Many of us are familiar with the expression: “People don’t leave companies; they leave managers.” Why do they leave managers? Because they are not being coached, developed and motivated to do their best.
If that’s true of managers in general, it’s doubly true of sales managers, whose sales team’s pay is generally tied directly to performance. So, what does a sales manager need to have to drive a high performing sales team?
Here are three things that successful sales managers have in common:
1. They have the right attitude
Attitude is the foundation of a successful sales manager. Without it, creating an aligned and engaged sales culture isn’t possible. An effective sales culture is “the way we do things around here.” A successful sales manager will create that culture through:
• Company values
Some organizations will explicitly define the values they and their employees aspire to, while others will not; but make no mistake that these values exist. Be careful that your values are lived, not just displayed on a poster on the wall. Have your team help to create these values and be sure that you, as a sales manager, demonstrate them consistently. Make your organization values-driven.
• Coaching mindset
Great sales cultures view the sales team as a learning organization that can always improve. Successful sales managers convey this attitude by looking for opportunities to groom salespeople and teach them the company’s values. Sales managers should constantly look to develop their sales team’s skills, build relationships with salespeople, and create value in all coaching. Coaching must be a priority that gets time and attention. Done in a consistent way, people understand the importance and ultimately, people believe it when they see you living it.
2. They have effective coaching skills
The fundamentals of great sales management are coaching and feedback. These fundamentals, when done correctly and frequently, will encourage engagement. Too often people believe coaching is about telling and directing, where in reality it’s about listening and engaging.
All sales managers have coaching skills and they all can make adjustments to use those skills to be even more successful.
When coaching, we use Acknowledge, Question, Confirmation and Response. Often, sales managers (like salespeople) are far too quick to Respond. They ask a few Questions, skip the Confirmation of understanding and rush to Respond. This would be great if a little information told the whole story – unfortunately it does not. The formula to be a better coach is simple: Question better, Confirm more and Respond less.
Successful sales managers learn to question better, confirm more and respond less. If you want to be a better coach, those six words are your life long journey to mastery and becoming a successful sales manager.
Similarly, they also recognize that their teams need effective feedback to improve and be successful. Feedback is often a one-way conversation delivered from the sales manager to the sales person. It must be a two-way conversation with self-discovery by the salesperson being the first and most critical step.
A successful sales manager will have team members so well versed in feedback, they can provide themselves with clear, actionable, realistic and balanced feedback on a daily basis.
3. They follow proven disciplines
Structure sets you free. A successful sales manager will ensure that there is a formalized structure for each sales management task such as feedback, coaching, one-on-one meetings. It sets you free because if you have a process, the discipline is in consistently exercising it. It’s about creating a predictable cadence. In the absence of structure, each time you go to coach or manage, you will spend time thinking about the “how” and the “what.” With structure, the “how’ is set, allowing you to focus only on the “what.”
A key sales management tool is the “one-on-one.” We define a one-on-one as a scheduled, formal, private meeting between a sales manager and a salesperson. Our point of view is that one-on-one meetings are a fundamental right of a salesperson and a fundamental prerequisite for success as a sales manager.
A world-class one-on-one is:
• Business and person focused
• Directed towards the future rather than the past – it’s about balancing both
• Strategic first and tactical second
• A series of connected meetings
Make one-on-ones a priority and you will participate in great business conversations that will build the confidence and skill of your team and keep them engaged. Apply an equally effective process to activities like sales team meetings and you will motivate and inspire your entire team.
These attitudes, skills and key sales management processes, when practiced consistently, will help you become a successful sales manager who drives high engagement, accountability and results.
If you’re looking for insightful strategies on how to drive your sales team to success, Engage Me will help you to ensure your team not only stays but thrives.
June 1, 2017— Today, Fusion Learning Inc. announced it has been included on the 2017 list of the Top 20 Sales Training Companies that excel in helping sales leaders improve the performance of their sales teams. The list appears in the June issue of Selling Power magazine, which will be available to subscribers the first week of June.
“The team and I are incredibly excited to have won this great award again. This is the seventh year in a row that Selling Power has acknowledged us a Top 20 Sales Training Company, which is no small feat in such a competitive market,” said Alyson Brandt, President, Fusion Learning Inc. USA. “We couldn’t have done it without the full support of our amazing team, our great partnership with Selling Power, and of course, our wonderful clients.”
According to Selling Power publisher and founder Gerhard Gschwandtner, sales training continues to be of paramount importance in a digital age.
“We have now entered the era of Sales 3.0, which means balancing advanced technological tools with the human element of selling,” says Gschwandtner.
“This list of the Top 20 Sales Training Companies is a critical tool for sales leaders. Anyone who wants to enhance the productivity and performance of salespeople should consider the companies on this list – each of which can help provide the increased support, coaching, and training necessary to help salespeople learn to navigate relationships with today’s empowered buyer.”
All companies on the list submitted a comprehensive application that included a detailed listing of their offerings for both training and retention, innovative solutions and services they have developed, and their company’s unique contributions to the sales training marketplace. Additionally, they had at least four clients submit a brief survey on their experience working with the training provider and their satisfaction with results from the training effort.
The four main criteria used when comparing applicants and selecting the companies to include on this year’s list were:
Depth and breadth of training offered
Innovative offerings (specific training courses, methodology, or delivery methods)
Contributions to the sales-training market
Strength of client satisfaction
Selling Power editors say the firms on the 2017 Top 20 Sales Training Companies list are uniquely positioned to help sales leaders create organizations that will succeed and remain competitive in today’s selling environment.
See the list at sellingpower.com or, for more information, call Selling Power at (540) 752-7000. Note: The list is organized in alphabetical order and no priority or ranking is implied.
About Fusion Learning Inc.
Fusion Learning Inc. helps sales leaders and salespeople perform better. We are passionate and dedicated to creating meaningful results for you and your company by designing and delivering simple and practical sales training solutions that unlock individual performance and increase sustainable sales results. Coupled with a deep appreciation of your personal and business objectives, we offer practical, customized sales training programs to drive the right kind of sales behaviors to realize measurable increases in sales productivity, meeting activity, sales win rates, and client experience ratings. Examples of Fusion Learning Inc. solution offerings that set us apart include FUSION Selling, an advanced sales program that equips salespeople with a process to collaboratively generate insight on their own. Our client list includes industry leaders such as American Airlines Cargo, American Express, BlackRock, BMO, Chobani, Direct Energy, EMC, General Electric, HSBC, Molson Coors, New York Life Insurance, Nucor, Pfizer, PwC, SAS, Scotiabank, Telus and many others.
About Selling Power
In addition to Selling Power, the leading digital magazine for sales managers and sales VPs since 1981, Personal Selling Power Inc. produces the Sales Management Digest and Daily Boost of Positivity online newsletters, as well as a five-minute video series featuring interviews with top executives. Selling Power is a regular media sponsor of the Sales 3.0 Conference.
About Gerhard Gschwandtner
Gerhard Gschwandtner is the founder and CEO of Selling Power, a multi-channel media company that produces the award-winning Selling Power magazine and Selling Power TV, a daily video interview series on sales success. He is the author of 17 books on the subject of sales, management, and motivation and has been featured in more than 500 video interviews with sales and marketing leaders. In 2008, Gerhard began producing the Sales 3.0 Conference, which is attended by a total of more than 1,000 sales leaders each year. Most recently, he has collaborated with world-renowned coaches and psychologists to create the Peak Performance Mindset workshop to help salespeople become high achievers personally and professionally.
CONTACT Robert Rose 347-274-2282 firstname.lastname@example.org
Whether you’re a sales leader looking to align your team, help your people differentiate themselves by better articulating your firm’s unique value proposition or simply close more deals, here is a powerful skill you may not have considered:
This highly effective communication approach delivers your message in a more engaging and compelling way. This is because stories do two things that facts alone do not:
They provide context
They connect to emotion
Cognitive Psychologist Jerome Bruner suggests that stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone. His research suggests that if you share a story, people are much more likely to be persuaded. Isn’t that ironic when most leaders and salespeople rely on the use of facts and data to influence buyers.
Stories are the most powerful tool in your sales toolkit.
What if you replaced your facts-based presentation deck with a few concise stories? The results may surprise you.
For example, let’s take a client success story. You and your sales team took a recent project and hit it out of the park for a client, resulting in a significant revenue impact. The client was absolutely thrilled with your work and you were able to get a testimonial from them about your working relationship.
Sharing this story and the revenue impact with a prospect will be much more memorable than the revenue numbers alone.
One client success story can help you share information about your company that a potential customer couldn’t possibly remember in fact and figures.
As philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche explains “It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.”
The story becomes a tool that a potential customer can share with his or her boss in order to sell the idea internally; it’s the vehicle for communicating your process, your solution, the benefit of choosing you as a provider, and the company’s ability to deliver high-quality results.
To use storyselling effectively, you have to understand the impact and best approach to use.
Decide which story you should tell
There are 4 types of stories that you should tell when storyselling to prospects and customers:
Success (to motivate and inspire)
Failure (to connect people and build trust)
Fun (to encourage laughter, not to distract)
Legends (the Jack Welch, Nordstrom, Steve Jobs etc.)
Some of these may be obvious. Others, not so much. You need to be ready with several different types of stories so that you can choose the right story, for the right person, at the right time.
Develop your story matrix
Once you are comfortable with each type of story that can be told in a sales or leadership context, spend some time thinking about what situations you need stories most.
These are the situations in which you most often find yourself. For example, it could be: networking events, project pitch meetings, cold calling, implementation meetings, etc. Answer the question: “When and where do I need stories the most?”.
As a leader, what stories compel people to act, get people aligned or think differently?
Stories carry impact, create influence, and establish valuable connections.
You’re well on your way to using the most powerful tool in your sales toolkit. If you want to take it one step further, ask us about our Storyselling training solution.
A veteran sales professional was in the middle of a pitch with a prospect that he had been trying to get a meeting with for the past several months.
“And that’s how we drive alignment, from end to end.” The rep finished this last sentence with hands spread apart, a visual demonstration of his company’s range of capabilities, and also his signature move.
“I see,” replied the prospect. “That’s interesting.” She glanced quickly at her phone, scanned the screen, then focused back on her guest.
“How much would this cost?” she asked.
The rep felt his stomach drop. This was not the response that he had hoped for. The money question was inevitable, but not this early in the conversation.
I went too fast, he thought. Ishould’ve warmed things up a little more before sharing the alignment story.
Fortunately for the sales rep, this was just a role play – a contrived scenario geared to test his relationship selling skills, and a safe environment where he could step back, reload, and try again.
But what about real life? What selling strategy should we coach to, especially when we don’t have the benefit of a do-over? In an age of information and intermediaries, do we look for big ideas that help us stand out, or do more traditional approaches like relationship selling still hold sway?
Trust will always be essential
You invest a considerable amount of time coaching your sales reps on how to deliver a unique message, but have you instilled the foundational skills required to build solid relationships that allow those messages to resonate?
Relationship selling is the creation of sustainable relationships through the process of building trust. This process seems simple. Yet, common sense isn’t always common practice.
Seasoned or new, all sales reps can benefit from using relationship selling concepts. Trust not only sets the foundation for a sale, it also encourages repeat purchases and word-of-mouth marketing.
Business writer and thinker Daniel Pink, in his book To Sell is Human, argues that there is no more powerful influencing strategy than to seek and convey your understanding of the other person’s perspective, or point of view, before presenting your own. That makes sense, if you think about it. Why would you trust someone who doesn’t try to understand you first?
Invest in relationship selling skills
Here are the 3 skills that your reps must master to build trust and influence buyers more effectively:
1. Demonstrate humility
One key to perspective-taking, according to the book, is adopting an attitude of humility – setting aside your own knowledge and experience, and putting yourself in a position of inferiority, or ignorance. Thinking more about what you don’t know, and less about what you do.
2. Ask curiously
This requires different habits than most people are accustomed to practicing in their sales conversations. We’re good at “telling”, but perspective-taking requires that we focus more on asking questions, and listening. To do this, we need to think less about what we want to say, and direct more attentional resources to pulling out the other person’s story.
3. Listen generously
Journalism, when done well, can provide an excellent demonstration of these skills. Take award-winning radio and podcast host Krista Tippett, for example. In her book, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, the journalist and author talks about the need to bring “generous listening” into our conversations, letting curiosity and a “willingness to be surprised” guide us in our questioning, instead of allowing our assumptions, or our agendas, to direct the conversation.
So, if we want someone to pay attention to our ideas, then it’s helpful that we learn about theirs first. To do this, we need to think about what we don’t know, and be open to the unexpected. Sounds simple, but how to put into practice, especially if our default habit is to do the opposite?
Embed these skills in your coaching conversations
Can you confidently say that your salespeople have mastered these foundational skills?
To bring relationship selling skills into your coaching conversations, ask your sales reps to think about the following questions as they prepare for their next meeting:
Do I fully understand what’s important to this client?
What am I curious to know more about?
Where can we provide unique value?
What is my goal for this meeting?
As they think about these points, instruct them to use their answers to create questions that will engage the client in meaningful conversation, targeting areas that are anticipated to be of interest them.
Here are 3 practical tips you can share with your team:
1. Write their questions down
This step will “prime” their mind for the meeting ahead, and spark their curiosity.
2. Focus on the present moment
During their meetings, have them focus on what the clients are saying and the meaning behind the words, instead of thinking about what to ask or say next. They need to have faith that their prep work and natural curiosity will lead to that next great question, right when they need it.
3. Confirm what they hear
Finally, have them look for opportunities to play back, in their own words, what they’ve been hearing. That way the client will know that they’ve been listening, and the client will be able to correct them if they’re not 100% accurate in their data capture. There are two major benefits here: they’re now aligned on the facts, and a relationship has started to form, based on the trust that perspective-taking creates.
There are many challenges to selling today, and we do need to think differently about how we get the attention of our busy, distracted, and barricaded clients. That said, any idea, no matter how inventive or valuable it may seem, will land flat unless we’ve taken the time to lay the relational groundwork. This is true in both role plays and real life.
When it comes to influencing in sales, asking and listening trump telling, and relationship-building allows profitable ideas to take hold.
To embed these important skills in your sales organization, ask about our consultative selling training solution.
Jim was surprised that the client had not replied to his emails in several weeks. His manager was asking for updates on his pipeline during their regular one-on-one meeting. “I reached out twice and have heard nothing”, Jim explained. “I suppose they just aren’t in a position to make a decision at this time”.
“So, what do you think is stopping them from making a decision?” Jim’s manager asked.
“Well”, he began to explain, “I did everything by the book. My part of the presentation was great and the client seemed impressed but, on reflection, I think the support team got it wrong! I am not sure the solution our team created is what the client wanted.”
“Maybe” responded the manager. “Anyway, you win some, you lose some I suppose. I will have a word with the sales support team and let them know that we did everything right so they really need to offer better support in the future. What else is in your pipeline?”
Jim then moved on to his next pipeline item and his manager continued to listen intently.
This is, all too often, a familiar conversation where a sales manager asks for regular updates, gets the information but takes no accountability for the outcome. Jim was passing blame onto everyone else except himself; his manager was not taking any form of responsibility; and Jim was not being coached effectively on how to manage the loss of opportunities in a constructive and effective manner.
Accountability starts with sales management
Sales manages must be accountable in order to instill a high level of accountability amongst their team. In the example above, neither Jim nor his manager took responsibility for the outcome.
Here are four tactics that you can employ to make sure that you, as a manager, are taking accountability for the performance of your sales team and instilling a sense of accountability in every sales professional on your team:
1. Balance expectations and results
As sales managers, we set sales targets and goals and we define metrics to help measure results and productivity (e.g. number of calls, meetings, proposals sent, revenue etc.) and expect our team to be accountable. However, accountability starts further upstream.
Each member of your team must have the right mindset, attitude and behavior to be successful. Leading by example will set your expectation of what success looks like. Find balancing in your coaching by focusing on both how they are showing up and executing their goals will drive increased accountability.
2. Create a proscenium arch
In a theater, the proscenium arch is the dividing line between the actors and the audience. In theory, neither party should cross that line to enter the realm of the other. This means that while we, as the audience, get to experience and witness the lives of the characters on the stage and begin to feel very connected to them. However, those characters never enter our lives by crossing over that proscenium arch.
What this means for you as a sales manager is that as much as you become part of your team, there still needs to be an invisible line between you and your team members. Maintain your emotional balance in order to make sure that you can hold every member of your team accountable for their actions without having your friendship with them prevent you from having difficult conversations and coaching sessions.
3. Become a submariner
On a submarine, when a command is given, it is repeated several times. For example, the officer on deck says, “Set course 180 degrees”. The helmsman replies “Course 180 degrees”. Once the ship is on this heading the helmsman says, ” On course 180 degrees” and the officer on deck will repeat “180 degrees aye”. The point of this constant feedback loop prevents errors.
As a sales manager, you can drive accountability by creating a similar feedback loop. When you are setting expectations, discussing activities, setting goals for the week, and addressing any team issues, make sure that what your team member is hearing is actually what you are saying. So, become a submariner and get your team to summarize and confirm what you have said so that they are accountable for hearing what you have been saying and not just politely listening.
4. Always be the captain
On a commercial aircraft, there are two pilots, the captain and the first-officer. They take turns in flying the aircraft and when one is flying, he/she is known as the “pilot flying” and the other is known as the “pilot monitoring”. When the first officer is the designated pilot flying for that leg, the captain becomes the pilot monitoring, i.e. assisting the pilot flying and managing communications with air traffic control. However, at no stage is the captain never the captain. He/she still has ultimate responsibility for the flight and if the pilot flying makes a mistake, the captain takes the responsibility.
As a sales manager, if your sales team does not succeed, the ultimate responsibility rests with you. While they may have authority to make decisions and create strategies, you are always the captain, and ultimately responsible for the outcome of these decisions and strategies.
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