The best thing you can do to make your sales team better…

Photo by WoodleyWonderWorks via Flicker

Photo by WoodleyWonderWorks via Flicker

Sales management may be one of the hardest things a business owner has to do. Managing a sales person (or a sales team) successfully can be a real challenge. If you’re too loose about it, then you’ve abdicated your primary revenue stream and you’re left hoping that things work out. If you manage it too tightly, you will chase people off if / when they perceive it as a no-win situation.

Ideally you and your sales team want the same outcome – more quality sales with customers who are a great fit for what you do. So just like the coach of a team will review the last game and look for areas to improve – maybe it’s time for you to do a sales call debrief with each member of your sales team.

It starts with a consistent sales process

If you’re going to have repeatable success with sale, if you’re going to have anything to review, you need to have a sales process that you and your team follow consistently.

There’s a horribly unproductive myth in the business world that some people are just ‘natural’ sales people and simply talk to prospective customers and work their magic. The implication is that sales success solely depends on finding this magical person and hoping you can keep them happy – a tall order for several reasons and luckily it’s not true.

You don’t  and shouldn’t rely on ‘the natural’ – instead focus on a proven sales strategy / process that works for a lot of different people. Your sales team still need skills and attributes – knowledge about your products and services, ability to ask great questions, the ability to actively listen, establish rapport, etc., but there’s nothing magical about it.

Additional good news – the process doesn’t have to be horribly rigid or complicated. Most successful sales programs use a few simple phases to keep track of where you are in the overall selling process with that client. It could be as simple as a few steps – 1. Diagnosing the issue and the cost impacts, 2. Understanding what they need to make a decision and 3. Making a proposal.

Whatever your process is, the important thing is that you and your team have planned out ahead of time what steps you’re going to take prospective clients through in order to either get to a sale or to drop the prospects. Often getting to ‘no’ quickly is one of the most productive things you can do in sales.

Review the game film

The team has a game plan (the sales process) – but that’s just the beginning and the best way to learn is to review the ‘game film’ from a recent meeting and see how well the game plan was executed.

As the sales manager you have to be careful doing this – if it’s going to work, you have to present the idea in a positive way – remember you and your team are all trying to achieve the same goals, so the purpose of the sales call debrief is a constructive review to help your sales person get better. You’re coaching them on improvement, not telling them what they did wrong. They’ll be naturally defensive, but if your team learns they can trust you to help them everything will work much better.

Here’s the approach – setup a weekly meeting with each person on your sales team individually. At the meeting, pick a sales call from the previous week and again emphasize the purpose of getting together is to learn from the experience and apply the learning towards making future sales calls more effective.

Be prepared – develop and use a sales call debriefing checklist that covers the high points of your process. The checklist will ask questions about each step of the process. By following an objective, consistent approach to the debriefing, the sales team will know what to expect and get comfortable with your meetings.

Ask your sales person what they did well or what the positives were. Also ask them where they thought things could have gone better…or what might have been missed.

Finally – make sure you focus on next steps for that particular sales opportunity, have them suggest a strategy and then brainstorm if needed to really build on their ideas.

By consistently focusing on the overall sales process and on their performance, you will be reinforcing your approach to sales and setting strong expectations on what it takes to succeed – you have to be positive, encouraging and consistent for this to pay off, but nothing else you do as a sales manager can have more positive benefits than this kind of regular coaching.

Have you ever done a detailed sales call debriefing with someone on your team? How well would this work for you? Where do you think you might get stuck? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach