How Much Time Should Sales Managers Spend With Their Reps?

By Jeff Beals

In any given year, half of all sales reps fail to make their quotas.  That’s a macro statistic, not necessarily applicable to every industry.  Some companies might be better; others are worse.  So it would make sense that sales leaders do everything they possibly can to help sales reps improve their performance.

I believe that, above all else, the best thing a sales manager can do for his or her reps is to personally coach them.  That means managers observe what reps do, give immediate feedback and talk openly about how the rep will grow and develop.  Unfortunately, too many sales managers either can’t or won’t engage in one-on-one coaching with their reps.  Some managers try but just aren’t very good at it.

Anecdotally, I have long known about the power of one-on-one coaching, but now we have some evidence.  My friend, Jim Keenan, CEO of A Sales Guy, Inc., released a new study: “Sales Coaching and Quota Attainment Survey: Does Sales Coaching Work?”

Keenan’s team interviewed 1,010 sales professionals, both managers and reps, about their experiences and opinions.

For purposes of the study, “sales coaching” was defined as “the deliberate, one-on-one engagement with salespeople by their supervisors to provide feedback with the intention of improving a sales rep’s ability to achieve quota and expand their selling skills in order to excel on the job.”

The study discovered that salespeople who exceed their quotas are more than 30 percent more likely to be coached than those who do not.

Additionally, sales reps want to be coached.  Among reps who are not coached, 66.1 percent said they would like to be coached.  Among reps who are coached, almost 70 percent of them said it was “good” or “awesome.”

The study showed that one coaching tactic was particularly powerful. Those companies that recorded actual sales calls and then used those recordings for coaching purposes, had reps who were 30.2 percent more likely to exceed quotas.

But here is the most shocking statistic that came out of Keenan’s study: More than 48 percent of sales reps say they are coached, yet 82.1 percent of sales leaders claim to coach their sales teams.  Either someone is lying, or someone has no idea what coaching really is!

Why the difference?  There could be a number of reasons.  Some sales managers might think they are coaching when in reality they are having only superficial conversations with their reps.  Stopping by a rep’s desk and asking about a personal life event or progress on an account does not qualify as “sales coaching.”  Some managers might think it does.

What’s the biggest excuse sales managers give for not doing one-on-one coaching with their reps?  That’s easy: time.  Sales managers are always short on time, so the excuse has some merit.  Nevertheless, the biggest deficits in sales departments are training, coaching and mentorship. Sales managers must provide resources and teach reps how to succeed.  Managers must be organized and do a good job of prioritizing rep development in their weekly schedules.

That also means taking the coaching role seriously.  Even among sales managers who actually schedule private coaching sessions with employees, a large number of them regularly cancel, attempt to reschedule or show up late for the meetings.  In order for coaching to be an effective tool, the manager has to take it even more seriously than the reps. The manager has to be completely committed to coaching or it just won’t happen.

I’d like to add one caveat.  The difference of opinion between reps and managers as to whether coaching takes place in their companies could be attributed to excuse-making on the part of sales reps.  An underperforming or undermotivated sales rep could claim a lack of coaching as justification for his or her lackluster results.

That said, Keenan’s study is crystal clear: sales coaching works.  If you lead a sales team, it would be wise for you to establish a coaching-and-mentoring culture in your department.

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events this year. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events next year!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

“Jeff Beals is a consummate pro. With short notice, he put together an engaging, fun, sales-focused presentation full of specifics – just what our exec team needed. We’ll ask him back for annual company retreat again next year.” – John Baylor, President, On to College, Lincoln, NE

“In the three months since Jeff Beals became my sales coach, I have signed over 20 new, top-tier clients and have positioned myself among the top three sales producers in my company nationwide. Jeff has helped me create a beneficial success plan and ensures, through an accountability process, that I’m actively accomplishing my goals. Not only is Jeff an incredible coach, he’s a true friend, mentor and wonderful human being.” – Carter Green, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Stratus Building Solutions, Oklahoma City, OK

(402) 637-9300

When Is It Time to Ask for the Sale?

By Jeff Beals

One of my all-time favorite “sales” quotes came from a man known simply as “The Greatest,” the late boxing champ Muhammad Ali: “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses—behind the lines, in the gym and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”

At the end of a boxing match, spectators see the glory and adoration of a victorious champion. They don’t see what it takes to get there. They don’t see the hard work or the blood, sweat and tears. It’s the investment of time, effort and discipline leading up to the fight that determines who wins.

The same can be said of the selling process.

Too many people believe that success in sales comes down to the closing, a magical time when a slick salesperson utters the most eloquent, carefully chosen words, thus dazzling a spellbound buyer into helplessly making a purchase.

That’s simply false.

Just as Ali won fights long before he stepped into the ring, sales are made long before closing time.

Sales reps worry too much about closing because they don’t realize it’s supposed to be a foregone conclusion. Follow the proper steps, and the close is an anticlimactic formality, just one step in a long process.

If you’re waiting until the close to win the deal, you’ve already lost. Good closers start at the beginning.

Here are five things you can do throughout the sales process to make closing a breeze:

Lead with Value

The most fundamental element in closing any sale is to determine what the prospective client truly values without ever assuming. The salesperson may have more product knowledge than the prospective customer, but that doesn’t mean the sales- person has the ability to read clients’ minds.

You need to ask probing questions and listen deeply to the answers. If you do this properly, and take the necessary amount of time, you will know just what your prospect wants. When you make your pitch, customize it to exactly what the prospect told you.

Miniature Closes

Remember that closing involves a series of small commitments before you get the big commitment to buy.  These little commitments are sometimes referred to as “miniature closes.” By simply agreeing to meet you, a prospect makes a mini commitment, and that’s a mini close for you.

Instead of crouching ready to pounce on a close, focus on the next step in the process (the next small commitment.)  Each time you get one of these commitments, you’re a little closer to the end prize.

Just keep working the prospect through all the steps in the selling process in the proper order, with adequate time at each step.

Storytelling and Humor

Stories are a powerful selling tool. An opening story when you first meet a prospect can break the ice. A compelling story during your pitch can peak a prospect’s curiosity. A carefully selected story can effectively answer an objection. A motivational story about a previous client near the end of the presentation is a nice way to bring the whole process to a close.

Stories disarm and reassure people, allowing them to picture how great life is using your product or service. In the sales world, stories trump data and facts.

Humor helps as well. Making the process a little lighthearted can have many of the same benefits of storytelling. We all like to laugh—it’s like exercise but less painful. It releases endorphins into your brain, making you feel better about moving forward.

Ask for the Order

After you gone through all the steps, it’s time to ask for the order. Even though the close is a formality, a foregone conclusion if you’ve done everything right so far, the typical clients will still wait for you to tell them it’s time to move forward.  They see you as the leader of the transaction, so they will rely on you to tell them it’s okay to make the purchase.

Unfortunately, this part can make salespeople feel nervous. After all, you have put so much effort into making the sale that you fear getting your feelings hurt and your confidence bruised. Plus, you may have already spent the commission!

Those are normal fears, but when the time is right, just ask the question. The good news is you don’t need a cheesy gimmick to seal the deal. You know what the client cares about, and you know you have an ideal product solution, so all you have to say is “Let’s get you started” or “Are you ready to do this?” Avoid clichés like “What will it take to get you in this car today?”

Know What’s Next

I once watched an outstanding pool player demonstrate his craft at a sports bar.  The guy could sink unbelievable shots, but his best skill was setting up the next shot at the end of the current one.

Sales pros need to think the same way: each sale should set up the next.  No sale is made in a vacuum. Keep gathering information and building the relationship. You want a lifetime of sales from your customers, not just one.

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events this year. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events next year!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

“Jeff Beals is a consummate pro. With short notice, he put together an engaging, fun, sales-focused presentation full of specifics – just what our exec team needed. We’ll ask him back for annual company retreat again next year.” – John Baylor, President, On to College, Lincoln, NE

“In the three months since Jeff Beals became my sales coach, I have signed over 20 new, top-tier clients and have positioned myself among the top three sales producers in my company nationwide. Jeff has helped me create a beneficial success plan and ensures, through an accountability process, that I’m actively accomplishing my goals. Not only is Jeff an incredible coach, he’s a true friend, mentor and wonderful human being.” – Carter Green, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Stratus Building Solutions, Oklahoma City, OK

(402) 637-9300

How on Earth Do You Motivate Salespeople?

By Jeff Beals

It’s an over-used cliché, but managing sales teams has often been compared to herding cats.

Since the beginning of modern business history, sales leaders have struggled with how to motivate salespeople to go the extra mile and exceed their sales goals.

A rare few, perhaps 20 percent of sales reps, are naturally competitive and highly ambitious.  Those top producers consistently do well.  But what about everyone else?  How do you get the mid-level producers to do a little more?  How do you get the low-level producers to do at least something?

Motivation can be a tricky subject for managers.  Different people want different things from their jobs.  One person may be money-motivated. Another person may seek personal satisfaction and growth.  Others might be inspired to work hard because of the difference they are making in a clients’ lives.

In the 1950’s, psychologist Frank Herzberg set out to understand employee satisfaction.  He surveyed countless employees from various industries, asking them to describe situations in which they felt good and in which the felt bad about their jobs.

The result of this work became what’s known as Herzberg’s “Motivation-Hygiene Theory.  Herzberg discovered certain things are tied with satisfaction (motivators), while other things are consistently associated with dissatisfaction (demotivators):

Motivators

Achievement – The perception that a sales employee has that he or she is growing and improving.

Recognition – People love awards and intangible recognition as well.

Work itself – The best sales people simply enjoy the art of selling.  They enjoy products/industries.  To use this motivator to your advantage, you need find ways to add more meaning to the job.  One way is to link the rep’s work to a larger goal or purpose.  Help them understand why their work matters.  Be assured that people will find value in knowing how their work contributes to the goals of your company.

Increased responsibility – The desire to expand duties and authority.

Demotivators

  1. Company policies/procedures
  2. Supervision
  3. Working conditions
  4. Compensation

Are you surprised by the “demotivators” list?  Many leaders are shocked to see that compensation is not a motivator.

Herzberg calls the demotivators “hygiene factors.”  He uses that term, because hygiene is related to maintenance.  In other words, good hygiene is a daily thing you should do to stay healthy.  Hygiene factors, or demotivators, do not give us positive satisfaction or lead to higher motivation, but if they are absent from our lives, they result in dissatisfaction.

In other words, compensation is more of a base expectation, something you get in exchange for your work.  Because of that, compensation is not enough of a differentiator to make us stay at one job versus seeking another.

Plus, compensation is highly replaceable for top producers.  They realize they can get paid well anywhere they go because of their talents and work habits.  If money is an equalizer, they look for other quality-of-life factors.

What does this mean for you if you’re a leader of sales professionals?

Realize that fair and clearly communicated compensation packages are important, but they aren’t enough to motivate people.  Find ways to incorporate achievement, recognition, meaningful work and increased responsibility into your motivation repertoire.

Just like a prospective customer determines what is valuable to them, employees determine what they care about.  We need to be sensitive to what makes each person tick.

By the way, don’t confuse a lack of confidence with a lack of motivation.  If someone is underperforming, candidly assess whether it’s motivation issue or a confidence issue.  If confidence is the problem, the next step would be to look into increased training, coaching, field observation with feedback, role-playing and/or mentoring.

UNIQUE HELP FOR SALES LEADERS:

Being a sales leader can be a lonely existence. There are simply not a lot of places you can go to seek guidance without exposing your personal concerns and weaknesses inside your company.

That’s why my partner, Beth Mastre, and I have created the Sales Leader Mastermind Group.  It’s a collection of sales leaders who meet regularly, share ideas and grow in their profession.  The group has been meeting for a year and has been a smashing success.  We’re expanding the group from 8 to 12 members and are looking for a few sales leaders to join us.

Would you benefit from having such a resource?  If so, check out the prospectus HERE.

The Sales Leader Mastermind Group is a serious commitment, but it will change the trajectory of your career and your company.

Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or send an email to info@jeffbeals.com or call 402-637-9300.