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Take a coaching approach to training your sales team.
Take a coaching approach to training your sales team.

How to assess, train, and support sales staff to achieve their true potential

Retail managers often take on the role of coach, writes GREG GLADMAN, who advises they employ a strategic, individual approach when training each member of their sales team.

When managers set out to improve their sales team’s performance, they must first understand three factors about each staff member – sales mind-set, sales skills, and hidden weaknesses.

Once these factors are defined, the manager can ensure that the time they spend training each person is focused on that staff member’s individual attributes, rather than taking a generic approach.

Training is about unlocking the potential of each person on the team; without a customised approach, behavioural change is very unlikely to occur and there is little gained for the manager’s time and effort.

Assessing sales staff

We have assessed more than 2 million employees across 32,000 companies, which has provided insights into the attributes of top-performing salespeople.

In terms of sales mind-set, the best staff display:

  • Desire to be the top-performing salesperson
  • Commitment to do what it takes to close the sale, within the values of the company
  • Motivation to leave their comfort zone and complete difficult tasks
  • Positivity about themselves, the company and the products they are selling
  • A sense of responsibility for results, or lack thereof

In addition to mind-set, sales skills are critical to the success of top performers.

In retail, there are five that make all the difference:

  • The ability to quickly build rapport and trust with the customer
  • Practicing‘ consultative selling’–that is, establishing what the customer wants and what is important to them
  • Selling on value and quality, rather than price, and the ability to move customers from price shopping to value shopping
  • The ability to spot a ‘tyre kicker’ or window shopper, versus someone that’s in-store to buy
  • Closing–that is, overcoming customers’ reservations or delay tactics
“To train staff effectively, a manager first needs to suspend judgment and assist the team member to understand which parts of the sales process they are doing well, and which areas could be developed.”

Finally, top performers overcome many of the hidden weaknesses that are common among salespeople, namely:

  • Need for approval – The best sales staff are comfortable asking tough questions of customers
  • Emotional reactivity – Top performers ‘stay in the moment’ and actively listen to customers, without letting their emotions distract them from their objective
  • Self-limiting beliefs – There are many salespeople that display self-limiting beliefs, such as, “I am not a natural salesperson”, “I am annoying/a nuisance to customers”, or “I can’t say no to unreasonable customer requests”
  • Negative expectations – In comparison to self-limiting beliefs, top performers have confidence they will close the sale and are less likely to simply let customers walk out the door
  • Fear of money – Effective salespeople are not afraid to talk about the price of the product or ask for the customer’s budget
  • Inability to handle rejection – Top sales performers don’t get ‘down and out’ when they fail; they do not let rejection impact their ability to close the next sale

These insights into the best salespeople’s attributes provide managers with a clear framework for how to train their staff.

Training tips

To train staff effectively, a manager first needs to suspend judgment and assist the team member to understand which parts of the sales process they are doing well, and which areas could be developed.

Focus on asking questions that lead the staff member to reflect and provide opportunities for them to verbalise solutions to problems they have encountered.

When we tell someone what they must do, we are often met with a simple, “Yes”or nod of the head, but this sort of superficial commitment is not going to change behaviour.

In contrast, if they are allowed to articulate what it is they need to do, they are far more likely to do it.

Other ways to achieve results include consistency through weekly one-on-one reviews, encouragement through group sales meetings in which staff share in team achievements, and support through role-playing sales scenarios with fellow team members.

Most importantly, managers should not expect overnight miracles; behavioural changes occur gradually but lead to long-lasting results.

By investing time in coaching according to these principles every week, your team will learn and grow consistently – and so will their sales success.


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Greg Gladman

Contributor • 

Greg Gladman is CEO of Objective Assessment and founder of Sales & Leadership Performance, an Australian sales development organisation focused on customised transformation programs. Visit: saleslp.com

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