Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Executive Sales Success – Coaching Can Make the Difference

a coach's whistle is pictured on the turf

Meetings at the top with executive decision makers are the often most angst-ridden situations for salespeople. They know how much rides on their ability to connect on a personal level, to impress on a professional level, and to bring value to the discussion. Their stress is high and yet they need to project confidence and a sense that they belong in the room and at the executive table. This is what executive sales training is all about…preparing sales reps for what they need to know and how they need to behave for success in the C-suite.

But sales training is just the beginning. Program participants become aware of the challenges and how, at least in theory, to overcome them. But learning is an ongoing experience. It comes a little at a time and as the learner is in real-world settings. One lesson here, another lesson there. In the meantime, though, opportunities may have been lost. 

We know that coaching and on-the-job reinforcement can make the difference. Our research shows that it makes a 4-to-1 difference.  Learners receive feedback from successful sales reps on what they could do better next time.  As sales manager, you owe your learners the support and development they need to succeed.

If you have enough sales coaches to accompany newer folks on all their calls, great. However, this is probably not the best use of your top talent’s time. Your best sales folks are not always available or willing to give up their own opportunities to mentor another. The result is that your newbies are “practicing” in real time. Do you even know how many opportunities have been lost due to their inexperience and the painful lessons learned while right in front of the customer?

There is an answer. Use videos. This can work in two ways. Re-enact actual selling situations…first to show how it should be done and next to get feedback.

1. Your top talent can show learners how it is done.
Re-create the conversations between your experienced sales rep and customer executives. Throw in obstacles and challenges to the sale. Learners have a chance to observe how such problems are addressed. They can learn the language and attitudes that work. They will see how well prepared they must be, that executives are interested in business results rather than technical details, and that they should come armed with something of value like a fresh insight or special subject matter expertise.

2. Video your learners in real-world scenarios for coaches to observe and critique.
Give learners a chance to practice, review their performance and reflect upon feedback from coaches who can watch the videos when convenient for them. Learners can practice again and again in a safe setting. 

Soon your executive sales trainees, with the video help of your top talent, will be ready for the big time.

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