A Sales Management Refresher From the Desk of Robert P. Currie

From the Desk of Robert P. Currie

After 40 years of consulting to manufacturers and distribution companies, the changes in sales and sales management have been dramatic (technology) and surprisingly minimal (behaviors) at the same time. The sports analogy for this is that technology (video, statistics, training) have made great strides in coaches understanding the game, however, the game is still played between the lines by dedicated athletes–hopefully, well-coached athletes. The “technology” helps us coach those athletes (sales people) better, but the players (athletes and sales people) must be strong, trainable, and coachable. Is there a better example of trainable, well coached players than the 2019 USA Women Soccer Team?

Coaches having a “concept of the game” is central to the coaching of sales people. Often sales managers become sales administrators distracted by order entry, order expediting, pricing, commission calculations, contact management and a host of other administrative duties. Our observation as a management consulting firm is that this administrative process has, little by little, squeezed out the day-to-day coaching of “between the lines” activities. In the industrial equipment world, this situation is observable at the manufacturer level as well as distribution level.

In the distribution level, where the interaction is between a sales person and a customer, the concept of the game should be quite clear. It centers around the sales close. Referring back to the soccer example above, the process is: we put the ball in their net and stop them from putting the ball in our net. Recently we conducted a sales manager conference which brought up the inevitable question about lowering prices to stay competitive. We asked the sales managers to articulate the method of dealing with price objection, or any normal sales objection. The answers were not vibrant. So, we followed up with the question of the standard sales close. What do you train sales people to say at the time of close? Again, no vibrant answer.

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