Today’s guest post is by Diane Williams, product manager for the SPIN® Portfolio of training programs for MHI Global. She is responsible for the development of new programs that support the use of SPIN skills.
In the world of sales, good sales coaches are hard to find. That’s because coaching is challenging. It takes training. And who has the time for it?
But, if you want to have a world-class selling organization, you must coach – no excuses allowed.
Coaching in sales effectiveness is like coaching in any field where greatness is expected: it is imperative. Great sales coaches know who to coach, when to coach, and to what to coach. If you want to be a great sales coach, the following six characteristics will set you on the right path.
- The right balance of efficiency and effectiveness. Great sales managers find the balance of optimal efficiency metrics and practical effectiveness measures. Just a few effectiveness measures will balance an array of efficiency measures. That’s because efficiency metrics are quantitative; effectiveness measures are done in ratio form, e.g., did a call plan lead to the desired outcome? While efficiency can be improved by activity management and territory configuration, effectiveness improvement requires training, modeling, and great coaching. Great sales coaches help their salespeople understand the importance of outcomes.
- The right management involvement in face-to-face selling. An effective organization considers a few rules when involving a manager in a face-to-face customer interaction: Involve a manager only when he or she can make a unique difference; don’t make sales calls on a customer unless your salesperson is with you; before any joint call, agree on specific and clear selling roles with your salesperson; and always have a withdrawal strategy that prevents any customer from becoming dependent on you, personally.
- Sell where there’s an opportunity to create customer value through the selling process. Economics 101 will tell you that Value = Benefits – Cost. Great coaches show their salespeople where the opportunities exist to create value, independent of the product you sell. The research shows there are four ways to create value for customers: Help customers diagnose the unrecognized problem; help them arrive at an unanticipated solution; present an unforeseen opportunity that has escaped the customer’s attention; and become a broker of capabilities and act as a customer advocate.
- Focus on the early stages of the business pipeline. The opportunity to create value rests in the early stages of a sales call – not the later ones. MHI Global’s research shows that successful sales calls come from spending twice as much time on the front end of the pipeline. By focusing on the later stages, average companies are inadvertently defining themselves as transactional companies selling a commodity.
- Build a coaching culture. Creating a coaching culture means allocating time, metrics, and attention. Great companies recognize this basic truth and invest their time in developing a culture of coaching. Coaching cultures have thought through four questions: Who do we coach? When do we coach? How do we coach? To what do we coach?
- Ruthlessly reward high performers. For high performers, it’s not about money – it’s about degrees of freedom. They want immediate rewards. They want hard assignments. They want quick and candid feedback. They want to be known as a top performer. Celebrate that on a regular basis. World-class coaches give rewards and feedback early and often.