Sales organizations are becoming increasingly conservative. This culture of risk aversion results in salespeople playing it very safe when executing their sales tactics. Staying in their comfort zone, they begin to constantly call on the same people and, therefore, remain very narrow in their account relationships. This inevitably leads to an increase in deal slippage and a decrease in win rate.
So how can first-line sales leaders break this cycle and increase sales performance? Perhaps a short personal story will help.
My hobby is long-distance motorcycle riding. Because of the associated risks, I engage the services of a personal motorcycle coach. When I ride on the track with him, my coach provides a safe learning environment. He teaches me the techniques, and then we ride together. This exercise challenges my view of my own personal limits and the limits of the motorcycle. Because of my trust in him, I’m comfortable leaving my comfort zone and increasing my risk. This has allowed me to achieve a level of performance I could never achieve on my own.
The role of every first-line sales leader is exactly the same as the role of my motorcycle coach. Their responsibility is to create a safe learning environment whereby salespeople can execute outside of their comfort zones and push themselves to achieve things they never thought were possible.
There are four basic fundamentals to creating this type of environment:
- Develop a regular coaching cadence.
Coaching should be conducted at the same time every week. Look at specific opportunities in a committed and focused manner. Our research shows that an outstanding sales coach will be spending somewhere between 20-25% of their time here.
- Lead by example.
Just like the motorcycle coach, the sales coach needs to demonstrate the desired behavior that salespeople can replicate. However, in doing so, ensure you’re building—not reducing—their currency in front of the client. (See related article.)
- Drive the adoption of sales tools.
Most sales methodologies include some form of sales tools, often based in a CRM system. Insightful sales tools can bring objectivity to the coaching session. Sales tools have no emotional attachment to a sales situation and, therefore, can minimize subjective bias.
- Support them when they make mistakes.
As you encourage salespeople to take more risk—call on new doors, implement political strategies, engage in more emotional messaging, or deliver a very strong point of view—they need to know that their coach has their back if things don’t go according to plan. The ultimate responsibility of the coach is to back their team.
Human beings only grow by taking risks. That is the only way that we learn to do new things. Tim Cook, current CEO of Apple, once said, “We take risks knowing that risk will sometimes result in failure. But without the possibility of failure, there is no possibility of success.” Your job as a sales coach is to create a safe environment where smart risk-taking is encouraged so your salespeople and your organization grow.