Curbside Coaching

One method for sales managers to help new sales people (and existing sales people who are struggling) improve either their activity or sales skills is to coach in real time. One principle of training is to correct at the point of deviation. Doing this while out in the field with an sales people gives you the opportunity to provide feedback and model the perfect sales day. If your primary sales occur on the phone the principles are the same. "Curb-side" coaching is an effective growth tool both for sales peoples and managers.

This is a method of coaching that is usually done following a joint customer call. During the de-briefing, critical areas are discussed with the salesperson.

Most often sales managers use a standardized check list, such as a sales presentation outline, to make sure each of the steps of the sales process are carried out in the order they are supposed to occur and that each of the call objectives were met.

Other behaviors that are identified as marginal can usually be linked to a lack of sales planning and allow for clear consequences of not performing proficiently.

PRE-CALL PLANNING

Review your activity plan to determine what steps have been done to date: Setting the appointment, warm up, qualifying, un-covering the need, designing the solution, product presentation, presenting cost, closing and referral (or some similar order). We all have a process we feel works best or our business model. Whatever it is, train the correct way. Remember perfect practice makes perfect presentations!

Agree with the salesperson on the call objectives to be accomplished and how they will be achieved.

Check to see that the necessary sales materials are available and in good condition.

Clarify roles. For example, the manager will answer and participate in management level discussions and decisions, and the salesperson will carry the selling component.

DURING THE SALES CALL

If your role is to teach, then you handle the call and transfer control back to the salesperson during and at the end of the call.

Important Note: Make sure that the new sales person sees a successful sale. They must see someone purchase. Continue with the appointments until at least one successful sale is concluded.

If your role is to observe, then stay out of the sales discussions. If the customer looks at you and asks a question related to a sales issue, then get eye contact with the customer, then move your eyes over to the salesperson and say something to the effect, "John, I think the best way to answer this question would be to tell how you came up against this same issue and handled it with the (state prospect name)." Then keep your eyes focused on the sales person.

If you violate the role boundaries or if you let the sales person violate the boundaries by tossing you the questions he/she should be able to answer, then you lose the ability to discern the person's capabilities.

An EXCEPTION to the crossing of boundaries comes with major account prospects. If the sale is about to be lost, then by prior agreement you should step in and save the sale. If the salesperson gets stuck, there should be a clear signal for you to step in and pick up that portion of the sale.

When this piece is done, turn the sales process back over to the sales person to continue. If you don't, then that person's credibility is gone and you might as well reassign the prospect.

AFTER THE CALL (DEBRIEFING)

Use the Sales Process, that is, the model for your business plan as your guide.

First check to see that the call objectives were met. Use the "sandwich technique" of communicating specific areas for improvement. Say what was good, what needs improvement, and then summarize what was good again.

Next, start and conclude the standard coaching process.

For example, "John, your introduction of the new product was excellent, you really got his attention". The qualification part of determining the extent to which he needed it missed the mark, so your presentation of what would be critical to this customer was not on target.

You did go into a great closing sequence,and I think if you would have discovered more of the customer's needs, it would have worked beautifully.

Let's take another look at how to diagnose needs for this item. What do you see as the key symptoms that would suggest the customer has a problem we can solve with this item?

Let the salesperson tell you what the symptoms are, then ask him/her how he/she could have asked questions to determine whether or not this customer has the need.

If the salesperson can tell you, then asking these questions become the next call objectives. Be sure they are written down in the prospect file as "next steps" to accomplish. If not, then additional product training (classroom or self-study) is indicated and should be assigned.

Set follow- up meeting (contact) to ensure this assignment and "next steps" have been completed.

Lastly, remember the old adage in training salespeople, 'You train what you know, and you reproduce who you are."