The Case for Using Audio for  Great Sales Coaching

Posted by Chris Mott on Mon, Dec 11, 2017 @ 13:12 PM


Have you ever recorded a new voicemail greeting only to re-record it multiple times because the words were not right, your tonality was off, the flow was bad or you just didn’t like how you sounded?

When we call a business for customer support, virtually every major company has a “This call may be recorded for coaching” message. Many technology companies with inside sales organizations use call recording software, yet many don’t leverage these tools for coaching.  When I ask a group of salespeople how often they listen to their own sales calls  less than 10% typically say yes. When I ask about the frequency of calls they record the number is even lower.  If salespeople simply asked more and better questions and more relevant questions their success rate would rise, yet almost no one reviews and improves their single biggest asset - how they sound on the phone.

The reasons for not recording and listening include: 

  • I don’t know how 
  • It will take a lot of time
  • I’m not sure what to coach people on
  • People don’t like listening to themselves
  • I don't think it will really help?

Salespeople frequently struggle with transitions because they spend too much time in some areas and not enough in others. If you break a call into simple parts; the introduction, rapport, expectations, questioning, summary and next steps you can identify the areas that need the most work. 

One of the biggest obstacles to being effective on the phone is expectations. Identifying a clear, appropriate, desired outcome and getting the prospect to agree to this upfront helps enormously. Pre-call strategy helps but what actually happens on the call is usually quite different from what was strategized and practiced. Without hearing the actual call, sales managers must coach to the outcome instead of what caused the outcome.

To have real impact on their salespeople, sales leaders must help their salespeople identify what they could have done differently and how this will improve their conversations and their outcomes.

Common opportunities for improvement are:

  • Did the salesperson ask one question or three at a time?
  • Did the prospect answer the question?
  • Did the salesperson repeat the question if necessary?
  • Are salespeople asking for clarification on the “labels” used, i.e. happy, fast or expensive?
  • Do salespeople allow their prospects to finish?
  • Are they interrupting?
  • How often are they summarizing?
  • Are they saying things to keep their prospects comfortable?
  • What was said that your salespeople missed?

A simple way to get started is to have a salesperson pick a call they want to review. Using the questions above as a guide, listen to it and make notes on the challenges / opportunities for improvement. Then, listen to the call with the salesperson and stop at the point(s) where you heard something important. Ask them what they heard. Your goal is to get them to identify the areas for improvement. Ask them what may have caused the challenge identified and what would have happened if they had done something different.

You may have to tell people what you heard, but resist your desire to explain. When salespeople self-discover their challenges it sticks, when you tell them, it may not. 

As for those who don’t use audio coaching enough, the question you need to ask yourself is, am I going to continue to accept my own rationalization for not leveraging this powerful tool? Can you imagine elite athletes not watching game film? I can’t!

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: sales management, Sales Coaching, chris mott, coaching salespeople

Sales Leaders Should Function Like Chiropractors

Posted by Chris Mott on Mon, Nov 13, 2017 @ 20:11 PM

Image Copyright iStock Photos

I was at the Chiropractor this morning having a sometimes too frequent adjustment. Terry, who I’ve seen for years, has a photo of a perfect road that turns sharply, exposing torn asphalt, then straightens into a perfectly paved road again. The caption says, incident, acute care, rehabilitation and maintenance. Today I was in rehab. I’ve learned (Rather slowly) that when I stop the maintenance it usually leads to rehab or acute care.

The term manipulation (one definition) is to move something from one position to another i.e. my vertebrae need to be moved from out of alignment into alignment. When I’m on track this is quick and painless and when I am not on track I need multiple visits and the recovery (muscle, bone and ligaments) takes longer and is more painful.

Developing salespeople is challenging primarily because it requires that salespeople change their behavior in response to another person’s actions. Building a strong relationship tends to compensate for the need to change behavior. Salespeople have needed to develop expertise delivering a value presentation and invest time with their prospects. That has changed.  Today, your salespeople must be capable of being the value in the same way that advisers do requiring salespeople to change their behavior. To succeed at this, practice, role-play, demonstration, risk taking, great planning and fundamentals must be embedded in the sales culture and sales management DNA.

Consider the following statements. Do they sound familiar?

  • Sales managers are often too hands off
  • Their coaching involves diagnosing the situation and providing feedback on next steps
  • Role-play has a more limited role
  • We don’t test people’s ability to react in the moment, i.e. “your price is too high, what do you say?”
  • Weekly practice time is very limited or non-existent
  • We don’t know enough about the details of our salespeople financial situation
  • We as managers don’t practice

Unless your top performers lack the passion and incentive to be better as salespeople, and many do, the salespeople who need more rehab and acute care will generally be your mid and lower tier performers. However, depending on how much growth potential they have and how quickly this can be realized, you may get great value from investing your time in them.

For sales development to have an impact, you need highly motivated (to be better) people, a well-defined milestone-centric sales process, that you hold people accountable to following. Schedule and hold daily / weekly 1-1 meetings, regular small group practice, clear measurable KPI’s, salesperson-created personal development plans which are reviewed weekly, the ability to ask, not tell, lots of patience, the desire and willingness to allow people to make mistakes, learn in their own way at their pace and a high degree of personal humility. Sounds easy huh? Oh, and one more thing. You must love coaching people more than selling!

Topics: sales management, sales leader

Should I Replace Myself As Sales Manager?

Posted by Chris Mott on Thu, Dec 11, 2014 @ 13:12 PM


Should I hire a sales manager or not?

Hiring the right sales manager will have a profound impact on your sales force and pay great dividends over time.  Accomplishing this takes planning, effort, commitment, and the willingness to address your personal skill gaps. 

Important considerations include:

  • Am I willing to manage them correctly?
  • Do we have the necessary infrastructure?
  • How will they be compensated?
  • What is my role?
  • How do i ensure the investment pays off?    

My post today discusses this question and some critical factors to consider.

Click on the icon below and download samples of our sales and sales management candidate assesments.

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Topics: sales management, sales managers, CEOs impact on sales, great sales management training

Sales - People, Process, Alignment and Strategy

Posted by Chris Mott on Fri, Apr 26, 2013 @ 13:04 PM

describe the imageCompanies have spent significant amounts of money, time, effort and human capital on implementing processes to align their organizations on strategy.  This includes lean manufacturing, ISO certification, just in time inventory, optimization of delivery systems, and financial operations.  For a variety of reasons, this attention has not been consistently applied to the sales force.

Most CEO’s don’t rise through the ranks having come from sales.  They are most often experienced in operations, finance, engineering, technology and science.  The irony is that these disciplines emphasize data, analysis, strategy and process.  Yet close to eighty percent of the sales organizations which we have evaluated lack a clearly-defined, coherent sales process, and worse, there is insufficient inspection and accountability by sales leadership of what little process exists.  Despite widescale implementation of CRM systems, pipeline and forecasting, accuracy is a significant problem.  Look no further than the discounting needed to get deals closed. 

Human capital and its development is a tremendous challenge.  We have aging sales forces, fewer large companies investing in the training of new salespeople, and a seismic shift from account management to more proactive consultative sellers.  Sales managers tend to be untrained individual producers who have little patience for developing salespeople.

If one of your business strategies is to take market share, you need a sales process which aligns with that strategy, salespeople who are skilled at capturing business from incumbents, and sales leaders capable of coaching up presenters and turning them into proactive hunters.  Unfortunately, almost half of all salespeople are either untrainable (they don’t have the incentive to change), highly resistant to coaching or limited by their DNA (often non-supportive beliefs).

Recruiting for talent vs. knowledge is an absolute necessity if sales organizations are to address these challenges.  In addition to identifying talent, Human Resources and sales leadership must understand, be able to recognize, and select salespeople who possess the core sales DNA required for success.  

The most exciting aspect of this is that companies are beginning to recognize that sales must be a strategically-valued part of their business, and as such, requires investment, attention and strong sales leadership.

If you are curious about how well-developed your sales organization is, complete our short Sales Force Grader.

Do you and or your sales leaders need to have greater impact on your sales force? If so, Kurlan & Associates is holding a Sales Leadership Intensive this May in Boston. 

Topics: sales management, Sales Coaching, developing salespeople, recruiting better salespeople

Dogs Love The Chase - Do Your Salespeople?

Posted by Chris Mott on Fri, May 11, 2012 @ 12:05 PM

lab ballYesterday, while out getting coffee, I watched a Chocolate Labrador Retriever chase his morning pick-me–up:  a well-chewed tennis ball.  It was cold, gray, raw and pouring rain.  His ball-throwing partner was bundled up in a winter hat and heavy raincoat.  The dog, however, was in heaven!  He bounded across the grass, tongue fully extended, sliding and falling when be reached the florescent green ball only to wait eagerly for the next opportunity for a good ball chase.

I was thinking about the parallel between this and a day in the life of a salesperson.  Metaphorically speaking, the sky can turn gray and raw at any moment.  Spontaneous rain showers and thunderstorms pop up when least expected and your prospects frequently stop playing catch with you.  What’s a salesperson to do? 

Dogs just don’t give up when they are in full ball-chasing mode.  If you throw a ball deep into the woods, they will happily run there and come back for more.  If you throw a curve ball, they will wait for the next one.  If you stop playing catch, they bark and dance until you give in.

Salespeople, on the other hand, get emotionally involved when it rains, feel rejected when the prospect says something unexpected, get frustration when a prospect throws a curve ball and sometimes walk away when the going gets tough.

What’s the difference between the Chocolate Lab and a salesperson?   Dogs are hard-wired for play and ball-chasing.  They are singularly-focused and live completely in the moment.  When there is a ball to chase, it’s all they think about.  Most importantly, they are really good at having fun regardless of the circumstances.  In contrast, salespeople have trouble living in the moment, get distracted, lose sight of the goal and make selling way too serious, removing much of the playfulness.

Professional salespeople need to be smart, savvy, brave, goal-focused, resilient, empirical and process-orientated.  Prospects stretch the truth, hold back crucial information, have trouble trusting salespeople and worry about making a bad buying decision.  What often gets missed is the playfulness and singular focus regardless of whether it’s pouring rain at the moment.  Salespeople need to bring fun and playfulness to the sales process.  They also need to weather the wind, rain and bad weather with a smile on their face.

My challenge to you is to consciously remember the Chocolate Lab doing what he loves most regardless of the environmental conditions.



Topics: sales management, Sales Coaching, chris mott, kurlan and associates

How the Subconscious Mind Affects Salespeople

Posted by Chris Mott on Thu, May 10, 2012 @ 07:05 AM

subconsciousDuke University research on subliminal advertising shows that we are strongly impacted by what our subconscious mind experiences and it can activate based on what the imagery represents to us.  The study uses the Apple logo and its brand image of creativity to trigger creative behavior in the study group without them knowing it. 

When our subconscious minds believe something is true, whether these thoughts have a positive impact on us or not, the conscious mind will work to assure that contradictory beliefs are eliminated.  This means that what our subconscious believes has an enormous impact on our behavior.

Let's look at sales-specific beliefs that negatively impact sales execution.  When a salesperson subconsciously believes the statements below are true, coaching alone will not be enough to overcome the problem.  Until the subconscious mind agrees with the coaching, the subconscious mind will resist it and our attempts to embrace it.

  • It's OK if they think it over.
  • I have a long sales cycle.
  • I don't like making cold calls.
  • I have to call on procurement before end-users or decision-makers.
  • If they're happy with their present vendor, then I can't help them.
  • Prospects that think it over will eventually buy from me
  • It's not OK to confront a prospect.
  • Any lack of results are due to the economy or marketplace.

In the context of a sales call, when prospects say things that are aligned with our subconscious beliefs, we begin an internal struggle over which belief to act upon.  For example, even though "my experience is that most people who think it over don’t buy from me, it sounds like this person may be the exception.”  This thinking is the result of the conscious and subconscious disagreeing and the subconscious attempting to convince the conscious that it is correct.

The first step is to get your salespeople to understand that what their mind tells them may cause nonsupportive actions.  The salesperson's natural reaction will be to explain why, in this situation, their thinking is correct and they should ignore lessons from prior, similar sales scenarios.  Sales leaders whose thinking is similar to their salespeople may not even recognize the problem, which makes it very difficult for them to help their salespeople overcome these challenges.

Sales leaders often express frustration that their salespeople have a difficult time executing the strategies they develop for them.  They may take it personally or wonder if their salespeople are smart enough to incorporate new ideas.  While these are understandable responses, they miss the mark.  The problem is not whether they know what they should do, but whether they are ready to do battle with their subconscious thinking.

Do you know how your salespeople's subconscious thinking affects their ability to execute your coaching?  A sales force evaluation will quickly get to the heart of these issues.


Topics: sales management, Sales Coaching, Kurlan & Associates, chris mott, self-limiting sales beliefs

Prepare for Sales Calls and Coaching by Planning the Conversation

Posted by Chris Mott on Fri, Dec 09, 2011 @ 13:12 PM

phone callThere are hundreds of books and articles on planning for a sales call.

They principally focus on decision makers, the decision-making process, money, delivering a value proposition, risk and positioning from a competitive standpoint.

What doesn’t get addressed to the extent it should be is planning for the conversation and what the dialogue will be

I was working with aclient who needed a sales manager to change the way they delivered critique. The problem was they tended to sound as if “nothing was ever good enough”.

On a side note, most sales leaders struggle with this. It’s frequently not the message it’s the delivery. Impatience, pressure, urgency and other factors drive this.

When planning for the conversation you need to put yourself in the prospects shoes, or in this case the managers. What do we know about the situation that can help with this?

  • It’s potentially a sensitive issue; people’s feelings are involved
  • Feedback is encouraged in the organization
  • The manager was trying to do the right thing
  • The manager needs to empathize with how the salesperson is feeling
  • This empathy needs to conveyed to the salesperson

One of the most helpful tools for conveying a message is the use of stories and analogies. Because they are third party and hypothetical the message can be conveyed, received and understood without an emotional reaction.

Remember we are working with people who bring emotions, defenses, experiences, judgment and vulnerabilities to the conversation.

So how can we bring this topic up in a productive way? Here is an example.

“I was hoping we could take advantage of our agreement to openly discuss areas for improvement. Do you mind if I share something with you?”

“I know we have been under a lot of pressure lately. My experience is when I react to the pressure I lose sight of the big picture. This can make me less aware of how others perceive me even when I’m trying to do the right thing.”

How does this opening help?

  • It reminds both parties of what has been agreed too
  • The person receiving the feedback has agreed to the conversation
  • The dialogue sounds and feels more mutual
  • The issue is put on the table without sounding like an accusation

Since you don’t know what the response will be and it can vary widely practice and role-play are needed to properly prepare. By rehearsing various scenarios in advance you will acclimate yourself to possible responses. Dialogue without some practice can get off track. Imagine what would happen if actors didn’t know their lines. Selling should be a conversation and planning for that conversation deserves more attention.

Topics: sales, coaching, sales management, practice

Salespeople and Sales Leaders Must Manage Across the Organization

Posted by Chris Mott on Wed, Sep 28, 2011 @ 10:09 AM

Independent representatives, channel partners, distributors and on-staff technical resources have one thing in common, they have great leverage when it comes to killing a sale. That’s right your most valuable resources may well be your worse nightmare.

Sales professionals worryabout someone else saying or doing anything that underminestheir effort, moves the discussion away from what’s important, shuts down conversation, hijacking the process or steps out of their well defined sales process.

Oh wait I’m assuming you have a well-defined sales process, which everyone understands, believes in and is held accountable to. 


In addition to following a process there’s a big question about whether your salespeople believe their associates bring value to the table. The same can be said for your channel partner’s perspective on your involvement.

To illustrate this, I’ll use the Baseball Diamond below. Each of the circles represents an interaction with the prospect. In this case there are (2) touches on each base path.

 Baseball Diamond




Where along the base path should and does a technical resource get involved, for representatives, distributors or partners when do you enter the process. If we look at three milestones from Baseline Selling,(1) is there a real need to solve a problem, (2) are there compelling reasons to act and (3) are they (the prospect) 100% committed you can see how this plays itself out.


Problems arise when the lead salesperson doesn’t accomplish what's necessary in advance of your involvement or a technical resource's involvement. Equally important, when should other people be brought into the process, i.e. does it take one or two meetings to completely answers these questions and what decision makers must be included?

Try asking your salespeople or your distributors to answer these questions, I guarantee you will get very different opinions.

Salespeople have big egos. They also don’t like critique. Independent reps, and distributors like autonomy and are resistant to requests for information. One or two bad interactions can leave a legacy of silent mistrust. All of this can result in non-verbal finger pointing. My view is this, if your partners and technical resources are not coming to you and asking to help or for help on a regular basis it’s likely some of these challenges are present.

Sales opportunities evolve and change but there is a desired staged process. Maybe you’ve defined it but haven’t sold it to your salespeople or distributors. Maybe your technical resources aren’t clear about their role or they don’t agree with the definition.

The extent to which you properly utilize and align selling resources and manage across the sales organization greatly influences how successful you are.

Topics: sales management, sales resources, technical resources

Is Your Sales Organization Aligned? - What Should You Look for?

Posted by Chris Mott on Wed, Sep 21, 2011 @ 15:09 PM

ducks in a rowYou have a clearly articulated vision, well-defined revenue and profit goals, the right number of salespeople and a sales manager who’s committed to achieving the goals. There’s a weekly sales meeting to review the pipeline and opportunity strategy and the sales manager spends enough time with the salespeople and has a good understanding of individual strengths and weaknesses.


It’s logical to conclude you have a well-aligned sales organization, isn’t it? But how do you know this is true? What symptoms should you look for of unseen challenges and areas of misalignment?


Lets look at soft measurements. Do the salespeople bring in technical experts too early or too late? Are the correct meeting expectations being set prior to the technical staff getting involved? Have your salespeople invested enough in the internal staff and created a sense of partnership. Do you have some highly successful people whose maverick side is non-compliance?


CEO’s, particularly those who are not salespeople by heritage tend to delegate too much to the sales leader. They speak at important company events but often infrequently. Great CEO’s, who view their sales organization as strategic consistently reinforce their vision often in person, empower the sales leader and motivate the troops. To illustrate this do you invest as much of yourself in the sales organization as you do with your engineering team, operations staff or your banker?


Ask your salespeople to answer three questions independently.


  • What is the brand promise of your company?
  • What is the value proposition?
  • What is their elevator pitch?


It is very likely you will find wide variations in the answers, which will surprise and disappoint you. Add the pressure of the moment to an individual salesperson delivery and things frequently get worse.


From a product perspective do your salespeople sell all of the products and services or do they focus on the ones they are comfortable with and believe in? Salespeople tell us in interviews they need to believe in what they sell. It is very likely that your sales force doesn’t “believe” in everything. It also likely they don’t own the value as defined by your pricing.


There is always room for improvement and you’ll never be perfect, but be careful not to conclude that alignment isn’t one of the challenges you face.

Topics: sales management, sales alignment, executive sales management

Are You Managing Teenagers or Salespeople?

Posted by Chris Mott on Thu, Jun 23, 2011 @ 16:06 PM

Do you have teenagers living with you? Have you raised teenagers? If not you can surely remember your teenager years? It’s a challenging time full of fear, frustration, pride, disappointment and joy. Some days it looks like smooth sailing ahead..other times you hold tight on hoping for a break in the weather.

As the CEO or Sales Leader this probably sounds familiar. Wouldn't it be wonderful if logic always applied? You could simply explain what needed to be done and wait for it to happen. In reality it doesn’t work that way.

Here’s a parallel; managing salespeople is like parenting teenagers.

Lets look at some comparisons. These are literal; you can adjust as needed

  • Salespeople are very emotional
  • They have frequently mood swings
  • They say what they believe people what to hear
  • The “truth’ can be redefined
  • They are usually egotistical
  • They are often motivated by fear
  • Anything can be rationalized
  • They are prone to distraction
  • Their needs are more important than anyone else’s
  • They are not good asking for help
  • It’s hard for them to accept your critique

Effective sales management requires patience, persistence and continued reinforcement. You need to comfort them, push back on what they say, help them see things from a different perspective and increase their humility. It’s a balancing act between direct, forthright accountability and careful, patient, nurturing. Remember that the traits salespeople exhibit, (principally the passion and emotion) are what drives them to succeed. So have fun and embrace the "teenage years." It’s worth the journey.

Topics: sales management, sales people

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