I’ve been spending some time writing about how the job of sales has changed dramatically over the last few years. In recent posts I outlined what I called the Disciplines of the New Sales Professional and followed that up with the Practices of the New Sales Professional.
Well, guess who else has to adapt to the new world order. That’s right, the job of an effective Sales Manager has changed radically as well.
If we are to liken the job of the new Sales Professional to something more like a Sales Guide, as I have, then too the Sales Manager must take on the expression of something much more like a Sales Coach.
If an organization is to have any chance of bringing sales and marketing onto the page where collaboration and engagement impacts the buying process a sales coach mentality must be in place.
It doesn’t matter if you’re the owner or the VP of Sales, if you want to get the most from the model of a sales guide, you’re obligated to build a culture that makes it safe and productive for every member of your sales team to practice marketing to meet sales objectives.
Like any good coach, you need a game plan and it must address your current culture and help steer your business away from traditional sales strategies and tactics. The following seven elements must be considered standard operating practices for the new sales coach.
1) Change the channel
Make an assessment of your current sales channel. How was your sales process, assuming there is one, built? How much input did your sales team have in building the process, determining how compensation is measured, crafting what an ideal lead looks like? If you are going to lead your current sales team into a world of inbound marketing you’ve got tear some things down, build some things up and make sure everyone realizes they are going to experience new freedom, new expectations, new accountability, new responsibility and a totally new way of viewing the function of sales. There’s a very interesting organizational development theory called Appreciative Inquiry (AI) that would make for an appealing approach here.
2) Bridge the gap
As stated at the outset of this post the Sales Coach is the bridge builder charged with closing the gap between the marketing and sales functions. One of the best ways to do this is to get them to understand and talk to each other. Now I know that sounds rather simplistic, but it’s how you do this that will make a difference. Instead of holding quarterly meetings where each side says what they are doing to support the other, break your marketing, sales, support and service teams into small units and compel them to go to work on segments or accounts as self managed teams. Assign team leaders and rotate each member through the role of leader every 60 or 90 days and watch how autonomy creates teamwork. You may, in your role of coach, need to guide them in productive ways, but this is how you create communication and innovation and you just might find that this changes your entire business model.
In this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast I visit with Matthew Dixon, executive director with CEB’s sales and marketing practice co author of The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation. Dixon’s work is a great addition to the conversation about the changing role of the sales professional and the sales manager.
3) Find your method
As the coach you need your team to buy into your system. In order to do this you’ve got to create a sales process or methodology that allows them succeed while differentiating their efforts from the rest of the market. Think of this group as a community. As I’ve said many times, people don’t join directives or training, they join methods, unique points of view and processes surrounded with branding. Create a common language your team can share with each other and customers. Quite often your success model exists in the self-created process of one or two of your best sales people, go find it.
4) Swallow the whistle
The Sales Coach has to teach the system, but they also have to adapt the system to the special needs of each team member. You must create the eight week training program that teaches each sales guide how to listen online, identify ideal prospects, create warm leads, find problems, build a content platform, get to a podium and increase influence and authority in the market, but you’ll also need to build a routine that helps them get better results. A good coach cements the mindset of the organization, protects the culture and teaches critical thinking skills. To do this you must create a systematic way to assess progress based on their unique abilities and provide coaching based on improving their strengths instead of meeting cold call quotas.
5) Hire freaks
If we are to accept that the role of the sales person and the various implications of strategic thinking, problem finding and content creation that goes with it have changed, it can’t be much of a stretch to suggest the make up of the prototypical star sales person has changed as well. Dexterity, empathy, pattern recognition and a whole host of technology wrangling should have organizations opening up what a Sales Guide looks like. In Re-imagine! Tom Peters famously suggested that companies should “hire freaks” and “fire all male salespeople” as a way of highlighting just how stuck in ruts most companies are.
“Freaks keep us from falling into ruts. (If we listen to them.) (We seldom listen to them.) (Which is why most of us—and our organizations—are in ruts. Make that chasms.)” – Tom Peters, Re-Imagine!
So, what does your rut look like when it comes to hiring salespeople?
6) Manage automation
Marketing automation can be downright abusive these days. Companies use it to theoretically get more sales, with less effort, faster. The fact is, most actually use it to close off any chance that a salesperson might do better if left to develop leads that fit a not so presorted and scored purchase path. By the time a lead has made it through most people’s automation funnel they are simply shopping for the best price. Automation must be employed to let a sales person be more productive now that you should be asking them to do more teaching, listening, speaking and writing.
7) Measure strength
The best coaches know how to measure success based on the individual team member. Going fully with the sports metaphor, one player may need to work on offense while another must develop defensive skills. As a coach you can’t measure all on the same path, but you must be a nut about measuring everything. The one only way to develop honest measurement, the kind you can base compensation on, is to instill a culture of transparency. Everyone in the organization must know the critical indicators and what they mean. Every sales person, or self-managed team described above, should know what their contribution costs and returns. The entire team must come to think and act like owners, with full knowledge of profit and loss, in order to build an environment where everyone knows how to win.
Lots of work here to be sure and perhaps maybe a strong evaluation of the skill set required as an owner and certainly as a VP of Sales.
If you enjoyed this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Sales.