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Critical Sales Leadership and Coaching Skills

By Don Buttrey

Sales professional management can be a daunting challenge and is unique compared to the management of other groups of people. Sales professionals have jobs that require self-motivation and self-discipline. They are out doing what they do in very dynamic situations – not in a confined or controlled environment. I chose the word ‘daunting’ because leading salespeople can be a bit intimidating. Plus, I discovered that the Latin root of the word means, “to tame.” Perhaps you can relate! Therefore, the need for compelling leadership, proper structure and the skills of a winning coach are very helpful.

Compelling leadership is essential when you are trying to direct, inspire and motivate autonomous individuals into a productive sales team. Leadership with the sales work force of today demands more than jus t telling people what they have to do. Workforce expectations are higher; your employees have options. They usually choose to work for an organization with leadership that they respect.

Of course they should respect you as the sales manager. Still, John C. Maxwell informs us that, “The only thing a title will buy us is a little time – either to increase our level of influence or erase it.” He also indicates that, “it is more about disposition than it is position.” The bottom line is this: your salespeople must buy into their leader.

Here is what a compelling leader looks like. The compelling leader:
• Leads by example and is a model.
• Sells ‘why’ and not just ‘what’ or ‘how’.
• Utilizes positive persuasion. (Compel means to “drive together!”)
• Creates an environment of trust and consistency.

Compelling leadership hinges on whether you as a leader can motivate your salespeople to do the things that you want and need them to do. At the very core of this you are selling instead of telling or forcing. As a sales professional yourself, you know that the other person must want to do what you want them to do or the desired results are unlikely.

Sales managers must also establish a proper structure for the salespeople to work within. You do not want your sales representatives out there making calls and doing whatever seems appropriate at the time. The structure that I propose assures that each salesperson engages in the right activities. And to do so they must have the right tools as well as develop proper disciplines. This structure for sales professionals is called The Four Pillars of The Sales Profession™. The four pillars are: personal disciplines, relationship skills, strategic selling and tactical selling. It is imperative that this structure is built into each individual on your team.

Pillar I – Personal Disciplines

Selling is primarily a personally driven, individual sport. Building a structure of fundamental tools and disciplines assures consistent actions and maximized results.

Pillar II – Relationship Skills

People buy from people they like and trust. Sales professionals must be masters of communication skills, listening and adapting to all styles of people.

Pillar III – Strategic Selling

Getting the big picture of all the activities required by professionals throughout the life of long-term customers is preeminent. Duties for marketing, selling and serving customers must be established. Sales professionals must invest thought and research into the status and direction of each account. Formal strategic planning is essential for selected key accounts.

Pillar IV – Tactical Selling

The interaction with the customer is where sales are won or lost. Every call counts. Brilliant execution of tactical selling requires pre-call planning and ongoing practice.

Carefully build this structure into your expectations for the team. Most salespeople feel much better when they know what is expected and how to get it done. Of course, there is much training and many decisions that must be made as you decide how to implement all the tools and disciplines of the four pillars. Involve all the salespeople in those decisions. Let them take ownership. Raise the bar together.

Then the coaching begins. Too many times in sales management what we call coaching is really cheerleading: “Go get a touchdown,” “Get 3 percent more sales,” “Close more deals.”

Actually, coaches say things on the sidelines like; “Run the plays I taught you,” “Get back on defense,” “Pre-call plan,” “Ask more questions and listen.” A winning coach will train the sales team and make sure they know what is expected of them. Along with the structure of the four pillars, they will make the necessary tools available; tools for time management analysis, tools for strategic planning, tools for pre-call tactical planning. Then the winning coach can reinforce and perfect the skills of their players with ongoing practice and constant reminders. That’s what coaches do; they teach the plays. They show what works. And then they use the respect that they have earned to motivate the players to get the desired results – to win.

Work on becoming a compelling leader. Teach and pro vide the structure, tools and disciplines needed to assure that your salespeople are capable and consistently doing the right things – by habit. Become a winning coach who helps to perfect the skills and ultimate performance of each individual player. Practice the skills with them. Build each individual. When they are highly trained and well practiced in the fundamentals they will learn to respond instinctively, automatically – whether you are there to see them or not!

Ferdinand F. Fournies defined our job pretty well when he said, “Management is doing those things necessary to deny people who work for you the unpleasant opportunity of failing.”

Don Buttrey

Don Buttrey is the president of Sales Professional Training Inc. His company offers in-depth skill development for sales professionals. Their sales training includes skill development for sales managers, sales professionals and sales support. Don is the trainer for MHEDA sales training events and has been MHEDA’s speaker for many teleconferences and annual conventions. He recently presented at the MHEDA Emerging Leaders Conference August 23, 2012. MHEDA is offering his intensive sales training camp November 13-15, 2012. Check the MHEDA training schedule! Don can be reached at (937) 427-1717 or donbuttrey@salesprofessionaltraining.com.