Sales Coaching – tips for the B2B Sales Director

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Detective with Questions

Sales coaching achieves better sales results by helping customers see the best a company can offer. In many cases sales people are left on their own to sell, under the assumption that they have experience – therefore they should be allowed to work on their own.

There are a couple of problems with this – which put much of our talent into failure mode:

  • Their past experience will lead to selling using a series of habits (good or bad) – how we form call objectives as an example.

  • The current employer (i.e. You, as a sales director) usually has a very different dynamic in terms of “product & market readiness”. Hence the call technique is about market research as much as about selling.

What to Watch Out For

Symptoms to watch out for, which show an opportunity for sales coaching, are comments such as:

  • “We had a good meeting, the customer likes our products.”
  • “We had a good meeting, but the prospect needs more information about our products and services.”
  • “Our next meeting is next week, and the customer needs a proposal by then – let’s put a team on it.”
  • “We know others will be involved in the decision – but have not yet met them.”

Is good salesmanship shining through all these points for you? (hint…the answer is “no”, for most B2B sales environments)

Sales Coaching – What does a Sales Director do next?

Moreover, “what does a Sales Director do next?” is the tougher question. You really want the sales person to get answers to questions such as:

  • Have we identified “Problem-to-be-solved”? (or even multiples of them…)
  • Have we identified who else in the decision team needs to be met?
  • Have we got an understanding of customer business drivers?
  • Do we have some time drivers identified?

Now we come to the management challenge. In many cases, especially with experienced sales people, there is a tendency to leave the sales person to make the decisions on the goals of each call – and how the account strategy is to evolve. If you have a hunch the opportunity is not on a sound footing, one sales coaching approach is to guide the sales person to “ask different questions” in their work with the prospect. Here are some ways to have that internal conversation. Importantly, these approaches are non-critical and non-confrontational:

  • “I just don’t understand…..” – for example, “I don’t understand the business drivers; how is our champion going to make an internal presentation and get approval to buy? Are there some pre-existing business problems their senior management is working on?”
  • “I am curious….” For example, “I am curious about how our champion is going to get this approved – and I think ‘they have budget’ is not a strong answer. What are the pre-existing business events on their annual plan? Which we can hook on to, as a time driver for creating urgency to buy?”

In summary, effective sales coaching is tough. It starts with your instinct that the sales person has not gathered enough information to let your company build a successful proposal. Then it leads through your techniques to take a deeper dive into what is going on in the prospect organization – gently, and without criticism. And it closes with an agreement to ask different questions at the next call, to build a stronger understanding of whether a proposal will be a good investment on your part. Then, with more customer business insight, you can build a proposal that will succeed if you decide to go ahead.

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