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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 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.

Mastering Sales Leadership

Mastering sales leadership requires focus and excellence in five fundamental areas. Achieving mastery in these areas enables sales leaders to develop highly focused, efficient, and effective sales forces.

The Five Fundamentals of Effective Sales Management…

Align sales with the Go-to-Market strategy

Focus on the early stages of the sales pipeline

Achieve coaching excellence

Require customer growth planning

Establish a cadence or operating rhythm

Recently, we put together a brief, two-minute video on the Five Fundamentals of Effective Sales Management, and I explain why they matter so much and the impact they can have on the performance of a sales organization. The video appears below.

 

 

Please visit our “Five Fundamentals” web page, where you can download a copy of the white paper, “Five Fundamentals of Effective Sales Management,” and learn about our Five Fundamentals workshops.

Change Now, Grow Sales

Change now. Grow sales. We all operate in a very dynamic marketplace in which change comes rapidly and frequently. Because of that, one of the most pressing questions that sales leaders have to answer now is, “How can we adapt in order to ensure sales growth now and in the foreseeable future?”

This is why sales leaders play the pivotal role in the success of any organization. Whether you are a Chief Sales Officer or a newly minted front-line sales manager, you must have an answer to this critical question.

Some sales leaders take this challenge head on while other sales leaders duck and hope that things will get back to the way they once were. I will presume that you are put of that first group because you are reading this post. I will presume even further that you care what I have to say about this matter, so allow me to share some thoughts.

In response to the question, “What does it take to change the performance of a sales organization?” I offer the two-minute video below for your viewing pleasure. For more of my point-of-view on how to change a sales organization’s performance for the better, please watch each of USR’s four-part video series by clicking here.