As I work from my home office, I hear the buzzing of saws cutting down tree limbs on behalf of the electric utility. I guess it is considered essential…but that is another topic. The noise does make me think about sharpening the saw. And, especially what a great time it is to help salespeople improve their skills to become independently successful.

Don’t Repeat History

Taking a lesson from the last recession, there are many salespeople out there who are successful in strong economic times but suffer in downturns. Frequently they lack the selling competencies that will support their sales efforts, but more frequently, salespeople even lack the Sales DNA to support the selling competencies they do possess.

In other words, they know what to do, but lack the confidence or the mindset to be able to do it effectively. And these deficiencies have been masked in the frothy economic environment of late.

Here are current seller stats:

  • 59% need approval more than they need to close business
  • 63% lack emotional control during the sales process
  • 85% carry self-limiting beliefs regarding sales
  • 72% suffer from purchasing habits that negatively impact their ability to close business
  • 60% have issues discussing money

Courtesy of Objective Management Group based on pool of nearly 600,000 sellers

Think about how these problems will manifest themselves in less than ideal economic times. As the market slows, salespeople who lack adequate Sales DNA will suffer.

Sales Manager Dependency

One of the biggest issues we see is when salespeople are too dependent on their manager. Sometimes to the point where the manager must tell them what to do every step of the way to enable them to close business. Well, with more remote work and less facetime with managers in today’s social distancing world, it might make sense to focus on coaching salespeople to become more independently able to source and close business on their own.

While working remotely using web calls and the phone may be somewhat foreign to some salespeople, and their preference may be to conduct face-to-face conversations, using the phone is actually a great way to test out language or skills that one might not be completely comfortable with. It can provide that appropriate distance or separation from the perceived conflict. It works with sellers and buyers and it can work with managers and sellers. The key, whether selling or managing, is to plan out the questions that are going to be asked and a rough outline of the agenda.

And now is a great time to spend MORE time coaching salespeople. Managers just need to be more prepared in their approach.

Cord Cutting Time

If you have sellers who are dependent on the manager to close business, go ahead and cut the cord now. Rather than telling salespeople what to do, focus on helping the individual improve their own effectiveness by determining what to do on their own.

And, with a remote structure, it may be necessary because the manager may not be as available. The door isn’t open for salespeople to walk in. Nobody is going to catch the manager on the way to the bathroom and ask a quick question (other than the manager’s spouse or child).

Simply, now is an opportune time to help salespeople develop their confidence in following a process and deciphering for themselves what needs to happen next. Two suggestions to help:

  1. Ensure the use of a repeatable sales process. A road map if you will of what questions need to be asked and when to walk along the path with the buyer.
  2. When the salesperson asks the manager what to do, the manager needs to respond, “What do you think you should do?” Or, “What do you think I would suggest you do?”

Help your salespeople grow in their confidence and their effectiveness during this tumultuous time. Use social distancing to make salespeople utilize their brains to determine the right next step. (And, managers, don’t swoop in on a Zoom call and take over the conversation with the prospect or client, either!)