The Art of Developing Salespeople

The Art of Developing Salespeople

It’s funny, but there isn’t a consensus on what a sales manager should do in their day-to-day activities. Some managers are content shuffling papers, responding to emails, talking to reps on the phone or occasionally joining a salesperson when they’re calling on a friendly account.

Let’s set the record straight. The primary role of the sales manager is to develop the skills of their direct report salespeople. I can hear the groans now! Yes, but sales managers in our company have their own accounts they are responsible for. There’s not enough time to do that and manage. (That I can agree with). Here’s another priceless bit of wisdom. Our managers hire the best, therefore they don’t need coaching or development. Great, then why have the sales manager?

Before we get to developing skills the correct way let’s cover a “how not to do it”. Let’s take Billy Rae (obviously fictitious) who was just promoted from being a crackerjack sales stud. He’s never been taught what to do as a sales manager so he figures why not travel with one of the reps. After a few sales calls the salesperson says to Billy Rae, “What would you have done on that sales call”? Well, ole Billy stokes the fire of advice and waxes eloquent on how he would have closed the sale on the first call. Of course, what B.R. doesn’t get is that not every one has his personality and specific skill set. And those skill sets may not be easily transferable to another salesperson. The rule of thumb is don’t teach others the techniques that were hard wired into your style. Not everyone will get how to sell “your way”.

The answer to the riddle is to use a sales language that all the salespeople and sales manager use. This becomes the common ground for skill development. What should the sales language be? That’s entirely up to the manager/company. There is a wealth of solid sales training systems or processes available. My suggestion is to find one of those and put each of the salespeople and the manager through that training.

Back to the situation with Billy Rae. After some bumps and grinds Bill has become the astute sales manager who focuses on skill development using techniques the entire sales organization learned. If he was now asked how to deal with a money objection the answer would be,”during training we talked about how to use a probe/question to determine if the objection was a smoke screen. What question could you have asked to open up the dialog”? Now the rep and the sales manager can role-play different options that the rep will use when that situation rears its ugly head again.

It is easier to coach when two people use the same sales language and techniques. Then there is no guess work about the meaning behind the coaching.

By John Vaughan

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