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I’m guessing that before your eyes moved from the title of this post, you began googling the word funambulism, right? So now you know it is a long winded word for tightrope walking. Sounds like a sales manager’s job description to me.

There is no doubt that sales managers have one of the most difficult jobs around. If they make or exceed sales budgets, they are merely doing their jobs. If they miss, they are failures, at least in the eyes of their boss or business owner.

Most managers are familiar with the day-to-day “administrative” functions of their role. This includes helping prepare proposals with salespeople, compiling and reporting on weekly sales progress, measuring daily activities, and managing up. However, there’s another sales management arena that many aren’t well-versed or comfortable with, and that is coaching and training.

Before you SM’s out there close your browser and mumble that I don’t know what I’m talking about, let me clarify what I mean. Most managers do provide product training, target market insight, intelligence on competition, etc., but not specifically assistance related to selling skills.

Salespeople are silently screaming for help and coaching with skill sets like prospecting, cold calling, relationship building, objection handling, negotiating, and closing. I think many companies believe their sales reps should already be proficient in these areas. I hate to break the news to them but that is just naive and untrue.

I firmly stand in the camp of folks who believe that effective coaching on topics like face-to-face communication skills will vastly improve sales performance while decreasing sales turnover. Areas such as identifying and mirroring prospect temperament, improving likability, displaying empathy, never assuming, and learning to ask information-gathering diagnosis questions on the front end of prospect meetings are critical.

After a 40 year career in sales, sales management, training and coaching I’ve encountered these gaps in skill sets over and over in several different industries. As a result, when I wrote and published my book in 2012 much of its content was focused on these soft skill areas. It’s these basic skills that need to be honed and improved by all sales people.

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Traditional classroom training has been the vehicle in years past for sales skill improvement of all types. There are a lot of good vendors and providers out there, but this approach can be expensive. When employers begin to heap travel, lodging, meals, and lost productivity onto a trainer’s tuition, costs can runs from 2%-10% of payroll.

To alleviate these financial negatives, along with other drawbacks, my coaching practice consists of live, 30 minute video conferencing, weekly sessions. Assignments and study materials are provided a week in advance so discussions, Q&A, and role play can be included during each session, ensuring these are not boring lectures! This type of coaching is also ideal if your sales teams are remote.

Find a coach that is a good fit for your market segment. My niche is working with blue collar sales teams, so I recognize where I’m effective and where I would be unqualified.

So sales managers everywhere, if you need to improve your expertise at funambulism, find an experienced, dynamic, inexpensive sales coach who understands your industry and put them to work.

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