You’ve worked hard and achieved great success as a sales professional. You walk the walk. You lead by example. Your colleagues and bosses have respect for your talents and work ethic and they’ve tapped you for management. Everyone involved fully expects you to be as successful in your new role as you were in the last one.
Alas, the opposite is often true. Your income is no longer based solely on your own performance. Now, your team’s ability to generate business is more heavily weighted in your compensation than your own very dependable revenue-generating skills. When your people underperform, it can be a huge blow.
I often hear this from the managers I coach: ‘If they would just do what I tell them to do, they’ll succeed! I’m living proof! I don’t know how to get them to pick up the phone! They’re lazy. They’re just not motivated. I hired the wrong people.’
Does this sound familiar?
If it does, you’re probably experiencing a profound frustration. You have a deep desire to help others do well, and lead a winning team, but it’s just not working.
There is a simple reason behind this enormous challenge: Being great at something is not at all the same as being able to teach others how to be great at it!
If you are experiencing this frustration yourself, you may have what I call Expert-itis. This can happen to anyone anywhere, not just in management.
A few examples:
This week I taught a booth marketing workshop to a group of 56 financial advisors. I was walking them through the process of making an authentic connection with someone walking past the booth. One of the advisors spoke out and said ‘you just build some rapport!’
As soon as I heard the words you just… in response to a ‘how do you do x’ question, I cringed. I could almost hear the dirisive ‘Duh…’ before his ‘you just’.
Have you ever asked a friend or colleague who’s great at something you’d like to learn: ‘hey, how do you do that?’, only to have them throw a breezy generality at you?
How did you become such a great hockey forward? I just practice a lot. OR
This is delicious! I’d like to try the recipe at home – how do you make it? Oh, I just threw in a bunch of stuff I had left in the fridge.
Having heard their pithy advice, do you feel any more capable of executing the new skill?
A more pertinent example:
I’m trying hard, but I don’t know how to get more prospects to come in for an appointment. You just keep getting out there. You’ve gotta keep picking up the phone. It’s a numbers game.
For an Advisor trying desperately to build their practice and learn from their very successful manager, these words can be soul-destroying. Implied in the word ‘just’ is the idea that this should be simple and fairly easy. That all it takes is hard work. So if they’re failing, clearly they don’t have what it takes. They feel stupid, unprofessional and unqualified. Their confidence takes a dive and they start to give up.
This is a downward spiral. Now it’s even harder for you to get them to pick up the phone and you know at least some of your team is probably lying about their prospecting activity.
So how do you turn the boat around?
This is certainly a longer topic than one article, but here is one crucial tip that will help from this day forward:
Teach them the How, not just the What. Sales conversations are fairly predictable in their make-up. Initial contact, building trust and rapport, uncovering a genuine need, overcoming objections, asking for the sale. Each part of these stages is made up of several skills.
Listen to your Advisors’ sales conversations and make some notes. What parts of the sales conversation are they managing well, and where do things break down.
When you’re coaching, be sure to acknowledge specifically what they are doing well. (Unhelpful: You started off great! Helpful: You asked a couple great rapport questions that really got her to open up. Specifically: ‘What did you think of the speaker’s point about x’.)
Not only will this specific feedback help to build their confidence, they’ll know they can safely replicate that part of what they’re doing!
When you’ve identified which moments in the conversation need work, be like the Wizard of OZ – who turned out to be a perfectly human guy – revealing the buttons and levers behind the curtain. Take the mystery out of it and break down step-by-step how you do it. (You may need to first record yourself a few times to analyze your own mastery!) Then help them to practice just those parts they struggle with, until they get it.
Once your team understands that successful sales conversations involve learning a few new skills and not some fluke of either being a ‘natural’ or not, they’ll have the courage and willingness to step up. They’ll throw their efforts into mastering what they need to learn to succeed.