September 22, 2015

A Behind the Scenes Look at Coaching a Top Producing Sales Rock Star

Early last year I wrote a post about the The Joy of Coaching Top Performers, and just recently an individual who I worked with in the past came back and basically insisted that we resume his coaching. I tried to respectfully decline because I felt like I’ve shared everything I could with him over the couple stints of working together, but this top dog would not take “no” for an answer.

Honestly, the whole exchange with this guy made me smile. It only further highlighted the dramatic differences between rock star high performers and most average salespeople. So many times when I’m brought into a company or facilitating a workshop, it’s typically the middle-of-the-pack guys who are quick to make the case that I probably can’t help them because I don’t know their business. These are also the same guys who try to avoid meeting with me 1:1, or who won’t reveal too much when management forces coaching upon them. Compare this — at best skeptical, and at worst hostile — attitude toward coaching with that of top producers I’m privileged to coach. Like this client who insisted on reengaging me, top producers not only seek out coaching, but they’re the most transparent, the hardest on themselves, and the most insistent that you be brutally honest with them. They beg you to be tough; they take advantage of every second you’re with them looking for constructive criticism, your best ideas, and the best practices of other reps.

Oh, and have I mentioned this other common behavior of top-producers? They regularly send me sales reports or screen shots of their company sales team rankings! They’re uber competitive and obsessed with coming out on top. The real reason the client mentioned above reengaged with me is because he had slipped to Number Two in his very large division’s sales rankings. That’s right. Number Two of hundreds of reps. For him, that. was. not. good. enough. Even better, because he wanted to get off to a fast start, he asked for some pre-work because he was headed off to some exotic place for his company’s annual award trip which would prevent us from restarting coaching as fast as he’d like.

Before I even share some of the “work” I assigned this guy, may I be so bold and ask many of you reading this who wish you were top sales producers how closely your attitude and approach to your job resembles the guy I’m describing to you?  I hear a lot of wishful talk about wanting to improve, but let’s be honest. It’s pretty darn rare to find someone with both the attitude and commitment to improve. Talk about improving is one thing, but action and commitment is another altogether!

Here are some of the questions I planted in this top-producer’s head to help get his mind right and on track to retaking the Number One position in his division:

  • Looking back at your big wins over the past couple years, who made the decision? How tied in were you to various stakeholders? How many contacts were you working? What won the deal for you, and how can we apply that to opportunities you’re currently pursuing?
  • How solid is your current target account list?  Are we darn sure we are pursuing the right accounts?  Can we separate out a handful of giant dream prospects from the batch — those that deserve special focus — so we can put a special plan of attack against them?
  • Heading into the second half of your fiscal year, what truly are you three or four highest-value activities that must dominate your calendar? Do not answer this lightly. You have to know with absolute confidence which activities will most move the revenue needle. Then we have to ensure that you spend 90% of your work hours laser-locked solely on those activities.
  • You are too nice and too low-maintenance. How can you make your company better support you and your sales effort? What else can we get them to do for you? Is their some admin or marketing support they can contribute? Is there some special treatment that top-producers should be getting or that other guys get that maybe you haven’t asked for?
  • In the past we’ve worked hard on powering-up your presentations. But maybe we can do better discovery work and come across as more consultative and more of a value-creator by asking tougher, deeper, more penetrating questions of key contacts at your prospects? Is it time to sharpen your probing questions to help you be more provocative and more effective earlier in the sales process?
  • Lastly, what hasn’t been working that you need to stop doing. And/or, what low-payoff activities have been sucking your time? If you are going to get to Number One, you’ve got to say no to more things and lighten your load, allowing you to run faster and focus on moving the needle. That means getting out of the crap that slows you down and distracts you.

I hope you’re challenged reading about the drive and attitude of this sales rock star and these questions I asked to get his mind right and our coaching off to a fast start.

Later this week, I’ll have a post for you recapping highlights of the 12-Week Sales Manager Survival Series my friend Dave Brock and I did for OpenView Labs. You won’t want to miss that!