Managing a business to business sales organization is a lot like coaching a pro sports team. Sales Training is going to be part of the equation. You usually are dealing with the following:
- Some pretty big egos
- People with a set of elite skills, especially among the top performers
- Individuals who may be more knowledgeable about their product and/or services than their manager
- Professionals who are highly motivated by goal attainment, and the rewards which result from meeting those goals
- A team with a lot going on, most of the time, and as a result, have a tendency toward a short term memory for methodology
Usually managers who are the best at B2B sales coaching are those who have learned their craft in the trenches, and have honed their knowledge through trial, error and their own mentors. There are many books about selling to business, and theories about the best ways to develop and close sizable deals. Textbook approaches don’t necessarily work across the board, and a skilled sales manager can create a playbook of their own based on tried and true practices.
For many B2B sales managers who have carried a bag in the field as a sales rep, it can be difficult to go on a “sales ride-a-long” with their sales reps without taking over the sales process. Customers tend to yield to the seniority “Alpha” sales manager, so if you are a sales manager who feels they can’t help but take the reins of a sales meeting you attend, you may be doing more harm than good to the trajectory of the sales rep’s performance.
The goal of the supervised sales call is to help make your team members more effective, to build confidence, and to help your reps to attain their quota. You want to avoid any possible scenario where you might be putting your rep’s integrity into question. Making efforts to build your rep up in front of the client, not take them down a peg is important.
Before you go on a ride-a-long with your sales person in front of a live customer, try some role playing exercises with your team in a sales meeting, or on a one-to-one basis. Have sessions on topics such as:
- Building credibility
- Addressing objections
- Communicating the business values of your solution
- Negotiating price and contract term
Especially on an initial client meeting, an Account Executive needs to establish a rapport and a level of authority with their client. You are likely better off attending a follow up meeting, as there (hopefully) will be a relationship between the sales representative and the client. When you are in front of the client with your sales rep, try and say as little as possible to the client. Position your presence as your company’s interest in understanding the needs of their clients, and let them know you are there in a supportive role only.
When providing feedback to your sales rep, leverage a checklist of sales call quality criteria your-ride-a-long to-do-list which you can subtly use during the client meeting. After the call, review both the positive and negative elements of the meeting. If there were elements of the meeting which seemed “off-script” made, try to find the root cause of why the rep deviated from your standard. Try to provide as much constructive criticism as possible. Ensure the evaluation criteria is used across the entire team consistently with both junior and senior members of your team. This way, you can learn techniques your veteran salespeople are using as best practices as training opportunities for your rookies.
If you have a geographically dispersed sales team, role playing exercises and ride-alongs may be difficult to co-ordinate, though possibly easier to explain why you are riding shotgun with your reps.
In between your mentoring sessions, your sales team might fall into bad habits, or have the skills they learn in training sessions slip their memory. It’s not that they are ineffective at their jobs, it just human nature to need a tune up every now and again. Finding strategies for those regular tune ups, without derailing productivity, or spending too much time on the road can be daunting. Have regular meetings with your reps, and discuss more than just the status of their opportunities, and discuss the best next steps to close the business.
B2B sales strategies are changing. Clients are educating themselves on products and vendors until they are as much as three quarters through the purchasing funnel before contacting a sales person.
Sales coaching strategies in the current marketplace includes mentoring your reps to:
- Discuss the strategic value your products and services provide, not just features and functions
- Connect with multiple stakeholders in a sales process, and discover how your business can address their needs
- Position your business strategically the initial sale, and for incremental revenue opportunities down the road
- Build a relationship where your representative is perceived as a strategic advisor, not just a sales person
Are you retaining top performers on your sales team, and are your reps hitting their quotas and customer retention metrics? Finding new ways to get the most out of your sales team requires collaborative solutions, and relationship building strategies built on trust, mutual respect and focus on common goals.
How are you managing your B2B sales coaching conversations? Tell us about it in the comments section, and if you are looking for better ways to stay connected with your mobile sales, team, let’s talk!