This is the first in a series of guest posts from James Hughes, sales management coaching expert and founder of Sales Leadership Consulting. You can find Jim at www.salesleadershipconsulting.com
A few days ago, I was speaking with a very senior salesperson. He had been in the industry for 20 years, and was viewed by his peers as an “expert.”
He was very similar to senior sales people and their managers that I’ve met in a number of industries. We met on LinkedIn, and he agreed to test my theory that even good sales reps can benefit from coaching.
I did not know his industry, so when I was asking questions about industry knowledge and how he got reinforcement that he really was an expert, I had to take him at his word.
I could not observe any specific sales calls, so it was difficult to “coach” on whether he had all of the necessary skills, but his success in achieving the numbers let me go past this one for now.
Finally, I asked him what made his life more difficult. As sales managers, we all know that when coaching a senior sales rep that one of the things that always pops to the top, is what can I do, as their sales manager, to get things from the company out of their way. We all want to give them as much time for selling as possible.
This is what I was thinking as he described the problem he had with a manager in another department who had established the shipping schedule for client’s orders.
Apparently, he had problems with this manager before, and every time he dealt with him, it was difficult. The sales rep got what he needed a couple times, but most of the time the other manager provided one excuse after another on why it couldn’t be done.
I don’t know if it is fair to generalize here, but I saw it as another example of a good sales representative who didn’t see the need to work effectively with their cross functional team members. Most of these sales reps believe that since they are only asking for exceptions are because of the importance to the client. Since they represent the client, these other members in his company should be asking how high, when asked to jump.
So, using the coaching model we espouse at Sales Leadership Consulting, I asked him some questions about the situation:
1. I asked questions about the results and the time it took to get this done. Did he feel like he was fighting an uphill battle each time?
2. Then I asked him about his resources. He named the typical group, and even mentioned other people in order entry that could try to help, but this approach was “always ineffective.”
3. Finally, I asked him if his manager was “a resource”. “HUH?”, he said. I asked if his manager works well cross functionally? “I guess”, was his reply.
So now, I went through some examples of what his manager probably did. I asked about the style of the manager and it seemed like this was something he would do. So, I asked him the benefit of asking his manager to work this issue.
After a little “salesmanship,” I helped him understand that as a senior sales rep you should consider all resources, and he agreed. He agreed that he would try that next time.
We finished our discussion with how much he enjoyed our time. That there a few new things he would try as a result of our 30 minute discussion. The most important thing he learned though, was that even a senior sales representative like him, could still learn things from an effective coach and from him being more open to the idea.
When I hear sales managers say “my senior sales reps don’t need coaching”, I cringe.
With that assumption, it’s just possible that with a little coaching, you might discover that you can increase the productivity of one of your top reps by understanding more of their issues. Imagine what might happen if you save your top rep, 2-3 hours per month, or maybe even more?
Now, for this to work, it can’t be a one off. It has to be within an environment where each rep knows that “coaching” is part of the plan, and role you have.
With a coaching environment, you not only get to spend time with your lower performing reps, but you get to see how good the senior one’s are, and still be able to coach on areas which can improve their productivity.
Here’s wishing you good selling and good coaching.
Sales Leadership Consulting