• Friday, June 14, 2024
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BusinessDay

Sales coaching – a panacea for sustainable market growth

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The role of sales and marketing in any organisation cannot be over-emphasised; be it in a service or production-oriented entity. Selling is the life wire of any business endeavour. Just as customers deposit (cash or liquidity) is essential to the survival, profitability, solvency of financial institutions, the sales of stock in trade or the enlistment of customers for a service business is the sine qua non to business sustainability.

Sales have not been more critical to business leaders than in a difficult time like this. The pandemic has changed the terrain and aggravates customers’ consciousness for failed products or services. Spending is becoming more of a long-time investment due to the uncertainty created by the equal-opportunity virus, which affects the rich, the affluent and poor in the same dimension.

For organisations that want to survive and stay afloat in 2020, the focus should be more on their sales enlistment processes. It is dangerous for a business owner or a top decision-maker to assume customers will buy like before or they would not buy. Efforts should be re-energised into defining the value propositions, re-aligning the routes to the market, improving the sales supporting processes, the after sales services, and strategies to make your company’s brand known, widely patronised and remembered beyond the era of the pandemic.

Some CEOs or companies will not survive the effects of the pandemic except they radically change their sales philosophies and approaches to align with the changing orientations of their customers or consumers. We are in another era; an era of change that happened in the late 1990s led to the preference of salespersons to the other subject matter experts in the race of the CEOs’ positions. After COVID-19, the new terrain will not be for sales leaders, but creative sales leaders that can navigate their organisations through trouble waters and still deliver more than reasonable returns on investment to the shareholders irrespective of changes in the consumers’ behaviours or capacity to spend.

The main thing to focus on to maintain and sustain the market share of your business as a leader is your sales force. Now is the time to identify the goose that could lay the golden eggs, inspire them to put the eggs in the budget tray and reward their efforts in the incubation process

The question is, how can a sales leader maintain sustainability and consistent market growth in the number of customers and sales volume or value in a difficult business terrain. How can the customers’ loyalty be retained and expanded during and after COVID-19?

As a sales coach and leadership expert, I have led a team of consultants to support our clients, focusing on the sales organisations, the composition of their streams of income and clients as responses to the changing business landscapes. We have engaged sales professionals and leaders from the emotional and psychological perspectives to raise their performance bar during and after COVID-19.

Selling is a skill. The skill is a continuum. Like, my Indian friend and mentor will say, sales is like riding on the back of a tiger. When you find yourself riding at the back of the tiger, what will you do? If you stop riding, you will become a breakfast or lunch for the tiger depending on the time of the day. You will observe that sales figures are always on the increase irrespective of the change in the economic parameters. Whether the country’s growth rate of GDP or the disposable income is shrinking or not, sales budgets and targets are always on the increase year-on-year. I have not come across a company that wants to achieve fewer sales revenue than it did in the previous years. Investors want more from management. The customer wants more value with less cash than they are currently paying. It is a tug of war, and only a tough mindset and approach will win the game.

Sales skills are more of management of emotions, attitude, relationships and understanding of the different performance perspectives and less of running up and down with static strategy. At the end of the day, it boils down to individuality. A company with a collection of result-oriented sales lions or marines (according to one of my clients) will go on the same frequency and take territories than a company with ”business as usual” salespeople. Perspective is critical in making your sales teams deliver on their numbers, and as leaders, you have an enormous role than ever. You must have a sales coach who inspires others and an experienced deal maker who can make it happen when the chips are down. The approach of pushing sales staff without showing your deal or contribution is fast exposing sales leaders to ridicule. It is now what you say I cannot hear but what you do I can see and hear loudly.

In one of my previous articles titled, “For Sales Leaders Only,” I admonish sales leaders to think and act like the owners. Sales leaders are to behave like football coaches who need the support and the collaboration of their players to win games and trophies. The orientation of a football manager is that he will be first to be fired if his players fail to lift him. It is a game of result or exits the position.

“Sales coaching is, therefore, an effective panacea to deepening the existing business, to winning the heart, money, and loyalty of your customers with a high return on the capacity of your team”

The main thing to focus on to maintain and sustain the market share of your business as a leader is your sales force. Now is the time to identify the goose that could lay the golden eggs, inspire them to put the eggs in the budget tray and reward their efforts in the incubation process. It is time to leave behind you the usual harassment and threatening. The staff are aware they could lose their jobs like their friends in the current situation. So, your threat is just a confirmation of what is visible. Rather than a threat, collaborate. Collaborating is more than working with your team in the traditional way. It is coaching them like a football coach with a different mindset- their victory is your medal, and their failure is your exit pedal. The investment I am referring to is beyond training. In sales, training of staff has its limitations.

At times, giving knowledge-based information to a traumatised salesperson is like distracting his or her focus towards his sales metrics. Coaching, on the other hand, is an alliance relationship with a coach who always asks probing questions to generate answers from the clients. In coaching, we believe the clients have all the answers to turn around their performance within them. Sales coaching questions are to expand belief, refocus actions and sustainably deliver results through improved self-awareness supported with value-creating actions. The BAR of performance cannot be uplifted by training but through a coaching perspective to performance improvement.

In my book, the value chain banking- a practical guide to winning customers’ business and loyalty, I emphasised on what the customers want before selling of products or services can happen. The customers wish for a relationship which is only possible if the sales person crosses the trust and respect quadrants. Can your customer trust you? Can your customer respect you? Trust is the perception of your ability to work with the customer in a progressive way, including building a relationship with his team, both in an official and private capacity. Respect is the salesperson’s competence and ability to solve the customers’ problems before or after the sales.

Recently, I was engaged to support two newly elated sales leaders and their teams with sales targets that could take a breath out of any person. I met with their teams and insisted that it was my last meeting with them as in groups. We decided to adopt coaching instead of training. I met with the team members on a one-on-one basis online for one-hour a-week in a practical session. The coaching sessions focused on the salesperson’s emotions, relationships, and approaches.

We reviewed the client’s list of existing and prospective customers viz-a-viz their capacity, volume and value with the competition, and level of involvement in their customers’ businesses (Is the focused customer a start-up, re-alignment, sustaining success or in a turn-around stage in relations to my clients’ wallet share of the business?) The four stages as classified in the First 90days by Michael Watkin is pivotal to the strategy to be adopted in improving patronages and retaining the existing market shares. The result of our coaching engagement speaks for itself and is enduring.

Optimising the potential of your sales team is beyond training except there is a distinct knowledge gap. There is more of an emotional and psychological aspect to sales than training is capable of handling. If you want your staff to deepen your company’s wallet share of the customers’ businesses, and be productive during a difficult time like this, embrace coaching as an alternative to training.

Sales coaching is, therefore, an effective panacea to deepening the existing business, to winning the heart, money, and loyalty of your customers with a high return on the capacity of your team.