Many of the managers I work with perceive coaching as going out on sales calls with their reps to make sure the reps have the necessary skills. But optimizing sales requires a much broader skill set than simply being good at sales calls. After all, doing a fantastic job on a sales call isn’t very valuable if you’re calling on the wrong opportunity.
Coaching, like selling, is broader than just sales calls. It involves helping reps through a whole series of decisions, like which part of their territory to focus on, who to call, and what conversation to have.
In other words, it’s about helping your reps prioritize their time by spending it on the best opportunities.
So what are the best opportunities? Let’s start with what they are NOT.
Some reps like small transactional deals as opposed to more consultative ones. Some reps hate to travel (or like to travel. Or like to travel to certain places but not others … you get the idea). The best opportunities are not the customers that are nicest. They aren't the opportunities that are easiest or most comfortable, and they are not the ones that don’t require travel.
As sales professionals, we must be deliberate about where we spend our time, focusing on where we have the greatest opportunity in terms of the:
type of customer (industry, size, use case)
size of deal
likelihood of winning
products you want to sell
With my clients, I recommend that managers and reps work together to map out what their ideal opportunities, clients, and deal sizes are, and compare that to where they’re currently spending their time. Typically they aren’t focused where they should be.
Even if it’s a good-looking opportunity, if the client is a pain-in-the-neck to work with, it may not be worth it. Remember, a good opportunity is not only winnable but one that you want to win. Everything you want you might not win, and everything you win, you might not want.
Lastly, if you’re going to look back at the best deals you’ve won -- make sure you know why you won them. How do you that? By asking your clients! Reach out to your clients and simply ask why they chose you. (It’s also a good excuse to reconnect -- who knows, they may be starting a new project you can help with!)
When a client of mine took this advice recently and asked why he won a big contract, the buyers parroted back his messaging. “It sounded exactly like our sales call to them a few months ago,” he told me. “It was perfect validation.”
Failures can often be just as informative. Another client of mine had lost a few proposals in a row so he reached out to the prospects and asked why.
“Each of them said the same thing. They told me ‘we loved your messaging, storytelling, but we didn’t really understand how you were going to do it.’”
So my client went back and added one or two tactical slides and promptly won his next proposal.
“It probably cost us a million bucks in revenue and if we hadn’t asked those questions we might still have been doing that for another year,” he told me.
How have you tried to determine what your ideal opportunity looks like? Have you been a more effective seller as a result? Let us know in the comments!
Originally published Apr 28, 2014 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017