Tag Archives: sales growth

Sales Coaching – 5 Reasons You Can’t Close

When you struggle to close the sale you think closing is the problem. But when you struggle to close the sale closing is a symptom of the problem not the problem itself. When you try to fix a symptom as though it were the problem the problem remains because you’re trying to put a band-aid on a wound that isn’t ready to heal.

Here are 5 reasons you may be struggling to close the sale:

  1. You lack confidence in yourself and/or your supporting products.
  2. You fear rejection and avoid it by avoiding asking for the sale.
  3. You didn’t help the buyer to uncover a motivating reason for buying and buying now.
  4. You didn’t understand the clients most important wants and needs and went down the wrong path offering a solution for problems that aren’t all that important to the prospect.
  5. You didn’t do a good job of connecting with and starting a relationship with the prospect so asking for the close feels awkward, and isn’t likely to result in a “yes” decision.


When you struggle with closing you think you just need a perfect pitch, or the right closing lines and the problem will go away; but that simply isn’t the case. You can have a “perfect” pitch and “perfect” closing statements, and still blow the sale. Why, because a pitch and closing statements treat the symptom not the underlying real problem.

Review the 5 reasons you can’t close and identify where your struggles may be stemming from. This list isn’t comprehensive there could be other problems too that are keeping you from getting sales, but it will give you a good start. The first step to making closing a natural event is identifying the cause of the problem.

The next step is developing a plan for removing or overcoming the problem. Don’t think of your plan in terms of concepts think in terms of actions. When you know what the problem is, the actions you’ll take to overcome the problem, the only thing preventing you from closing is implementation of your plan.

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The Sales Coaching Dilemma

In common with training and management, coaching is unregulated, and therefore anyone can call himself/ herself a coach, and they do.

There are four distinct levels of coach and as you move from one level to the other, the need for skill and experience increases commensurate with the complexity of the coaching process.


Level 1 coaching is typified by the coaching process being in the hands of the person being coached, which means that they drive the agenda rather than the coach. This is where most of the coaches in existence (up to 80% of the coaching population) operate. The focus of the coaching effort tends to be on life skills and career coaching. There is a significant gap in experience, knowledge and skills between coaches operating at this and the other levels.


Life Skills Coaches will have arrived in the coaching role from a variety of routes; some from training; some from a period of redundancy; in fact – just about anyone, from just about anywhere. They do not need any specialist knowledge, or experience. Some will have been trained; a few will hold a qualification; most will have picked up their coaching knowledge and skills from books or from attending a short course.

Some are very dangerous. They will be self-taught psychoanalysts and can often be found exploring people’s deep routed emotional problems without the ability or experience to know when to stop. They seek to advise people how to be healthy, wealthy, and happy. Most will certainly not be wealthy. Others might be healthy. Significant numbers are blissfully happy to have anyone to listen to them.

Some will have bought an expensive franchise offering untold wealth; most will be earning below average incomes. Some will be advertising themselves as Executive Coaches (Level 4); most will never actually engage in anything close to Executive Coaching.

They represent 90% of the coaching population at Level 1. You will encounter them at each and every networking event, in increasing numbers.

The coaching process is open-ended, meaning that providing the person being coached is able to pay the fees involved, it will go on indefinitely. There is rarely a definable, measurable goal.


Career Coaches are usually to be found in-company; sometimes employed from external sources; often they are in the HR Department. In the same way as the Personnel Department became the HR Department, ‘Jack and Jill from personnel’ – became ‘Jack and Jill, the Career Coaches’.

Career Coaches will be probably be annoyed that I have placed them at Level 1, implying that they don’t need specialist knowledge or experience. Nevertheless, it is true. That said, many internal Career Coaches will have undergone various levels of formal training; some via the CIPD route; some will use career preference inventories to help them add a pseudo form of credibility to their efforts.

As with life skills coaching, career coaching is often disguised as executive coaching although it bears little resemblance to the executive coaching process described at Level 4 here. Career coaching offered to senior managers is usually a precursor to sending them on an expensive study programme in a European Business School which for many has no outcome other than an attendance certificate. No one fails. The only time career coaching is offered to lower levels of employees is when redundancy follows and the expense of providing career coaching is seen as an unavoidable cost in order to mitigate industrial disruption and employment appeals.


Level 2 coaching is where Sales Coaches operate – in theory.

The coaching process at Level 2 is focussed on business outcomes and is driven by the coach. This is why a significant number of coaching initiatives in companies have failed, and continue to fail. The reason being that the people involved in being a Level 2 Coach are either only being trained at Level 1 – which is not a lot; or not trained at all.

A lot of companies who they say their managers have been trained as coaches, have invested at best two days, and at worst half a day in training their managers as coaches. In addition, the coaching models being used begin with the employee’s agenda, not the manager’s, and not the organisation. A classic example would be the use of the GROW model, which begins with either

– What is the Goal?

– What are you trying to achieve?

– What is your Goal?

– What are we trying to do?

The last type of question is meant to show inclusivity – i.e. we are all in this together.

Beginning with the salesperson’s agenda is an abdication of the Sales Coach’s role in ensuring that the organisation’s aims are placed firmly at the front of the queue.

Sales Coaches should have some experience of sales. Not from the perspective of specific knowledge of the product and/ or service being sold, but of the emotional pressures associated with being in a sales role. Salespeople are very sceptical of coaches who do not have sales experience. Whether this is right or wrong is immaterial. The reality is that you will tend to get on better with the target audience if you understand about selling from experience. And getting on with the salesperson is important. Sales coaching in this form works because the coaching relationship is built on trust. Trust from the salesperson of the coach; that performance short-falls and experimentation to improve will not be criticised, even though any lack of effort might. Trust from the coach of the salesperson that the latter is trying to improve and not just pretending.

The Sales Coach does not need a significant amount of knowledge about the product and/ or service the salesperson is selling, but it could reduce the amount of time needed to help the salesperson focus on improvement solutions. On the other hand, often, prior in-depth knowledge of the product and significant experience of the actual sales role can often be a barrier to effective sales coaching. Quite often, the less you know, the better the coaching questions are.

In sales coaching there has to be a clearly defined sales process – the Game Plan. Without a clearly defined game plan, the Coach will be working at Level 1. A game plan focuses both the Sales Coach and the salesperson on what has to be done, and how it to be done, in order to elicit an outcome – the performance. If performance is low, then either the game plan doesn’t work and needs to be changed or the salesperson is not following the game plan – and might have to be changed. Once you have a game plan, it can be enhanced in order to enhance performance but not in one day and not all at once. This brings me to the last point in Level 2 Sales Coaching – timescale.

Many people, when asked the question, is sales coaching short-term or long-term, will opt for long-term. The correct answer is short-term. By this I mean that the focus of each coaching session is on a short-term activity. In football, you often hear the cliché – ‘we take it one game at a time’; and so it is with sales coaching. The football coach may have a long-term goal to win the league, but slavish focus on winning the league is fraught with failure, without the focussed activity of working out what it will take to win the next game. In this way Sales Coaches work on one thing at a time. Taking one piece out of the total sales process and working with it until it is improved. It is called whole-part-whole. By taking a small part of the whole process and improving it, the knock-on effect is to improve the whole.

The Sales Coach should be the line manager.


The MetaCoach is the Coach of the Coach. In a sales or a business environment this should be the line manager but it can also work by using either internal trainers as the MetaCoach or external MetaCoaches provided there is a significant level of interaction between the MetaCoach and senior management. If the MetaCoach is not the line manager, then the MetaCoach needs to have direct and regular access to the senior line manager, and preferably to the manager above them.

The agenda is driven by the organisation. The MetaCoach should have management experience. As with the Sales Coach, there should be clearly defined sales management process, but there rarely is. One of the main reasons why MetaCoaching fails to materialise in most companies is the lack of a detailed management process. Just as it’s vital to have a game plan for the sales process the same should apply to the management process. We already know that the greatest influence on sales success is management. In the same way, the greatest influence on the success of sales managers is the senior manager they report to.

The MetaCoach does not need either product knowledge of the products and services being sold, or specific experience of the sales or sales management role, and the lack of these is often an advantage. Some management experience however is desirable in order to have empathy with the difficulties of line and senior management.

The timescales involved in MetaCoaching is medium to long-term improvement in management performance and behaviour.

MetaCoaching should be provided by senior management, but rarely is, and therefore external coaches are often used, when the budget allows, to provide coaching to line sales managers. The difficulty is that external coaches have little or no authority and surprisingly (given the cost) minimal interaction with senior management. MetaCoaching by external coaches tends only to work effectively if it is combined with Executive Coaching for the senior manager.


Executive Coaching is almost exclusively provided by external coaches to senior management as either a development tool, a career advancement process, or sometimes simply as a way of spending an allocated budget without any particular end game in mind. It should lead to the provision of an opportunity to engender some blue-sky thinking on the part of the senior manager being coached and in some environments it does work. It depends on how experienced the Executive Coach is, why they were engaged in the first place, and where the outcomes of the coaching sessions are reported.

Executive Coaches should have some senior management experience and should be able to use this experience to be upfront in declaring whether the coaching provided is having any effect or not. True Executive Coaches should be charging enough not to be concerned about telling the truth when it is needed, whether palatable or not. Unfortunately there are a number of people who call themselves Executive Coaches who should really be working at Level 1, not Level 4.

Executive Coaches work with senior managers helping them develop leadership skills and behaviours. The instance of executive coaching being provided by internal coaches is rare. In any event, the best coaches are often frustrated by the manner in which coaching is viewed by the organisation and the constant introduction of the latest training fad; and they leave to set up their own coaching consultancies.


The most effective type of coaching in business is sales coaching. However, the budget for developing line sales managers as true Sales Coaches has to be agreed by senior managers, and senior managers have to become involved in regularly supporting their Sales Coaches by the provision of MetaCoaching. Unfortunately because of the proliferation of Life Skills Coaches operating at Level 1, many budget holders believe that coaching exists at only two ends of the spectrum – Level 1 which is generally ineffective as a business tool, and Level 4 which is expensive and reserved for senior management. Regrettably that belief means that many sales organisations miss out on the significant positive impact that sales coaching can have on revenue improvement.


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When to Hire a Sales Coach

When would be a better time to visit a doctor: after you are sick or before you get sick? Though many choose to see their doctor only after symptoms create enough of a demand for them to seek help, a more logical approach is to see your doctor for preventive care to ward off illness.

The same is true for your career. Why wait until your career is in jeopardy, your income falling and your stress level climbing before hiring a tenured, skilled and professional sales coach?

Day One or Day 1,000

While some coaches, eager to build their business will suggest that everyone in sales should hire them on the first day of their career, it may make more sense to delay even beginning to select a coach.

Why wait?

Actually, there are a couple of reasons why a rookie sales professional should consider waiting a while before hiring a coach. The first is the fact that many are in a sales position only because they are unable to find a job in a career or industry that really interests them. Sales has been called the “default occupation” for this very reason.

Hiring a sales coach on day 1 of your sales career may be money ill spent. A good coach will be focused on helping your increase your sales and may not be driven to help you decide if sales is really right for you.

Another reason to hold off hiring a professional coach is that your company will (should) have plenty of sales training for you to go through and master. Adding sales models and techniques on top of the training you are already receiving may be overwhelming. Beyond being potentially overwhelmed, you may not devote the time and attention to fully learning the training your company is giving you which probably wouldn’t impress your sales manager.

When the Student is Ready…

There’s an old expression that says when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. As long as your search for a coach begins before “crisis mode,” the time you begin searching for a coach is the right time for you.

Very few sales professionals who hire a sales coach would say that they were 100% certain of their decision to hire a coach. In fact, if you wait until you are absolutely certain that hiring a sales coach is the perfect way to advance your career, you’ll probably not hire a coach until it’s either too late or when your sales are so bad that you feel you have to do something.

T Patrick Phelps is the President of T Patrick Phelps Writing Services, Inc. He has worked with across many different vertical markets and specializes in writing for the sales, IT and personal development industries. Phelps is a Certified Life and Sales Coach and the founder of the Essential Needs Sales Paradigm. Visit [http://www.tpatrickphelps.com] for contact information

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8 Trends in Sales and Sales Coaching for 2013

The rise of the “expert” seller

It’s been coming for a few years and 2013 will see their recognition in the field of sales. The “expert” seller also known as the accidental salesperson.

Customers need expertise from salespeople; they need something of value compared to the old days. Adding value to the sales relationship has been sought otherwise the product or service that you’re selling will be commoditised and bought on the internet or via procurement software packages.

2013 will see the expert salesperson gaining in credibility and effectiveness as sales teams realise they need expertise as well as the ability to communicate, run a sales process and help the customer solve their problems, pains and challenges.

Salespeople will fuse into experts who sell.

Cloud based CRM

Cloud based CRM is not a new idea. CRM or Customer Relationship Management software has gradually migrated from desktops to the cloud. Once there, it changes everything.

Put simply, successful sales people and their managers run their business lives through their CRM software and they do it on the move. Using mobile devices – phones, tablets – salespeople can log their calls and visits, update the customer profiles, communicate, forecast their pipeline, chat to each other and keep focussed on their sales goals and activity. Meanwhile the sales managers and support teams can work alongside the salesperson to benefit the customer.

2013 will at last witness salespeople seeing the benefit. As a result, they’ll update the CRM more regularly than the past and reap the benefits.

Online video

The vast majority of websites are stationary, still, lifeless. Online video will see a considerable growth in 2013 in the field of sales and sales coaching. Online video is being increasingly consumed using mobile devices such as your phone or tablet, which makes it easier to view. Video can be put out on YouTube, websites, Facebook, Tweets and companies will want to seriously consider putting out more video in 2013. Not the stale corporate stuff but videos of the people, the humans behind the product and service.

More of us will be creating short snippets of video and letting their customer watch the video rather than read an email or written note. Proposals can be accompanied with a video of you talking through the key points or if a customer has asked for more information, send them a video showing how the product works or can help them. Not from the shelf but created fresh.


A new buzz word for 2013. Social, Local, Mobile. It means that customers want to consume from you in a social manner, using social media, locally, so bespoked to their personal needs and mobile, so they can use their mobile device to communicate with you.

This is a seriously scary trend brought about by mobile device popularity and their ability to locate wherever you are to a metre. Consumers want advertising to be local to them, delivered via their phone and done socially. So a parking ticket bought by your phone, ensures a pizza special deal is made available to you and your tribe. Coffee at the building society branch is available to you and a chance to chat through your loans, but only if you want to pop in, after all you’re only 10 metres away as you pass.

Bulk advertising, expensive TV commercials, mass mailings, eShots… all maybe a thing of the past!

Google Live Hangouts

This is a serious game changer for salespeople and sales managers. 2013 will see the move towards proper video conferences where people can look each other in the eye as they talk to one another; watch some body language and plenty of facial language to help communicate with each other.

Google hangouts works with their social media site – Google Plus – not as popular as Facebook but the same concept. You can start a hangout with anyone in your circles, up to 10 people and have a meeting, a conversation, a hangout with each other on screen. The videos of each person will be shown to everyone on the hangout. Everyone can talk, listen and enjoy.

You can also opt to have the whole thing live screened to YouTube. Suddenly the game changes. You can have as many people as you want view the hangout on your YouTube Channel and once it’s over, a recording will be automatically posted to your channel.

For sales managers I can see this technology being used to run sales meetings, run client meetings just like Webex is being used today. The main difference is video and the use of mobile devices, after all, Google + and YouTube needs no additional software. As salespeople merge into experts who sell, the live video can be used to demonstrate expertise, teach, educate and promote on a local level.

Watch this one; it’ll impact you in 2013.

The decline of email

Email use is declining and 2013 will see this trend accelerating. Viruses, Spam deluged folders haven’t helped but the greatest impact is on the younger generation’s use of email. They just don’t dig email.

It’s not going to disappear overnight and will remain hugely important but the message for 2013 is… discover another way to communicate online with your customers. This may be via social media or Socmed as it’s known, texing ironically works well, Skype, YouTube, phone.

Total selling

I first heard the term in the 1970’s with the Dutch national soccer team. Total football it was known as, then total rugby came in the 1990’s. It means that everyone can play any position and helps the game to be quicker, more fluid and exciting to watch.

Total selling involves everyone in the organisation to be involved in the sales process and each person knowing what the other person is doing. The CRM helps here. More companies will train their staff in all aspects of the sales process and it’s they that will develop the competitive advantage.


Another new buzz word for the 2013’s – Gamification – taken from the burgeoning gaming market.

I was reading the Economist this week – the gaming industry is now worth $67 billion rivalling the movie industry. Games offer excitement, entertainment, challenge and the ability to win and it’s this Gamification that will effect selling and sales management in 2013.

How will the trend evolve. Communication with customers, whatever the means, will become more gamified and consumers will want their messages delivered in this way.

How much entertainment, reward and stickiness does you current communication provide to customers and sales teams alike?

In sales teams, sales managers will be considering how to gamify sales meetings, sales trainings, the annual conference, web meetings. In their new book “For the Win”, Werbach and Hunter argued that future communications can be enhanced by gamifying. Games have distinct ingredients and so will our messages.

I talk about WIPEing the message.


  • W is for win, can the activity that you create to communicate allow them to win something?
  • I is for instant feedback, how can the group players get instant feedback?
  • P is for points or badges to signify progress and success and
  • E is for excitement, which tells it’s own story


Sales people might be considering their sales messages to customers and how sticky these are? Particularly their online messages and communications, can they add an element of WIPE to the way it’s delivered. If they don’t others will and gain a competitive advantage.

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My First Sales Coach

Why would a person become a Sales Trainer? Let’s go back in time to my initial sales experience and to my first sales coach. In my early teens, my first job was selling newspaper subscriptions. It seemed easier that delivering papers so I gave it a try. The idea was to get people to agree to have the paper delivered and for every account, the commission was 1 $. After a week of knocking on doors and not getting one new account, I wanted to quit.

My father took the time to listen to what I was saying to people. Since he worked at the newspaper, Dad was uniquely qualified and he had a deep love for journalism. Dad said that I had all the benefits down, but my message needed a small change: “It’s not about home delivery – it’s about the coupons and how a newspaper can help educate families.” I said “whoa- that wasn’t in the manual!”

  • We pulled all the coupons out of the Sunday paper and put the best ones on cardboard paper.
  • Then, we cut out articles about current events and glued them to the other side of the paper.
  • Dad said to “stress how much money could be saved every week by just taking the coupons to the store.”
  • Then, explain: “how families could help their kids in school by reading and talking about stories in the newspaper!


The next day, I was little nervous. It was a Saturday and my Manager would soon be pulling up in the Van. Dad asked me “so you go to each house and knock – right?” I replied “Yes – he takes us to neighborhoods and drops us off.” My father said “that’s takes guts to go door to door.” I swallowed hard. My Dad said I had guts.

As I was leaving, he handed me the coupons and articles and said ‘take it one house at a time.’ I don’t mind telling you that I was not only reluctant, but just plain scared. But with every step, and each new knock, my internal confidence grew. That afternoon, I returned with eight subscriptions! “Dad – it worked!”

I showed Dad my book of business and he said “you seem surprised!” Well, I was surprised and amazed. I did as well or better than the rest of the team. Dad asked “what was different today?” My comments bubbled over about:

  • “how people liked saving money”
  • “the newspaper really is a way to help educate their children.”


So what happened here? You can see how fortunate I was to have a Father who cared. He helped me craft a very persuasive message. Dad re-focused me on one house at a time. My efforts were on helping people buy more with less money and to make their children smarter! If no leadership had been provided, I would not have had a good experience and I would have stopped selling. Instead, I fell in love with selling and have dedicated my life to learning every aspect of it. There is no mystery then why I enjoy being a sales coach.

This story is an excerpt from Charlie’s book “Target 10 to Win!”

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