Put on Your Teachers Hat to Grow Sales

Denver-Based Sales Leadership Development Available Nationwide

Posted: May 20, 2010

Being a great sales manager means being a great teacher and developing those teaching skills. Here are a few of the tools that raise close ratios and build company culture.

Curriculum: Imagine a teacher going into the classroom every day without a lesson plan, content and learning objectives. Better yet, can you imagine that teacher expecting their students to get better and smarter without the above?

Ironically, this happens every day in the sales profession. Companies expect sales teams and salespeople to get smarter and better without a lesson plan or teachers to teach it. Here's a sampling of lesson plans that sales organizations should be ready to teach:

(1) Prospecting -- A sales team making cold and warm calls must have a lesson plan that teaches team members how to quickly build rapport, disarm the prospect and arouse interest within the first 60 seconds of the call. Without a customized lesson plan, the salesperson resorts to their plan, which is often ineffective.

(2) Running a consultative sales call -- Great sales organizations teach their teams how to sell to different buying styles, set the tone for a consultative sales meeting, quantify the problem so money isn't a negotiating point and meet with all the decision makers involved in the process. They have a lesson plan that can be taught, duplicated and tested.

There is an old saying: "When I knew better, I did better." Sales teams do better when they know better.

Testing: A good teacher knows knowledge is useless unless it can be retrieved and applied. The teaching profession wouldn't think about delivering curriculum and not testing to determine if students are learning and grasping new concepts.

How much would you have learned in school if you knew you never were going to be tested on the subject? Would you have read the chapter, memorized the words or done the homework if there was no test or grade?

Companies and sales managers often fall short in the testing area. They invest in education for their sales team but don't test to see if new sales knowledge is sticking or if the sales student can apply it to the real world.

There are several ways sales managers can test their teams, such as a quiz, role-playing, drill applications and accompanying the salesperson on calls.

Don't forget the second part of testing - giving a grade. A salesperson may think they are performing at an A level because B, C, and D levels never have been established or evaluated.

Consequences: Teachers know there are consequences if homework isn't turned in, tests aren't passed and good behavior isn't shown in class. Consequences can be staying after school, a meeting with a student's parents or repeating a grade.

What are the consequences for your sales team not doing their homework or showing good behavior, such as:

(1) Executing the agreed-upon sales activity plan.

(2) Growing margin.

(3) Growing sales.

(4) Growing existing client base.

(5) Selling new product lines.

A highly successful vice president of sales told me that after investing in sales training, the sales team was tested -- with the understanding that a no-pass grade could result in termination. (I'm guessing his sales team stayed up late, studied and practiced. What do you think?)

Reward: Great teachers recognize good grades and performance. In your younger years, recognition may have been a gold star on a paper or a citizenship award. As you got older, the reward may have changed to recognition for being on the honor roll or earning a scholarship.

Many sales organizations think they have good incentive and recognition programs because they pay top commissions and bonuses. However, it's been proven that recognition is still more powerful than money when rewarding top producers. Programs don't have to be expensive and should include both tangible and intangible components, such as:

(1) Personal note from the president.

(2) Sales clubs that reward behavior aligned with corporate goals.

(3) Incentive trips.

(4) A thank-you note home to the spouse.

(5) Sales hallway of fame.

(6) Recognition in company newsletter.

(7) Letters from satisfied clients on display.

Fun: Good schools and teachers make you work hard and study hard. They also make time for fun. Remember naps? Recess? Pep rallies? Remember fun?

Sales can be a high-stress profession. Great sales managers recognize this and make sure they schedule "recess" or fun for their sales teams. Fun can be accomplished through funny skits at a sales meeting, an after-work outing or practical jokes.

Make becoming a great teacher your goal in 2005. Who knows, you may end up exceeding your sales goal and earning a shiny red apple on your desk.