Ben is normally one of his sales team’s top producers. However, as he navigates the uncharted waters of today’s selling landscape during the COVID-19 pandemic, he has reacted less favorably than many others on his team. While Ben has put opportunities in the pipeline over the past month, he keeps getting put off from those prospects.
Terri, Ben’s manager, has been trying to coach him to close the kind of business that others on the team are now closing. Terri’s last coaching conversation with Ben sounded like this:
Ben: I’m trying my best to get these deals closed, but everyone keeps pushing dates back: “Call me next week,” “Call me next month.”
Terri: I understand that, Ben. Many on our team are hearing that now, but that’s why we’re salespeople. We have to get those deals over the finish line. Have you tried setting better up-front agreements at the end of your proposal presentation calls, to agree on when the prospects can or will make a decision?
Ben: I’ve thought about it, but what if I do that and they think I’m pushy? Now what? Now I not only lose this deal, but future business. I feel like I’m getting pushed internally to push our prospective customers to buy.
In this scenario, the manager’s coaching went slightly off track. Terri went into technique coaching with Ben. Oftentimes, as managers, the immediate response to any salesperson’s challenge is to coach the individual to do this technique or say this to the customer.
Technique is only one component of a salesperson’s success. Of course, a salesperson needs to have a sales process in place. However, to really achieve sales success, attitude and behavior are equally important.
Imagine technique, attitude and behavior as three points of a triangle. The triangle is stable when all three of those are being supported. However, when one of those is ignored, it places the stability of the triangle (and success) in jeopardy. Some managers tend to focus only on technique and don’t always help a salesperson achieve success in the other two areas.
Unfortunately, it’s common to see a salesperson’s behavior or attitude break down. Behavior is taking action, and attitude is the salesperson’s belief system — beliefs about the person’s self, the company, the products and services being sold and the current marketplace, including economy, competition, public health and other factors.
In the simplest of terms, salespeople either have supportive beliefs or non-supportive beliefs. Supportive beliefs help a salesperson fight through “head trash” — any belief a person holds that might get in the way of him or her taking certain actions.
In the coaching example above, Ben has not used the up-front agreement technique but has already decided that if he does (behavior), he will lose business. It is Ben’s belief system (attitude) that is getting in the way of even trying the technique. Terri can coach him on it again and again, but Ben still won’t use it, at least not wholeheartedly.
There is a simple way to help salespeople check their beliefs when they are letting their head trash get in the way. When Ben said there could be negative consequences from using the technique Terri suggested, she could have asked Ben the following question, in a nurturing manner:
“Ben, that’s a difficult question. Are you concerned about the up-front agreement technique not working because you’ve tried it and had negative results from using it? Or is it because you haven’t tried but are concerned it won’t work?”
This approach will help to determine Ben’s beliefs and attitude. That will allow Terri to coach Ben on reshaping his beliefs. Once Ben disciplines himself to use the technique and sees success with it, the old non-supportive belief will evaporate like a bad dream. Some salespeople’s beliefs are getting in their way every day, and it is a manager’s job to help them spot those beliefs and test their validity.
As a sales leader, if you’re curious about which part of the triangle a salesperson is struggling with, be on the lookout for the words “what if” from that individual. Usually, the next thing out of his or her mouth will be head trash. When a sales leader helps manage a salesperson’s head trash, the person will sell more in both good times and bad, no matter what’s happening in the current marketplace.
Bill Reidy is president of PWRhouse Consulting, an authorized Sandler Training center and sales force development company in Orlando. He can be reached at www.pwrhouse.sandler.com, email@example.com or 443-418-6033.
As seen in October 2020 i4 Business Magazine