Your perspective? If nothing changes, nothing changes

The universal sales management question is, “How can I get some better results than last year?”

Clever sales managers don’t see the answer as “I must work harder and put more time and energy into the job.”

Instead, they look for and develop a slightly different perspective to their coaching, managing, and leading.

Here’s a perspective that may provoke some different thinking:

I’ll bet that within your sales team and, despite your best recruiting and coaching efforts, there are reps that outshine others. Let’s call them “sales stars”.

One of the simple reasons for their existence is their use of “discretionary energy”.

Everyone has “everyday energy” that’s used to satisfy all the tasks associated with the “call of duty”. It allows you to do all the stuff in your job description and satisfy the list of expectations for doing a good job.

Sales Stars have the desire and willingness to tap into something a little extra. This discretionary energy enables them to go above and beyond the call of duty.

And, yes, while this willingness and desire are connected to their talents, attitudes, and beliefs becoming a sales star is not beyond all reps.

It should be possible, then, to motivate the average rep to tap into their discretionary energy so that they become a sales star.

And typically, the primary tool that’s used is territory or market sales data.

I mean it is, after all, the obvious, recognisable, and incentivised definition of a sales star. So you get the data and your in-field observations together to use at your next coaching opportunity.

Your intention is plain; you really want them to do, and be, better. Maybe even better than you were!

Your reasoning is simple; they can’t dispute this factual information. You’re using it to launch an improvement program, not damning them and their efforts.

It should provide some kind of motivation. Right?

The Three Typical Approaches:

  • Push: sales managers use their positional power as the boss to push for change,
  • Place: sales managers use the power of their personal relationship to encourage change,
  • Pitch: sales managers use their selling skills to get some buy-in for change.

In all cases the sales performance data is used in the hope that the rep will be fired up enough to want to make an improvement.

What sales managers often tell me is that this data does not provide enough motivation to get a decision to improve performance.

In fact research tells us that this information is useful only when the rep has already decided to actively seek better performance. It helps them rationalise that they are doing the right thing. Data is useless as a means to convince someone to do something they weren’t going to do, don’t believe in, or don’t understand.

Therefore, reps that are most receptive to your coaching have already convinced themselves that they can do better and are therefore capable of tapping into their discretionary energy.

I’ll bet, though, you have a few “resistant” people who are more likely to defend their current practices than see the need for improvement.

How can you, as a sales coach, get the resistant rep to open their minds to new possibilities? And once that happens tap into their discretionary energy.

A Different Perspective:

Realise that their thinking creates their feelings. And it’s their feelings that affect their behaviour.

Want to change behaviour? Start by trying to understand how their thinking status quo has been created; what they value, what rules they have and who else figures in their life (personal & business) that affects their thinking.

You need to understand their thinking before you try to alter their behaviour.

In fact I’ll bet that with these people the territory data’s validity becomes the topic of discussion, not performance improvement.

To understand their thinking you’ll need to ask some great questions, listen to the answers and get involved in a conversation. And not vague open ended or leading questions. Rather ones that get the rep thinking out loud. And then really listen.

Here are some great questions to start that conversation from Sharon Drew Morgen (in Buying Facilitation: the new way to sell that influences and expands decisions).

“What have you seen that tells you that the strategy for this customer is working?”

This gives you an insight into the rep’s thinking; they will talk about what they’ve been seeing and maybe justify what they have been doing.

“How will you know when it’s time to adopt a different sales strategy?”

How will you know gets the rep to think about what happens when something new is being considered, or how it’s happened in the past. It raises consciousness. Makes them more alert.
when it’s time” gets the rep to think about consequences and appropriate timing. Both of these parts focus on “what drives you?”
to adopt” gets them thinking about it versus doing something about it. What has to be in place/ agreed to in order to act.
a different sales strategy that gives you the altered results in tune with their values, rules and others.

In this way, you’re asking your rep to make new decisions based on new thinking, not on new information. Decisions that lead to changes in behaviour.

Finally, it may take several conversations to understand the thinking of your rep. But once you do it’s a simple process to ignite it with their discretionary energy.

Then you’ll see a huge difference in what they do AND who they are.