The following post is by my friend, Tammy Blount of Impact Marketing. Impact Marketing is a full service video shopping company, specializing in new home sales.
In my recent conversations with sales managers around the country, I have been struck by a growing phenomenon: OFFICE-ITIS.
I am fully convicted that the role of a sales manager is to be instrumental in securing sales. The titles vary — director, manager, VP, trainer — but our mission is the same: lead conversion.
Sales Managers have always been a thinly stretched group, enticed into meetings, report generation, trouble-shooting, fire-fighting, and any number of things that could keep us busy 24-7, 7 days a week. With tight markets and increasing pressures, budget restrictions and corporate right-sizing, the temptation is to succumb to the myriad of "other" activities, and remain in the office.
I have a bold suggestion: DON’T DO IT.
This is your moment. This is your opportunity to inspire and affect your company, your sales team, and as a result, your success. Did you know it has been reported that while sales team performance increases by 22% with training alone, adding coaching to that equation increases their performance by 88%? Staggering statistics (courtesy of Sales Executive Council, Building a World Class Coaching Program (2005))
Ideally, the Sales Manager would spend most of their time in the field, actively coaching their sales team, and participating in the lead conversion process. Wouldn’t 4 days a week in the field be a spectacular opportunity? But for many, perhaps not practical, so why not start with a realistic goal of one day per week. Don’t go to the office first, make sure corporate knows you’re out for the day, and schedule it. Make a plan to spend 3-5 hours per month with each member of your team, and you’ll make a difference.
Suggested Coaching Plan
1. Be clear about what you expect from your sales team. Spend some time giving careful consideration to this question. The answer depends on many factors including corporate culture, customer profiles, product, and market conditions. It is possible that your team’s core competency needs have evolved — perhaps from strong backlog management skills to a more artful and involved sales presentation and closing. Even the most seasoned veteran can benefit and improve with a clear understanding of what is expected of them, and how that changes over time.
2. Establish a base line: order a video mystery shop of each member of your sales team. They need to know they might be shopped at any time — make this a standard part of their performance measurement procedure and have them sign an agreement to that effect. Position shops as a positive, coaching exercise, or game film — athletes learn this way all the time. Look to "catch" them doing well, and identify grown opportunities.
3. Watch the game film with the sales person. Along with "office-itis" comes a growing epidemic of managers who say they just don’t have time to watch shops. That is most certainly your decision to make, but you’re missing a gold opportunity. Game films are a very personal learning tool. They provide a real world snapshot of how each sales person approaches the customers your company has paid to attract.
4. Maximize your training investment by using game films as a coaching opportunity. Block of private time and allow not interruptions. Stop the film periodically — celebrate greatness, help your team recognize their own growth opportunities, and help them arrive at their own realization of the solutions.
5. Have an action plan for each sales person on your team. Sure, we have sales goals and retention and closing goals. But talk about specifics. Have a short-term plan each week, even just a small behavior adjustment, personal to each team member through game film or personal observation. Share why, what you hope to accomplish with the action plan, have a timeline, and hold them to it. Try sharing results in a sales meeting.
6. Involve everyone on your team. Use sales meetings as another growth opportunity. Share successes. Have your team share their successes. Role play.
7. Get over it. Maybe this should be #1. Growth is personal, so it’s hard. It takes a long look in the mirror, but isn’t it better to do that while it’s your own choice to do so? Don’t let your discomfort, or the anticipated discomfort of others, stop you from getting involved with your team. This is what you’ve been hired to do, I promise. And as your sales team achieves their goals with your help, everyone’s discomfort will dissipate.
8. Hold them accountable. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to hold yourself accountable too. Inspect what you expect. Don’t accept excuses — that doesn’t really help anyone. Help your team grow stronger by holding firm on performance standards, or have a good reason if you change them.
9. Reward achievement. Rewards don’t have to be huge wads of cash or fancy trips, although those are good ones. Recognition and a thank you card signed by your President or Owner will be a great start. Celebrate sales, always, but celebrate other attributes that benefit your business as well: high customer satisfaction, referrals, high shop scores, leadership, the courage to role play – it all matters.
10. Keep it up. Rome wasn’t built in a day! Continue to coach your sales team. Order game films and make good use of them at least twice yearly. Get out in the field and talk to your customers. Support your team.
Accept this as your moment to rise to the occasion and show the sales leadership you have within you!
Tammy Blount, VP of Sales & Marketing