My Single Most Important Piece of Advice

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I live in North Carolina and I heard last Sunday’s game between the Carolina Panthers and the Buffalo Bills was a bit sloppy. At least from the perspective of some of the Panther’s fans.

It caused me to think of the similarities between coaching a professional football team and running a sales team.

Imagine what would happen if the owner of the Carolina Panthers went to Coach Ron Rivera and said “Our players are some of the finest athletes in the world. We’re paying them millions of dollars with the contractual agreement they will push themselves to achieve peak performance.”

“I’m not going to continue paying for daily practice sessions. It costs too much money. We’ll put the plays on a portal on our website, give the players access to a nutritionist and a gym 24/7 and tell them to learn the plays, take care of their body and show up on Sunday and win games.”

The team would fall apart in a matter of days.

Running a sales organization is no different, and many owners of privately held companies push back and struggle to understand and embrace that reality.

I’ve encountered it time and time again. Often when I suggest to company presidents and CEOs that their Sales Managers hold weekly one-on-one sales evaluations and coaching sessions with each rep, they tell me they don’t have the time. Or they tell me its “micro-management”. Or they tell me “I hired adults, we’re not going to baby sit them.”

I explain to them it’s like saying they don’t have time to breath.

The one-on-one meeting is that important and instrumental in the accomplishment of reaching peak sales performance.

If I had to give one bit of advice to a company owner, president or CEO, it would be this: Understand that holding weekly one-on-one prospecting and sales coaching and counseling sessions is without a doubt the most effective and productive activity there is when it comes to being on top of a team’s progress, or lack of progress, and coaching them up to a higher level of sales performance.

Many times the owner of a company will view the sales organization in the same way they view the accounting or human resources department. The difference is when you give an assignment to an accountant you know he or she has spent years studying the principles and legal issues of accounting. They must pass exams to be certified. There’s a process. They know what to do with the data because they are following stated principals. They have a commonly understood language and they don’t have the competition trying to cut them off at the knees.

Sales is different.

There are no standards or generally followed guidelines. And every sales person can be successful in their own unique way. Some sales representatives are introverted, highly skilled technicians who listen extremely well, who don’t interrupt and are not always selling, positioning and pushing.

Others are magnificent at networking and obtaining referrals. They know people, lots of people, and leverage those connections.

A sales manager is challenged to understand and coach each salesperson individually.

Running a sales team is a lot like running a professional sports team. It’s a performance-driven game.

If sales people are not selling, they ultimately stand to lose their job. In addition to that pressure, they face rejection each and every day.

The obstacles sales people face are numerous, and different, than what’s in front of the accounting or human resources staff, and it can take it’s toll.

Leaving the sales team alone is guaranteed to be a disaster.

There is power in sitting down with each rep one-on-one every week, reviewing their past weeks performance and helping them understand what they can do to further hone their skills and improve their performance.

It also offers the owner, CEO or sales manager a chance to partner with each rep and take an approach where they both have skin in the game.

There might not be championship games and Super Bowl rings at stake with these meetings, but if the one-on-one process is done right, your sales representatives will respond positively. And they will be grateful for the help and the partnership in their success.

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