Despite me living and working 270 miles away from the rest of my sales team, I can confidently say I still have a greater level of insight into how they interact with prospects than many managers who sit in the same office as their team on a daily basis. Traditionally, managers who operate with a field based or ‘remote’ sales team are the ones who have some of the greatest barriers to coaching their reps. Their sales coaching toolkit is restricted to ad-hoc ride alongs, weekly phone catch-ups, or monthly get togethers. Much of this approach is hugely expensive both in time and money. What are the overheads of sending a manager across the country or even internationally both in travel costs, accommodation, and time out of the office?
One Pre-Sales Director I spoke with last week had a team of 20 sales engineers located in 6 different timezones. They openly admitted that asides from having a monthly ‘team-call’ and increasingly sporadic ride-alongs (due to massively limited sales management time), they had no insight to the demos their SE’s were delivering, the quality of sales skills in the team, and the actual conversations which were taking place. Quite frankly, apart from looking at baseline KPI’s such as number of demos delivered to number of opportunities closed - the only measurement of performance the Pre-Sales Director had of his team was based on the verbal summary report they received on their monthly catch up. Is this really an accurate measuring stick? Could they always be truly confident that what their SE’s tell them is the complete picture? If one of their SE’s is reporting back that a demo hit a dead end due to a lack of prospect interest or bad timing - is this actually the case? Or is it simply because they didn’t utilise effective questioning, negotiation, or valuable demo delivery skills? The reality is, without seeing this, you are leading blind.
Thinking about this particular use case further over the weekend, the depth of challenge I foresaw here for this particular organisation runs much deeper than initially discussed. Could the following challenges exist by simply not having an accurate idea of the calls and demos their SE’s were having? :
They would never have an accurate idea of the level of skill-set their SE’s have. Were top performers actual top performers or were they just lucky? Were lower performers always unlucky or were they simply not capable?
They invested huge amounts of money into sales training and in particular their big January ‘Sales Kick Off’. Was there an actual ROI on this training? Or were SE’s simply falling back into old habits the minute they went back out into the field?
What were they basing their training programmes on? Was this a cookie-cutter approach simply because they didn’t have an actual understanding of what was their SE’s most common skills deficiency?
What did their prospects and customers respond best to and what things were they less fussed about? Did this company have actual up-to-date intelligence over the regular challenges their ICP faced? Did their SE’s invest too much time selling product features which actually offered so little value to their market?
Do they truly know the common mistakes their SE’s make on their interactions and how often these occur? How many lost opportunities have occurred due to mistakes being constantly made?
How could they coach their sales reps to improve and achieve greater levels of performance and revenue?
So how do I - a manager 270 miles away from my team avoid the challenges laid out above? It’s actually pretty simple. We embrace the concept of recording our calls and demos as a team. We understand that this is not a ‘Big Brother’ activity - but is truly the only way to aid self-reflection, feedback and improvement without ‘riding-along’. We foster a culture of collaboration - inviting each other to listen back to our sales interactions and picking out key moments to improve on or presenting another way of handling a scenario. We understand what makes a good call and what makes a bad one. We ensure that mistakes made are quickly identified and learnt from
Outside of listening back to live sales interactions, we set each-other video based role play exercises, inviting everyone to record and respond to pitch challenges, objection handling scenarios, and competitor analyses. Nobody is exempt from this. From the CEO down to the sales rep, there is a universal understanding of how ‘on-message’ we are as a sales team and the ability to address this through coaching where this may not be the case.
All of the above is done without the necessity of investing in a train ticket, spending a day out of the office, or having to reschedule appointments to make sure I am available at a specific time. Take away the immense savings in time and travel - can you really afford to manage with your eyes closed?
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