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Sales Training Without Coaching is like Buying a Car Without a Steering Wheel

I did a presentation to a prospect a few weeks ago who is frustrated with his sales team not being able to close new business. During my probe of his particular challenges he said they conducted a “mystery shopper” test where a potential “prospect” called into their office asking questions about their product. The sales assistant properly responded by asking a few qualifying questions and told them she would have one of their sales team call them back. One lead was given to each of ten sales reps. The result? Only 3 of the 10 sales people actually called to follow up with the potential prospect.

As a manager what is your first reaction to that result?

Fire the sales people who didn’t follow up? Implement a CRM system so management can better follow up on the status of the leads? I hope you said no to each of those “solutions” (although they are viable considerations) because the correct answer is the SALES MANAGER should be fired! Is that too extreme? Stop for a moment and calculate 7 missed opportunities of a prospect calling you wanting to do business. Then add to that number potential repeat business loss, upselling loss and vertical integration opportunities lost. In this particular organization the potential was over seven figures in lost opportunities.

This particular client originally asked me to conduct sales training. Not following up on leads is not a training issue … it’s a personal skills issue. Lack of personal skills of the sales team is definitely a serious problem (results orientation, self starting, personal accountability), but more importantly, at the sales management level. I have always preached, ‘I have never seen an “average” sales force with an “outstanding” manager.’ Your sales manager sets the expectations for their direct reports and then coaches to those expectations. If the sales reps don’t perform to those expectations a top sales manager will coach them “out” and find someone who can.

Your sales manager is the steering wheel of your sales team. You may have a great looking, professional sales team (Mercedes S Class) with a lot of talented, experienced sales professionals (fully loaded options), but if your sales manager is not out in the field observing their people in the field, coaching them to expectations (steering wheel) and holding the sales team accountable to those expectations you may not even know how many lost opportunities exist within your organization.

With all the optimism of the economic recovery into 2010 most organizations are beginning with their sales teams and working with them to be out ahead of their competitors. I encourage you to “put the horse before the cart” and begin with your sales management team. If they are excited, optimistic and determined and have a solid sales process in place your sales team will rise to their level of expectations and coaching.

Submitted by:
Steve McCreedy