Good sales managers invest a lot of time training and coaching their sales team. And sometimes, regardless of effort, they see little or no improvement. Why? Because most sales managers haven’t been taught formal training and coaching skills that incorporate both hard skills and soft skills training. As a result, they often work on the wrong end of the sales-performance issue.
They are running on a sales treadmill leading to nowhere.
Time to get off this treadmill and learn how to better diagnose sales-performance issues. Let’s see if we can change your belief system and improve your coaching skills and sales results by examining two stages of the sales process where limiting beliefs and low emotional intelligence affect sales results.
Decision step. Identifying and gaining access to the right buying influences is challenging. Sales managers teach their sales team how to engage the economic buyer, the technical buyer, the influencer buyer, the buyer’s mother and father (kidding), and the list goes on. You would think that a salesperson armed with this knowledge would be ready to rock ‘n’ roll. But they’re not.
Salespeople still continue to call too low in the organization or get stuck trying to sell to non-decision makers, even after great training. In debriefing thousands of sales calls, I’ve learned that the root cause for not calling the C-Suite often is because salespeople are afraid they will get stuck. “I’m worried that I’ll be asked a question I don’t know the answer to. This buyer has a BIG office and a BIG title.” Translation: I don’t want to look stupid and I’m intimidated.
Sales manager, this is where you have to apply the EQ skill of self-awareness. Be aware that it’s very tempting to move into tell-and-training mode.
Stop. You’ve already delivered that program and it’s not working.
Put on your coaching hat and ask questions to help your salesman discover for himself why he’s not applying the appropriate selling behaviors. People believe their own data. When your salesman discovers the answer for himself, you will you see a change in selling behaviors.
Good coaching questions to ask are:
- “What would you need to do or learn in order to decrease the fear of not knowing enough? (This question helps the salesperson recognize he is in control of the meeting’s outcome. Increased control decreases stress and raises personal accountability for success.)
- Who on the sales team could help you be better prepared for this call? (It takes a sales village to win. Two heads are always better than one intimidated one.)
- What is good about calling on big titles and big offices? (Hopefully, you will hear the answer that big titles make big decisions and big offices have money to invest.)
- What does the C-Suite buyer really want from a salesperson? What can you do to deliver that need/want? (They want competence, confidence, results and no BS.)
Discovery/Asking Questions/Needs Analysis. There are so many great sales books and consultants teaching effective questioning skills. So why are salespeople still showing up and throwing up on prospects? Does the salesperson really need to be taught the right questions to ask — one more time? Probably not. When you observe that painful sales call or product dumping call, work on two soft skills that will make a big difference in changing behavior.
- Impulse control. This EQ skill is defined as the ability to delay a response or reaction. When a salesperson is likable and starts asking good questions, she hears the real challenges and goals from the prospect. It’s been referred to as buying signals and wow, do salespeople buy! The salesperson gets excited and impulsively skips over key questions because she is eager to show how her company can help. When she skips over key questions, she misses key information needed for crafting the right solution, the best solution.
She ends up in second place, behind the competitor that asked ALL the questions.
- Belief systems. I’ve had more than one salesperson express concern that a prospect will get frustrated with them asking questions. Because of this belief, they shortcut the needs analysis and discovery process, missing important pieces of the prospect’s decision criteria. (How many of you like to do business with doctors that shortcut the diagnostic conversation with you? Yeah, let’s just go ahead and replace that knee.) Salespeople with self-limiting beliefs lose to salespeople that have a different set of beliefs. They BELIEVE that questions provide critical data, which create the best solution.
During coaching sessions, ask questions to increase your salesperson’s self-awareness around low impulse control and self-limiting beliefs.
Remember, you cannot change what you’re unaware of.
- What words or actions trigger you into presenting solutions too soon?
- What type of checklist or strategy could you put in place that will help you continue diagnosing challenges rather than prescribing solutions?
- What’s your biggest worry about asking questions? Is that based on perception or did the prospect actually say that to you? (99 percent of the time it’s perception, and their perception has become their sales truth.)
Sales managers, improve sales results by improving your ability to diagnose the right end of the sales-performance issue. Analyze and determine whether your salesperson needs more training and coaching on the hard skills (consultative selling skills) or the soft skills (beliefs and emotional intelligence). Work on the right end of the problem and get off that sales-management treadmill leading to nowhere.