Create Compelling Sales Urgency, NOT Sales Pressure!

TWO Sales Skills to Help Build Urgency for Change

A sales cycle that drags on without a solid buying decision greatly lowers the probability that a positive purchase will eventually occur. The long, exhausting hunt often results in returning home with just a goose egg.

How can you create compelling urgency rather than aggressive pressure to positively influence a buying decision? The TWO Sales Skills below will help you create a methodical sales process that mitigates the relentless and cruel march of sales time.

 

The Status Quo is the enemy, not your competitor’s price. It’s not news that most people have a strong aversion to change, especially if there is a perception of risk involved. The thinking goes – my current situation may be undesirable and stressful but at least it’s familiar. Your sales process should fixate on creating the urgent conditions necessary for buyer behavior change. Behavioral science supports this universal human condition of possessing a strong aversion to loss, as captured by this quote:

“Losses make us hurt more than gains make us feel good.” -D. Kahneman and A. Tversky

 

TWO Core Sales Skills* for Creating Compelling Sales Urgency:

*It is assumed that the sales rep has built a trusting, credible relationship with the prospect or buyer before attempting to dive too deep and too soon into a customer’s business. If not, your sales approach is guaranteed to feel pushy, disrespectful, and your sales attempts will be rejected. Your humble intention to help, not sell, must shine through.

#1 – Find painful (e.g. expensive) problems to solve. Every prospect and business owner has lots of problems, just like you and me. However, there is often a singular one that is most costly. Find it. No serious problem = no serious pain. No pain = no urgency. No urgency = no solution, and you return home with yet another goose egg.

This says easy, does hard. You must be patient, persevere and be willing to be comfortable being uncomfortable while the prospect or buyer mulls over and quietly marinates in their current dilemma. Your penetrating questions, however, foster the crucial tension, or compelling urgency, that begins creating cracks in the formidable status quo.

#2 – Help prospect or buyer convincingly answer – “Why Change?”

Your non-aggressive persistence has paid off – the buyer, with quiet introspection, admits how her actions keep leading to the same discouraging business results. You can relate to her, as every business has their share of festering problems.

 

Behavioral change is often preceded by pain; this vital knowledge directs our sales process.

 

Gently, yet assertively (never aggressively) help the customer feel the pain of their key problem. Simple, insightful questions help facilitate the buyer’s thinking about the very real costs associated with the current situation:

  • What is the business cost of your current situation?
  • What are the non-financial costs of having this problem?
  • What benefits would you achieve if this problem were solved?
  • What would happen if you simply chose not to address this problem?
  • How does this situation prevent you from reaching your goals?

Humans’ natural bias for the status quo is a formidable sales foe. The science of human influence and change strongly suggests that our sales approach creates the prime conditions for change: compelling business urgency and pain. These two core sales skills are instrumental in facilitating this change process.

 

“An object at rest remains at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.”  -Newton’s First Law

 

You cannot control time but you can control your focus in each sales conversation! Make a mid-year resolution to invigorate your sales process with a purposeful sense of urgency and disciplined approach that steadily raises alarm bells that the status quo is unsafe and dangerous. The two skills above are fundamental for creating the conditions of buyer behavior change.

It should be noted that these skills remain relevant but are often insufficient for more complex B2B (business to business) sales where products can be expensive or have lengthy implementation steps.

Future sales topics will examine additional sales skills critical for keeping sales time AND momentum on your side!

 

Keep it simple, keep it focused, and definitely keep it inspiring!  -Steve

Three Performance Sales Coaching Skills to Master

Sales Managers — How do you tell a sales rep they aren’t as good as they think?

Effective sales manager/coaches understand that providing accurate and candid feedback of their sales reps’ abilities is the primary tool for continuous sales improvement. However, what if your sales rep does not agree with your honest assessment? The following is an all too common sales coaching dilemma:

Consider Cindy, a top performer on Matt’s team. She and Matt do some sales role-playing, and Matt offers her a candid assessment about where he feels she could improve. Cindy quickly responds, “I normally do much better in front of a customer—you just make me nervous! Look at my numbers if you want to see how great I’m doing.” Matt must admit that Cindy regularly exceeds quota, and wonders how he can argue with success.

How do performance-driven sales coaches address observed sub-par sales skills, regardless of whether a sales rep has met sales quota, or not? Mastering the following three performance coaching skills provides sales managers the confidence and competence to gently, but directly, address this universal dilemma.

 

Performance Coaching Skill # 1 — Know what great looks like and hold people accountable for exceeding expectations.

Competent tennis coaches know what the body biomechanics standard is for a great tennis serve. They coach and train the athlete to meet and exceed that standard. Just because the athlete might be a current top performer, a coach worth her paycheck would not allow the player to rest on historical performance laurels.

A sales skill, such as handling objections, can be broken down into fundamental elements, repeatedly trained, and provided with real-time feedback. Sales managers must know what it looks like when sales skills miss, meet, or exceed expectations.

 

“Constant, incremental improvement is the mantra of great coaches.”

 

Performance Coaching Skill # 2Coach to lead indicators, not lag. Lag (the “numbers”) is easy to measure but difficult to influence. Lead activities, or inputs, are controllable and predictive of future success. Effective sales coaching should focus on the behavioral change, skill development, and knowledge acquisition that leads to desired results.

Even if your company “only cares about the numbers,” you as an inspiring leader ought to broaden the definition of results with your reps to include professional capabilities such as leadership, collaboration, strategic thinking, building resiliency, and adapting to change.

 

“Under pressure you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training.”  —Navy Seals adage, Harvard Business Review

 

Performance Coaching Skill # 3During training role-plays, remain confident that the sales skill ability you observe is the rep’s dominant response under stress.

The above scenario where the rep states, “I normally do much better in front a customer, you just make me nervous,” is wrong according to social facilitation theory. This theory confirms when a person’s performance is being assessed they experience psychological arousal, or stress, and this pressure produces the individual’s dominant response, which is the most authentic and trusted representation of their skill ability.

Respected business leader Max De Pree claimed that “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality,” and social facilitation theory provides managers the confidence to do so.

This theory is so well validated that it guides the rigorous training of fire fighters, martial artists, law enforcement, military personnel, and other professionals who must perform at high levels under dangerous conditions while making split-second decisions. Successful sales managers have internalized the value of training like other elite professions.

Telling sales reps a targeted sales skill is below expectations can be challenging, particularly if they are meeting their sales goals. However, trust that what you see in that moment is the rep’s highest capability under stress. Be sincere, be caring, but insist the rep continually practices under gentle pressure to build up skill levels under stress. Master coaches understand that this is a trusted training pathway for sustained high performance.

Newsletter February 2017

Effective Sales Manager-Coaches

Don’t Add Sales Training, They Embed it!

 


Steve’s Newsletter Promise: Valuable content will be…

  • Driven by real manager challenges and opportunities
  • Pragmatic – offering “how to” solutions
  • Instructional – teaching specific sales leader skills, mindsets, and principles

Most sales managers know they should provide more sales skill training, but don’t. While coaching and training is no motivational silver bullet, strategically deployed it can improve performance up to 19%.

Top expressed sales manager barriers to coaching and training include:

– I’m buried with manager duties and can’t find the time
– My sales reps resist my coaching and training efforts
– I’m not confident in my ability to teach and train sales skills
– There is no budget for training

“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”
Peter Drucker

Embedding, not adding on, sales training and coaching into daily workflow overcomes all of the above barriers. The 80/20 principle of results guides the strategic manager’s thinking. She believes that consistent training is a lead indicator – a predictive activity that will lead to increased sales results.

 $ The Money Question $
How much could your sales revenue increase if your sales reps had 20 additional hours of annual, focused, sales skills training and coaching? If your answer is close to “a lot,” then embed the following plan immediately!

 

Winning Sales Leader Mindset: I am responsible for coaching each of my sales reps, however, I am not responsible for training all of my sales reps.

I can’t stress enough that effective sales leaders delegate sales skills training to their team!  Learning and collaborating together is a best practice for ensuring your team develops the capacity to be adaptable and nimble in a fast moving, changing marketplace.

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” – Ken Blanchard

Embed this Sales Training Plan into your weekly team meetings:

Your FBO (Flash of the Blinding Obvious): You must replace 25 minutes of *trivial meeting content and replace with vital training focus. *Sobering Tip: Ask your team what is trivial, they’ll educate you.

Your Delegation Action Plan: 1) Explain to the team the new training plan, 2) Answer “What’s in it for me?”, 3) Gain buy-in (this doesn’t mean 100% agreement!), 4) Delegate the weekly sales skill training plan – who is teaching what (co-partners work best because they need to develop a very strong role play script that targets real customer scenarios).
Teach/Lecture – Top 2-3 best practices of one targeted sales skill (5 min)

Strong Real/Role Play – Use sales reps real customer scenarios (15 min)

Q&A, Feedback, and Plan next week’s sales skill focus (5 min)

PRACTICE = PROFITS! 25 min x 50 work weeks = 20 hours of annual sales skills training!

Embedding sales training into normal workflows is a sure bet to increasing the team’s motivation and engagement. And why not? Elite sales performers understand that perfect practice makes perfect!


Enjoy this month’s Newsletter? Follow Steve on social media for even more great advice! And always feel free to drop Steve a line for any of your questions.

FREE ASSET: Access a free copy of The 4% Championship Sales Coaching and Training Plan.

Coming soon: Free Sales Coaching Webinar titled  Practice = Profits.

4 Distance Coaching Tips for Sales Managers

Many sales managers express concern about their ability to be an effective coach from a distance, or “in between field rides” so to speak.

When you cannot directly observe your reps’ sales behaviors, interactions with customers, and their collaboration amongst their peers, how does the effective coach bridge this gap?

Here are 4 Coaching Tips to help you strengthen your distance coaching capabilities:

Tip # 1 — Foster and expect a culture of collaboration.

Your reps growth and development should not be solely dependent on your coaching efforts. Proactive collaboration, teaching, and training amongst the team are the primary vehicles for on-going learning and sustained performance. Hierarchy, cliques, and lone wolf mentalities are the enemies of high performing coaching cultures.

Tip # 2 — Schedule 2–3 coaching “check ins” (about 10–15 minutes each) in between face-to-face visits.

Priorities live on calendars, or at least they should. Micromanaging is a sin and so is under communicating in coaching. Many great managers resist this practice saying, “I have an open door (virtually speaking) policy and speak with my folks all the time.” Do not abolish this noble practice. However, scheduling brief check-ins ensures that high-value, and timely, communications flow through your team.

When you schedule, and execute, these check-ins (NOT check-ons) you broadcast three powerful messages to your team:

• Coaching and developing is a core value of your organization.
• Retaining and growing people are central to your organization’s talent management strategy.
• Growth leads to results, not the other way around.

Tip #3 — Create clear, focused, 10 or 15-minute agendas.

Value creates future desire. The effective distance coach does not wing these sessions. She provides active guidance, direction, and brings valuable marketplace and business data. Her communications are on-point, incisive; enabling her team members to co-create strategic and tactical plans.

Warning! These are coaching sessions, not business plan reviews or performance management conversations!

Tip #4 — Create a culture of accountability and performance—Inspect what you expect.

During your last ride-along the rep committed to 2–3 SMART actions, right? Scheduled check-ins are primarily meant to be accountability milestones. How is your rep tracking against their development goals? What support, encouragement, or insight can you provide them?

Begin shaping a more rigorous and disciplined virtual-coaching plan by implementing these four practices. Remember to practice good change leadership skills by explaining the WHY (what’s in it for me, or WIIFM?) and openly address any concerns or resistance.

Finally, remember the primary goal of coaching is to help your people self-coach when you’re not around. The above best practices are meant to help your people be successful and win!

Keep it simple, keep it focused, and definitely keep it inspiring!
– Steve

steve@steverudolphcoaching.com

5 Coaching Skills for Sales Managers

Show your sales reps what GREAT looks like!

Do your sales reps’ skills need sharpening? Begin by mastering and modeling these five coaching skills specifically for sales managers.

“If you focus on results you will never change. If you focus on change you will get results.” —Jack Dixon

The effective sales manager/coach understands great coaching and great sales involve parallel skill sets. Sales managers who model consistent and quality coaching remain the best predictors for sustained sales rep development.

Admittedly, complex sales calls often involve layers of subtle, powerful, dynamics, and often involve long cycle times. However, these five brick and mortar coaching skills are essential sales skills that your reps need to master.

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispens -Dwight Eisenhower

Skill # 1 — Pros plan, rookies wing it.

Pre sales call/coaching planning is arguably a weak area for many sales managers and reps. Success has always gone to those who methodically plan. Customized planning sends powerful messages to reps and customers, such as, You are important to me, I’m committed to your development and success, and I want to understand your drivers and afflictions.

Skill # 2 — Transparency and collaboration builds trust. Clarify your agenda, goals, process, and receive agreement to proceed. Let people know what you’re up to. Customers despise being sold and your sales reps despise being told. Sales success, like coaching, is built on the foundation of collaborative, professional partnerships.

Skill # 3 — Get on the reps/customer agenda. Behavior follows belief. Great coaches, like great sales reps, deeply believe their purpose is to help others achieve success. Adults, like kids, possess highly developed authenticity/bullshit detectors. Customers viscerally feel the needy rep desperate to make quota. Equally, reps feel it in the gut when their sales manager marginalizes their ideas.

Skill #4 — Follow the 75/25 rule with discipline. Effective sales coaches and sales reps ensure that the other person does approximately 75% of the talking. Achieving this performance high bar demands that coaches and reps develop the ability to ask well constructed and customized questions.

Powerful questions create learning insights, or “A-ha moments!” Sales coaching, like a sales call, seeks to create the optimal conditions that compel one to make changes in their life. Implicit in the 75/25 is that reps and sales coaches be at ease with the power of silence. As sales guru Brian Tracy reminds us, “The selling takes place with the words, but the buying takes place in the silence.”

Skill # 5 — Don’t leave money on the table. High performing coaches and sales reps keep the action moving down the field. Asking for SMART commitments is how competent sales coaches build a culture of accountability and high performance. Effective sales reps understand that customers need a little tough love to make the difficult decisions often associated with the necessary change they’ve identified. Agreements to clear actions ensure everyone has skin in the game. Sales coaches who model this competency can help those reps who get weak-kneed around asking for more business.

Sales managers frustrated by their sales reps lackluster performance might consider adopting Level 5 Leadership – “looking in the mirror to apportion responsibility for poor results (Jim Collins, Good to Great).” Helping your sales reps regain their edge begins with their sales manager showing them what great coaching/sales looks like!

 

Keep it simple, keep it focused, and definitely keep in inspiring!