I believe one of the areas of sales training that doesn’t get as much attention as needed is training for sales managers. It is very common in the sales profession to reward those people that do well by promoting them into a sales leadership position. Sometimes that works, but there can be problems because most likely they’ve never had experience as a leader and are lost for how to lead a team.
The skill set needed for leadership is quite different than that of the seller. Even though both professions need strong communication skills, problem solving and asking the right questions, these skills are now used in a different way.
Let’s start by looking at the number one responsibility of the sales leader, and that is to ensure the success of their salespeople. That requires the ability to coach their people on a regular basis and challenge them to grow in the areas where it’s needed. The bottom line is the sales leader should help their people be successful which leads to their success.
You probably know all of that, but where many leaders of sales teams fall short is in their ability to handle coaching conversations. Without seeming judgmental, they need to lead regular sessions to discuss how a particular sales call went.
Ask the seller:
- “What do you think worked well?”
- “What could you have done better?”
- “What do you need from me that would help you?”
These are just a few of the questions you might ask but be prepared to dig deeper by learning how to improve your questioning skills. You want to ask questions that help them figure out for themselves what they need to do to improve, because we are motivated more intrinsically than when someone tells us what to do.
Another focus of your sales management training should be leaning how to best deal with conflict and how to have tough conversations. It’s rarely effective to just tell a salesperson where they need to improve. Rather, your work as the leader is to explain why their behavior is a problem, and then how they can improve.
For example, what should you do if you have a team member that consistently forecasts above their actual results?
Rather than just tell them to stop it, and to be more accurate, ask them to walk through their process or system for forecasting. Listen for clues about how they arrive at an incorrect estimate. Are they just optimistic? Do they fear judgment if they project a lower number? Are they already struggling to meet their goals and fear they’ll be fired? As you ask questions, look for openings to share other, more accurate methods for their weekly reports. Remember that your goal is to help them achieve theirs.
Lastly, sales leaders may need help in understanding any weaknesses or issues that may relate to their personality style.
The Blue personality typically has a tough time standing their ground when giving tough news or critiquing their people. Blues are open and genuine but have a hard time with conflict.
The Gold personality can be rigid and bossy when it comes to giving feedback. Golds need to be more flexible for each different salesperson. Golds stay on top of the numbers and can be tough on the forecast.
You will see that Greens can be more personable and conversational to build the relationship with their salespeople. Greens are great at details but can seem like they are interrogating or micro-managing.
Oranges are very people oriented and big picture. Their weakness is in the details. Even though they love to help their salespeople close deals, they don’t always get the details needed to offer good advice or to understand the details of their salespeople’s pipeline.
Here’s a great example from my own experience as a sales leader. I worked for a Gold sales VP that was very rigid on getting the forecast in by noon Friday. As an Orange personality I enjoyed going on calls with my team more than anything else and made that my priority. So, I delegated my forecast for my administrative assistant to do by the Friday deadline. My VP was quite upset that I wasn’t doing it myself and assumed that I didn’t really have the details. Maybe, but I just felt that client visits should be the priority.
That is why it’s important to understand your personality style as a leader. It helps you understand your strengths and priorities as well as better knowing how to approach each salesperson on your team. It maximizes your leadership skills and your team performance in the long-term.
Good luck with your relationship selling!
©2021 Stu Schlackman