My work is a mix of corporate training, executive coaching and consulting. From time-to-time though, I do some one-on-one coaching with salespeople. As a rule, these are rich experiences. Sometimes, however, they are real head scratchers.
Here is what I mean. While most of my sales coaching is with new hires who missed training, I get an occasional referral as a last ditch effort at saving a job. The manager sees both talents and skills in the sales person but, puzzling enough, performance is disappointing.
Over time, I have developed a model of what is required to turn this situation around: Know, Can and Will. Think of it as a three legged stool. Without all three legs in place, a three legged stool will not stand and a salesperson will not perform.
Knowing what to do requires mastery of business-to-business selling skills. These include planning and asking good questions, listening empathically, covering multiple buyer influences, pipeline management, adapting to various personalities, delivering engaging and persuasive presentations, and negotiations.
Can relates to demonstrating the ability to execute the learned skills in the field. Sometimes there is a gap. For example, I know how to dunk a basketball. But, unless the hoop is dropped way down to little kids’ height, I can’t do it.
In selling, we sometimes find that salespeople know how to listen, for example. But, they cannot control themselves from cutting the dialogue short, jumping in prematurely and pitching solutions. Another example relates to salespeople who intellectually master the elements of effective presentations but freeze up in real life. They succumb to presentation anxiety and are unable to deliver compelling presentations in the field.
Then, there is the third leg: will do it. This is the one that causes managers and coaches alike, to scratch our heads, and mumble, “I just don’t get it? Why won’t he do it?”
Perhaps the issue is a lack of self- confidence. Or, maybe a salesperson considers a question about a client’s strategy too invasive to ask. Perhaps they don’t trust the wisdom of the manager or the coach. Or just maybe, they are not cut out for selling, a field many consider exciting and rewarding.
But, I have concluded that it is not enough to know and can. The salesperson has to be willing to execute the essential skills they have learned and no manner of management or coaching can change that.
As always, I welcome your thoughts on why otherwise talented and skilled salespeople won’t follow the Nike motto and, “Just do it!”