Three Practical Coaching Tips for Sales Managers to Breed High Performing Sales Reps

In this post, “Top Five Things B2B Sales Reps Need to Know From ‘The Challenger Customer’,” we shared a few highlights to help sales reps increase their effectiveness. Sales management, however, can also adopt techniques and ideas from this book. By doing so, managers can lead their organizations to succeed in the challenger sale. So what can sales managers do to encourage their reps to be challengers? Here are three practical coaching tips:

1. Sales Cycle Entry Point

Most sales reps enter the sales cycle when the customer has already developed a Request For Proposal (RFP). Instead, reps should establish themselves as trusted partners to their customer by entering the sales cycle earlier—even before the customer has a problem or recognizes that they need a solution. Management can encourage this proactive approach.

Entering the sales cycle with a challenger mindset—for yourself and your customer—involves unteaching and reteaching. The unteach/reteach process is a way of providing unique insight to the customer. Managers can arm sales reps with the proper marketing materials to unteach and reteach, while also asking:

  • What are we good at?
  • What are we uniquely good at?
  • Which of our unique capabilities is sustainable?
  • How do our unique strengths align with the customer’s goals and priorities?

2. Opportunity Tracking

When tracking opportunities in or other Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms, sales reps will traditionally identify progress by noting what they have done with the customer. For example, Jim might write that he has “met with the decision makers” or “created a version 1 business case.”

The Challenger Customer suggests that instead, managers should encourage reps to track opportunities based on the customer’s reactions to various deliverables. For example, if Jim approaches tracking from this perspective, he would write that “Decision Maker A agreed to complete the information form,” or “Decision Maker B agreed to take the business case to management.”

By tracking opportunities this way, it is easier to assess the true progress of a deal because each notation is outcome-focused and customer-centric. Progress is determined by the action of the customer, not the rep.

3. Team Culture

Not only should opportunities be tracked with a focus on the customer’s action, but team culture should also reflect this mindset. One way that team culture may reflect this outcome-focused drive could be in how managers ask questions of their sales reps. For example, instead of asking a sales rep “how big is the deal and when is it going to close” if they talked to Customer A this week, ask specifically about what Customer A has done as a result of the interaction with the sales rep.

A slight mindset shift has the power to affect the way the sales organization operates, especially in relation to how the organization defines success. Progress is defined by the forward motion of the customer, not the rep.

The authors write that “by encouraging sellers to focus on the ends (the customer-verified outcomes that happen throughout the sale), not the means (the sales activities), sellers are better able to do what they need to do, naturally within ethical and moral boundaries, to help customers progress through the deal. In this way, sales managers and their sellers can exercise creativity without penalty” (The Challenger Customer, page 248).

By adopting these practices, sales managers will reap the benefits of the challenger sale model.