This entry is the flipside to last week’s blog about effective ways to coach a sales team. This time we are focusing on the members of the sales team and we’re speaking to YOU. Are you coachable?
Think back to when you were younger, perhaps playing baseball or soccer. You had a coach whose responsibility it was to teach you new skills and reinforce the skills you already possessed. And, surely you remember the kid on the team (maybe it was you) who had raw talent but was too headstrong to be coachable and therefore was a wasted asset for the team. Today, we realize that the player with mediocre talent who was willing to listen and open to learning new things wound up making a more significant contribution in the long run.
These same principles apply today in the professional sales coaching world.
Unless you’re in the upper echelon of sales professionals or struggling at the very bottom, chances are you’re in the middle 60% who are getting by: hitting quota most months, completing administrative work, and getting a decent commission check. Wouldn’t you like to achieve more and improve sales performance?
Look to your manager; and keep an open mind.
No matter how much you think you already know about sales for your company; and regardless of how you feel about your manager, that person is in their position for a reason. Chances are, they have valuable insight to share with you.
The next time your manager calls for a meeting or ride-along, think of it as an opportunity rather than extra scrutiny and punishment. Coaching and the added attention are meant to examine your sales performance and to discover ways to increase your numbers. You know where you stand on the leader board, so why not accept the coaching and see if it leads you to leap-frogging a few spots toward the top and at the same time bringing home a fatter paycheck?
Don’t take it personally.
During a coaching session, your manager will have a discussion with you about your sales performance. This might include sales metrics, but also may encompass a review of your prospecting, territory management, and presentation and closing skills. A strong manager will include some praise and validation of the aspects of your position that you are doing correctly; along with this will be some constructive criticism.
Keep in mind this is not a pre-meditated attack on your reputation, intelligence, or honor. In most people, there is an immediate response to go on the defensive when we hear someone, especially our manager, say something less than glowing about us. Fight the urge to give a knee-jerk response such as, “But I always follow up promptly,” or “I always file my sales reports on time.” A good manager will be prepared with specific examples and numbers analysis. You too should be prepared, and a large part of your preparation is to anticipate some areas that your manager would like to see improved.
Listen and ask questions.
Use this time as an opportunity to learn how to better yourself as a sales professional. Put yourself in the mindset of a negotiation or a consultation. Listen, take notes, and ask questions that clarify the issues. Think to yourself, “So what I’m hearing is I need to do a better job of following up with customers. I’ll do that and make sure that my manager knows. This is a way I can improve my performance.”
Say “Thank you.”
It is important to show your appreciation for the time your manager has spent with you. Ask for continued feedback. Show that you are coachable and that you welcome his or her input to assist you in becoming a sales superstar!
Remember that added attention can lead to more resources (e.g., marketing money), more sharing of best practices, and more opportunities to make sales. Soon you might find yourself at the top of the leader board!