Food for thought

From individual maverick sales to high-performing teams

by Julia Weiss

Are Sales people coachable at all? 

While B2C sales are very often product driven, focusing on the large consumer target market and maximizing the value of one single transaction, B2B sales are relationship based, very often with a very focused target market and aiming to maximize the long-term relationship value.  While B2C relies to a great extent on the image created through marketing and tries to trigger an emotional buying decision, B2B sales are - at least on the face of it -characterized by rational buying decisions based on business value.

In both areas simple transactional sales processes are more and more automated i.e. online based, while sales decisions requiring extensive customer counselling become more and more complex. In this field individual and team performance of the sales personnel constitutes a major USP in the marketplace. Countless experts have spent time in analyzing the success factors of great sales people.

To many of them the main characteristic of a sales champion is his or her inner independence and drive - the individual maverick sales person - who is thus difficult to manage or lead – at least by directional leadership with facts and figures. Hence a common sales leadership style is to “let them run as long as they meet their monthly sales targets”.

However, especially in relation to consultation-intensive B2B sales, for example the negotiation of larger frame contracts or projects, a multitude of experts is involved from different departments on the buyer as well as on the supplier side.

Sales becomes a team effort

Consequently, sales becomes a team effort rather than a one-man show. And this means that sales teams need to be aligned in their efforts, to assess their roles and responsibilities, their interfaces and interactions in order to optimize their appearance in front of the (potential) client and in situations of presentations and negotiations.

Coaching puts a team on gold medal (Tim Galloway)

Sales coaching can help to structure and successfully guide the sales team through this process and support it in defining a joint identity and vision of how to work together effectively whilst preserving the sales power and dynamism of its members. This involves the statement of a target picture of how the team wants to work together (internal coaching) and how it aims to be perceived by the customer (pitch coaching) and the contribution of each team member to complete this picture.

It is also vital to assess the structure and decision making processes of the buying counterpart, the company culture as well special characteristics of the members of the buying team and their interactions.

Sales teams can learn to anticipate the course of the negotiation and plan their own actions and reactions as well as fall back solutions and “Points of no Return”.

Lessons learned from joint sales efforts can be a powerful source of future sales successes and constitute a helpful database for other sales teams. Roles and responsibilities should also include the ongoing and after-sales documentation and clarification as to what is expected from each of the team members.

Last but not least it is vital for sales teams that they not only clarify who is contributing what during the process, but also define a motivating way of sharing the credit for successes - financially as well as in terms of acknowledgement.

The sales team coaching is completed by a jointly agreed and regularly applied “maneuver critique” – a term borrowed from the military describing the assessment of success strategies and failures during the battle.

Julia Weiss works with her executive clients to unleash their full potential in their varying roles, and/or of their work teams and organizations. Thus she enables the executive and his or her team to achieve a sophisticated and sustainable level of performance. Julia is a certified executive and team coach, moderator and speaker with a focus of sales performance and change management. She works as a Partner of Leadership Choices, an international consultancy focusing on leadership development at Top Management level. Julia’s experience is based on more than 15 years of work in different senior management settings – as a strategy consultant and as managing director - sales in the media industry.

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