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Helping Sales Managers Reinforce Sales Skills

By Tim Deuitch

Helping Sales Managers Reinforce Sales Skills

Announcing the first episode of the Strategic Insights podcast, Helping Sales Managers Reinforce Sales Skills with Tim Deuitch and Susan Hall.

At Strategic Enhancement Group we are always looking for new ways to share our experience. We are a group of professionals who are passionate about our work: helping our clients to enhance what they already do well to attain greater results.

In this episode, we discuss different strategies that sales managers can use to instill concepts that will truly deliver impact for your sales team.

Tim Deuitch: 00:01  Welcome everybody to today's edition of Strategic Insights brought to you by Strategic Enhancement Group. I'm Tim Deuitch, Senior Performance Consultant, and I'm joined today by Susan Hall, Vice-president of Performance Improvement and Business Development.

Susan Hall: 00:18  Hi Tim, it's great to be here. I've been looking forward to this conversation.

Tim Deuitch: 00:21  You know today's topic is something that's pretty relevant to me right now, and it centers on helping sales managers do a better job of reinforcing sales skills to their teams. This is an issue that's pretty important to a few of my clients right now. So, what I want to do is open up our conversation with basically an open-ended question, because it's the same open-ended question that was asked to me by a sales leader just a couple of weeks ago and it's this, "The sales training and the skills are spot on for us, but where we're struggling is, how do we help our sales managers be able to reinforce them and keep the skills alive moving forward?" Is this a question that you've ever been asked?

Susan Hall: 01:06  I think constantly and probably the role of the sales manager, in my experience Tim, is that it's most critical to sales success. It's the thing that most organizations also struggle with, so I'm glad we're talking about this topic today.

Tim Deuitch: 01:30  Right. It was interesting because when we got the sales team on the phone, the sales managers, not the team. One of the things that became clear in their conversation is they felt that their need to reinforce skills was an add-on to what they were already doing and I was real proud of their leader. He just said, "No, no, no this isn't an add-on. This is part of what you do." And we kind of went from there and started to list some examples of what that would be. Is there anything that comes to mind for you, if you're in the middle of that conversation?

Susan Hall: 02:09  Yes. I think you're right, in fact, there's been some pretty interesting research that has come out recently that the most effective coaching is what I might call curbside coaching. In other words, it used to be the traditional model that the sales manager designates one, or two, or three days a month or quarter, whatever it is, to go on field coaching. That's the add-on that you're talking about is, "Gosh, you know, I've got to take a day out of my responsibilities to go coach this rep," when in reality, if you can look for those coachable moments, and that's why I like to think of it as curbside coaching. If you're in a conversation, you're with a rep, and you're prepping for a meeting, there's a really quick opportunity for you to coach. It's not something that you just need to do, it's who you are. So, I think if you kind of shift your framework to think of "You know what, I am a coach, so I'm always looking for those opportunities in my day to day interactions with my reps, it's not something that I need to add on to my responsibilities."

Tim Deutich: 03:26  Right. We took the curbside analogy and reduced it to actually bite-size, that's the term they use. So, one example that we surfaced in the conversation was when they went through this in-depth sales training, they learned about really good discovery questions and they exit the training with the understanding that there could be as many as 50 awesome discovery questions. But, what we did for the sales manager was to help him say, "Well, all right, what are the three, that you believe make a difference in terms of your sales cycle, your customer, your client that you're visiting with?" And that helped them feel like, "OK, all right, I can go in with a very defined set of ideas that I can share," whether it's in a modeling moment or if I ask a salesperson, "What discovery question did you use to learn X or Y?" Then I have those in the back of my mind, I don't have to worry about 50 or 70. I've already taken the time to think it down to those bite-size moments, those bite-size questions.

Susan Hall: 04:39  Yeah, I think as human beings we often tend to overcomplicate things. I've really gotten to the point in my consulting career where I've been working with sales organizations, as you have, in sales organizations and consulting with sales organizations for a couple of decades now. I think that if you've got a really good, effective, planning tool, simple, simple tools for busy people. You can create an expectation and an accountability that your managers integrate the language, the key skills that they want to reinforce into their day to day conversations, to your point, to have a couple of things top of mind that they want to discuss. To have that bite-size or curbside coaching integrated into your day to day conversations, that is in my experience the most effective things that managers can do. I think sometimes we try to blow it out, overcomplicate it, and it's really not that complex.

Tim Deutich: 05:55  No it's not. Another example that came from this conversation was around this notion of best practices. Best practices usually are told in the form of an analogy or a story. They'll tell you some grand story of how, "I landed this client" or "I landed this piece of business." Right, and your example is sort of stem to stern, and so we use the bite-size dynamic to say, "OK, it's not really a best practice that we want to coach on, it's a best moment." So how can we spot as a team, now I'm actually channeling their language, how can we spot as a team the moments when these skills are used effectively? Then what happens is we pretty quickly have in our arsenal six or eight best uses of skills. It's not a best practice, where you're it's an elongated story that has all these other dimensions. It's simply, "How did I ask a question in the right time or in the right way that surfaced a goldmine of information?" So, that was just another example of what you said, it's simple. The idea is to simplify this, to not turn it into a science.

Susan Hall: 07:23  Right. One of the challenges that I often see sales managers face and I'm wondering if you see this too, especially new managers, is especially in today's busy business environment where they're responsible for coaching their team, but they've also got a number that they're responsible for. The sales manager often swoops in and closes the deal or closes the business for the salesperson. I think in the short-term, there's short-term gain for that. I mean they could win the business, but in the long-term, they're not risking the opportunity to let that salesperson either fly or fail or anywhere in between by their own responsibility, so they don't learn. I'm wondering how you've dealt with that when you've coached the sales teams that you've worked with?

Tim Deutich: 08:20  That is sort of helping them to avoid that heroic sales leader, the one that walks in and closes the deal to save the day. I think where I've seen that, where there's been an intentional effort to remove that impulse of the sales leader, I have one client in particular that did that. They simply made the decision and it was an interesting moment because they just told their salespeople, "I'm not doing that anymore. You're now going to close, and I'll wish you the best, and I'll help you prep, but I'm not going to that meeting."

You can imagine, you take ten people in this. Four of them going "yikes", four of them are clapping, they're just happy, and the others are, maybe "they'll believe it when they see it." But whatever the case, how is this decision made? It relates to coaching at some point. The coach or manager of a sporting event doesn't go and hit the ball, they're sitting on the sidelines. Their team, their players are off doing it. It's a decision, I guess is what I'm saying to answer your question. It's a decision of leadership to do it.

Susan Hall: 09:43  I agree. And I think it's a decision not only of that particular leader, that coach, but I think it's an organizational leadership decision, because it always concerns me when I talk with my clients and I ask sales management, "So, how are you compensated?" And, if they've got a number, a specific selling number and that's the majority of their compensation, then people do what they're rewarded to do. I've talked with a number of clients who are really looking at creative ways to reinforce and reward coaching. I think that more and more, I'm beginning to see that where the metrics are, the salesperson, like you said, closing the business on their own or preparatory calls that they make, versus actual calls in front of the client.

Tim Deuitch: 10:50  Right. Exactly, so Susan let me see if I can summarize what we've done, you can fill in the blanks if I've missed anything. Our topic for today has been about, how can we help sales managers do a better job of coaching skills. So, we touched on a couple of pragmatic things, just purely pragmatic, which is to take it down to bite-sized components, not overthink it. Now, I'm sorry what was your term? I forget what was your term?

Susan Hall: 10:50  Curbside Coaching.

Tim Deuitch: 10:50  Curbside, thank you, thank you, perfect.

Susan Hall: 11:19  But you know it it's almost lunchtime here, so bite-sized works for me too.

Tim Deuitch: 11:19  Yes, indeed. So, we've got the pragmatic of bringing it to curbside or bite-size. We thought about a couple of examples of how they moved it from, let's not tell long anecdotes as a form of coaching, let's just tell exact behaviors that were the best behaviors, not necessarily, best practices. Then this last point that you bring us to, which is decide. Decide that you're a coach and once you decide that you're a coach versus a sales manager, sort of burdened with bottom line, once you've made that decision and decide, it's going to make it easier for you to actually apply the coaching skills. Fair enough? Is that the right way to look at it?

Susan Hall: 12:08  I think that's great. The only other thing I might add to that Tim is, a coach is who you are and that gets back to that decision that, "OK, out of those eight or ten or twelve or fourteen hours that I'm working today with my team, I need to spend an hour coaching them." In every interaction that I have, is there an opportunity for us to look at what worked well? Could we look at doing something even less differently to get an even better result?

Tim Deuitch: 12:49  Absolutely. Well obviously, folks like you and I are here to help.

Susan Hall: 12:56  Yes and we're still learning too. I mean this stuff is simple, it is certainly not easy. We love to hear from our clients in terms of what they're doing to coach their teams more effectively.

Tim Deuitch: 13:10  Well thank you very much for listening today and if you have any questions please reach out to us at We would love to chat with you. Thanks very much.

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Published: May 30, 2017


Tim Deuitch

Senior Performance Consultant

Tim brings over 25 years of experience working closely with business leaders throughout the Twin Cities and the USA. He has worked within a multitude of workplace cultures and economic cycles, helping leaders and teams improve their effectiveness and results. Since joining SEG in 2007, Tim has continued his work as a change agent, helping organizations meet their goals. Tim graduated from Warren Wilson College in 1983 with a B.S. degree in social work.

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