Admit it, we all like a bit of encouragement every now and then. Yes, some want it on a more frequent basis than others, but whatever its frequency, it’s nice when we have someone cheering us on, someone in our camp who wants to see us succeed.
I remember many years ago, in 1993, running my first ever half marathon at the Melbourne Marathon and how important encouragement became as I neared the end of the run. For me to run a half marathon was a new and daunting task as my main sport is swimming. I had been running for about three years before I took on this challenge. The farthest I had run was 15km the week before. I had been running about 40km every week usually in 10k bursts and I had done well in 10km runs. So I felt that I could test myself running further than I had before.
I was doing great for about 18kms of the race, felt fantastic, and then I hit the wall and was facing all sorts of mental demons as I willed myself to get to the end in one piece. I admit it, I thought about giving up many times in that last 3kms. Then out of the blue my (then) boss, David, came running across the road in his running gear out on his morning run. He used to run marathons and was a sub three-hour runner.
David knew I was running that day and unbeknown to me, he was waiting as I turned the corner to run down the last 3kms. He could see my face and the distress I was feeling, yet he couldn’t have been more excited for me. He said: “Sue B, you are doing so great, your time is really good, come on you can make it. I’ll run with you all the way to the finish line. You’ll be fine…” and so on. I could not have been more grateful to David if I tried. He was exactly what I needed at the time. I knew I was fit and my body would be fine. But my head was playing tricks on me, so David was in the right place at the right time to help me temper my mental demons.
David knew I was fit. He knew I could run. He knew I was an accomplished sportsperson. He didn’t need to teach me anything, or coach me. He just needed to be my cheerleader. And that he was.
We need the Davids of the world. Their acts of kindness and encouragement are very helpful. But are they enough?
No, they are not. There is a time and a place for cheerleading. But in and of itself this type of support does not replace real coaching and real teaching; yet, too many managers, especially sales managers think they are coaching their salespeople when in fact all they are doing is being their cheerleader.
A sales coach needs to be able to assess where their salespeople are at in terms of what they need to know, what they need to do and how they need to do it, and then apply the right support to help that person develop their capabilities to become a more accomplished and self-sufficient salesperson.
When we break down the key areas a sales coach needs to cultivate in each of their salespeople we have quite a range of capabilities to work on, for example:
- Selling skills and processes – sales planning, customer/account mapping, competitor analysis, lead and referral generation, how to make prospecting calls/emails, use social selling resources, solution selling including agenda setting, preparation, opening a sales call, adapting to different communication styles, asking questions, actively listening, problem solving, making recommendations, closing sales and post call activities, strategic and key account management, etc.
- Company knowledge, the value chain, sales strategy and marketing strategy, key messages, value proposition, etc.
- Product knowledge and application, proposal and deal development, pricing, time management, administration and CRM activities, bid management, etc.
- Market knowledge, business and commercial acumen, etc.
These are just some of the things that salespeople need to know and apply and sales managers need to be able to work with their people in practical ways that help each person learn and apply these and other capabilities to achieve sales mastery.
To accomplish this herculean task, sales managers themselves need to be accomplished at things such as:
- Deal coaching
- Skills coaching
- Strategic coaching
- Transformational coaching
- Performance and high performance coaching
- Remedial coaching
- Performance management
They need to be trained and coached in how to perform these tasks as well.
Simply saying ‘come on’, ‘you’ll be alright’, ‘I believe in you’ or ‘just be like them (the best salesperson in the team)’ isn’t enough; yet, this is what happens too many times in too many sales teams – which means salespeople are left to figure it out by themselves. In short, too many sales managers are leaving the development of their sales teams to chance, which in turn affects sales results.
If we want to get real and sustainable lifts in sales performance we have to change how we help salespeople become accomplished. We need well trained and coached sales managers who can then train and coach their salespeople.
There is a place for cheerleading but not in place of genuine bona fide sales coaching.
Acting as a cheerleader will not suffice. Performing as a genuine sales coach will.
Remember, everybody lives by selling something.
If you want to develop your sales coaching skills and capabilities please contact us. We can help you. Sue Barrett is the founder and CEO of the innovative and forward thinking sales advisory and education firm, Barrett and the online sales education & resource platform www.salesessentials.com.