By Jim Annis
It's January and every business salesperson is champing at the bit to get over the holiday slowdown (unless you're retail) and get new customers. Make way! Here they come!
As a CEO, it is important to give some coaching reminders to your sales team before you release them. To increase your company's productivity, get training started early in January. David Sandler, John Maxwell, Zig Zigler, and Dale Carnegie are all successful sales coaches and have their own methods of teaching. Originally, I wanted to give you their overarching philosophies in this article so that you could share them. I changed my mind.
The one thing that I want you to coach is how to be authentic and to listen. Back in 1975, I trained as a salesperson with Mutual of Omaha. The basis of that training was sincere interest. Anyone can learn other sales skills, like product knowledge and client education. The goal is to get behind the person's forehead, and to do that you must listen.
The Ick Factor: If you posses this, most likely you are selling to someone for your benefit, versus determining if you can — together — solve their problem. Remove the “Ick” Factor. When you help by listening, then responding appropriately, it means the difference between “selling" ("Ick, I've been slimed by that salesperson") versus a mutually beneficial relationship resulting in “I can’t wait to start working with you!” The Ick might be coming from within you and your attitude towards sales. Flip it. People are used to commerce. It happens every day, globally: a buyer; a seller; and a sale. You don’t have to be “salesy” to sell. Sell in a way that’s just as heart-centered and morally responsible as you are personally, while representing the values of your company. If your ick comes from poor business ethics (e.g., promising something during the sales negotiation that you cannot fulfill) there is no long-term place for you in sales. The best coaching I can give to you is find another profession.
The X Factor - If you have this, sales comes easy and it makes sense. Dollars flow naturally to you, resulting from the relationships you have now and will develop over time. Willie Mays was never a manager or a coach for a reason. He would just go and hit the ball. How can you teach someone to do that? How do you teach someone to be genuinely interested in people? That is just who you are. X Factor people, rejoice in your good fortune and use the talent responsibly.
My biggest sales coaching gripe is that people make selling so difficult. If you are the right person, it is easy. If you find sales hard, then choose to do something else. The bottom line is that people buy from people they like and trust. You can have everything you want in life with sales as a career if you fit that profile.
Jim Annis is president and CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Applied's COO, contributed to this article.