Newsletter follow-up: How would you coach these salespeople?

You gave your sales team a goal of selling $1 million this year but because you’re a great coach, you also asked the most important question, “What do you hope to achieve?” or “What do you want to do?”

That was the premise of my newsletter earlier this week, and I suggested that your team members may well have given you four different possible responses. Here they are:

1)      I’ll be happy if I can just make goal. I don’t want to fail at this.

2)      I know I can make this goal if I work hard and practice, and I will, but there’s a lot I need to learn.

3)      I’m confident I’m going to exceed this goal. I’ve always blown through my goals and I see this only as another challenge.

4)      What incentives are available to me if I surpass this goal. If I do $1.2 million, how much more will I make?

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedI asked you to comment on how you would coach each one differently, and I heard back from one very experienced sales manager, who had such useful insights from his own management experience, that I’m going to just quote what he said, a day off for me!

“The responses you suggested are very similar to what I would hear in one-on-ones at the beginning of every month. Countrywide [his former employer] lived by the motto, ‘if you’re not growing, you’re dying’, and while that constant drive to improve month-over-month burned some people out, it was also why coaching and goal-setting were so important.  I heard a lot of the 2, 3 and 4 answers. I loved working with the #2’s as I often hired people outside of the “box”—blank canvasses with a track record in another field, good attitude, intelligence and coachable because they were new to our business.

I’d sit them right by my side, or I’d spend hours in their cubicles with them on live calls, listening in, or having them listen to me, perfecting open-ended questions, listening skills and setting daily, weekly and monthly performance goals. That salesperson is telling you he wants to learn, and you have to invest your time.  You owe it to these people; they’ll be your superstars.

Your number 3 gives you an opportunity to incorporate some best practices.  If her sales results show a track record of blowing through goals, you can do two things. First is she needs a carrot. You can’t have a $2 million producer rewarded or deemed satisfactory for hitting $1 million, even though that’s the goal.

Do two things with her.  First empower her to facilitate learning among her peers. Certainly there are behaviors which have become habit for her that would be great to make uniform across your team. Identify them and give her an SME role on the team, and if possible try to create additional incentives for achieving a more difficult, advanced goal. I always had layered incentives beyond the standard bonus program to curb complacency and create some hierarchy, added rewards for the upper echelon that would give the newer, less talented or less motivated an additional level of incentive to achieve more.

The last guy has told you, ‘I can do the million but show me why I should do more. What’s in it for me?’ Your job as a coach is to keep this guy focused on levels of goals, and motivation is the number one key.  Right or wrong, I found my top producers reveled in their status of being in the top 3. I let them be big shots, and if handled correctly, they’ll refuse to give up that status while they help you coach the next tier up to their level.

It always comes down to knowing each salesperson, what makes him tick, knowing when to apply a hug, a kick or something else.  Common to all of them is to make them understand that you have a keen interest in their development by establishing a relationship of trust.  A good coach can say truthfully, ‘If you give me 100% of what I invest in you, you’ll get where you want to go.’”

Not only did this sales manager nail the answer and save me the job of writing, I also found it gratifying and a bit of a thrill that the email came from someone I love and respect very much, my own son.  Thanks for today’s input Garrison LaMothe. You’re a great sales manager.  Love, Dad

Think Like Your Customer

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at

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