- B2B sales coaching is frequently limited to managers stepping into late-stage opportunities and directly closing the deal
- This short-term approach hinders enablement efforts to develop sales rep competencies
- To continuously raise the bar on their overall effectiveness, organizations must instead shorten time to competency for their front-line sellers
We’re approaching the end of another quarter, and we all know what that means for B2B sales teams: a feeding frenzy on the precious time of first-line and senior sales leaders, with reps seeking their assistance on getting almost-done deals to signature. Because managers have their own quotas to meet, they naturally provide help wherever they can have the most impact. But what should this guidance look like?
Remember the aphorism, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”? All too often, first-line sales managers join their reps for late-stage buyer interactions, adding the gravitas and experience they bring to the meeting…and then step in and close the deal for the rep. There’s an obvious short-term benefit to this fish-giving exercise because winning the deal benefits both the rep and the manager – for now. Maybe they make their number, earn their accelerator, or go to President’s Club. But the inherent problems with this approach are the lack of rep development and manager scalability, which should be the remit of sales enablement. Reps who don’t learn how to independently sell will never evolve their skills. Managers, if they work in a growth organization, cannot possibly attend every closing call. Both of these limitations signify a sales team that is not evolving, which means their ability to remain competitive will likely diminish.
So, what does the alternative, or fish-teaching approach, look like? Here are options to consider the next time a rep drops a closing call on a manager’s calendar:
- Don’t go to the meeting. Instead of thinking about the short-term outcome – getting a single deal done – envision a world where the rep doesn’t even make the request. How is such a confident rep different from the needy ones? Ostensibly, he or she has been provided with advanced development around the skills, knowledge and processes needed to get deals done. If sales enablement is doing its job well, front-line sellers shouldn’t need such consistent hand-holding; they’ve been better prepared to handle the meeting independently. Great coaching among managers also means better pre-call planning instruction for reps – not only about how to navigate likely conversation paths, but also around post-meeting self-evaluations.
- Don’t say a word. This might be a stretch, but at the least, the manager should plan to speak as little as possible, working beforehand with the rep to arm him or her with the most likely pearls of wisdom the manager is apt to supply in various conversational circumstances.Plus, the buyer will be impressed that the organization has the infrastructure, previously identified competency development paths and trust in its coaching process necessary to send a manager to a sales call just to observe. What’s sales enablement’s role here? Coaching the coach.
- Send another coach instead. If a rep consistently needs their manager to close deals, this is a problem – either the rep can’t learn, or the manager can’t coach. Send a different manager, subject matter expert or field sales coach to shake things up, and hopefully the issue will be identified more precisely.
These options may seem risky to managers who are used to stepping in to close deals, but there are proven ways to elevate sellers’ abilities and scale the use of managers’ time. One of the most important things to do for a rep is get them to self-assess. However, this can only happen if managers are asking them to do that and not immediately telling them what they should be doing. More realistic practice, role-play, video coaching and replay techniques are among the ways high-performing organizations tell reps what they need to know; show them what good looks like; have reps execute their competence in a controlled, assessed environment; and ultimately, reinforce their skills and knowledge in the field. This is the essence of teaching a man to fish, and of building a B2B sales team that will grow as fast as the organization desires.