As a consultant, I spend a lot of time in the field with clients. Whether it’s conducting a ride along, coaching one-on-one, or facilitating a workshop, this work is always insightful. As a former sales rep, I love spending time in the field. Regardless of sales motion or industry, a variety of traits are apparent in top performing sellers.
One characteristic that rises as important as 2018 comes to an end is the ability to perform under pressure. As a devout New Yorker, it pains me to say that Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks to play the game. More often than not, when the game is on the line, Tom rises up. He elevates his situational awareness, displays mastery of the fundamentals, and executes with confidence. It’s almost as if he welcomes the pressure. For many sales reps and managers, December is the 4th quarter, down by 6, with seconds left in the game.
The good news is, the ability to perform under pressure is coachable. Top performing sales organizations emphasize three key strategies to ensure their reps and managers perform under pressure:
1. Be the Best at the Basics – Flawless and consistent execution of basic selling skills, messaging, and tools is critical when the stakes are high. CSOs, VPs, and front-line managers must hold reps accountable for the fundamentals. Often, the basic skills – especially core messaging and objection handling – are not reinforced. When field leaders don’t constantly reinforce, it’s as if formal sales training never occurred.
If you find your team is falling short, ask yourself if your sales leaders are equipped to promote the fundamentals. Repetition is the key. Share success stories and best-in-class examples across the organization. Use recognition programs and internal communications channels to build enthusiasm. Maintain a steady focus on ‘what good looks like.’ Hold your front-line managers accountable for displaying the basics in one-on-one coaching and ride alongs. Your managers must be able to demonstrate the basics before coaching their reps.
2. Elevate your Situational Awareness – Once you’ve mastered the basics, you need to deploy them accordingly. As your reps and managers spend more time in the field, they’re experiencing a variety of selling situations. By deploying the basics to advance the sale, they heighten their awareness of what works and what doesn’t. Successful sales actions are always situational, but common patterns quickly emerge. When the pressure heats up, reps perform better when they can quickly match common patterns and adapt their sales actions to fit the scenario: what to do, what to say, and what to show. Even the toughest of situations won’t phase them.
Managers should focus on adaptive coaching to improve situational fluency with their reps. Managers should be equipped to confidently guide reps on the most effective plays to match the situation. Sales VPs must do the same with their managers. And sales enablement should be supporting the entire system. It’s a team effort to develop the necessary adaptive selling skills required to win when pressure heats up.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice – I know Tom Brady watches hours of tape of himself and his competition. But he also gets out on the field to practice in real time. Your reps need to do the same thing. Make sure your managers carve out enough one-on-one time with their reps to practice and provide real-time feedback. Help your reps remain hyper focused on the most important deal factors and how to best approach the opportunity. Field trainers should host ride alongs with reps and provide side-by-side demonstration of what best-in-class selling looks like. When times are challenging, both the quality and quantity of practice matter.
Wrapping 2018 and Starting 2019 Strong
As 2018 comes to a close, it’s too easy to get distracted with admin and reporting issues. This is especially true for remote front-line leaders, buried under paperwork in their home offices. Many are scrambling to hit their Q4 targets and manage their team’s yearly goals. Customers are also preparing for changes in 2019. Concerns such as price increases, contract renewals, and other operational changes are top of mind.
But to win in 2019, teaching and honing the basics must be a priority. Economic uncertainties suggest next year won’t be a cakewalk. Encourage (mandate!) your sales managers stay focused on their field work, especially modeling and coaching on the fundamentals. Given the competitive B2B environment and the unknowns of the coming year, it’s more relevant than ever to be the best at the basics.
Contact us to learn more about how we can help prepare your sales force to perform under pressure.