At the beginning of their careers, most salespeople suck. This is one of those unchanging laws of nature, like the Law of Gravity or Newton’s Third Law of Motion.
But it’s even worse than that: Not only do they suck, but more often than not, they don’t know why they suck.
Which means they don’t know what they need to do to get better.
This is what we call “unconscious incompetence.” In order to break out of this state, reps need someone (you) to move them into a state of conscious incompetence (through your coaching efforts).
Once they know where their skills gaps are, they can start to do something about them. Eventually, they’ll close those gaps and become consciously competent (i.e. not suck any more).
This post walks you through the most common areas of unconscious incompetence to give you an idea of where to best target your coaching efforts.
Introducing the value prop at the right time
For every minute that a rep is on the line with a prospect, that prospect is deciding whether to continue the conversation, schedule a followup call, or just hang up.
That’s why your reps have to introduce the value prop as early in the call as possible: to give the prospect a reason to continue the conversation.
Unfortunately, a lot of reps approach this backwards. They ask questions and try to understand the prospect first, then present the value prop more than a few minutes into the call.
Or worse, they don’t deliver the value prop until the second call!
Even worse still? Many sales reps don’t see this as a problem. They’re unaware that this simple behavior could be the very reason for their low conversions and high drop-off rates.
This is a very common area of unconscious incompetence.
As the coach, you can help your reps learn how to deliver that value prop early in the conversation, without coming across as pushy or disrespectful of their prospects’ time. They need to know it’s absolutely possible to be forthright without being annoying.
If prospects have a clear reason to stay engaged, then your reps will increase the likelihood that those prospects will continue the conversation with that rep.
Handling prospects who say they’re “too busy”
It’s not uncommon for prospects to say they’re “too busy” or “pressed for time” especially if your rep calls them out of the blue.
Inexperienced reps will take that as a sign to end the conversation and move on, thinking the prospect is genuinely busy.
But here’s the thing: No one is holding a gun to the prospect’s head and keeping them on the line. At any point, they can hang up and move on.
So as long as they’re on the line with the rep, they’re not all that busy.
The rep still has a chance to, as we said in the previous section, deliver your value prop and see if they can generate some excitement — and potentially a second meeting.
This is another area where you can coach your reps toward a behavior change, thus improving their conversation quality.
Listening actively to the conversation
Everyone knows that you have two ears and one mouth because you should listen twice as much as you speak.
Unfortunately, salespeople have a bad rep in this regard. They’re often perceived as talking too much and, worse, never listening to the person on the other end of the line.
Odds are, some of your reps struggle with listening. And in most cases, they probably aren’t even aware they have a problem.
This is where you, as the coach, can help them. Not only can you make them aware of their need to listen, but you can help them avoid listening passively and improve their active listening skills.
What’s the big difference between passive and active listening?
Passive listening is when you inwardly digest what the person on the other end of the conversation is saying. Active listening is when the next thing you say actually corresponds to what you just heard the other person say.
And this is where reps often run into trouble: They may be really good at passive listening, but when they respond to a prospect, it has nothing to do with what that person just said.
The goal is for them to get their prospect so excited and enthusiastic about what they have to offer that they almost impulsively want to purchase your product. The quickest way for a rep to do that is for them to listen to what the prospect is saying and frame their pitch around that.
By making your reps aware of this particular shortcoming, you can help them have more productive, and hopefully profitable, conversations.
Show, don’t tell
They say “A picture is worth a thousand words” for a reason.
People are always more persuaded when they’re shown something.
No one wants to hear a person drone on and on about how great or unique their product is or how their company is “changing the face of x industry.” All they want to know is:
- Will this help me?
- Is it worth the money I’m going to spend on it?
- Will I actually be able to use it?
The best way to answer all of these questions is to show them the product.
Yet when reps get on the line with a prospect, they launch into a speech about all the benefits and features and competitive advantages and just about everything else that’s on the call script.
If they do end up showing the product, it’s well after the prospect has lost interest.
Yes, your reps do need to make the prospect see the benefits and features and competitive advantages of your product. But the most persuasive way to do that is to show them what they have to offer.
When you can get your reps to show instead of tell, it’s almost guaranteed that they’re going to close more sales.
There are common behaviors that hold reps back from being successful. Too often, these behaviors are unknown to them and, thus, not something they’re able to actively change.
Without a third party to help guide them toward conscious incompetence, and then toward conscious competence, they’re more likely to remain at their current performance level, which probably isn’t that great.
That’s why coaching is absolutely critical to any sales organization. Instead of spending more money on more reps or more materials or more leads, coaching can help you make your existing reps better at their jobs.
When your reps are better, the more productive and profitable your sales organization will be.
For more information on our coaching intelligence software and how it can help you actionably improve rep performance, click here.