At Work

Sales coaching fundamentals - Part 1: Be a visionary

Before I started coaching sales managers and delivering in-house sales training, I was a top-performing financial services agent. But I wasn’t always a top performer, and I certainly did not start out as one.

If it were not for my sales manager then, I would have given up or have been fired. What made my sales manager such a good one was that he knew how to coach me. He focused less on sales techniques and more on accountability, goal-setting and time-management techniques.

It seems natural for the best performing salesmen to be promoted to managerial positions. However, many sales managers struggle in their roles because they lack the knowledge, skills or abilities to fully support their sales teams as they should.

A great salesman does not equal a great sales coach. If your team members are struggling with differentiating themselves in the marketplace, attracting ideal customers or converting more leads into sales, they need a sales coach more than ever.

Become a sales coach

Your sales team is looking to you for guidance, direction and coaching. There is one thing you absolutely must do to become a great sales coach for your team — be a visionary.

What is your vision for the department or organisation? What are your objectives for sales volume, sales revenue, profitability, return-on-investment, market penetration and market share? Be specific. Set deadlines.

Share your vision with your sales teams and encourage them to contribute so they can take ownership of the organisational vision. As a great sales coach, you focus on the “what” (vision and objectives) and leave the “how” (tactics and implementation) to your sales team.

Great sales coaches are great team supporters. They provide their teams with the resources necessary to realise the vision. Coaching your sales staff also includes rewarding them for achieving the objectives and helping them come up with solutions for their problems. Your sales team performance should always be measured against clearly defined and understood objectives.

Improve compensation

As a great sales coach, you must provide your sales team with the resources necessary to realise the organisational vision and objectives. This includes financial resources. Is it possible that your compensation plans could be uninspiring to your sales team without you even knowing it?

When it comes to establishing compensation plans, most organisations look at either a fixed salary, commission or combination plans. This appears easy but how do you determine what compensation plan would truly inspire your sales team?

Sometimes it helps to differentiate between existing and new accounts. It is important to compare the value of each sale dollar produced from existing accounts and new accounts.

You can also look at the effort needed to maintain existing customers versus effort needed to acquire new customers. Do your existing accounts essentially take care of themselves or are they high maintenance? If your sales team must continue expending effort to maintain accounts, its compensation must commensurate with its hard work.

Attract the best talent

Great sales coaches must also become great human resource managers to recruit and retain the best talent. In recruitment, it’s important to create a list of the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) that candidates must possess as well as those which are desirable.

When recruiting the best talent, keep in mind the difference between aptitude and attitude.

Aptitude refers to components of competency. While this is essential, aptitude can be increased through proper orientation and training.

Attitude, on the other hand, refers to a person’s beliefs, values, and work ethic, which are unlikely to change. When in doubt, hire attitude and train aptitude.

Job descriptions are one of the most important tools that will help you recruit and retain the best talent. These clearly explain what the salesman will do and under what conditions the work will be performed.

When preparing job descriptions, it is important to outline in as much detail as possible the aptitude and attitude required for the salesman to be successful.

Selecting the best talent means looking for reliability, mental ability and emotional stability. Hiring the right people with the right mix of aptitude and attitude will lower your employee turnover and help you retain the best talent.

When I work with directors and sales managers in small and medium enterprises, and multinational corporations, I adopt and implement sales coaching fundamentals to help their teams overcome their greatest challenges.

Your ability to craft a shared vision, inspire your sales team and retain the best talent will ultimately determine the success of your sales team.

Read more on sales coaching fundamentals in the second part of this article tomorrow. — Singapore Straits Times/Asia News Network

Article by Tom Abbott, a Singapore-based Canadian sales coach at Soho Sales Coaching and author of The Soho Solution: 25 Selling Strategies For Growing Your Business.