Developing Sales Talent: Art, Science or Theory?

By David Szen on Aug 21, 2012

2 Minute Estimated Read Time

Regardless of your own answer to the question let’s face the facts.  If you stop everything you are doing right now and call 100 sales reps across a diverse industry pool and ask the following questions you WILL get the following answers:


  1. Describe the key quality of your least favorite leader – “He/she micro-managed me.”
  2. Describe the key attribute of your best leader – “He/she let me do what I needed to do and was there when I needed help.”
  3. Do you have a sales leader in mind that really helped develop your career- “Yes, it’s ______ and he she………. insert long answer/story of inspiration.”

What is the magic?  There is no magic.  Sales leaders do, without question, impact the performance and development of sales talent – regardless of tenure. It’s not about CRM, sales meetings, pipeline management, opportunity analysis or hiring the best and brightest.  It’s about figuring out specifically what your people need to be able to do, isolating key skills, diagnosing competence and then helping people be the best they can be in a way that suits their preferences. It’s no different than great coaches in sports (e.g., John Wooden).


Symmetrics Group has developed a sales coaching and leadership development approach that helps the sales coach amp up day-to-day coaching skills in a very focused and repeatable way.

RULE #1 – True sales coaching ONLY happens in the field.  Other interactions, while important, are missing two key things – Pressure and the customer/prospect.  Without them you are seeing 50% of the picture, or LESS.


Right out the gate it’s critical to understand that world-class sales organizations have clearly identified the sales competencies needed to succeed.  That is where we start.  The more clear and aligned companies can get on what skills are truly needed vs. knowledge - the better.  Why?  Too often organizations spend time, money and resources trying to coach things that matter but do not move the needle.  Business acumen, while obviously important, is less critical to the sales process than handling sales objections and questioning skills.  Yet companies will toil over sales meetings about the newest fangled “thing” they are taking to the market.


Diagnosing competence is a building block to our approach to sales coaching.  Observation and one-on-one coaching tell the sales leader whether the seller is learning, developing, performing or a master.  Why is this so critical?  Because the coach must determine whether he/she has to teach, coach, support, demonstrate, monitor or maybe even delegate some teaching of others.  The program trains your eyes through the use of scenarios but then digs even deeper through the use of sales videos.  Symmetrics builds custom videos that show your sales process live and in action.  We do this so leaders can focus on observing the sales interaction and not trying to figure out how to role-play a made up scenario. We understand this and the videos really do make a huge difference.  It’s like watching game tape which we all know is how game plans are built.


Then comes some science – HBDI (Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument).  This model is a proven way for people to understand their own thinking preferences andsee the clues in their own direct reports and customers.  Leaders gain the knowledge needed to drive powerful results.  HBDI is applied to coaching techniques in a simple way as long as the leader understands the principles of  “whole-brain” messaging.  We have seen tremendous results on the personal level for countless folks and once leaders know how to use HBDI at full speed they can drive tremendous results in the field as well.


This development program gets right to the core of day-to-day coaching while opening new ways to be that BEST LEADER sales reps want to work for.  In the end it’s a combination of a few simple yet proven concepts – understand that one size does not fit all, get aligned with core sales competencies, become a sales diagnosis doctor and get in the field.

And lastly………RULE #2 – BE THERE!  Note to all sales leaders – get off your cell phone when in the field with reps.  Being on the phone in the passenger seat when you are supposed to be coaching is just plain wrong.  All sales reps complain about this.  It would be like talking to someone else on the phone during a dinner date.

David Szen

Written by David Szen

David Szen is a contributing author for Symmetrics Group and a sales effectiveness expert. Having delivered numerous sales and leadership training programs for companies across industries, David understands the nuances that can impact sales team performance. David explored generational impacts on sales team effectiveness and co-authored the book The Multigenerational Sales Team with Symmetrics Group's founder Warren Shiver.

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