Web-based Tools Can Improve Sales Performance

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:35 pm

Sales managers have the dual responsibilities of leading their sales representatives while meeting their own sales goals. Many sales managers try to fulfill their leadership role by uttering things such as "Make your sales goals" or "Make more calls." On the other hand, owners and managers have a limited amount of resources to gauge the performance of sales representatives outside of the office, other than how much they are selling.

Mequon-based Sales Progress LLC launched its Sales Progress Coaching System on the Web this year to provide self-directed learning to sales representatives, rather than traditional training seminars, said Tim Hagen, owner of the company. Hagen has used the coaching method since founding Sales Progress, but he packaged it for use in a Web-based format for companies to either continue the process when Hagen is no longer needed at a company or to use without Hagen’s coaching services.

Sales Progress Coaching breaks new ground in sales training, Hagen said. The program increases company sales by evaluating each salesperson and manager on a sales team. Representatives realize (or are told by the group) their own weaknesses, such as whether they fear cold-calling or don’t actively listen to clients. Individuals work mainly on overcoming weaknesses in sales practices while participating in role-playing and product and industry education, Hagen said. "When you are responsible for the sales as a sales manager, you start to push away and tell representatives to have more sales without giving them direction because you are so busy," said Ty Sarajian, a past client of Sales Progress. "The program helps streamline the process of being a sales manager without having it be such an arduous task. The program gives managers a specific tool to help salespeople without having to spend time figuring out how to do it."

The Sales Progress Coaching program has five components.

The first is a tracking system for every individual involved in the coaching system. Managers use the scoring sheet section to score live sales calls made by sales representatives. Scoring includes making notes on their communication skills, industry knowledge, customer service and areas of needed improvement. "We target performance gaps, barriers and challenges to position representatives and management to drive sales performance," Hagen said.  The sales progress management section of the program offers three levels for self-directed learning, which makes the representatives accountable for their own growth or lack thereof, Hagen said.

"The typical client has 14 out of 27 sales representatives making appointments with established clients only because they had not been there in a while," Hagen said. "They go there with no agenda." Each level is a graduation to the next step in the coaching process and contains multiple exercises that representatives are required to perform on their own time. The tasks are relevant to a sales representative’s weaknesses and relate to real life examples, Hagen said. Some activities include role-playing and quizzes.

If a sales representative is not an active listener, one exercise may be that whenever the individual has a conversation with someone, he or she is to listen and later write down what the other person said.  Once all of the tasks in one level are completed, the individual moves on to the next level. Once all three levels are completed, the representative is evaluated and moves on to his or her next area for improvement. The fourth element in the coaching program is the coach’s corner, which managers can use to get ideas and look at their sales teams from a skill level perspective. Every weakness an individual has to overcome requires either a knowledge-based, skill-based, creativity-based or behavioral-based learning and teaching method, Hagen said.

The coach’s corner also helps managers solve issues within the group.  The program is constantly updated with the experiences that Hagen works with clients to address, he said. Sales Progress Support is an area of the Sales Progress Coaching program that enables managers to score representatives after listening in on a cold call or attending a meeting with a client or prospect. Managers fill out a worksheet analyzing the performance of the representative with ideas for improvement and activities to work on, Hagen said. "I challenge managers to drive performance. If they cannot identify objections, they are not doing their job, and it becomes something to overcome," Hagen said. "We position managers to coach sales representatives and to win business."

The entire program coaches both sales representatives and managers and enhances communication within the team, Hagen said.  The cost of a subscription for the Web-based program varies, depending upon the size of the company and its needs. A base price that would include access for at least two representatives would cost between $100 and $150 per month. Sarajian and Tom Walley, the director of sales and marketing for Pierce Manufacturing, a division of Oshkosh Truck Corp. in Appleton, both said they experienced record growth in sales revenue when they utilized Hagen’s system before it went on the Web. After two or three months of using the system, Walley said the cost for Sales Progress was paying for itself.

Sarajian was part-owner of a company in Menomonee Falls that manufactures and distributes rubber and plastic parts when he brought Sales Progress on board. Since he has worked with Sales Progress, he sold the company and is in the process of purchasing another company in Waukesha County.  Sarajian plans to bring Sales Progress in to the company he is purchasing to aid in building a sales force instead of changing the way one thinks and acts, he said. Sarajian declined to disclose either company name.  As Sarajian’s sales team was working with Sales Progress, they found that representatives were missing many large opportunities for sales because they were looking for an easy sell.

The representatives had been given the techniques and training to handle a hard sell. But whenever a hurdle arose, the representatives would avoid the challenge.

"The system helped us uncover those issues, confront the representatives and give the sales manger the tools to coach the reps through the processes," Sarajian said. "We started to see results very quickly." Sarajian says his company doubled its sales revenue within a year of hiring Sales Progress. "For new salespeople, it seems hard to get past the initial newness and training," Sarajian said. "But once people started realizing how the program works and its effectiveness, it was contagious." Walley previously served as a director of sales and marketing for Johnson and Evinrude outboard engines in Sturtevant, subsidiaries of Bombardier Recreational Products Inc., headquartered in Quebec.

 "I needed to coach a manager and get him to the next level, and then I needed to elevate the sales team," Walley said. "We gave the manager clear signs to take advantage of the coaching opportunity, and he did not gravitate. The deeper we got into the organization, Tim was able to confirm that the representatives did not trust, did not like and did not respect the manager. Those were really tough things to overcome." The manager ended up moving into a different position within the company and subsequently failed with the company because of a resistance to change.  Both Walley and Sarajian said that the change to an open, trusting and self-improving culture was not accepted by everyone. Those that resisted consistently saw less sales progress than those participating in the program, they said.

"We were able to consistently grow business year after year in the face of a shrinking market because we were specifically focused on growing sales," Walley said.  Walley also used the Sales Progress program to determine within the first 90 days if he would keep a new sales representative or let the person go, he said.  "There are coaching techniques through the learning matrix that could make anybody be a sales manager or sales professional," Walley said. "Coaching and training people is not easy. There are all sorts of nuances in the sales approach that can either help or hurt a professional, and Tim really breaks them down."


The Sales Progress Coaching system is a Web-based project management and self-directed learning program aimed toward increasing sales. Tim Hagen, owner of Sales Progress and developer of the method of coaching, offers the following values to a sales team and sales manager:

  1. Track the learning process of a sales representative.
  2. Identify sales opportunities.
  3. Position a sales leader to identify the performance barriers of a sales representative and strategically solve them.
  4. Provide specific content for sales teams relating to specific challenges in sales.

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