If you are an inside sales manager (or director or V.P.), then I know you spend a lot of time in meetings – meetings with the marketing department coming up with strategies to create and close more leads, meetings with the owner forecasting revenue numbers, meetings with sales reps going through their pipelines, meetings with potential new reps, sales meetings, sales training meetings, etc. I get it – you’re busy.
During your busy days and weeks managing and juggling the 100 other responsibilities in your position, how much time do you actually spend coaching your reps through the prospects in their pipeline? In other words, how often do you get involved during a stage in the sales process to intervene and coach the skills and techniques that are needed to advance that particular prospect through to a closed sale?
In a report on sales management I just read from csoinsights.com, “World-Class Sales Management: Closing What You Forecast,” it differentiates between two sales management “flavors”: either reactive sales management or proactive sales management. It defines proactive sales management as:
“What we meant is that managers need to know which reps need what type of help to resolve what issues related to what deals to get them to close opportunities when promised. To any seasoned sales professional, improving management’s ability to effectively coach their teams is viewed as a useful objective, but let us share with you why it is actually mission critical”
According to this article, proactive coaching not only leads to an increase in sales (win rates), but something more:
“The increase in win rates is generated by a decrease in both competitive losses and no decisions. When managers can reach out early and often to the reps who need their help the most on any given day, they can help them develop strong business cases all the way through the sales cycle to ensure the prospect can cost justify moving forward with their purchase decision. In addition, they can ensure their salespeople are able to differentiate themselves from the competition so that when a final decision is made they walk out the door with the order.”
Decreasing competitive losses and no decisions is crucial because it means that your reps will spend less time with unqualified non-buyers. This means they will spend less time practicing poor selling skills on prospects who aren’t going to buy. This will make them more confident and successful, and it reduces the money and time your company spends on chasing bad leads that should have been disqualified out a lot earlier. This is why proactive coaching is seen as “mission critical.”
So what exactly is proactive coaching? Like the article points out, a big part of it is understanding which reps need help at which part of the sales cycle that is going to make the most difference in moving the sale forward. It’s also being “proactive in taking action when deals started to go off track.” It means that you and your reps are on the same page with each prospect and with each step of the sales process.
Proactive coaching is very different than ‘rear view mirror’ sales management. Unfortunately, many mangers still coach after the fact, after the deal has been lost. They coach on metrics and results. This kind of managing has its place, but it’s not effective in driving sales during the sales cycle.
OK, so how do you learn to be a proactive sales manager? The article mentions several elements including hiring the right managers with the right skill sets, benchmarking activities, and getting the right actionable data through a “Pipeline Accelerator” CRM type of system.
Besides that, though, what is needed is to teach your managers the proper coaching activities that will allow them to help your reps succeed during the actual sale. Methods I recommend are having a phone that allows the manager to listen into both sides of the call live – this allows him or her to actively coach the rep through the sale as it happens. Another technique is to actively use instant messaging so the manager can send messages to all sales reps while they are on calls, and a third way is to actively use call recording as a way of prepping the rep for the next call.
If you would like to learn a complete system for teaching inside sales managers to be more proactive in their coaching, see a dedicated product I created for it here (scroll down to “Option Two”).
I encourage you to read the csoinsight.com white paper on this subject and to invest in ways of making your inside manager more effective. It will increase your sales team’s win rates and put more money in all of your pockets.