I had a great conversation recently with a talented young sales leader.  In this discussion he conveyed to me his three biggest challenges:

  1. Finding more time to coach.
  2. Adding value to my sales people.  “I don’t want to be the kind of sales manager who advisors try to get away from because they do not add value.  I want to help them be successful.”
  3. More accurately forecasting our sales revenue.  “Our pipeline is bloated with prospects who never seem to close.”

One Simple Tactic to Solve All Three

The Sales Executive Council, in their executive briefing on “World-Class Sales Coaching,” identified as one of the most important hallmarks of an outstanding sales coach – the ability to “deliver coaching in person, and in the moment.”  At Greene Consulting, we call this “in the moment” coaching “Hallway Accountability” … which is a simple tactic to provide value-added coaching during the normal, busy routines of the day.

So how many times have you as a manager passed one of your sales people “in the hallway” with a conversation that sounds like this?

YouSo how’s it going?

AdvisorGreat.  Got a great new $X prospect today.    

YouAwesome.  Do you think it will close? 

AdvisorShould close in 60 to 90 days.

You Fantastic. Let me know if I can do anything to help you close it.

He walks away relieved and with the self-satisfaction that his manager thinks he is doing great.  You walk away having added no value, but happy to have another great prospect in the pipeline and a story for your boss who later asks YOU “so how’s it going?”

There’s a Better Way

By adding just a few more minutes and a couple of great questions to the conversation, you will begin to not only solve the three challenges posed above by our young sales leader, but also spark a transformation to a more dynamic, accountability-based sales culture in which your sales people actively seek out your engagement with them.

How?  First, you need to come into these conversations with a clear definition and understanding of the “exit criteria” that should be addressed by the sales person in each stage of the sales process.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD SAMPLE EXIT CRITERIA CHECKLIST

Second, enter into these conversations armed with great questions that force confirmation of effective sales process execution.  If you receive any “I think” responses or presumptive answers, dig in to verify their contentions.  If done effectively and consistently, your value as a sales leader will begin to skyrocket.

A Different Conversation

So let’s re-create that hallway encounter to get a taste of what it looks like:

YouSo how’s it going?

AdvisorGreat.  Got a great new $X prospect today.   

YouGreat news.  Tell me, how did you determine they are a valid prospect and that they are truly interested in us as a solution?

Advisor He and his wife were referred to us by someone they trust.  I think they really liked what I was telling them. 

YouNow remember what I said I would ask any time you say, “I think.”  How do you know?  What specifically did you ask to assess their level of interest, and what did they say in reply that confirms that interest?     

AdvisorUhhh.  Well, I told them what we do and all we have to offer.  I told them what makes us different from other firms and showed them our _____ product.  They seemed to like that, and said yes to scheduling another meeting.

You Did you set up the next meeting?

Advisor Not yet.  They said they would get back to me.

You I’m heading to a meeting right now, but when we have some time let’s talk further just to confirm that you are really nailing it in these first meetings.  We can even re-create this meeting to ensure you are on the right track with them.  That might help you become even more efficient and effective in the sales process, and ensure you are always spending your valuable time on the right opportunities.

There are many different examples we could use depending on the specific prospect and/or the stage in the sales process being discussed.  In this example – which I have personally used hundreds of times with much success – in just a few short minutes you uncovered the fact that this opportunity is probably not yet a valid prospect, and therefore not be worthy of entering into the pipeline as such.

While initially this might cause your advisors to avoid you, over time they will see that your questions will make them better.  They will actually seek you out more often to help enhance their success.  Trust me, I have seen it happen.  Furthermore, you have saved yourself from adding this “prospect” to the already bloated pipeline and protected yourself from sending another best-guess forecast to your boss.

A key point to remember – this is NOT about pinning your sales people to the wall and proving them wrong (unless, of course, you need to encourage some humility at some point!).  Rather, it is about helping them improve by asking questions that align to the skills and steps they should be employing to maximize their potential.

A Note to Salespeople

You can use this same process to self-coach, either because you do not have a manager who adds such value, or you simply want to be prepared for one who likes to challenge you.  Before each prospect call, clarify for yourself which of your “exit criteria” you are going to address.  Then, after the call, assess where you are relative to those criteria.  Be honest and challenge yourself.  Make it a matter of habit.  The best advisors always know where each prospect is in the pipeline and what it takes to bring them to close.

At Greene Consulting, we deliver client-customized solutions in the areas of technical acumen, sales development, client experience and loyalty, and leadership development, which are all required for sustainable success in the financial services industry. Our delivery model is predicated on exacting alignment with the unique aspects of each client’s business strategy, organizational structure and culture, ensuring each engagement provides clear and actionable tactics that will drive success on an ongoing, quantifiable basis.

For more information, call us at 404-324-4600 or visit our website at www.greeneconsults.com.