Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:36 pm
I have the privilege of coaching many clients on the art of selling. It is a particular pleasure for me to coach a sales professional or a sales force within an organization. I have great respect for people who can sell. In fact, my first husband, now deceased, and my second/forever husband, both were salesmen who eventually owned their own businesses and continued to be the top sales people there.
I believe passionately that everyone sells in a successful organization. I’ve had my own coaching business since l984 and have engaged in some parts of the selling process nearly every day since. Selling our services and delivering excellence is the oxygen that grew that business and another before I felt the time was right to simplify my work life by returning to a solo practice.
Within organizations, I now teach leaders to coach instead of manage their sales teams – which, remember, include everyone. Coaching that sales force is about amplifying the employee’s own knowledge and thought processes. It’s about creating a supportive environment in which people can really think together to develop themselves professionally.
In the sales environment, the desire to succeed is usually strong, and the results of coaching can be spectacular: greater motivation, focus, more control in and outside of work and measurably improved sales performance.
A leader can be a coach and inspire a sales professional to challenge his or her approach and technique in an atmosphere of trust and support. The coaching program for someone who is just starting out may focus on unique aspects of your services or products and relevant technologies, knowledge of your competitors, your company’s history and company lore, trends in the industry and markets, information about your customers and, above all, relationship-building skills.
An old hand may be hungry for fresh ideas to boost performance and increase personal job satisfaction. He or she may want to hone fundamentals. He or she may want to learn to stay above the firefighting mode and develop a long-term pipeline.
Selling encompasses a whole bunch of skills, and getting better at that package of skills is something that everyone in business must continue doing – and something that makes selling more fun every year.
This is the story of a young man I’ll call "Tony." Tony was establishing himself in business in another city, when his aging father called upon him to come home and run the family business. Tony was exceptionally skilled technically, but knew he needed coaching to develop new business and grow customer relationships, as well as inspire the staff to sell. And, his personality preference was introversion. Tony was not a natural extrovert by any means.
Tony wanted to start with a focus on relationship building. He crafted a plan to network by joining some key organizations – out of his comfort zone and out of his industry. He went through steps to strengthen his empathy – the "I’ve walked in your moccasins" part of him. He developed a compelling and brief message to use in introductions. He was naturally good at not sounding like he was selling. He needed no work on that. His ability to connect with others got better as he learned to focus on the other person, not on what that person might be thinking about him.
He imagined the words, "So what?" on the forehead of each prospect,
to remind himself that customers
are only interested in evidence of how Tony’s company could help them
solve problems. He had good listening skills, as many introverted people do. He added to that by learning to express his honest curiosity and by asking open-ended questions.
Tony’s building a customer-driven business now and enjoying it, which is essential.
Of course, the world’s finest sales professional will flop without delivery of the goods or services as promised. Under-promise and over-deliver. That sure makes the next sale easier and creates the buzz you long for.
The coaching leadership style doesn’t work for all people all of the time, but it can be a powerful tool in implementing change across the sales force, addressing individual performance issues and harnessing the potential for success. The result can be an organization equipped to beat the competition and nurture long-lasting relationships with customers.
That is my wish for you.
Jo Hawkins Donovan has a coaching and psychotherapy firm in Whitefish Bay.
She can be reached at (414) 332-0300, or at email@example.com. The firm’s
Web site is www.hawkinsdonovan.com.