Are Sales Managers Coaching More Frequently Now That Everyone is at Their Desks?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jan 14, 2021 @ 06:01 AM

coach

Nearly a year into the Pandemic, most salespeople have adapted to selling over video.  But how are sales managers doing at adapting to coaching their sales force over video?  Inquiring minds want to know.

We know how sales managers were doing before the pandemic.  It wasn't very good and I wrote about it here.  The data in that November article was for the last 10 years.  What do you think would be different if I filtered the data to show only the last six months of 2020, the time during which sales managers should have already made changes?  Do you think it got better, worse, or stayed the same?

Let's find out.

I won't even show you the data.  It remained the same.  But why?

The data doesn't answer the "why" question but observation can.  I still work with clients so I have some anecdotal observations I can share.  As recently as November, most sales managers were still making excuses for not coaching their salespeople more often despite coaching conditions being better than ever.

When salespeople were out in the field, sales leaders used that as an excuse as to why they didn't coach more frequently. "They are not in the office and I'm not in the field with them this week so it's really hard to coach them."  Last year that changed to, "They are making calls and having Zoom meetings so it's really hard to coach them."

How difficult is it to join a phone call or a Zoom meeting and then debrief it?  And with coaching platforms like Refract, calls can be made from the platform, recorded into the platform, and sales managers can coach to it later. With sales leaders at their desks too these conditions make it easier than ever to create coaching time! 

Clearly, the time and location excuse no longer works and was never the real issue.  So what is the real issue?

There is no actual data to back up what I'm going to say but I believe that the real issue is that sales managers are petrified of actual coaching.  Oh they'll have conversations about opportunities and suggest strategies but that isn't coaching.  Coaching is when they conduct opportunity reviews as described here.  Or when they role play as described here.  Both scenarios require sales leaders to challenge themselves and their salespeople and the combination of discomfort and ignorance around those two topics is daunting.

I can help.  My annual Sales Leadership Intensive will be held virtually on May 19-21, 2021- three five-hour days - and we focus on one major topic.  Coaching. How to do it correctly, how often, for how long, how to impact deals, how to coach up salespeople, how to role-play effectively, how to get salespeople wanting more, how to pre-call strategize, how to post-call debrief, how to use technology, and more.  Attendees LOVE this training - especially the time we spend listening and dissecting actual coaching conversations!  You can learn more here.  Register here.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, Sales Coaching, sales management training, sales coaching summit, sales managerment, sales management course

The $225,000 Selling Mistake Most Salespeople Make

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 07, 2020 @ 07:12 AM

big-mistake

I'm going to share the story of a real salesperson and his current, real opportunity, but change the names of everyone involved.  I hear stories like this every day but this particular one happens way too often.

2 months ago, Bob agreed to a $25,000 pilot for an enterprise size company generating billions in revenue.  At the time, he was told a successful pilot would lead to much more business in 2021.  Last week he excitedly shared that the company was very happy with the results of their pilot to date, and they asked Bob to prepare a business case for exponentially increasing the size and scope of their spend.  The future purchase would be north of $250,000.

While colleagues and supervisors shared their enthusiasm for this exciting moment, my first reaction was, "And why do you think this is good news?" 

"Dave, you're so negative."

I was asked to explain why I felt that way because Bob and his team believed that this was clearly a positive development.  I pointed out that the request to prepare a business case was nothing more than a request for (another) proposal and Bob would once again need to prove and convince the company that doing business with them would provide value, create ROI, and justify the tenfold increase in spend.

The response from Bob's team?  "Good point."

This IS the customer moving forward, but only moving forward to resume their discussions as to whether to or not to move forward with an increase in spend.  One more time. The only thing moving forward is a resumption of the discussion about moving forward.  I did not hear anything about decisions, commitments, intent, budgets, terms, agreements, contracts, PO's, timelines, or closing dates.  The only thing certain, is that Bob can open the opportunity in his CRM application and place a checkmark to indicate that the pilot was successfully completed.  Check! The opportunity did not advance in any other measurable or meaningful way because he is right back where he was in October when he proposed the same solution only to settle for 10% of the business in the form of this pilot.  They weren't convinced then, and apparently, still aren't convinced. 

There are a few issues here:

  • The pilot was not sold correctly - When Bob agreed to the mini-pilot, there should have been a very clear understanding of what exactly would constitute success; and if he met the criteria for a successful pilot, what exactly would happen next.  If the "next" step is anything other than easily and automatically transitioning to the larger order, then Bob should not have begun the pilot.
  • The salesperson had happy ears - When the customer asked Bob to prepare another business case for 2021, Bob should not have been so eager to facilitate.  Instead, he should have asked why they were asking for another business case since he did that prior to the pilot.  Bob should have also asked what they were looking for in the business case, who would be reviewing it, and what would happen after it was reviewed.  If Bob hears anything other than "we'll be signing an agreement" it's a no-go on the new business case/proposal.
  • The sales manager did not push back - Given the poorly executed expectations and next steps prior to the pilot, and the new request for a proposal, the sales manager should have pushed back hard and not allowed either the pilot or the business case to move forward without a better understanding of timelines, next steps and commitments.

This story is not unusual in any way.  Scenarios like this occur at an alarming rate throughout each day at companies across the spectrum of more than 200 industries.  Even good salespeople make mistakes like these and ineffective sales managers allow them to happen time and time again.  Great salespeople, who make up the top 5% of the sales population, never allow scenarios like this to take place.  Weak salespeople, who make up the bottom 50%, always allow scenarios like this to occur.

The story I shared here is just one example of the ripple effect from lack of quality sales training and coaching, and lack of effective sales management.  Much of this could be solved with improved sales selection - hiring the right sales managers and salespeople to begin with.  The rest can be solved with a sales force evaluation to identify the core issues and gaps, and then the right training to better prepare the sales team to execute when they find themselves in scenarios like these.

Image Copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, closing, selling tips, sales managerment, sales milestones, terms, pilot

Data Shows That Your Sales Team is No Different Than Your Lawn

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Nov 20, 2020 @ 07:11 AM

I just love it when our lawn looks gorgeous - thick, lush, and green, green, green.  Getting it looking that good requires fertilizing, aerating, thatching, over seeding, and frequent mowing, all things better suited to the landscaping company than me. Of course, some sun and water help too. And even with an irrigation system, by the middle of the summer, areas of our lawn begin to look like crap. Not to worry though. By mid fall, the lawn looks its absolute best.  Yup, my lawn never looks better than it does on November 1. Right before it snows and turns brown for the winter!  You have to admit, that's a lot of work and expense for a lawn that looks perfect for all of 6 weeks - 3 weeks in the spring and 3 weeks in the fall!

nice-lawn
                                                         Great looking spring lawn. 

Dead-Lawn-1024x675

                                           Crappy looking summer lawn

Because my lawn looks its worst on August 1 and its best on November 1, it has a lot in common with most sales organizations.  A sales team looks its best on January 1, when every opportunity in the pipeline is a possibility and forecasts predict a banner year.  It looks its worst just a week earlier, when on December 23, sales leaders defend the team's sub-par performance to the CEO and explain why 57% of their salespeople failed to hit quota - again!  It's easy to explain why the lawn fails, as dry, hot summers will do that.  But why do sales teams continue to fail, year after year, regardless of industry, and in every economy?  Why don't the numbers improve?  Why don't more salespeople jump from C's to B's?  From B's to A's?  From D's to C's?  The answers - and there are plenty - are evasive.  But let's try!

We can certainly pin some of the blame on sales managers.  My last two articles explain many of the problems contributing to ineffective sales management.  Read about crappy sales managers and then read the follow-up article about crappy coaching.

We can certainly pin some of the blame on salespeople.  Why don't they try to improve?  Why don't they invest in sales self-development?  Why don't they read more books and articles, watch more videos, listen to more audio and push themselves out from their comfort zone?   Why don't they practice?

After 35 years in this business, I still don't understand why sales, as a profession, includes so many ineffective salespeople.  Based on data from Objective Management Group (OMG), who has evaluated and assessed 2,040,355 salespeople, 50% of all salespeople suck.  Take a look at the image below where I have isolated the bottom 50% of all salespeople.  This screen shot represents the percentage of those weak salespeople who have the ten tactical selling competencies as strengths:

After seeing these percentages is it any wonder why half of your salespeople fail to hit quota?  Don't think it could get any worse?  Take a look at what happens when we look at the bottom 10% where it's clear that the only thing some of them are capable of is making friends and presentations:

These ten selling competencies are ten of the twenty-one sales competencies that OMG measures.  You can see them all, filter by industry and sales percentile, and even see how your salespeople compare.  Data on OMG's 21 Sales Core Competencies.

We can pin some of the blame on history. To a certain degree, C Suite executives are conditioned to accept these year-end results and when they are disappointed yet again, they don't raise hell, don't fire the sales leaders, and don't storm out the door.  They simply aren't surprised any more.  Failure is baked in.

You know what it takes to make a lawn look great and from experience I know what it takes for a sales team to become great.  Companies that evaluate their sales teams, provide effective sales training, embrace sales process, train their sales managers to coach, get sales selection right and improve their sales cultures, yield huge gains in sales and profits. Yes, margins increase too. That's what happens when salespeople learn to sell value instead of price.

With that in mind, we can certainly assign a lot of blame on company owners, CEO's and senior sales leaders who don't take those steps and/or don't take those steps seriously. 

The conversation on the LinkedIn post for this article has some fantastic additional reasons why and took my lawn analogy even further.  The best one so far is from Rocky LaGrone who said, "...Don't forget about pesticides for those pesky insects, pre-emergent for unwanted weeds, over watering, and fungus. Those are the same in sales as mediocre sales leaders and salespeople. It's the equivalent to making excuses and accepting them. Add lack of understanding of how to bring value and premature presentation and you have a baron landscape in sales. With zero effective coaching you might as well not mow! The layman landscaper cant see the early warning signs of root damage or infestations of grubs no more than the layman sales executive can't see their rotting sales foundation without measuring the right metrics at the right frequency. Most people react to their grass and don't pay attention to the roots. Healthy roots produce healthy plants and the same is true for sales. The fundamentals never change. It's the application of the fundamentals that make the difference. A professional landscaper will start with a soil sample and analysis. Why wouldn't a sales executive start with an analysis of their salesforce?"

There are a lot more great comments like this one at the LinkedIn post.

There's no excuse for not weaponizing your sales teams and equipping them with every appropriate sales strategy and tool to leverage their ability to close opportunities they have routinely allowed your competitors to retain, steal or close.

As Michael Jackson famously sung in his timeless 1980's hit, Man in the Mirror,  Make a change.  Start with the [person] in the mirror.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales performance, CEO, sales quotas, sales assessments, sales managerment, increase profit

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About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for nine consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave

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