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Sales coaching and the high potential sales rep

| Feb 26, 2012 No Comments

From time to time, either by thoughtful action or good fortune, every manager gets some – they wish they had more – and they’re always afraid of losing the ones they have. Every field has its fair share – the arts, sports, business, and fortunately the world of sales. Of course what we are talking about are folks with high potential.

High potential individuals are people that have special talents, unique capabilities, high motivation, and a sense of commitment that set them apart.

But just as their existence is known so is the fact that some of these high potential sales reps go on to be top performers in their respective fields while others fall by the way side with their potential never being realized. It is always bad news when people do not develop to their potential, but it is criminal when the high potential fail to do so.

With this in mind, let’s transition to the world of sales. Assume you are a sales manager and you have a couple of young new hires on your sales team that you believe fall into this high potential category. What can you do? How can you help these sales reps develop their potential to make sure they are as successful as they can be?

Let’s explore some ideas for meeting this challenge.

Over the years the psychology literature has devoted substantial time to this issue. Recently we reviewed a blog that did an outstanding job summarizing that effort. The authors explored the issue from the perspective of what successful people do that makes them successful. The article addressed what successful people do in a variety of fields but the insights translate extremely well to the field of sales.

Knowing what successful people do provides a sales coach with information that can be used to help high potential reps achieve the success they are capable of obtaining. Could they get there on their own? Sure, some would, but some might not. Plus, coaching can help them get there quicker with fewer mishaps along the way.

From the list of behaviors in the article that successful people do, we selected five that pertained particularly well to the world of sales.

  • Focus on being productive, not being busy. A sales manager can help a young high potential rep navigate the requirements, procedures, and torrents of paperwork that are inherent in any sales organization. Being busy with this and that only creates the illusion of being productive. Successful people slow down, do one thing at a time, and put first things first. As the authors note: “most things make no difference” so help a new high potential person focus on things that matter.
  • Work outside of your comfort zone. Many young high potential people are reluctant to accept an opportunity because they think they are not ready. One of the reasons for this is many high potential people tend to be perfectionists. As the authors note: “they feel uncomfortable and believe they require additional knowledge, skill, and experience before they can accept a challenge.” Consequently, they miss growth opportunities and in some cases develop a negative reputation for not being a ‘go-getter.’

Here a sales coach can be a great help. First, they can be on the alert for opportunities to provide the young high potential rep growth opportunities that are good for the rep and helpful to the team. Second, they can provide the support required to overcome the perfectionist syndrome.

  • Recognize the importance of other people. Any top performing sales rep knows that one key to the success puzzle is leveraging human resources – do you know and do you use others that can help you be successful. Some of the others are peers; some are in other functions such as marketing and technical support, while others are thought leaders inside and outside the organization. A good sales coach can introduce the right people, at the right time, and consequently impact the development of the high potential sales rep.
  • Maintain a positive outlook and learn from mistakes. Even if you are a high potential sales person, if you are a brand new sales rep it is fairly easy to get on a “downer.” Half of your first customer contacts don’t call back, your first meeting gets cancelled and that account that you were given as “done deal” – well, it still is not done.

As the authors point out: “successful people concentrate on the positive – they look for the silver lining.” But sometimes, particularly when one is new, the silver lining can be tough to find. This is where a coach can help. A little help early in the game takes very little time and can go a long way in helping someone to learn from mistakes, as opposed to, being discouraged by them.

  • Keep it simple. In sales, one can in the wink of an eye become overwhelmed with the amount of information available – product information, marketing data, pricing structures and that is just the short list. Even if one could by wizardry manage to assimilate of the information, the trick is how do you pull it together to use it effectively with customers.

One way a sales coach can help a new high potential sales rep separate the wheat from the shaft is to get them to first and foremost focus on selling fundamentals. Here is a short list that contains some simple fundamentals for sales success:

  • Do an extraordinary job understanding your customer
  • Do what you say you are going do
  • If you don’t know, don’t pretend
  • Be available
  • Be easy to work with

As a sales manager if you are smart enough or lucky enough to have some new young high potential people on your team, take the time and effort to help them navigate to success – what they will be able to achieve in the long run is often startling.

As you look at coaching new high potential sales reps, you might find these blogs helpful:

Training new medical device sales reps – getting it right

On-boarding sales people – it’s not your father’s Oldsmobile

Who are the new sales reps?

The business acumen challenge for new sales reps

New sales reps – top performers provide advice on building credibity

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©2012 Sales Horizons, LLC

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