How Comfortable Are Your Salespeople?

BY C. Lee Smith
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How comfortable are your salespeople? Sales managers usually make sure that their team members have everything they need to do the job. When the pandemic started and we all shifted to a remote-​work location, managers tried harder to stay in touch with reps and reassure them. Reassurance and support remain big parts of a manager’s responsibility. To drive each rep to achieve what they’re capable of, you may need to introduce another element into your coaching efforts: discomfort. Bill Ekstrom, the founder and CEO of the EcCel Institute, told us how this aspect of coaching works in his recent guest appearance on Manage Smarter.

What’s Wrong With Comfort?

It’s basic human nature to find and stay with a routine that works. Routines helps us conserve energy and stay efficient. Over time, your reps realize that “if they follow an A, B, C, D process, they’ll get to the end result,” Ekstrom points out. So, what’s the problem?

If your industry has been disrupted by emerging technology, you’ll need to find a new way of doing business. And that means your reps will have to revise the way they sell. To do that, your training programs should include an educational component. After your reps learn about the change in your business, you’ll have to coach them to operate outside of their comfort zone.

You can expect to run into resistance because reps don’t like risk. I grilled Ekstrom about risk. After all, as sales managers, we train our reps to show buyers how our solution reduces risk. While a rep will naturally avoid risk, Ekstrom said, if they have a trust-​based relationship with their manager, they will be more willing to try something new. If you haven’t spent enough time developing your relationships with your reps, get started.

Growth Rings

To motivate your reps to change, you can introduce growth rings in your coaching sessions. A positive growth ring is one that promotes change. For example, after the initial training session, you may realize that one of your reps doesn’t grasp exactly what they need to change in order to sell effectively. Encourage your rep to listen to podcasts and read business reports that explain why consumers may suddenly start buying more hybrid and electric cars in the next decade, for example. 

Don’t let your reps off the hook. If they need to spend 30 minutes every day learning about the industry they are selling to, they’ll worry they won’t have time to make calls. That’s when the trust part of your relationship becomes important. If they trust that your advice will lead them to better job performance, they'll give it a try. And after their initial discomfort, they'll see that you’re making a positive difference in their careers.

How Comfortable Are Your Salespeople?

The next time you’re tempted to give your rep a quick answer to a question, don’t. It’s not your job to make their lives so easy that they fail to think for themselves. Yes, giving that quick answer now frees you up and maintains the current rhythm. If you want to prepare your reps to manage the challenges that they’ll face later in their career, show them how to find the answer. If they fail the first time, they’re likely to remember the lessons they taught themselves and they’ll have more confidence in their ability to handle discomfort.