Editor's Note: This post has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness on September 8, 2020.
Growing sales begins with the sales leadership team, not the sales producers. So, if there is a desire to grow or continue growing, place more thought, programs and continuing education against the sales leadership team. In that spirit, here are five coaching activities and behaviors our research supports that will help you consistently grow sales:
1) Treat everyone uniquely:
There used to be a school of thought that everyone on a team has to be treated the same way, which has now proven to be a bogus approach to sales team motivation. If you have eight people on your team you have eight unique individuals, at least eight different motivators, eight different goals, and as a result, eight different ways to coach.
This is not to say those on your team don’t adapt to you as well, for there are some behaviors that dictate culture you may deem as non-negotiable. Consider honesty, candor, work ethic, urgency, goal achievement, etc. as areas where standards are lived by you and expected from all on your team.
Tip: Ask everyone to fill in a goals sheet that includes discussions around professional and personal goals. Here is an example.
2) Connect with everyone on your team:
In one of my previous sales leadership roles, there was a front-line coach on my team who had recently lost a sales rep, which she honestly stated was a complete surprise. And, while this can happen, it wasn’t the first departure from her team that year.
When visiting with her about this attrition issue, I shared that surprise departures should be the exception and not the norm, and if you have truly connected with those on your team you will likely know when someone is considering leaving your team. Her surprised look was memorable and she responded with “are you telling me my team should tell me if they are considering taking another job?” And my response was succinct and simple… “Yes”.
Tip: One-to-one coaching meetings are what our research shows as a great, structured way to connect with those on your team. Download this 1:1 template.
3) Implement a coaching methodology:
If one of your front-line sales coaches asked what they should do more or less of, how would you respond? Senior sales leaders have been remiss by not providing their sales coaches with a structured, disciplined coaching methodology that leads to more successful sales outcomes.
The method should address what coaches should do with each rep and how often they should do it. Coaching standards should be set around all coaching activities and there should be objective measurements of coaching quality and quantity.
Tip: Learn more about how you can measure the quantity and quality of coaching in this resource.
4) Challenge, challenge, challenge:
Recently I gave an address to the senior law review students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Law. Prior to this lovely evening, when their representative approached and asked if I would do this brief key note, my visceral response was “no”, but thought about what we know and teach our sales leader clients… growth only occurs when we are uncomfortable.
There were many obvious reasons not to do the speech; law students are not our market, it takes time away from serving our clients, I could spend more quality time at home, I’m too busy (though I hate this response), etc. However, if I were to personally apply the discomfort standard there was only one reason to do the speech, but it was powerful. So, I acquiesced and agreed to do the keynote.
The critical point here is that most humans do not like to create discomfort for ourselves, we actually do the opposite by finding an order or routine that becomes hard to break, thereby limiting our growth. Sales revenue is certainly no exception, for results in a state of “order” will wane and eventually decline.
And the only way to off-set this inevitable slide is with challenge. It is a coach’s job to apply the right amount of challenge (aka: complexity) to each team member. Complexity causes discomfort, which leads to growth, and as a result this skill becomes a major responsibility of high performing catalytic coaches. Watch my TEDx Talk that speaks on this topic of order and complexity.
5) Fail and then try again:
Screw it up. When I say this, don’t err by doing nothing or too little, always err on the other end of the spectrum. Push your people too hard for a brief period of time, roll out a new product in a different way, set a goal that seems ridiculous, try an idea that doesn’t work, give those on your team too much responsibility, etc. Likewise, create a culture that allows those on your team to fail. Without having this culture in place, team members will be afraid to take a risk, and as we learned in #4 above, living in order for too long is unacceptable.
Tip: Check out The Coaching Effect book for more ideas of pushing your people and yourself into complexity which is the only way to grow.
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