On a bright, sunny day in the middle of summer, when you can almost feel your upcoming vacation getting ever closer, it’s easy to stay in an upbeat mood.
Then there are the days filled with unrelenting rain — both literal and metaphorical. The latter includes the time spent fruitlessly following up with customers and prospects who have already left for the cottage, or having to completely rejig a quote because new details about the buyer’s needs and budget have come to light.
There are also all those little things, like the coworker in the next cubicle over who can’t seem to stop smacking her food while eating at her desk, or the way an overhead light nearby keeps flickering without any building staff coming to fix it.
The specifics of what makes a bad day will be unique to every sales rep, of course, and the details will even change from one particular bad day to another. Great sales managers and coaches get pretty good at spotting these things, or at least getting reps to open up about them long after the team meeting has ended. They know all too well the company can’t afford a group of unhappy reps for long.
It’s not that attitude is everything in sales, but there’s no question it’s a big part of it. You have to have a certain amount of optimism to bring forward products and solutions to customers in a convincing way. Some reps need to do a lot of armchair psychology as buyers go through phases of fear, uncertainty and doubt while they consider a potential purchase.
Then there’s the need to stay cheerful amid the sheer volume of accounts assigned to reps, the metrics they need to focus on and who knows what kind of stresses are going on in their personal lives.
Maintaining a positive outlook against all these things is tough enough for the most highly experienced and the most successful reps. Imagine the struggle for those who are relatively new to the sales team, or those who -- for whatever reason — just aren’t meeting their quota on a regular basis anymore.
This is when coaching can make all the difference in the world, so long as it’s done well and with a lot of active listening woven in throughout the process. Prepare yourself by thinking through some of the most common situations your worst-performing reps might face, and the ways you can try to turn some of those frowns upside down.
The Backstory: Reps often have great people skills, but those skills can be put to the test when they come into contact with extremely difficult personalities.
The worst might be the customers who leave reps hanging by prolonging the buying process and taking forever to give an answer one way or the other.
Sometimes, though, reps come face-to-face (or virtually) with outright rudeness, condescending remarks or open hostility from the people they're trying to win over.
Unless they have a particularly tough skin, this is where you might see your worst-performing team member ready to hide.
The Positivity Play: Most reps know that the only way to really sell anything is to get to know their customer. The data you’ll have in your CRM can help out tremendously here, but so can things like empathy.
In your coaching session, see how much the rep knows about why a customer might be playing hard to get, or acting like a hard case. If they’re not sure, ask about how they might be able to relate to those kinds of moods, and what they did to get out of them.
Empathy is a powerful force because it makes us look at other people in a new light. You can begin to see them more positively because you recognize the humanity you share. That won’t necessarily repair a relationship, but it might make your rep approach the customer with less anxiety or dread.
The Backstory: They came so close so many times. They were absolutely sure the last time. Their finger was hovering over their keyboard, ready to record all the final order details into the CRM.
Then, something happened. Again.
As resilient as many reps are, you can reach a point where you don’t even want to discuss your win rate because the word “win” starts to seem almost inappropriate.
Reps are human — after a series of defeats they're bound to get discouraged, and even worry about their future with the organization. Manager-coaches don’t leave such situations too long, unless they want to go through the painful process of hiring and training all over again.
The Positivity Play: The natural tendency here is to look granularly at what the rep is doing, but chances are they're already laser-focused on their own behaviour.
This is where tools like Sales Cloud are invaluable, because it allows you to look one step above to the entire team's performance, and trends about the company’s entire base of accounts.
Instead of just examining the rep’s win rate, examine those of the reps’ peer group as a whole. You're bound to find some slumps there, but also evidence that no slump lasts forever. Just seeing empirical proof that there's life at the end of the funnel could be uplifting, but you may also find ideas in Sales Cloud to help them get there faster.
The Backstory: As far as the marketing team is concerned, there’s no reason you should have any poorly-performing reps on your team. After all, they held a webinar that attracted hundreds of registrants and not that many dropoffs. They published a whitepaper that continuously gets downloads. Blog traffic is way up. Why can’t the rep just be more aggressive?
We all know the answer. If reps are getting a lot of leads that aren’t qualified or are scored improperly, they're just going to be wasting their time following up. They might also find themselves duplicating efforts with the marketing team as they try to find their own, better leads.
The Positivity Play: Have the rep role play a customer and examine some of the marketing team’s most recently-produced assets. What resonates, and what doesn’t? How could the leads generated move en mass from marketing accepted leads (MQLs) to sales qualified leads (SQLs)?
Based on the rep’s feedback, connect with sales and initiate a respectful dialogue. The more actively involved a rep becomes in helping influence marketing, the more likely they’ll look at the leads they get more positively -- and work towards more positive results.
Your worst-performing rep might feel like your personal burden at first. As you hone your coaching skills, however, you’ll find that turning them around will be incredibly fulfilling. On that point, we’re absolutely positive.