We as sales managers have a critical shortfall to overcome if we wish to cultivate sales growth. That is, we are often late to the party. When I ask participants in my sales coaching training seminars about their coaching habits, many report stepping in to act after a salesperson on their team has a deal fall through or gets a bad result.

We then become known to our teams as the person who steps in after-the-fact only when they mess up. It is no surprise in such circumstances that what we have to say is viewed as criticism, rather than constructive feedback. The problem is, this doesn’t put our team in the best mindset to listen to us, and nor does them knowing what to do after the fact serve them best.

Think of it this way: after the recent Super Bowl, Monday-morning quarterbacks on the Atlanta side of the field became convinced that the Falcons should have run the ball toward the end of the game to take more time off the clock and secure their victory. Yet, what good does it do to comment on that now? It is far better for coaches to act during the “game,” when it can help the results turn out as we hope.

That said, here are three tips you can use to help your salespeople get the results you both desire the first time, leaving room for faster growth.

  1. Gauge Presentation Preparedness – You know that there is an important presentation to a potential customer in the near future, but you’re not quite sure if your salesperson is ready. Rather than leaving them to their own devices and then touching base after the presentation to analyze their mistakes, instead ask them a series of customer- and buying-focused questions.

Some good examples might be to inquire about their understanding of the customer’s buying criteria, their awareness of deal-specific competitive edges and disadvantages, how they can influence the customer’s criteria to be a better match for what you’re offering, and why the customer should buy from you.

If your salesperson cannot answer these questions, or fails to make clear links between the customer’s needs and what your company has to offer, then you can guide them through what they or the potential client need to do in order to get the answers needed to be fully prepared for a strong presentation.

  1. Engage in Early-Cycle Sales Coaching – There is a natural tendency to want to focus on the end of the sales process: making deals, selling the customer on your strengths, and so on. Yet, the place where the customer determines if you can help them, whether the fix is worth it, and how much of an investment they’re willing to put into it, is all basically at the start of the sales process in the first few meetings. Without probing at that stage, there is limited room for improvement.

Train your sales reps to slow down and spend more time on the initial stages of the sales process, discussing needs with the potential customer. Have them ask questions to get customers to think about what problems they have and recognize their own needs you can address, as well as seeing the numbers in terms of what the problem is costing them, how widespread it is, and how many jobs hang in the balance. By doing this, the customer will actively want your help.

By bringing the customer to the concept in such a way, helping them see their own need and the costs of inaction, they can be motivated to buy.

Never underestimate the benefit of looking at the situation from the buyer’s perspective.

I often tell participants in my sales management training sessions, if your sales team can see why the particular customer might be interested, they can address the buyer on their terms.

  1. Identify Skill Deficiencies – When the Sales Management Association conducted research on sales coaching in 2014-2015, they asked sales managers to rank 13 topics in order of how often they come up in coaching conversations. Amazingly, identifying skill deficiencies ranked #12 on the list, falling just below “instruction on administrative processes.” Essentially, more time was spent teaching salespeople how to fill out proper paperwork than on improving sales skills.

Yet, the same study also found that, out of all of the list items, “identifying skill deficiencies” had the greatest influence on company revenue growth. We sales managers must put ourselves in a position to offer valuable and insightful coaching that helps each rep get better.

We often get so caught up in a conversation about how to win a deal that we forget about the development of the rep.

Be proactive in identifying the skill and will deficiencies in each member of your team, and work with them to develop those specific skills that will help improve their overall progress. To be an effective developmental coach, you need to focus your efforts on your #1 priority – developing your team’s future success!.


Kevin F. Davis is the author of “The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness: 10 Essential Strategies for Leading Your Team to the Top.” The book is now available on Amazon.com here:

Guide to Greatness book

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *