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Sales Leadership
Jun 15, 2012 | Swayne Hill lock

Wielding carrots and sticks may help achieve short-term results, but if I want to attract and retain the very best sales professionals over the long-run, they’ve got to be engaged. Indeed, according to Dan Pink, employee motivation really comes from fulfillment of Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose-Driven needs. Essentially, ‘Autonomy’ is the freedom of self-direction, ‘Mastery’ is the desire to get better at what you love doing, and ‘Purpose’ is the underlying reason you do what you do. While Purpose and Autonomy needs are fulfilled (or not) by enlightened leadership, Sales coaching is one of the most effective means of driving Mastery particularly when it comes to the middle 60% of Sales performers.

What are you doing to coach your team? Typical coaching programs include Ride Along and Role Playing, but we found a way to harness the energy of our team in pursuit of Sales Opportunity mastery. By adding regular Peer Deal Review sessions to our Sales Meeting Schedule, we’ve elevated everyone’s game and established a real team culture amongst a group of otherwise individual contributors.

Our Peer Deal Review Meetings last an hour, we do them three times per month and they follow this simple structure…

Peer Deal Review Meeting:

1. Sales Opportunity Presentation
2. Clarifying Questions to Fill Presentation Gaps
3. Sales Vulnerability Assessment & Recommendations
4. Last Peer Deal Review – Report on Action Taken
5. Open Forum to Bounce Challenges Off Teammates

1. Sales Opportunity Presentation
For the first 15 minutes, the group listens and takes notes while one sales professional presents their deal for peer review. The presentation follows a very specific structure that we’ve refined over the past year.

We find it’s most effective to select a deal for review that’s in the Middle Sales Stages. If we pick one that’s too early, a lot of the information we need is just not available. If we pick one that’s very late in the Sales Cycle, there’s not much risk left to be managed. Reviewing deals in these ‘tails’ of the Sales Cycle tend to waste everyone’s time.

It’s critical that the group not interrupt the presentation, rather take notes on points they feel need clarification and wait until the end to ask. This allows the sales professional who is presenting time to develop the full story and demonstrates respect. Of course, if they have not put in the homework, they get called out pretty quickly by their peers.

2. Clarifying Questions to Fill Presentation Gaps
Over the next 15 minutes, we go around the group, and each person must ask a couple of clarifying questions. Perhaps the org structure was unclear, or competitive positioning was left out of the presentation. This is where all the gaps in understanding are covered. It’s important to keep things moving and the minute people get preachy, judgmental or opinionated, I’ll step in and insist on crisp unemotional Q&A.

3. Sales Vulnerability Assessment & Recommendations
Once we have a good shared understanding of the Sales Opportunity up for review, we take the next 15 minutes to offer a vulnerability assessment and recommendation. Just like the last section, it’s key that we leave emotion and opinion out of it. The last thing any self-respecting sales professional wants is someone else telling them WHAT to do.

Which of these is more likely to get action?

‘Steve, I can’t believe you don’t yet have written support from the executive sponsor, this deal is almost certainly going off the rails unless you get this in place. I would have done it a month ago’ or,

‘Steve, after listening to the discussion so far, I see a potential vulnerability for you with executive sponsorship, I’d recommend getting something in writing to demonstrate his support’

When this is done right and the assessment is accepted in a non-defensive way, there is palpable trust built amongst the team. It’s really up to the person facilitating the session (usually me) to insist on respect for process and the people.

4. Last Peer Deal Review – Report on Action Taken
The next 15 minutes is devoted to a report on actions taken as a result of recommendations from the last session. Actually, we found it best to skip one session to allow more time, so the sales professional who presented a deal for review two sessions ago reports back to the group on status of the recommended actions. Of course, not all recommendations are acted upon but we do expect some kind of progress.

Remember, the reason for the Peer Deal Review is to help build sales skill Mastery, but it’s also to help move a deal closer to Closed/Won. If there is no accountability to the group for actually doing something in response to vulnerabilities, the whole exercise feels like wasted admin time rather than coaching. Occasionally, we’ve found that deals with longer Sales Cycles and/or more challenging conditions benefit from a second Peer Deal Review several weeks later.

5. Open Forum to Bounce Sales Challenges Off Teammates
I always book these sessions for an hour and 15 minutes, so we have time for open discussion. Sometimes we don’t need the extra time but everyone knows they can throw out a question to the group, ‘ I’ve got an issue with XYZ deal, anyone had this happen before and what did you do about it?’, for example. We continue the non-judgmental, non-emotional, ego-checked-at-the-door theme and more good stuff happens.

Result – Multiplier Effect on Sales Coaching
Adding Peer Deal Reviews to my sales coaching tool kit has created a multiplier effect – everyone on the team plays a coaching role, not just me. By insisting on respect for the process, people, and meeting structure we provide a safe place for sales professionals to hold their Sales Opportunities up for Peer Deal Review. And only by exposing vulnerability do we create an environment where we make real progress as a team – serving the need for Mastery – yes – but also the demands for continuous business improvement that are placed on any fast-growing company.

About the Author:
Swayne Hill is Co-Founder & Senior Vice President at Cloud9 and an adviser to Mintigo.  He has 20 years of executive management experience in the business intelligence (BI), analytics and performance management markets. Swayne has a proven record of driving the success of high-growth organizations both domestically and internationally.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the author. CPSA does not endorse any of the companies, products and services mentioned within this article.

View more sales articles from CPSA’s Knowledge Centre.

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