The Importance of a Great Sales Coach
In the last few weeks, the US Women’s National Soccer team took the world by storm—they are now back-to-back World Cup champions.
This team is unique, and has certainly captured the hearts of old and new fans for plenty of reasons—but one particular stat stood out to us as we thought about our own clients and the challenges of putting together a great sales team: Jill Ellis, the USWNT coach, is first coach for men or women in United States history (and second in the entire world) to win two World Cup titles. To find her sole counterpart, you’d have to go back to Italy in the 1930s. Undoubtedly, a huge part of this team’s success must be owed to Ellis. But often, that’s about as far as the conversation goes: Wow, what a great coach!
From Jill Ellis, to Steve Kerr, to Phil Jackson, we know great coaches makes a difference, but we really don’t talk about the “why” or “how” all too much. If you’re interested in taking your sales coaching to the next level, come along with us as we explore a little bit of why great sales coaches make a difference for their employees—and the organization—and how exactly you can get to that next level yourself.
The Myth of The Great Manager
When we’re really pressed, what do we say makes a great manager or coach? Is it their education? Their resume? Personality? Some perfect combination of all three and then a few other very specific things?
Here’s the trap we get stuck in a little too often: we put the burden on a single woman or man’s shoulders, and expect them to carry their organization across the finish line. We thinks it’s about charisma, or an “x factor” that they have as a leader—which, when you dig even deeper, just translates to “they’re special, and we got lucky.”
But that’s far from the truth. In a recent article exploring the value of great coaches, The Wall Street Journal’s Sam Walker compares the opinions of two men who have an exceptional amount of experience with good leadership: The Golden State Warrior’s Andre Iguodala, and Silicon Valley giant Bill Campbell.
At first glance, it might seem, Walker says, that the two diverge on their opinion about leadership. For Bill, he was a truly unique individual who had leadership skills that simply can’t be taught in a classroom. He was almost transcendent. But from Andre’s perspective, he points out, “a team’s ability to win depends less on the coach’s modus operandi than how well the players organize themselves around” or even against that M.O. But Walker goes on to show how these two ideas converge into one ultimate key for great leadership.
Are you ready? “Mr. Iguodala, like Mr. Campbell,” writes Walker “believed that a coach’s influence is only as strong as the team allows it to be. A captain’s job, he believes, is to adapt the team to its coach.” You might be saying to yourself that sounds like a lot of basketball talk and I’m an inside sales manager. What does this have to do with my job? And when did we start hiring people with the job title of Captain? The key point is this: A coach, or, in our parlance, a manager
, can only be as good as the team under them. Great sales coaching starts from the very first hire you make. But for most of us, those hires have already been made—and if you’re struggling to get your team’s groove together, we certainly don’t suggest firing everyone just to start with a blank slate.
For any manager to thrive, you need to inspire a team mentality in your organization from top to bottom. And it works in the reverse: a sales organization will not live up to its full potential unless they have a clear vision, unified goals, and a desire to succeed as a single unit. You need people on both sides of the ball—that is, “coaches” and “players”—who want that same ultimate result.
One Team, One Goal
So that’s a little bit about the “why” of great sales coaching, and now here’s a simple, practical part of the “how” that you can introduce to your team as soon as this week: goal-setting. A huge part of keeping your employees engaged and motivated is by helping them to see the broader purpose in what they’re doing. That comes in a number of different ways, at both the individual level and the corporate level.
First, they have to be oriented around how their performance directly affects their individual life. Do they have a life-goal that’s tied to a stronger Q3 performance? Is there a vacation they’ve been itching for, or a new addition to their house that they can tie to better numbers and performance?
Secondly, there are the corporate goals? How does their performance better the organization as a whole? It may sound a little “rah-rah,” but it’s been proven time and time again: When employees understand how their job positively impacts the business they’re tied to, they find a deeper sense of purpose and meaning in their role, which directly leads to increased achievement.
Take some time to sit down with your team this week and map out those goals. Not only will it make them feel seen and known, but it will give everyone the renewed sense of clarity they didn’t know they needed.
Final Thought: Leadership Is More Than a Title
You may be reading this piece and thinking that this doesn’t apply to you—maybe you’re not a manager yet, or your office doesn’t work in a “team” structure. But leadership is a whole lot more than a title—just ask Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, or Alyssa Naeher. As we learned above, it’s about folks who have a mindset to achieve more—not just for themselves, but for their whole organization.
Don’t wait for a promotion to start acting like a leader in your office. You’ll be amazed at how a simple change in mindset will not only impact your own performance, but even help to bring others along with you.
3 Habits Worth Reinforcing With Your Sales Team
What’s a good habit that you’ve got and practice daily? For me, it’s keeping a to-do list and checking things off as I finish each task. It keeps me organized and prepared for the day ahead, and the simple action of checking each to-do off motivates me to do even more. So you’re thinking, what do habits have to do with sales?
Everything, really. Habits build you up for success. Without my to-do list, I feel lost and, truly, a bit out of place. This just brings my whole day out of whack. Habits, in sales, bring you the same benefits my list brings me. They’re a great way to get into the groove of things, build momentum, and keep things in check. Here’s how building habits in sales can help you reach success:
1. Following up
You should never be afraid to follow up with a prospect. It seems like it might be an annoying or tedious task, seeing as you already reached out and the natural thing for someone to do is reply back. But that’s not how the world works. Unexpected meetings are scheduled, projects get pushed past deadlines, and emails pile up. As a salesperson, you know this last one to be very true.
So you can’t blame anyone but yourself when they don’t respond. Instead of playing the waiting game, send a quick follow up and offer assistance to possible roadblocks that might be preventing them from responding to you. Keep it short and sweet. Sales guru Aaron Ross says, “Don’t be afraid to follow up on your follow-ups; just do it in friendly ways. The only way you’ll be annoying is by actually being annoying.” (Check out more sales expert advice here.)
Once you get those responses rolling in, you’re back on track to building up your pipeline and that much closer to meeting (and even beating) your quotas.
2. Updating records – asap
The biggest faux pas of any department: keeping records up-to-date. It’s a toughy, for sure. Why are we so quick to toss this task aside? It’s easy to think Oh, I’ll do it later or Yeah, I’ll remember that if it comes up again. But when the time comes, do you ever remember? How often are you talking with a prospect where you’re rummaging through your CRM for a note on the guy and nothing pops up?
At this point, you’re wondering if you’re crazy and thinking I know I had something about him. What you failed to do was update the record as soon as the call ended or email came in. Making these notes and updating your leads builds the foundation to getting through the sales funnel. Great deals won come from salespeople who are familiar with their prospect’s wants and needs; and that means staying organized.
If it’s time you’re stuck on and you’ve got back-to-back calls, here’s a quick tip: Keep a notepad in front of you and take notes during calls or as you read the emails, making sure you’re ID’ing each note with the lead’s name, of course. Set aside some time every day on your calendar to update the records with notes you’ve taken. This way, you’re ensuring the records get updated, and you have something to look back on.
3. Putting the prospect before yourself
People don’t like when they feel like they’re getting sold to. And, being a salesperson trying to sell, that’s a hard one to get past.
The actual feeling people dislike is feeling bombarded with your product’s features, that it’s #1 in the industry, and how it’s something they absolutely need. Hello? Did we get disconnected? But isn’t that what selling is? Not really. You’re talking to a human being here and you should keep that in mind when you’re speaking with your prospects. Selling is listening to your customers first, understanding their wants and needs, then seeing if there’s a fit. There’s no point in starting out with guerilla warfare tactics and spitting out sales pitches left and right.
The person on the other line wants to feel like they’re being heard. Once you start listening and understanding what their pain points are, you can chime in and really shine with a personalized pitch. Let them know, “This is exactly how we can help you.”
It’s not easy building habits, but practice makes perfect. Try these habits out, or maybe just one to start with. Make it a point this week to do at least one of these and see how it plays out. Great habits are formed daily and require consistent commitment. So with that, believe that you can and you will.
The Pros and Cons of Hiring Sports-Minded Sales Reps
Being a sales leader is much like being the coach for a sports team. When a coach is facing an upcoming draft, they look for athletes with a few key characteristics. Players with a natural athleticism, competitiveness and team spirit, as well as a drive for success, will be key for their season. According to Hoopla’s VP of Sales, Mike Andersen, managers should be looking for sales reps with similar personalities to athletes. In fact, Mike says some of his best employees either play sports, or have the mindset much like an athlete. But before you decide to hire only retired 49ers, lets take a look at the pros and cons of hiring sports-minded employees…
1. Competitive by Nature
Athletes are almost always competitive by nature, and the same goes for sales reps. To succeed in sales you need to be built with a certain ambition, a trait often found in lifelong athletes. Having competitive sales reps means your team will be constantly tracking their results and looking for new ways to improve and succeed. You can teach your sale reps many things, but a drive to win should come naturally.
2. Athletes Know They Need to Work to Succeed
While most athletes have a drive to win, an exceptional athlete understands that hard work and practice are vital to success. Managers need their sales reps at work early each morning, making more calls than the day before, and following through with each lead until they land the sale. A good rep understands that wins will not be handed to them, there are no shortcuts, and they need to be constantly improving to succeed.
3. Athletes Know How to be Coached A
good sales rep, like a good athlete, will be able to change tactics when necessary, and listen to a manager’s advice. They need to be able to hold themselves accountable when results are low, and have a hunger to learn how to improve their performance. With the right coaching these types of sales reps will be encouraged to play their best game.
4. Team Players
Another great aspect of hiring sports-minded people is they often foster great “team spirit.” A good sales rep thrives off the encouragement and energy of, not only their coach, but also their peers. They understand how a team operates, and they will understand how their actions every day effect the other sales reps in your organization.
1. Watch Out for Competition Between Sales Reps
Sales is a demanding career, which is why it often attracts competitive individuals. But this also means it can be easy for employees to lose sight of the “team” goal and focus only on their personal goals. A good rep should be in constant competition with themselves, not willing the person next to them to do poorly. In the right type of environment, with the right coaching, sales reps will encourage one another and understand the company’s goal is just as important as their own.
2. Becoming Discouraged Easily
A sales rep at the beginning of their career might start out strong, but their need to win and early enthusiasm could hurt them in the long term. Being in sales means learning how to be a good winner as well as a good loser. Managers need to recognize when a sales rep is being overly hard on themselves, and help them to take control of their sales. Being in sales means a lot of highs and lows, so why not make the best of it? Managers should foster celebration and recognition to help sales reps associate work with accomplishment and positivity.