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By Hayley James, Managing Director.
Is ‘Sales’ today a dirty word?
It can be but doesn’t have to be. All organisations are selling something – whether it be a product or service offering. It’s the way in which we engage with our customers however, that makes the difference. Conversion today isn’t about just ‘closing a deal’ – it’s about taking a proposition of ‘value’ to our customers and the only way to do that, is to listen and understand their needs. To do this, we need to more effectively coach our sales teams well beyond selling ‘features and benefits’.
Sales people with something to offer often leave potential customers feeling uncomfortable. However we can’t escape the fact that in business when we communicate with those around us, we consciously or unconsciously are putting forward a proposition in some way or other. By all means avoid the hard sell, on the other hand we won’t connect unless our proposition has impact and provides genuine value.
Sue Barrett, founder and CEO of the innovative and forward thinking sales advisory and education firm Barrett, in her article https://www.smartcompany.com.au shows us how to be successful and avoid the hard sell.
“In a movie, Blake played by Alec Baldwin unleashes a torrent of verbal abuse on the men as his form of training and one of his most infamous lines is ABC – always closing. This infamous line has become synonymous with some sales motivational speakers and some industries as a way to motivate sales people to make more sales. However, it couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Instead, to offer an alternative to the aforementioned ABC of selling and Blake’s abuse and threats disguised as sales training, is the foundation of this approach. In a recent sales’ managers coaching workshop, Belinda Davies an SCA sales manager, offered an alternative ABC for sales. Her offering was far more palatable. Always be closing. Sue, “We couldn’t agree more. In today’s complex and busy world, sales people need effective and ongoing coaching and mentoring.”
Sales coaching is not simply a function of giving a salesperson help or guidance. Nor is it only about reminding or teaching sales people about skills. Sales coaching is a process that starts with the development of an effective focused sales strategy, creating and developing the right talent, then introducing disciplines that are understood by the sales team. It is only when these three basic pillars are in place that sales leaders are able to perform their responsibilities as coaches and mentors effectively.
Sales leaders are charged by executive management with developing operational sales strategies for each of the segments covered by their teams. These strategies focus on providing sales people with an inspirational vision for increasing market share and developing new business.
There is another reason why sales strategy is such an important part of effective coaching. Sales people quite often get caught up in side issues that do little to progress sales activity. Setting the scene and presenting the basis for an effective tutoring plan is the role of good sales leadership.
Sue, “Sales leadership is about
* Inspiring people
* Gaining the commitment to a shared vision
* Translating the vision into activities
* Coaching their sales team to meet the expectations and undertake these activities as effectively as possible.”
Sales leaders are charged with the responsibility of identifying the right people for the role, nurturing their abilities and encouraging them to be more innovative in their approach. Too often however sales leaders inherit sales people for their team. To add to their challenge, they can’t easily change the composition or profile, very often having to make do with the talent they have.
Sue. “What separates effective sales leaders from traditional sales managers is the manner in which they work with the talent they have, not the speed with which they remove what they consider under performers.”
Sales coaching and mentoring are about equalising the playing field. About ensuring that every member of the sales team has the appropriate level of support, guidance and reinforcement to ensure optimal effectiveness in contributing to the realisation of the vision for the sales team.
Lots of salespeople are inherently undisciplined, not because they wilfully disobey direction, but because they are instinctively creative only in the way they approach sales opportunities. Sales leaders are therefore duty bound to balance discipline with focus, momentum with involvement.
A continual challenge facing sales leaders is being able to institute disciplines that do not restrict the creativity of sales people yet keep them focused and maintain the momentum needed to effectively sell.
Sue, “Discipline is not a euphemism for punishment. It is establishing the rules and making sure the guidelines are known and understood and then maintaining adherence to them. However, too often sales people see these rules as being too restrictive.” The key to effective discipline is to involve sales people in creating the rules, using the sales leader’s greater experience, maturity and knowledge of the bigger picture to set the parameters.
Always Be Coaching
The Sales Coach And Mentor
Without any doubt, the most important task for sales leaders is the development of the people in their sales teams as professional, effective sales executives. Sales leaders are not expected to be sales training specialists, but are expected to coach, mentor and reinforce the skills salespeople have acquired and ensure that these are applied as effectively s possible.
Sue, ” This means that sales leaders must develop and hone their coaching and mentoring skills. Coaching is the practice of supporting an individual through the process of achieving a specific personal or professional result. Mentoring is a process in which a more experienced person helps a less experience person through the informal transmission of knowledge, behaviour and professional support.”
This article by Sue Barrett is about leading the way and as managers mentor and train our people on an ongoing basis in the course of doing business. It’s not about being aggressive and it’s not about the so called hard sell. Sue shows us to become successful with our propositions, we must know how to close. As managers we must think of ourselves as coaches and avoid hard sell methods of communicating.
Remember we must develop an effective sales strategy, train and coach our people across the disciplines required to successfully communicate our message. Not everyone by nature has the make up to become a strong communicator, therefore take care to select those who will respond to your coaching and easily accept the the vision of our approach. Then, we will be in a position to mentor our people towards achievement of our goals.
Support and discipline should be front and centre when we coach our team and should be given in equal measure across all members of our team so that peak effectiveness can be expected from them. Sue provides a positive tip when she talks about discipline. Do not think about discipline as a form of punishment and do not put this across as rules that appear to be too restrictive. Encourage our sales people to create the rules whilst at the same time lead the way providing your experience and knowledge to guide and set the goals for them. Additionally, as leaders we are expected to support the creativity of our team through constant, continual mentoring and coaching. As such, we must maintain our sharp skills through our own personal development in these very important business skills.