Sale Leader Q & A with Dr. Richard Ruff - "Getting Better at Selling - It's About Persuading Not Informing"
Are your sales people persuading or informing? Listen to our behind the scenes interview with Dr. Ruff below to understand what sales professionals can learn and do to join the ranks of sales professionals that have mastered the art and science of persuasion.
Welcome to our new segment, Sales Leader Q&A with Dr. Richard Ruff.
These are short, 5-minute segments with our sales coaching expert, Dr. Richard Ruff, where we provide quick and actionable tips that you can take and implement with your sales team right away.
Our first series takes a deeper look into Dr. Richard Ruff's article titled "Poor Self Assessment Leads to Poor Sales Coaches." Here are four ideas Dr. Ruff has picked up over the years by watching sales managers that integrate a "let's get the self-assessment right before we begin" step into their sales coaching efforts.
In this episode of “True Confessions of a Sales Leader,” we look at how being vulnerable and building self-awareness can make better sales leaders and ultimately sales teams. Our guest is Mike Porter, chief sales officer at NAVEX Global. Mike joins me and Gary Brashear, managing partner of The Olsen Group.
As Covid starts to wind down (we hope) how will your sales teams work? Will there be travel involved? Back to offices? And, more importantly, as a sales leader, where is your team’s head space right now? What are the next steps to coaching them and helping them— and yourself—grow to meet today’s unique selling challenges?
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Key Highlights from the Podcast
Here are four key takeaways if you prefer reading:
1- Bring your experience as a salesperson
Many great sales leaders were also great salespeople but all not great salespeople make great sales leaders. When they move from an individual contributing role to a leading role, many leaders tend to go back to what made them successful, like being a solid dealmaker. Bring your skills, of course, but also tune into what your team brings and how to enhance specific capabilities needed for each sales person to achieve their goals ( e.g., coach them on questioning, handling objections, prospecting, etc.).
2- Use self-awareness to grow
You may think (and rightfully so!) you’ve built a solid team, have motivated them, helped them understand cross-group coordination. However, one day, feedback, whether it’s negative or positive, from a team member might prove otherwise. It’s important to keep having those ah-ha moments. For example, maybe you’re intense, focused on the numbers. Add some levity and make sure you come across as approachable. Self-awareness forces us to look at our own challenges but also teaches how to improve ourselves.
3- You can’t avoid the (in)famous flight risk
You’re one of the few sales leaders who provide consistent high quality coaching. You’ve built a great team but now some of them have defected to a better role elsewhere. Coaching people to build their skills, and then having them leave can happen. It’s hard to lose a top performer to that next step in their career. The benefit? Most of your team wants to stay because you’ve built credibility and you’re helping them grow, plus you’ll attract sales people who want to learn and excel as well.
4- Develop an 80/20 document
This is a great tool and can be as simple as a one-pager. Communicate 80% of the document on how you work with a sales team, what excites you, things you’re passionate about, your strengths, or even what triggers you. The other 20%? There will be time to work that out, time spent working together will reveal that. Don’t make your team members guess how to work with you. Have new sales managers write their own 80/20 document, too. It helps provide self awareness and a way to teach team members how to treat you—and vice versa.
Interested in creating your own 80/20 document, click here for a template.
We’re excited to welcome back to “True Confessions of a Sales Leader,” Dr. Richard Ruff and John Hoskins, respected experts in sales coaching, founders of The Level Five Selling Coaching System, and authors of a new book, “Level Five Sales Leader: Field-Tested Strategies to Close the Quota Gap! (The Level Five Selling Trilogy”).
Richard and John join Gary Brashear, managing partner of The Olsen Group, and myself to discuss not only their new book but just how sales coaching is an art, and how critical it is for successful sales leaders to be great sales coaches.
Here are four key highlights from the podcast episode.
1. Find time for coaching
According to their new book, if you have 50% of your salespeople hitting their sales targets, you can increase that by 30% with regular effective sales coaching. So, what’s the issue? Time. Many sales leaders struggle to carve out the time to coach. Yes, coaching takes a lot of time, energy, and patience. Senior sales leaders need to work with frontline sales teams to determine what factors are interfering with them to find the time to coach.
2. Keep coaching simple and immediate—for now
Picture this: a sales manager goes on a sales call with a rep and offers many levels of feedback like “you need to develop a trust premise,” or “you didn’t ask any questions,” or “your closing was too soft.” It’s good feedback but if you’re that rep that’s an overwhelming amount of feedback in one sitting. Focus on one behavior at a time, prioritize, and agree on what you’re going to work on. Keep it simple.
Here's a 56-second snippet on Dr. Richard Ruff's approach to keeping sales coaching simple.
3. Ride-alongs are still effective
Ride-alongs have always helped improve how sales leaders can coach. And for the time being, “ZOOM-alongs” are taking their place and can actually be a better vehicle to coach. Sales leaders can be available at a moment’s notice and can jump on a sales call the same day and provide immediate feedback.
4. Learn from past mistakes
When launching a sales initiative, ask your company or organization about how previous initiatives failed or stalled. Have that conversation up front so you can understand some of the barriers you might encounter as you implement your own initiative, then develop a plan to battle those barriers.
In this podcast episode of “True Confessions of a Sales Leader,” we discover how sales organizations like yours can successfully onboard a team remotely. Our guest is Tom Whalen, director of inside sales at McKesson, who provides first-hand experience of how his team has accomplished this.
Here are three key Highlights from the podcast episode.
1. ‘Walk’ the floor, remotely
Pre-COVID days, many inside sales organization leaders would walk the floor, check-in, or offer advice on sales calls for the day. Tom says his team still does this, virtually. With a simple morning roll call with all reps, new and existing, he offers a fun trivia question to get the conversation rolling that also provides structure. They also discuss any specials or strategy around extra inventory. It’s also a great way to build camaraderie and get to know your new team.
2. Implement virtual coaching
Virtual coaching lets sales leaders keep their team connected and engaged and ultimately be more effective. So, how do you simulate the presence of a sales leader? Technology helps. Video-based practice and coaching platforms (e.g. rehearsal) support salespeople’s ability to practice and refine “moments-that-matter”, get feedback from their managers, and share best examples across the sales organization. Tom Whalen gathers his teams online through MS Teams on Mondays to discuss the week’s goals, then meet again on Friday to discuss results. These approaches let leaders know what’s happening on their teams but also offers structure.
3. Create a process for onboarding
For success, have a well-defined process to onboard new team members—recruit, train, and coach—and consider these elements:
In this episode of “True Confessions of a Sales Leader,” we explore the steps of creating a successful strategic partnership. Our guest is Geoff Curless, Chief Revenue Officer at Rehearsal—and an actual partner of Level Five Selling.
You know the importance of creating strategic partnerships (and if you don’t, definitely listen to this episode!) but how do you get on the path to creating ones that work for your organization? Listen in as we discuss how we’ve accomplished this and what to look for when considering your own partnerships.
Key Highlights from the podcast episode.
Define what success is
A successful partnership can be defined in many ways, but most importantly that definition has to meet your own criteria for success. Whether your goal is to reach a bigger market and broader reach or attract new clients, set that definition early. When a new organization approaches you, how will that partnership help you? Know your goals, strategies, and visions of your organization and how a partnership can benefit.
A strategic partnership needs to be valuable for your own organization. Ask yourself the hard questions: Will your partner’s sales team see the value and unique experience you offer? Can the team be coached to successfully sell the product? Will a partnership be critical to your success or will it fall by the wayside? Determine your goals before you set the wheels in motion. Evaluate upfront and make sure this is a strategic move. Spend the extra time before committing. Remember the old saying “measure twice, cut once”? That certainly applies to the research beforehand in building partnerships.
Set your vision and bring it all together
Someone in your organization needs to have the knowledge and the vision of how the various components of a partnership can be brought together. For instance, when Level Five Selling partnered with Rehearsal they needed to go beyond just their technology. They provide video-based practice and coaching to organizations using tech, so how could we leverage that and bring that into our own culture? John Hoskins, founder of Level Five Selling, was able to step back and ask how Rehearsal could complement what he was trying to achieve with clients while helping solve what was missing. It was a win-win for everyone.
Organizational changes are hard enough. Add Covid, a dispersed staff, then figuring out how to get everyone on the same page— and keep them there. And if you’re a sales organization, how can you do this seamlessly without client disruption?
In this episode of “True Confessions of a Sales Leader,” we explore how organizations can successfully pivot to change their own culture but also meet client demands and expectations. Our guest is Blackboard vice president Dave McLaren. Dave joins Scott Olsen, founder of the Olsen Group, and Gary Brashear, managing partner of the Olsen Group.
When Dave’s team recognized that clients were increasingly moving to the cloud and SaaS and away from on-premise hosting and meetings they’ve been on a journey to meet these new requirements through their own changes. Listen to how they’re accomplishing this.
Key Highlights from the podcast episode.
Never forget the client
This is important: Focus on the client journey, too. Help define your change from a client’s perspective so they can come along on the journey. Interview and record your best clients and not-so-satisfied clients and play the interviews for team members responsible for the journey. This helps them become empathic because they’re hearing real feedback from an actual client. Changes won’t matter unless everyone in the organization is running with the same client heartbeat and thinking of the client first.
Remember individual sales team members
Don’t get lost in the big picture of organizational change. Build on what you’re doing right, then recognize the gaps in the group plan and individual plans. Convey to your team along the way to help them understand the “why” so everyone buys in.
It’s about coaching, too
The shortcut? Just tell your sales team what to do. The hard, but better option? Ask tough questions. This helps create a discovery moment so they come to their own conclusion for a resolution, and why it makes sense because they figured it out. It sounds simple but you need to coach people to think differently on an individual level and create an environment with trust so you can get buy-in into the organizational change.
Keep your eyes on the prize
Changing your organization in any scenario but especially in the midst of a pandemic is stressful. Remember this: Go back to the “why” the decision was made to change and why it’s important to the client. What are the values and tenets you agreed upon? What do you want it to look like? Make the commitment as a team to work toward that.
More times than not, when asked about how a sales call went many salespeople respond with “it went great!” Conversation Intelligence is changing how these calls are recorded, listened to and how you can respond to them. It lets you be more precise about your coaching, and during our current working-from-home environment, it’s a powerful way to coach while we can’t be in the same spaces together.
In this episode, Gary Brashear, managing partner of the Olsen Group and Scott Olsen are joined by Jim Benton, CEO of Chorus, a Conversation Intelligence platform. Listen in as we discuss how Chorus and artificial Intelligence (AI) technology are helping capture conversations, make real connections, and allow sales leaders to train and coach like never before.
Key Highlights from the podcast episode.
Capture intelligent conversations
Part of the magic of capturing conversations is the ability to understand what happens in calls between your sales reps and customers. AI and Conversation Intelligence highlights key moments like pricing questions or a customer mentioning your competitor. It allows sales teams to hear key moments of a conversation so they can evaluate call quality.
Use the gathered information
Let’s say you use technology like AI and a platform like Chorus and you’ve captured a sales/customer conversation. Now what? For starters, sales leaders have access to these conversations and often don’t have time to listen to 30-minute calls. Conversation Intelligence provides small snippets of important information, lets sales leaders hear a lot of data quickly, drill down to the specifics, and then lets them coach on those small emotional pieces of information versus just an overview of how a call went. It goes beyond “hey, great call.” It lets you be more precise about the feedback and coaching you provide.
Coach from these ‘crucial’ conversations
By capturing conversations you can hear and analyze conversations between your salesperson and customer. Is it one way or a conversation with a connection? Platforms like Chorus allow you to go back and pinpoint areas with a timestamp and re-listen, then work with your salesperson on what they did or didn't ask. You can listen to the flow, and you can suggest positive changes. It’s not calling out a sales rep, it’s helping them improve. We’re even using these recordings in all interactions and meetings we are having at the Olsen Group.
Part 2 of our dual episode of “True Confessions of a Sales Leader” continues with a discussion with Dr. Richard “Dick” Ruff and John Hoskins, respected experts in sales coaching, founders of The Level Five Selling Coaching System, and authors of the book, Level Five Selling: The Anatomy of a Quality Sales Call Revealed (click here for a complimentary copy).
In the first episode, Scott Olsen, founder of the Olsen Group and Gary Brashear, managing partner of the Olsen Group, joined them to discuss why sales coaching is so important to an organization, especially in these times. If you don’t think your sales organization or team needs a coaching program, listen to part 1.
After you’ve listened to part 1, then come back as we share insights and some real-world tactics on how you can get started on a coaching plan immediately.
Here are four key takeaways from this podcast episode:
Start at the top
Want to launch a coaching program? Most companies like yours probably have some previous history of coaching. Maybe it was intermittent or only done by a few people instead of a systematic way throughout the whole organization. So, how do you successfully get started or get re-started?
Start with your top management and top sales management. You’ll need an institutional commitment from them to establish a sales culture. Then, set the direction and focus for a coaching program before executing.
Conduct a quarterly business review by having your frontline leaders report on what they worked on and who they worked with. Review that plan and ask how the sales leader executed that plan. Prepare for some pushback, too. Pulling a sales member off of the time they’re spending making sales to coach them? Tough sell. However, it might also let you discover what the sales team is actually working on. Tasks that aren’t revenue-driving can be assigned to a non-sales member.
Use the right tools
Hire a coaching planner to help you get a good view of what the managers are focusing on and dealing with. Consider workshops that will help get everyone on the same page by using common language, a common framework, and the definition of what quality looks like. Employ—especially in these times—a virtual coaching platform. This technology, for instance, can provide videos with exercises that let the sales team “respond” on how they’re applying and responding to their current accounts. Then, the sales leader can view that and provide feedback.
When do you know you’re finished with coaching?
You never are. Coaching isn’t an extended exercise, it continuously needs to be done. Sales team members need to learn new skills, especially in our current environment. Those skills are constantly changing so coaching doesn’t have a beginning and an end. That said, don’t over-invest in people that aren’t performing. If you do, you have to cut your losses early. Don’t let your ego hold on to someone you think you’ll turn around. Other team members will suffer and might not get the level of coaching they need.
Welcome to this special two-part episode of “True Confessions of a Sales Leader.” We are honored to have on two guests: Dr. Richard “Dick” Ruff and John Hoskins, respected experts in sales coaching, founders of The Level Five Selling Coaching System, and authors of the book, Level Five Selling: The Anatomy Of A Quality Sales Call Revealed (click here for a complimentary copy).
Before we dive in, a quick bit about our guests. Dick has spent the last 35 years helping large corporations develop sales teams in the B2B market in the high-tech (yes, that includes Apple) and medical devices spaces. John began his career in the corporate world in a variety of sales and sales leadership positions and founded his own company. The two then combined forces and founded The Level Five Selling Coaching System, the only sales coaching system to master call planning and execution skills that helps salespeople deliver top-line revenue growth.
Joining Dick and John are Scott Olsen, founder of the Olsen Group and Gary Brashear, managing partner of the Olsen Group. Listen in as this virtual table of sales experts discuss why sales coaching is so important to an organization, especially in these times.
Here are four key takeaways from the podcast episode:
Sales coaching, defined
We’ve all heard the term but what exactly is it? It’s a formal process for helping a salesperson develop their full potential. The key is helping somebody learn versus just teaching them. You might be talented in sales but it’s hard to reach your potential without some kind of coaching. The challenges of coaching can go deeper, too, such as changing the behavior of a high-performing salesperson who brings a toxic environment to the team, or improving performance of those who don’t perform well, or getting people to change habits like those who don’t do the basics like submitting expense reports. These behaviors require a whole different skillset of coaching.
Set milestones for coaching
Sure, there are regular sales meetings between directors or the first-line sales team but what’s often missing is a standard format for coaching. Without that framework, it’s hard to tell if coaching is working and hard to adjust if it’s not. Coaching can be inconsistent even within organizations. Some teams will do it well about 20% of the time, while others may not spend much time coaching because of confusion or clear roles and responsibilities. Set objectives. Spend the time to do it effectively.
A personal connection is important when selling and when coaching. How do we connect —and coach or get coached—in a virtual world? In a nutshell, plan. Many successful programs will have a 90-day plan, including who the salesperson will be working with and a mutual agreement on a plan by all parties. This enables measurement when coaching online, whether it’s effective, and provides an overall ROI.
Decide if you need coaching
If an organization says they don’t need coaching, that’s a good sign they probably do. Every company needs a coaching regiment in place, especially in a transitional period as we are experiencing now. There’s no question that companies are changing what they buy, and how they buy. When customers change how they buy, sellers need to change how they sell. Short answer? Your organization needs coaching.
Scott Olsen and Gary Brashear shares highlights from each podcast episode designed to help sales leaders like you and your sales teams develop the skills, systems and culture that leads to sustained and significant results.