Field level sales management is one of the most challenging roles in the industry, and, in many cases, one of the least effective roles in distributors.
Why you ask?
Because the people who are placed in these roles typically are:
- Top producing salespeople who have their process and think others should adopt “their way”.
- They come into the role with no sales management training and typically are not provided those resources.
- The either learn OTJ or have picked up elements of sales management via observation (if they actively viewed it) or osmosis (passively).
It does not mean they are “bad”. They are trying to succeed, and many eventually do. The challenge, however, is how can they better manage and motivate their sales team to help the team achieve company objectives and, perhaps more importantly, their and each team members’ goals.
And yes, sales management gets easier the higher one goes as the role changes and higher levels of sales management get involved in “bigger” issues (strategy, planning, communicating with other departments, managing “up”, etc.)
For the field level sales manager, the person in touch “with the troops” on a daily basis, the person held responsible for the sales team’s production, this sales manager needs continuous training to hone their skills to make them better so they can better support their team.
One of these areas is coaching. This is the fine art of observing, sharing insights, motivating and helping each member of their team better themselves … for the company and for the team. As Howard Coleman of MCA Associates commented on a LinkedIn post relating to training “make hope they focus / include emotional intelligence and critical thinking skills” (and he recommended reading Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry.)Coaching is perhaps more important than ever given:
The changes in the selling environment over the past few years have been dramatic. We’ve gone from something we knew how to do (pre March 2020) to virtual selling (COVID) and focusing on service (COVID and supply chain issues hence “customer service” to perpetual price increases and “too much growth” (so how much “selling” occurred) to a slowing market.
As someone one recently said, “its time to get back to selling” which means creating demand, influencing brand selection, explaining “why us” and targeting business.
But coaching must be intentional. It’s a commitment of time and, at times, higher levels of management need to understand that “coaching” may not be one of those activities / responsibilities / roles that has a nice metric. It’s either “you did coaching session with ‘John / Susan’ or you did not.
But coaching can be a learned skill
Greg Nanigian, a sales trainer, shared some thoughts on sales training and graciously offered held a workshop for HVACR Trends readers on Tuesday, March 21st from 11:30-12:30. The session was titled “Better Coaching, Better, More Profitable Sales.” If you were not able to attend, click here for the recording. The password is 1jL+esqF.
Last year Greg held a complimentary workshop for us on behavioral selling utilizing DISC insights to understand selling personalities.
Here’s an overview from Greg:
Sales Coaching in a few Easy Steps
Sales coaching is a win-win situation for individuals and for the company. Once a salesperson understands that coaching can help them make more money and have more fun, it’s inevitable that they’ll want to introduce others to the concept. And a well-coached team can ultimately bring greater revenues for your company.
Coaching can be performed by either the sales manager or a sales trainer, although the manager must decide on the length and frequency of each type of session. In general, a salesperson should receive one hour of coaching per week, that’s a one-on-one meeting run by the sales manager or a trainer, who in this situation becomes the coach. Some of the areas that should be covered include:
- Activity: This includes the quantity and results of participating in networking events, calling prospects and customers, walk-ins, contacts made with decision makers, appointments booked, face-to-face meetings, referrals, and introductions. The coach motivates the salesperson to improve in the necessary areas, as measured against pre-established goals.
- Goal Setting: The coach may permit the salesperson to reduce some goals if the salesperson is having trouble achieving them, in an effort to build self-confidence. The goals would be increased over time to steadily raise the salesperson to higher levels of performance.
- Debriefing and briefing: Debriefings are discussions about the meetings and telephone calls the salesperson made with customers and prospects in the week prior to the coaching session. Briefing is when the coach asks the salesperson what his or her next steps will be and how any scheduled follow-up would be handled. If necessary, the coach would work with the salesperson to modify those plans.
- Salespeople’s self-esteem: The salesperson should receive sales training to work on strategy, technique, and behavior. Take the case of a salesperson who just learned that when he approaches a small company in his industry, he should always call on the chief executive. Naturally, it takes self confidence to do this; therefore, the coach should complement the training by helping to build self-esteem. Provided that the salesperson demonstrates commitment, the training and coaching will get them to the point where they are performing effortlessly in pressure situations.
- Future coaching sessions: Coaching sessions should be planned at least four weeks in advance. Sometimes it makes sense to have several shorter sessions each week. For example, for a salesperson who is having difficulty achieving prospecting goals, daily sessions of 15 minutes would put light pressure on the person to achieve daily goals. This would encourage the salesperson to avoid putting off prospecting chores until the next day. Daily sessions could also re-inspire the rookie salesperson who is getting beaten up in the field.
If you are a sales manager, owner, or president, you’re undoubtedly running some sales meetings, but coaching could add value to your game plan. If you believe that coaching could make a difference in the results you’re getting with your sales force, it’s worth considering.
Greg Nanigian is CEO of Greg Nanigian and Associates, a Sandler Training affiliate. He trains on skills to overcome lack of sales and improve closing ratios. Contact Greg Nanigian at 617-338-0993 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.gnatraining.com.
- Distributors should consider registering sales managers and branch managers (especially since many branch managers have sales management roles) to this session.
- Manufacturer reps, and principals, should attend. I hate to say it but, most principals were successful salespeople but are they successful sales managers?
- Sales management isn’t just outside salespeople. Coaching is needed for inside salespeople and probably counter salespeople also. Coaching is a skill that managers need to have to be effective.
- Further, you’ve probably heard the phrase “people don’t quit companies, they quit managers?” Those who coach and bring empathy and additional value to their teams have better retention rates … and probably generate higher productivity from their team members.
- Greg will share insights into an 8 step process to coach a new sales technique!
Again, if you were not able to attend, you can view the recording and the password is 1jL+esqF