Sales Coaching: To Bear Fruit, Build on the Fundamentals

By David Szen

If you’re like most sales managers, your inbox is crammed with the latest and greatest coaching secrets. Each year, hundreds of books and workshops promise new techniques to help your sales team exceed its targets, out-sell the competition, and generate greater-than-ever revenues.

But let’s get real: year after year, does the art and science of coaching actually change all that much?  Has selling evolved in a way that requires a brand new perspective every cycle?

We think not. In fact, we’ve come to see successful sales coaching as more incremental than transformative. It’s like tending an orchard. Tree farmers read up on new techniques in irrigation, fertilization and pest control, but the essentials – the best practices – evolve. Same with sales coaching: While new models and methods can be useful, sales leaders who build on the fundamentals are likely to get the best results.

If you have one bad harvest, you don’t uproot your entire orchard; you go back to the ABCs, make small-but-continual improvements based on new knowledge, maybe prune a few under-performers – and pretty soon your efforts will bear fruit.

But what does an effective sales coach look like? And what are the basics of the discipline?

In this blog, we look at the fundamentals of sales coaching – the traits of great coaches, coaching to the bell curve, and managing sales reports.

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A Sales Leader's First 90 Days: Preparing for Day One

By Hope Eyre

A few weeks ago, we published a blog for sales leaders embarking on new roles that launched our multi-part exploration of how leaders approach their first 90 days and what we can learn from their experiences. The topic was born from a startling statistic: The average tenure of a Sales VP working in the same role at the same company is incredibly brief – about 18 months.

This is the first of four articles that, together, will tackle what we believe are the top 90-day challenges facing sales leaders taking on a new role:

  1. Cutting down on the initial chaos
  2. Learning your new organization deeply within 30 days
  3. Obtaining early wins to establish momentum
  4. Assessing organizational alignment with Sales and setting longer-term strategy

Seasoned professionals may glance at this list and think, “thanks for pointing out the obvious.”

But here’s the thing.

Sales is a messy business full of messy human beings, each with his own capabilities, expectations, personal goals, learning style, and political agenda.

Understanding them, harnessing their unique power, and avoiding mishaps is no mean feat – regardless of how much experience you have or the size of the operation you assume.

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The Sales Resource Challenge -- How Many, How to Align?

By Michael Perla

According to Harvard Business Review, companies spent $800B on sales force compensation and another $15B on sales training in 2015.  If you add in another $15B investment in CRM according to Gartner, companies spent $830B on people, people development and enabling technologies, which is roughly 5% of total US Gross Domestic Product.  This is a staggering amount of money invested to deliver revenue growth. 

Contrast this figure to the investment we make annually in optimizing the return on that investment.  Once a year, typically during the budget process, we sit down and think through how many sales people we need in the organization.  We may base our sizing assumptions on how we performed this year, our revenue targets for the upcoming year, or a financial analysis of the costs (e.g., recruiting, on-boarding) versus the benefits (revenue ramp-up time). 

More often than not, we devote too little time prioritizing our customers, determining our coverage model, and sizing our sales teams. Our need to reassess is magnified when there have been major market or competitive shifts or if our company has grown through acquisition.

We all know the value of rebalancing our 401K to drive greater returns on our investment portfolio.  Yet, as collective stewards of nearly $1 trillion in sales investment, the question remains – why do we place so little time and effort in driving a greater return on our investment in sales? 

To answer that question, we developed an in-depth guide around the components of Sales Resource Optimization (SRO), including the 4 C’s of customers, coverage, capacity and capabilities. More and more of our clients are annually re-assessing how they organize and deploy sales resources to ensure they are keeping up with market/customer changes, which are happening at an accelerated pace today.

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The Generational Mentality Map

By David Szen

The composition of generations in the workforce today is different than ever before. Each generation has unique traits that impact the way people think, communicate, and buy. It can be a tricky selling environment, especially if you do not understand and embrace these nuances.  

So, how can you equip your sales force to sell across generations? Here is your field-tested cheat sheet to help you better understand - and sell to - Millennials, Gen-Xers, and Boomers.

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The First 90 Days for a Sales Leader: A Guide to Success

By Hope Eyre

If you’re a Sales VP and you’ve been in the same role for more than 2 years – Congratulations, you’re above average (like a child from Lake Wobegon). You’ve already exceeded the average Sales VP shelf life of 18 months. Statistically, it’s just a matter of time before you change jobs.

Maybe you’re a veteran to the role, but you’ve taken on a far larger sales organization than you’ve ever led before. Maybe you’re a brand new Sales VP and are still shaping your leadership skills.

Maybe your company just reorganized, and you find yourself heading up an entirely different sales organization than the one you had previously – or even more daunting, you’ve been charged with building one out of whole cloth.

And maybe you’re hovering around that 18-month mark, and circumstances are making you wonder whether you should start looking.

So many of our long-term clients include sales leaders who’ve moved from one company to another (often more than once) that we decided to build a guide for achieving quick wins, avoiding pitfalls and setting a clear, long-term sales strategy within The First 90 Days.

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Why Leaders Are Failing At Managing Their Generationally Diverse Sales Teams

By Erica Abt

Have you ever heard an experienced sales manager complain about the “young sellers” on their team who demand inordinate attention and TLC, lack accountability, and quickly jump ship to a new and exciting roles elsewhere?

The topic of Millennials and their prevalence in the work place is not uncommon and while many seasoned professionals complain about their insurgence, I rarely hear of helpful tips or useful recommendations of how to successfully manage these “odd creatures”.

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Sales Leaders, Did You Make the Right Decision?

By Michael Perla

It was a cold December morning. I was in a corner office of a VP of Sales (a client), talking about the sales pipeline. During this conversation, he lamented to me about all the paperwork and reports he is asked to complete. “Sometimes I feel like I’m just re-arranging deck chairs,” he said. “We can stare at the numbers for days, but at some point we need to take action. I’m buried in data … and it’s not helping.”

So how does a sales leader find the right balance between data and decision?

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5 Must-Haves to Nail Your Sales Kick-Off Meeting

By David Szen

A Sales Kick-Off meeting (SKO) is a huge investment for any company gathering more than 100 sellers in one place to gear up for a new year. In our experience participating in myriads of SKOs, we have seen an unfortunate disconnect between what companies think they’re delivering versus what their sales teams are actually taking away. While companies leave their SKOs believing their sellers are energized and educated, attendees often view the experience as a three-day string of mundane sessions, offering little or no tangible takeaways to use in their sales activities going forward.

What are the elements that make a great Sales Kick-Off meeting and what are the pitfalls to avoid?

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The Sales Transformation Dilemma – To Tweak or To Transform?

By Michael Perla

"Sometimes a tweak (delivered through training or a new tool) is all a sales force needs; other times, a full-bore transformation is in order."

The quote above was part of a book I co-authored with Warren Shiver entitled the 7 Steps to Sales Force Transformation. In the book, one topic we discuss is the difference between a sales force transformation and a tweak. Since the book release in January, we have received a lot of questions around tweaks versus transformations. What exactly do we mean by sales force transformation? As a sales leader, what are some qualifying questions I can ask that help me assess if a transformation -- or a tweak in the right areas -- is the right approach?

In response to these great questions, we have created additional tools and resources for sales leaders to understand the difference between these two options and which would have the best impact on their sales organizations.

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The Highs and Lows of Sales: Part III

By Erica Abt

If you read the first two editions of “The Highs and Lows of Sales,” you probably agree that achieving cyclical sales goals is hard, whether you are an individual sales representative or a manager. Here are a few tips that have helped me find stability when facing challenging business expectations – I hope they help you, too.

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