Crash & Burn or Jump in?

Every sales leader has been in this situation.  You are on a call with your sales person and you see them making mistakes.  Some are minor (gave a wrong spec or misquoted something about a feature) and some are major (completely wrong on what you can deliver or wrong pricing).   Or, there are sales process mistakes such as not having the right people in the room or the sales person is totally missing out on buying (or boredom) signs.   What do you do?  Do you take over the presentation or do you let it be “a learning experience?”   The most common answer to that question is “It depends on the deal” and that’s understandable.  Nobody wants to let the big deal fall apart.

But far too often I see sales leaders feel that their role is to be the “seller” and either take the lead on every sale or “save” every deal.  They enjoy being the sales person or the hero, so that’s what they do.  However, there is one big flaw in that approach.  Their sales people don’t get any better by watching them.  You can only learn so much by watching someone model the right behavior.  Like I have said a hundred times in the past, I never got any better at golf by watching the golf pro hit golf balls in front of me.  I need to shank a few and then have the pro tell me what I am doing wrong so I can make corrections.  Sales managers should play that same role – observer and coach.

How can you fix it if you can’t see it?    

So let’s talk about what good “observation” means.  Before you go into a client meeting, discuss your role as a sales leader.  Are you going to just be observer or will you play a vital part in the call?   Some leaders have told me that they don’t feel comfortable being the observer.  I hear things like “If I’m going on the call, I’m going to make myself valuable.  What do you want me to do?  Just be a bump on a log and not say anything?”  The short answer is “Yes.  Kind of.”  There is nothing wrong with introducing yourself, maybe give a little background, then hand the controls over to the sales person to run the show.  If questions arise that you can answer, then answer them and hand control back to the sales person. Your job is to take notes on your sales person’s performance so you can discuss it after the call and help them get better.

Now keep in mind that this does not mean you are looking for everything that your sales person is doing wrong.   I’ve made that mistake in the past.  Imagine how good a sales person feels when you give them the list of everything they did wrong.  Predictably, when I just focused on the bad stuff, the salesperson felt defeated and certainly didn’t want me to come with any longer.  A good sales leader looks for the good things so they can recognize them and spot areas where you can help the sales person improve.  It is all but impossible to do this if you are the person running the meeting.  When I changed my behavior and recognized the good things my sales people did (really asked good questions, did a good job at introducing new concepts the customer had not thought of, differentiated your services well), then I noticed that those behaviors happened more often.  It also made it much easier to provide constructive feedback because they were more open to it.

So would you ever let it crash and burn?

It’s really hard, but the answer is yes.  Imagine you’re a sales person and you are completely botching the meeting and your sales manager saves the day.  Great, you may have saved the deal, but did you learn anything.  Probably not.  Sales people have this unique ability to forget the bad stuff and just focus on the fact that the meeting ended well.  Now imagine you botch the meeting and your sales manager doesn’t jump in.  Instead, you talk afterward about why it went poorly, what you could have done differently and what you need to do to try to fix the situation.  Guess what?  You learn from that and the chances of you making the same mistakes again are small.

So, next time you go on a call with one of your sales people, take a back seat and observe.  You will be surprised what you can learn.

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