specific kind of conversation. It is a formal meeting (not water cooler), occurs daily, and can last for 30 minutes with each rep. That's every day, with each rep, talking about either an upcoming meeting or call, or a previous meeting or call that didn't achieve the desired result.
Do your sales managers know how to have that conversation the correct way? Can they affect deliberate, incremental, meaningful improvements to the skills of each of their sales people everyday? Here's an example of what such a conversation sounds like: [insert link to Dave's coaching call on Wistia].
- How many of your sales managers could have a conversation like that? [Dave Kurlan 1-minute video on this topic]
- Can they roleplay what the call will sound like before it happens?
- Can they roleplay how the last conversation went and pinpoint where the wheels fell off? [Frank Belzer 1-minute video on this topic]
- Can they make the proper corrections to prevent the problem from reoccurring?
- Can they instruct how to salvage a deal going the wrong way? [My 2-minute video on this topic]
- Do they understand the hidden weaknesses of their sales team and incorporate that into their instruction? [Chris Mott 1-minute video on this topic]
- Can they help their people move past personal barriers and head trash to execute the skills which they are learning?
- Do they understand their own weaknesses and work to overcome them?
What would happen to your company if your sales team were methodically improving every day for one month, six months, or even a year? How much better would they be? If you are not sure about some of these questions, you might be interested in learning more at our webinar on February 5th at 11:00 am Eastern Time. And I recommend that you check back soon to read Chris Mott's article on the challenges of managing technical salespeople.
The next time you think about the sales "conversation", think about the conversation your sales manager is having with the reps to understand the impact of the performance on the team.
- Does he or she have the capability, knowledge, and skill to impact the effectiveness of the team?
- Who on your team will accept daily coaching?
- Who can improve, and by how much?
- Is it worth training your sales manager how to do this?
- Can they learn or do they believe they have it all figured out?
- How much better can this conversation be at your company?
Image credit: Public Domain