coaching_sales_people_manageHR uses the phrase “Influence without Direct Authority.”  I call it “Convincing someone to do something when they don’t have to do it.”   Most Sales Managers get it wrong and cost themselves lost sales every day.


Last week, our company was training sales people on a new buyer centric sales process we customized for them.  We did a great deal of discovery (consultant speak for figuring out how their customers buy their stuff) to customize this new sales process for the company.   What we found was pretty staggering:


  • Customers rely on over 5 people per vendor to manage their account
  • Buyers typically interact with a minimum of 4 people during the buying process
  • Sales Reps have only 60% of all communication during a sales process with a prospect
  • 77% of purchase decisions are finalized only after the buyer has interacted with someone OTHER than the sales person.


This leaves a Sales Manager with a difficult task.  How do I make sure everyone who interacts with my sales reps prospect out of my direct control acts correctly to sell the business?

How do I coach all these people who are ‘influencing’ my customer to make sure they don’t screw the sale up?


We ride with sales people a lot here at SBI.  It’s part of the way we really find out how customers buy, what sales reps are really doing in the field and if sales manager coaching is effective.  In fact, we performed over 300 DILOs (Day in the Life Of) last year alone.  I was riding with a sales rep in a large technology company last month.  It was very eye-opening:


Joe picked me up at 9 AM from my hotel.  I jumped in the car and we were off to a sales call with a prospect.  “Joe, what is your position with the company” I asked.  “I am a commercial account manager responsible for selling new business in this geography” he responded (By the way, Joe sounds like a new business development person and not an account manager but that’s a topic for another blog post.)


“Great” I said.  “Tell me about who we are going to visit today.”  “Well Dan, this prospect has been interested in our product set for some time.  I have asked our product specialist to meet us at the prospect for our call today.  But you have to really help me.  He just babbles on about the product and doesn’t understand  how the product can solve their business needs. I said something to my manager about it but he told me that the product department does their own thing and to just make it work.”


The call didn’t go that well so back at the office I tracked down the sales manager (Michael) and told him what happened and what Joe said about the product specialist. “Dan, I try to coach these guys to pay attention to the prospects needs.  But they are not under my direct control and could care less what I say. They want to do the right thing but don’t get it.  Without being a jerk and going to their manager, how can I coach someone that I don’t have direct control over?”


Sound familiar?  Multiple people calling on your accounts with your sales people?  Difficult to control them and not sabotage the sale?


3 Keys Ways to Coach Someone You Don’t Manage


#1 – WHIFIM (What Is In It For Them).  This is very obvious but often overlooked. Treat the Specialist as you would a Customer.  Find out what their needs are.  Position the actions they have to do with the Customer as how they accomplish their goals. Relate the improvements needed to how you can help them get what they want.


I told the sales manager to find out what is important to the product specialist.  “Do you mean understanding what he wants?”  “Yep, do you know what he wants in his next job to be; how he gets paid; what it means to him if this account gets sold?  Get tactical with him.  Focus on the next step.”


#2 – Embed their role in the Sales Process.  Product Specialist, Pre-Sales Resources, Industry Experts, and Senior Leaders-they all need to be involved in the sale.  So, put them into the sales process at the correct time. Coaching them tactically will be much easier as they know when and how to interact with their customer and your sales rep.  It makes life much easier.


Sales Coaching


#3 – Increase their Importance. Make them part of the Team. Specialists (Product, Pre-Sales etc.) tell me they don’t feel like part of the team at times.  Too many times they are on a need to know basis.  But to be truly involved and contribute successfully, they need to know what’s happening inside the opportunity and account.  Be sure to include them on account reviews, opportunity assessments, deal strategy and need to solution sessions and meetings.  When you don’t think they need to be there is they time they do. 


“Dan, Joe and I are having a deal strategy session on that account we were discussing.  It’s really to review the competitive footprint only in the account.  Based on what you say, should we involve the specialist?” “Of course you should Michael.” I replied. “But don’t just have him listen into the conversation. Have him come to the meeting with some of the job aids completed.  Ask for his input and guidance.  This is indirect coaching and the best way you can coach him without a direct reporting relationship.”


Coaching without direct authority can be daunting.  But using the steps above can help you achieve success.   One of the best Sales Managers I know who does an extraordinary job is Jon Doffing.  Watching him in action is amazing.  Before you know it, Jon is giving you feedback-and you are listening to it.  How?  He practices Step 1 above flawlessly.  He understands his audience.


Want to know how your peers are coaching without formal authority?  And which ones are the most successful? Get our Field Coaching Form to start.