Today, new sales managers in America, including independent insurance agents and other small business owners, attempt to learn how to recruit and coach salespeople while still selling and handling the service and financial systems of their companies at the same time. They are entrepreneurs struggling with the frustrations of wearing many hats while working to push revenues higher as they also keep customers happy and employees productive.
Many of these young leaders have never coached another salesperson or a sales team. Every day we talk to people who have taken on an agency or small business, and they find themselves faced with what to do with their first salespeople. In this podcast, I want to present a “Phase One” of outstanding coaching. It will contain a list of 5 Coaching Actions with their tools and skills to master as a successful sales leader.
Get to Know Your People
While similarities exist, each salesperson, just like each of your sons and daughters, is different. They have different life stories, maturity levels, different motivations, and different needs with different strengths and weaknesses.
What this means to you is that you will coach others in a manner in which they would like to be coached and not in the way you would like to be coached. Just like customers who have different personalities and motivations, problems and questions, you will adjust your communication. You will also adapt how you coach your reps in order to help them succeed and achieve their goals in an environment that will inspire them to their best efforts.
For this first coaching action, before you begin coaching, I want you to learn to interview your reps (formally with an interview guide like our Foundation Interview, and informally over coffee.) Then, you will analyze their personality assessments to understand them as persons. Here are 7 critical things I want you to learn to make your coaching more effective:
- What is their number one motivation?
- What is their income goal, and why is it important to them?
- What is their personality, and how is it different from yours? (What must you do to make your communication with them comfortable?)
- Do they like private or public recognition?
- Are they sensitive to criticism?
- Are they process-driven and without an urgency toward time and results, or is hitting targets with deadlines more important to them?
- Are they skeptical and trusting of authority, and are they optimistic at getting around obstacles in the way of achievement?
As you learn these things, accumulate this knowledge along with important people, hobbies, and other special things you learn about them in a Coaching information Sheet. This sheet will help you to remember them as the number of people you coach grows.
Coaching Action: Get to Know Your People
Tools: Interview questions, personality assessments, and coaching information sheet.
Skills: Interviewing skills and knowing how to analyze personality assessments.
Help Them Set Their Sales Goals
In your interview, when you discover their number one motivation is a specific income for specific and unique reasons, and that it is tied to making things better in their lives, you can help them set sales goals. These sales goals, when reached, will help them achieve what they want to with a precise and needed income amount. For example, paying off debt at a certain rate, getting a house, or increasing their savings by a specific amount each year.
On the other hand, some of the reps you hire will want to beat others, and, if you sell, they will want to beat you. They are competitive, and have been throughout their life. You will see from the first day of their interview or hiring that they will want to know what they can do to win. They desire to be considered a high achiever. They will listen for you to mention what the best achieve, or they will just come out and ask you. Help them set a competitive goal. Tell them the range of sales each month and year that will put them in the top tier of sales producers.
In some sales organizations, servant-oriented, technical types, who know the products and services well, may have enough conscientiousness and certain personality traits to move into sales. These hybrid types, often technically-focused in the company or in life, may do well enough to keep a sales position if they know what’s expected of them—what the minimum standards are to keep a sales position and help the company succeed.
They are usually real and believable, but, if they do sell at or above the minimum, they will need you to tell them your expectations and give them their goals (sales, closing rates and profit per sale.) They will also need to see that your track progress and that their numbers are shown as part of your weekly sales meeting.
When the goals are set for each person, add them up and create and communicate the team sales goal for each month.
Coaching Action: Help Them Set Their Sales Goals
Tools: Interview questions and goal-planning meetings
Skills: Interviewing skills, identifying their #1 motivation, and setting goals.
Teach an Activity Process
The typical activity process for high-activity sales professionals to master is simple. To teach it, remember there are only three things to track each week for your team and its salespeople to achieve or exceed their sales goals—the number of first appointment opportunities they hold, the closing rate on those appointments, and the income per sale to the reps.
To design your activity process, decide the closing rate on first appointments. You can assume 1/3 until you can track and calculate what it is for average and top performers. Also, decide what the rep income per sale will be by calculating what the average profit per sale is and what you will share of it with reps.
With these key numbers, it is easy to determine the number of appointments that must be held to achieve a minimum sales level per rep and to help each person achieve the goals they have set for themselves—whether competitive or income focused.
You will help each rep understand their monthly number of appointments, closing rates, and income per sale to achieve what they want.
Coaching Action: Teach an Activity Process
Tools: Goal sheet, activity sheet, closing rates, income per sale, and appointment rates.
Skills: Learning to do math for critical sales activities.
Teach a Sales Process
A face-to-face sales process is what a rep does step-by-step in their first appointment. If held in the office, it will start with the initial rapport-building moments. If held in a home, it will start when driving up to the home.
All excellent and consultative sales processes start with an initial contact step. During this step, there are moments of introductions, an agenda, and rapport-building. After this, they transition into a listening and discovery step with pre-prepared questions. They will need 12-15 open-ended questions designed to help both the sales rep and the customers understand the needs to be filled and the problems to be solved by a product or service.
After getting agreement to these, the rep then moves to a customized presentation or demonstration which explains the solution. As the rep allows customer feedback during his advice, concerns, questions, fears, and their answers and solutions are also addressed prior to asking the customer to make a decision.
After securing this transaction, the rep or a company employee may, as standard procedure, follow up after the sale with the new customer to check for satisfaction, other needs and for referrals.
This is a typical sales process with tools and skills within it tailored to the company and its products and services. The process is also adjusted for typical customer needs and problems.
With both an activity process, a sales board, and a face-to-face selling process, the sales manager can coach individual reps and help them develop successful habits and skills. This helps to eliminate poor coaching and “pounding on reps for results.” Processes help reps and coaches with the steps, tools, and skills mastered by successful salespeople.
Coaching Action: Teach a Sales Process
Tools: Company and personal introduction, agenda, discovery questions, presentation boilerplate, solutions to 6-8 typical questions and concerns, and 1-2 ways to ask people to make a decision.
Skills: How to adapt to different personalities, how to ask questions and paraphrased needs and problems, how to customize presentations, how to allow feedback, how to handle customer questions, how to ask for a decision, how to follow-up after the sale, and how to ask for referrals.
Update the Sales Board and Hold a Sales Meeting Each Week
Even the best professionals in sports or sales get off track. They may lose their optimism when something happens at home. They could start to have call reluctance, and their belief in themselves may decrease. Something may take away their focus. They can begin to feel underappreciated or not recognized. They may begin to drift. Reps who do not communicate with each other may begin to harbor negative and untrue perceptions which leads to poor teamwork. The marketplace and the economy and even their luck may change.
For these reasons and others, top sales managers huddle one-on-one with each of their people, with some more than others throughout the week. They also update their sales boards for appointments held and sales made while aside they track income and profit per sale and closing percentages.
Doing these things each week gives sales managers things to celebrate with the team and its reps, and it helps to create urgency to correct skills or appointment rates in a timely manner to help keep everyone on track to goal achievement. It also helps provide needed optimism, encouragement, and individual and team appreciation—a triad of emotional factors that, when paid attention to, increases sales levels and helps to keep them at consistent and acceptable levels.
Coaching Action: Update the Sales board and Hold a Sales Meeting Each Week
Tools: Sales boards and meeting agenda
Skills: How to sit down and hold a hold one-one-ones and how to conduct a weekly high-performance sales meeting.
If you are a new sales manager, or one that has worked hard but without training or mentoring, I want you to know that the 5 coaching actions, with their tools and skills, will increase your sales and your confidence as a coach. They will work together to take away your frustrations with a very important part of what you do—sales management and coaching. You will be happier, the reps that want to perform will be more successful, and the customers you serve will refer more business to you. You have what it takes to improve and get better, and, if we can help, please reach out.