How to Transition to a New Market Environment

With the market changing to purchase money, I am often asked what sales training senior executives can implement to help their sales staff make the transition successfully. Senior managers are startled when I tell them that the best training investment a company can make is to train their sales managers on how to effectively coach their originators. A more challenging marketplace requires managers to have excellent — not just good — coaching skills to ensure the sales team’s success.

Are you surprised that I didn’t recommend a “magic bullet” training program such as a sales blitz to recruit referral sources or entice real estate agents? The reason is training alone is not enough to impact results. Training only works if the direct manager can effectively coach their sales staff.

For originators to get better at selling, they need to incorporate new skills, techniques, knowledge and selling methods. All these training efforts are rarely successful by themselves because most of us have a natural tendency to resist change. Change is uncomfortable and for some, even frightening. Because change is difficult, sales professionals will revert to old habits very quickly, even if the old habits don’t work anymore and results are poor.

Since habits are hard to break, the only way for a sales organization to reinforce new behaviors is to train managers to be effective coaches and hold them accountable for results. The role of the coach is so important that the transition to new behaviors will not happen — regardless of how terrific the training presentation — unless a great coach helps the originator change behaviors.

Coaching is the process that develops and reinforces new skills and ensures that the knowledge is applied and used. Coaching encourages originators to use what they have learned before they revert to old habits. According to Jim Domanski, a well-known business coach, “coaching corrects deviations, it encourages, it keeps the sales person on the right track and prevents them from drifting back to the old skill set or knowledge base.”

Some senior managers believe that if they offer a big enough reward (a bonus or incentive trip), the sales person will be successful. Consider how many overpaid underperformers are in the sales force today and it is clear that this strategy doesn’t work. While rewards do have a place in the sales organization, they do not teach your sales people to work smarter. Coaching does. Coaching is not a short-term fix but an investment that drives better sales results over the long-term.

Do you have great coaches? If not, what are you doing today to improve your manager’s coaching skills?