The quote sounds like it came straight from a Hollywood writer’s room, but that shouldn’t dilute its impact. For sales managers, there’s an important lesson here.
Managing a sales team is no easy task. When push comes to shove, you’re responsible for revenue. You’re responsible for numbers. You’re responsible for meeting goals.
That’s a really big wall.
Despite these responsibilities, you can’t manage a customer to say ‘yes’. All you can do is manage your team’s actions with daily coaching. All you can do is lay a single brick as perfectly as possible.
Make sales coaching a priority
When you concentrate on improving your team’s daily actions through effective coaching, increased revenue and growth will take care of itself. So why do so many organizations treat sales coaching as an after thought? Especially when you consider how salespeople improve.
Salespeople don’t graduate from college with a degree in sales. Instead they learn on the job through doing, making mistakes, talking through those mistakes, and trying again.
A study from sales expert Neil Rackham showed that a salesperson loses 87 percent of knowledge acquired in training if he or she doesn’t receive any coaching or additional reinforcement. Your business can’t afford that inefficiency.
A lot of this comes from a disproportional amount of focus—from top leadership—on managers reporting numbers and forecasting future sales. So instead of focusing on improving sales through fervent coaching, managers spend most of their day crunching numbers and creating reports and charts. That’s expecting a wall without teaching anyone to lay a brick.
One simple solution to help sales managers free up their time to spend on coaching sessions is implementing an using a CRM. This not only speeds up the sales process and improves productivity, but managers can also generate extensive sales reports to view performance analytics at every stage of the sales cycle. That way, managers can understand what their sales team is doing right and where it needs improvement.
The only way you can influence numbers and create a succesful team is by maintaining a coaching relationship with each member until he or she discards ineffective sales behaviors and starts acting in a manner that moves customers through the sales pipeline. However, it doesn’t happen overnight.
The glory of the struggle
Smith’s father knew that building a wall would be a tough job. He expected him to struggle.
A common coaching mistake is answering every question your team brings to you. At first this may seem like the best response because it solves the problem and get your rep back on the phone, but it can be toxic in the long run.
Peri Shawn talks about this problem in her book, “Sell More with Sales Coaching.” Here, she tells a story about the time she and her brother tried to speed up the metamorphosis process of a monarch butterfly caterpillar. On one occasion, when the growing butterfly began to move and struggle in the cocoon, her brother proceeded to cut open the cocoon with an X-Acto knife. The butterfly fell to the floor with crumpled wings, and eventually died.
Shawn and her brother thought they were helping the butterfly by removing the struggle. They didn’t realize the struggle is what gave butterflies’ wings strength to fly.
As a sales manager, you want to see your team soar the same way Shawn and her brother wanted to see the butterfly fly, but removing the struggle isn’t the answer. When your sales team doesn’t fail, they don’t make the neurological connections that result in a new way of thinking and a new way of solving problems.
By embracing struggle into your sales coaching, you will begin to see true growth from your team members that results in better numbers.
Give your team the freedom to fail and grow
We’ve established that struggle is essential for your sales team’s growth, but that doesn’t mean you stay aloof while your new team members fail and get discouraged.
A common mistake managers make is not listening enough to their team members during coaching sessions. In fact, Shawn and other sales experts say coaching sessions should break down to 70 percent listening and 30 percent asking questions/sharing information.
Give your team members the freedom and space to process their thoughts and talk through what happened during recent sales calls. What did they do well? What did they struggle with? Why did the lead say no? These questions keep your coaching sessions moving toward answers because they help you understand your sales team’s needs.
Struggle without this portion of sales coaching does your team members and yourself no good. They go hand in hand. When you prioritize listening over talking, you will begin to see your team make these connections to improve their sales process without your input.
Building a wall takes time. It took Smith and his younger brother a year and a half before they laid the final brick. But when you put in the time and effort on a daily basis to improve each action, you’ll soon stand back and admire the finished product.