Our Point of View

Teams Win, Coaches Coach

Teams win. Coaches coach.

Do you remember that winning touchdown that Vince Lombardi scored against the Dallas Cowboys in 1967? How about all those goals that Sir Alex Ferguson scored for Manchester United a few years ago or the points that Pat Summit scored in her long and illustrious career at Tennessee?

Do you remember those? No…?

Perhaps I stepped into an alternate universe recently. While spending time with sales managers over the last few months, I had the distinct impression that some of us are eschewing coaching and instead going out onto the field as players. Have you witnessed this same phenomenon in your organization?

Consider the role that you or your sales managers play most often when in the field with salespeople. Are you or they engaged in coaching the sales team on a regular basis? By coaching I mean helping members of your team to see opportunities or problems in their approach, helping them to draw conclusions about how they can change, and getting them to willingly commit to some new or different action to get a result you all want. If you or your sales managers are not regularly investing time into coaching, I have another article for you to read in your next spare moment.

A few more questions to consider…

  • What form does your coaching take?
  • When does it happen and in what context?
  • What kind of planning do you engage in before you coach members of your team?

If you and I could somehow ask Pat Summit or Vince Lombardi, Alex Ferguson, or John Wooden these questions, would they struggle to answer those questions about their approach to coaching? Would any professional coach struggle to answer these questions? Probably not. The likes of Summit, Wooden, and Lombardi might even look at us as if we were fools for asking the question in the first place. Knowing when and how to coach and being prepared with what to coach are essential to great coaching.

Why is it that so many of us in sales management roles give little to no thought about how we will execute as coaches? Furthering that question, why do the fundamental rules of great salesmanship… planning and asking questions with strategic intent, listening and clarifying, seeking clear conclusions and commitments from the other party… seem to go out the window when we move from sales “player” to sales “coach”? Are the differences between great selling and coaching so significant?

THE MILLION $ / £ / € QUESTION: Why do so few sales managers take their craft as coach seriously?

Perhaps it is because they think they can still win the game on their own. Perhaps it is because their employers don’t place proper emphasis on the need and impact of great coaching on sales results. This is one of the most significant perils of hiring great sales people to be sales managers without preparing them to be great coaches.

What is your organization doing to prepare newly minted sales managers to be great coaches?

This is my stock and trade, so allow me to offer one simple lesson that I’ve taught to hundreds of sales managers over the years. You can teach this same lesson to new sales managers on day one of their new jobs, and you can fit in on a single slide:

Coaching is selling.

Excellence requires preparation.

We need you to be an excellent coach.

Prepare yourself for a vigorous dialogue with your coaches about the expectations we set with those three simple lines. If you want to know how the rest of that dialogue should go, then you and I should talk sometime.

United Sales Resources provides actionable intelligence and practical advice to sales leaders, so they can drive better sales results. If you would like to discuss this post with Matt McDarby or learn more about how our sales leadership coaching and advisory services help our customers to grow, then contact us for a brief tour or a conversation.  Thank you again for your time!

Winning Sales Culture Starts At The Top

A winning sales culture starts at the top.

“Culture” is about patterns of behavior and the blend of values, habits and practices that exist in an organization. The habits and patterns of behavior that lead to an organization’s success are established by those at the top of the organization. In a B2B sales organization, we are talking about the head of sales and his or her front-line sales managers.

Having worked with roughly 150 sales organizations over the last thirteen years, I have been exposed to all types of different sales cultures.  A range of cultural labels come to mind as I think about companies I’ve come to know.

Winning Sales Cultures versus The RestLucky sales cultures exist in those organizations that seem to win despite themselves. They have no discernible patterns of behavior or values, but they seem to win (i.e. grow bigger) anyway.  Typical markers of the lucky sales culture include organizations with big, recognizable brand names, shiny silver objects, or partnerships with big, recognizable brands with shiny silver objects.  Frantic cultures exist where the sales organization is always playing catch-up, rarely setting the pace, and mostly reacting to issues and opportunities that bubble up.  They have no operating rhythm and no apparent focus on any one, important thing.  Instead, everything is important, and everyone in the organization is exhausted.  Groundhog Day cultures exist in organizations that don’t ever seem to learn.  They apply the same bad habits and practices over and over again, never changing, and they hope for  better results than they had in the past.  One could also call these cultures “insane.”

I expect you might be able to come up with your own list of cultural labels, ranging from those that indicate high function and performance to extreme dysfunction. Rather than dwell too long on the negative experiences we’ve all had, let’s instead consider what winning cultures look like. I’ve worked within several winning cultures and played a role in helping to shape them.

Winning sales cultures share some important, common characteristics.  They have a discernible rhythm in which important trumps urgent.  They proactively focus on doing what it takes to differentiate and win, making the effort to create maximum value for customers in each and every interaction.  Winning cultures start at the top.  Their senior-most leadership makes a conscious choice to pursue excellence in all aspects of client relationship management.  They intentionally focus their company’s best resources and effort on the clients and opportunities that are best aligned with their strengths as an organization.  They do not make nor will they accept excuses for operating in a way that does not conform with the company’s standards of excellence.  If things ever go badly, people in winning cultures own up to their role in causing the bad outcome rather than blaming others. They fix problems rather than make excuses for poor performance.

Winning sales cultures are customer-focused in all that they do. In their habits and practices, you see evidence that their people are proactive, intentional, focused, and they learn and improve when things do not go according to plan.

It is the beginning of a New Year, and now is a great time to take stock of your sales culture. What label would you place on your sales organization? Can you confidently say that you’ve established a winning culture? If not, what do you / your leaders need to do more of, do less of, change, or stop altogether?

If you have a winning culture today, what can you do to sustain and build upon your team’s winning habits and practices? What will you do to raise your own game?

United Sales Resources provides actionable intelligence and practical advice to sales leaders, so they can drive better sales results. If you would like to discuss this post with Matt McDarby or learn more about how our sales leadership coaching and advisory services help our customers to grow, then contact us for a brief tour or a conversation.  Thank you again for your time!

How to Run A Great National Sales Meeting

Over the years, the USR team has been involved in scores of national sales meetings. We’ve learned there is a simple formula for how to run a great national sales meeting, and it starts with a great plan.

If you are in sales for a large or mid-market organization, you’ve probably participated in, led, or organized a national or regional sales meeting at some point in your tenure. Members of the USR team have participated in hundreds of national sales meetings or regional ones as participants, sales leaders, and facilitators, and we have had a wide range of experiences from truly great to downright awful. Following are some common experiences that we and other salespeople have in national sales meetings:

  • You arrive at your national sales meeting, full of expectations for a lot of networking with your peers and some motivational talks, only to be locked in hotel conference rooms and flogged with PowerPoint slides for two days. You leave exhausted, unmotivated, and you don’t know your peers any better than when you arrived.
  • Your sales meeting is full of motivational, aspirational talk, but it lacks any connection to the mission you and your peers are paid to complete. While there is a lot of talk about the organization’s future vision, there is very little discussion of how you will get there, what your role will be, or what new resources will be made available to you. You leave somewhat motivated, but you haven’t a clue what you are supposed to do differently as a result of your participation in the national sales meeting.
  • You arrive at the event, and from the time you arrive at the hotel or meeting site, it is not clear where you are supposed to be, who you are supposed to spend time with, what you are supposed to do, and the meeting logistics have clearly not been well planned. You participate in the meeting to the best of your ability, but you leave the national sales meeting feeling disrespected and that your time has been wasted. Who arranged this disaster?
  • Well before the meeting, you receive clear communications about the meeting logistics and what is expected of you before, during, and after the meeting. You arrive at the meeting crystal clear about why you are here, and you leave the meeting with a clear call to action that makes total sense to you. You feel like an important part of the organization’s plan to achieve something great this year, and you are totally energized to do your part.

You may likely have experienced some or all of these types of meetings, and there are countless other examples that we could offer to illustrate just how great or downright awful a national sales meeting can be. Ultimately, the point of this post is that an organization has a choice every time it schedules a national sales meeting or a regional event. That choice boils down to, “How thoughtful will we be about this event?”

Over the years, we’ve helped dozens of clients plan and execute great national sales meetings. When helping our clients plan national sales meetings, we challenge their thinking with important questions like…

  1. What is the really important business outcome you have to achieve this coming year?
  2. What is your strategy for achieving that outcome, and how are you planning to explain that strategy to your salespeople?
  3. What new information do you plan to share with your audience? What do they really need to know, and how do you want them to experience that message?
  4. What conclusions do you want sales people to draw? What new or different actions do you want them to take?
  5. What kinds of speakers or facilitators will you need to ensure your people draw the right conclusions and commit to the right actions?

Are you planning a national sales meeting in the coming months? Are you concerned at all about the possibility of giving your salespeople a less-than-excellent experience at your upcoming national sales meeting? Would it help to have a conversation with someone who knows how to plan and execute a great national sales meeting?

If so, then please either contact us by visiting our “Contact Us” page, or email greatsalesmeetings@usr-llc.com for a consultation. We will prepare a plan for you that you can carry out on your own or with our help. Together, we can put an end to bad national sales meetings!

 

Sales Manager Training – The Key to Developing A World Class Salesforce

Sales manager training and development is the key to developing a world class salesforce. I can say that unequivocally based on my personal involvement in roughly one hundred and fifty sales transformations over the last thirteen years.

Why is it that some sales forces succeed and others fail when they have roughly the same kinds of products, draw from the same talent pool, pay roughly the same compensation plans, and have nearly the same structures. The answer is crystal clear when you dive deeply (like my team and I do week after week, month after month) into what makes sales forces tick. The answer has nothing to do with highly differentiated products or low prices.

The difference maker is the sales management team and how well they execute their craft. Think about it. Sales managers set the pace and the focus for the sales organization. They play THE PIVOTAL ROLE in making sure that sales tactics align with and support the sales strategy, which is linked inextricably with the business strategy. They work to make sure that salespeople are focused on the right opportunities. Within the context of those opportunities, sales managers ensure that salespeople are talking to the right people about the right issues and opportunities at the right time. They play the role of coach, cheerleader, and head trainer all at the same time.

Or, at least, that is what sales managers are supposed to do. Are they not?

Image courtesy of “jscreationzs”

Let’s consider that question with respect to YOUR SALES MANAGEMENT TEAM. How do your front-line sales managers spend their time?

What do they do to keep salespeople focused on the right opportunities?

How do they go about developing the skills of your client-facing field representatives or telephone sales representatives?

What do they do to hone their craft as leaders and coaches in the small amount of time they might have week in and week out?

Have you really considered those questions?

If not, consider taking one or more of the following actions today:

  1. Read our guide, “Five Fundamentals of Effective Sales Management” today. Consider where your sales management team might have opportunity to improve, to lead more effectively, and to drive better sales results. Which of the five fundamentals resonates most with you as you think about your sales management team?
  2. Jot down the really important business and sales outcomes you want to achieve over the next two to three years on the top of a sheet of paper. Below that, write out where you are now with regard to achieving that outcome (e.g. current sales, current sales practices), and write down what your sales management team will have to do to achieve your desired outcome. Are their gaps between what your sales managers are capable of today and what they will need to do early next year or the year after?
  3. Put your sales management training and development plan in writing. Does it make sense? Are you investing sufficiently into the people who are most closely connected with your sales organization’s success?
  4. If you would find value in a consultation with people who focus all of their time and energy on sales manager training and development, then please contact us by clicking here or email us at sales@usr-llc.com to set up a conversation. I personally guarantee that the conversation will prove valuable and useful, whether you choose to embark on a sales management training program with USR or not.

 

United Sales Resources provides actionable intelligence and practical advice to sales leaders, so they can drive better sales results. If you would like to discuss this post with Matt McDarby or learn more about how our sales leadership coaching and advisory services help our customers to grow, then contact us for a brief tour or a conversation.  Thank you again for your time!

How to Build A Value Creating Sales Force

If you want to stand out in a sea of sameness, you must build a value creating sales force.

The other day I was thumbing through an old copy of Rethinking the Sales Force by John DeVincentis and Neil Rackham, recalling how far ahead of the market those two authors were when they challenged the traditional notions of value and competitive differentiation.  That book was written in 1999, and it took roughly a decade for many B2B sales organizations to start adapting to the reality that Rackham and DeVincentis illustrated in their book.

A great deal has changed for B2B sales organizations since 1999, but one thing has not changed. Sales forces must continue to adapt to the changing demands and behavior of buyers. You cannot achieve competitive differentiation simply by communicating the features and advantages of the products and services that you sell. You must understand how to create value for customers and know that it has everything to do with how you sell versus what you sell. (Follow the link here to see my post and video on LinkedIn regarding the new drivers of value.)

The big challenge now is how to build a value creating sales force that can continually adapt to the constant and rapid changes going on in the marketplace around us. It may be the biggest opportunity that you and your sales organization have out in front of you for the foreseeable future.  I recently recorded a video addressing that specific opportunity and some of the insights that my team and I have gained over the last six years while working with B2B sales forces to build value creating sales forces. That video appears below, so please take two minutes to watch it. Let me know if what I have to say resonates with you. You can do so by offering a comment in reply to this post, or you can contact me directly at matt@usr-llc.com.