Transforming Sales Manager

Webinar: Making Sales Managers Your Most Valuable Enablement Resource

Sales enablement initiatives have the potential to drive exceptional sales performance. However, the most critical link in the sales enablement value chain is often missed, resulting in mediocre impact, or even failed programs. Transforming sales managers to sales coaches has the potential to supercharge all other enablement initiatives and drive exceptional results.

During this session, Axiom partner Bob Sanders will show why sales managers are the most critical resource in sales enablement initiatives. He’ll also share Axiom’s GUIDE model, which helps sales enablement transform managers from super sellers and compliance officers to exceptional coaches.

Sales Interaction

3 Steps to Radically Improve Sales Engagement and Business Results

Here’s an exercise you can do right now to check on the effectiveness of your existing sales engagements. Start by pulling a report of the Top 20 opportunities in your organization, and then go line by line and see if you can answer the following questions.

  1. What is the probability we will win this business? And is that answer based on the seller’s gut feel, what is automatically generated by your CRM based on the sales stage, or what you know about the prospective customer?
  2. Who in the prospect’s organization is involved in making this decision, what role will each person play and, and what influence will each evaluator have on the ultimate decision?
  3. Which alternatives are being considered and/or favored by these evaluators? Why are certain alternatives favored over others?
  4. What are the key business issues, and how are those issues affecting this decision?
  5. What criteria will they use to determine which alternative is best for their business?
  6. What steps are involved in their decision process, when will those steps take place and what is driving that timeline?

While there is little doubt this exercise would provide powerful insights about how your sellers are engaging with buyers, the unfortunate reality for most organizations is that this type of review will likely never happen. Why? Because this information, if it does exist, is being stored in either the mind or possibly on in the notes of individual salespeople. It isn’t in a form or location where it can be easily shared, let alone analyzed to see what’s missing. And therein lies one of the greatest obstacles to better sales engagements and dramatically higher win rates – not knowing what we know about our opportunities. Put another way:

It isn’t what we don’t know about an opportunity that kills us, it’s what we don’t know we don’t know.

You see, if we could conduct this review in an efficient manner, and if in doing so we realized we were missing key information, we could almost certainly (unless we are literally at the end of the buyer’s journey) go back and gather the information we are missing. In fact, most buyers don’t want to be sold, they want to be helped and we can’t help them if we don’t properly understand them. Therefore, most are quite willing to share more information, provided that information is being used to better help and serve them.

How Bad Does it Hurt?

  • Does it bother you that this kind of information — if it exists at all — only lives in your seller’s mind or personal notes?

  • Does it make you uncomfortable to think that if this person were to leave, so would all the information about that account and opportunity?

  • Does it pain you to think that the only way anyone can help this person win the sale and get better is to go through the tedious process of having them recall everything they know?

If the idea that such critical information might be getting missed in your sales engagements, or might walk out the door with a salesperson drives you nuts, we can absolutely relate. And if it makes you a bit uncomfortable, maybe even slightly nauseous to think about how time-consuming and ineffective opportunity reviews often are, believe me, we are right there with you!

Thankfully, there are ways to address the root cause of this problem and radically improve your sales engagement and business results.

Step 1 — Establish Common Information Objectives

The more we know about our prospective customers (what’s happening in their business, what they want to buy, how they determine who has it, etc.) the better our chances of winning the opportunities we can win. Maybe just as important, this information also gives us a chance to walk away from the business we can’t win without wasting our time or that of our prospects. Sadly, many organizations never get to the point where they can agree on what information they need in order to understand an opportunity. Naturally, this dramatically reduces their chance of developing individual and organizational effectiveness around eliciting important customer information.

To overcome this, establish a shared set of information objectives. To be clear, this shouldn’t simply be anything anyone believes they want to know, and it also shouldn’t be limited to a few important things your management team thinks you need to know. Instead, it should be everything you need to know to fully understand a sales opportunity — a static set of commonly understood terms and definitions that anyone can recite at any time.

You’ll want to get to the point where these terms and definitions become part of every conversation moving forward. Want a sample template for a comprehensive set of information objectives? Click here and we will send one to you free of charge, along with a note-taking tool to help people gather this information during their sales conversations.

Step 2 — Help People Gather, Analyze, and Leverage the Information

Next, provide your people with a tool, any tool, that can help them better gather, analyze, and leverage this information. Ideally, you will integrate this information into your CRM, however even a word form or printed note-taking tool is better than nothing at all. If you are planning to integrate into your CRM, the information entered must help your salespeople:

  • Work more effectively and efficiently.

  • Forecast quickly and accurately.

  • Win more business.

  • Create benefits for the seller and manager.

A couple important caveats here:

  1. Don’t expect your salespeople to type information into fields in your CRM … they won’t do it and there are better ways to leverage technology to capture what they do know, and perhaps more importantly do not know about their opportunities so that it can be used to help them.
  2. Avoid the temptation to punish people for what they don’t know. Instead create transparency and promote objectivity. If you beat people up for what they don’t know, they will likely make things up.

Step 3 — Provide Ongoing Learning and Coaching to Improve Skill and Knowledge

Once we have a common set of information objectives and we are leveraging them to help people better understand their opportunities, sales managers can begin helping the team become more proficient at engaging buyers and gathering this information. However, it is critical to understand the difference between the typical manager-seller conversations and truly productive coaching.

Most sales managers were promoted because they were great sellers. Therefore, their natural tendency is to do what they do best. This is why so many sales managers are really player-coaches who rely on team members to bird dog opportunities while the manager is deeply involved in working the deals. In other words, the manager is running the plays.

We want an environment where the managers have their sellers handling the sales engagement. Meanwhile, the manager is actively involved in developing the strategy. So rather than run the plays, they are calling the plays.

Better play calling improves performance. However, really maximizing results requires moving beyond calling plays to developing better players. Managers must be held accountable for diagnosing the root cause of performance gaps among their sellers and determining what corrective action or learning can be leveraged to shrink the gaps. Want more information on the model for effective sales coaching? Click here to download our Guide to Sales Coaching.

In an ideal world, the CRM or some other tool is available to help improve coaching conversations by:

  1. Making it easy and efficient for managers to identify potential performance gaps, even before they affect results.
  2. Giving the manager questions to ask or steps to follow to diagnose the root cause of any performance gaps.
  3. Presenting the appropriate learning activities based on the root cause and being able to assign these from the CRM.
  4. Tracking both coaching and learning to help you identify and help people who are struggling with these two critical behaviors.

When we settle on clearly defined information objectives and provide tools to help people better gather and analyze the information then use that information to coach and develop sellers, we can transform our sales conversations and dramatically improve sales results.

Want to learn more? Axiom provides a unique alternative to traditional sales training. Unlike traditional sales training events, we embed our methodology into your sales cadence, delivering dramatically better sales results. To learn more about our Mindful Selling Methodology, Kinetics Sales Effectiveness Platform, or our unique, guaranteed approach, please visit us at