Kelly was one of those individuals most people think has the character of a born salesperson: a winning Hollywood-quality smile; an easygoing manner that never failed to put customers at ease; always a funny anecdote in his back pocket in meetings over lunch; a superb combination of intuition, persuasiveness and product knowledge. He seemed to have it all – but his effort wasn’t converting into sales.
Kelly the sales associate was demoralized – and his boss, Clive, who brought me in as an outsourced sales manager, was perplexed. If it kept up, Kelly was going to have to go – and that was something nobody wanted. Clive asked me straight out: “Everybody likes Kelly. How could we turn his natural aptitudes into winning sales results?”
Well, that’s a big part of your problem right there. An abundance of charm, funny stories and good looks will only help you get your foot in the door in most cases. But there’s far more to successful sales than that. Almost as soon as I got to talk directly with Kelly, I realized that he knew what needed to be done – he just didn’t know how to get there.
The difference between a sales coach and a sales manager is stark
Kelly didn’t just need a sales manager to lay out a strategy or give broad direction. He needed a sales coach: someone who could give him a game plan and one-one-one, specialized insight in how to get past his challenges in closing sales. Coaching isn’t training that takes time away from the sales rep’s job – it becomes part of their job, identifying specific problems, giving the candidate the tools they need to get results and letting them solve the problem.
As a sales coach, I identified five areas where I could teach Kelly how to up his game:
Contacting the Right Person. How do you get past the gatekeeper? Who is the real decision-maker? Whether you’re cold-calling, following up from a trade show or getting back to an inbound marketing lead who just happened to fill out a request for more information, you need a process that is repeatable and someone to help you brainstorm on approach and objections. This is just basic sales strategy.
Qualifying the Lead. Kelly knew that half of his leads were garbage; he just didn’t know which half. I helped him focus on the questions he needed to ask to qualify faster. A fast “no” during the qualification stage is better than a long, drawn-out “maybe”, letting you focus more time and energy on the customers who want to say “yes”.
Developing the Sales Funnel. Selling takes patience and a commitment to building that customer relationship. Kelly needed help understanding how to get the customer through all stages of the process – and where it would be possible to skip ahead to close the paperwork on the deal.
In this case, it didn’t hurt that Kelly was so open to coaching in the first place and was very cognizant of the gaps in his process. Once those gaps were identified, putting forward an action plan to succeed was fairly straightforward. It wasn’t long before he was meeting and exceeding his sales targets and his movie-star smile was back on display.
A sales manager gives direction. A sales coach gives training that helps associates do their best with what they have – and your people can always do better.