Ben is normally one of the team’s top producers. As he navigates the uncharted waters of today’s selling landscape, he has reacted less-favorably than many others on the sales team. While Ben has put opportunities in the pipeline over the past month, he keeps getting, and taking, put-offs from those same prospects.
Terri, his manager, has been trying to coach Ben to close the kind of business that others on the team are now closing. Terri’s last coaching conversation with Ben sounded like this:
Ben: I’m trying my best to get these deals closed, but everyone keeps pushing dates back; “call me next week, call me next month, etc.”
Terri: I understand that Ben, many of our team are hearing that now, but that’s why we’re salespeople, we have to get those deals over the finish line. Have you tried setting better up-front agreements at the end of your proposal presentation calls, to agree on when the prospects can or will make a decision?
Ben: I’ve thought about it, but what if I do that and they think I’m pushy? Now what? Now I not only lose this deal, but future business. I feel like I’m getting pushed internally to push our prospective customers to buy.
In case you missed where this coaching opportunity went off track, it was when Terri went in to “technique” coaching-mode with Ben. Often times as sales coaches, our immediate response to any salesperson’s challenge is to coach them to do THIS technique, or SAY this to the customer. Unfortunately, technique is only one component of a salesperson’s success.
Let’s take a look at the other two. While Technique is important, so is Attitude and Behavior. Think of those three things as three points of a triangle. When a salesperson is having success, they are firing on all three of those cylinders. However, when one fails, it puts success in jeopardy. We’d like to suggest, counterintuitively, that weak technique is almost always the least of your worries with your team.
Much more commonly, we see the salesperson’s behavior or attitude break down. Behavior is simply taking action (and a lot of it). Attitude is the sales person’s belief system. What are their beliefs about themselves, the company and the products and services they are selling? And these days, their beliefs about the marketplace (the economy, competition, public health etc.).
In the simplest of terms, salespeople either have supportive beliefs or non-supportive beliefs. Supportive beliefs help the salesperson fight through “head trash.” Head trash is defined as any belief that I hold, that I do not question as to whether or not it’s true, that might be getting in the way of me taking action (BEHAVIOR).
In the example above, Ben has not used the up-front agreement TECHNIQUE, but has already decided that if he does (BEHAVIOR), he will lose business. You can see, it is Ben’s belief system (ATTITUDE) that is getting in the way of him even trying the technique. Terri can coach him on it forever and he still won’t use it, at least, not wholeheartedly.
As a sales leader, there’s a simple way to help the salesperson check their beliefs when they are potentially getting in the way (head trash). When Ben said there could be negative consequences from using the technique that Terri suggested, she could have asked Ben the following question, in a nurturing manner.
“Ben, kind of a difficult question. Are you concerned about the up-front agreement technique not working because you’ve tried it and had negative results from using it? Or because you haven’t tried, but are concerned it won’t work?”
This will shine the light where it needs to be shined, on Ben’s beliefs and attitude. Now, Terri can coach Ben on reshaping that belief, which is simple (not easy). Once Ben disciplines himself to use the technique and sees success with it, the old non-supportive belief will evaporate like a bad dream. Our salespeople’s beliefs are getting in their way EVERYDAY. It’s our job to help them spot them and test their validity and “supportiveness.”
As a sales leader, be on the lookout for the words “what if” from your salespeople. It can be a sure sign that the next thing out of their mouth will be head trash. Become an excellent head trash removal sales manager and your team will sell a LOT more, in trying times and in good times.