sales coaching tips for stronger pipelinesAny message from a sales rep that includes “touching base,” “circling back” or “checking in” is what Jill Konrath calls the kiss of death.

“That is an email or voicemail that gets deleted in two seconds,” she said. “People don’t want someone who’s touching base. They want a deal with somebody who continually brings them ideas, insights and information.”

She’s right. That’s why, as a sales leader, you need to educate your reps on how to manage their pipeline and prevent prospects from going dark by constantly bringing something to the table (instead of forcing a sale upon prospects).

Jill recently teamed up InsideSales.com to present Refine Your Pipeline, a webinar about getting past road blocks in the sales process. The session was so good, we had to cover it. Here are seven takeaways from her presentation and how you can use sales coaching to teach your reps about them. 

7 Lessons to Help Reps Manage Pipelines

Lesson 1: How to determine where opportunities get stuck.

The first thing is to teach your reps how to figure out where they’re losing prospects because, Jill explained, different problem areas require different actions. Is there a certain stage of the sales process that they’re struggling to get past? Issues could include:

  • Having a first conversation with prospects and not a second conversation.
  • Conversations have went well, but prospect still needs to justify a purchasing decision.
  • Prospect is interested in a solution, but they’re still trying to see if yours makes sense.

Once you help your rep identify the weak spots in their process, you can start to coach them around different strategies to get things moving again.

Lesson 2: How to see it from the buyer’s perspective.

Your reps need to understand that the most important thing during the sales process is not their perspective, but their prospects. What’s going on inside the buyer’s head? Before reps can understand why opportunities are getting stuck, Jill said, they need to understand what the buyer is thinking about.

Here are some questions that Jill shared that will help reps consider things from the buyer’s perspective:

  • What is my prospect thinking about right now?
  • What is going on with my prospect right now?
  • What issues are top of mind for my prospect?
  • Am I talking their language? (Using similar jargon, etc.)  
  • What’s happening in their environment today that could be impacting the ability to move forward?

Help your reps find patterns between what stages of the sales process opportunities get stuck at and what might have been going on in the buyer’s head at the time. Then develop coaching strategies around what they could do to reignite conversations with those prospects or do better in the future.

Lesson 3: How to demonstrate clear business value.

Another lesson for reps is making sure they’ve communicated the value of your product or service. Explain that the value proposition must immediately jump out and help prospect’s really understand that their company is better off by purchasing. Otherwise, they’ll continue to brush off the sales rep.  

“If your business case isn’t strong enough, you’re not going to entice anybody to change,” Jill said.

Teach reps how to research and communicate the value that prospects will get from your company. Share your case studies with them and give examples of how to use those in the sales process. Even let them sit in on a few customer calls where you talk about the success that customer has had with your platform, so that your reps can learn to do the same and then communicate it to prospects.

Lesson 4: How to be a champion for your internal champion.

We know how often multiple people are involved in the buying process, so it’s important to teach reps how to navigate those various relationships in an account. Specifically, how to prevent the sales process from being stopped by a lack of decisions by the buying team.

Jill’s first piece of advice that you can teach your reps is to get more people engaged in the sale at the beginning of the process. The more prospects you can build relationships with early on, the more internal champions you will have at that account.

You can then teach your reps how to be champions for your internal champions — this means helping the prospects in the account who are ready to purchase but might be held up by others in the organization.

“What we need to do is prep our key buyer, the person who’s moving the decision along, with what she needs to move the decision [forward],” Jill said.

Here a few examples Jill shared of how to do that:

  • Early in the process, let your prospect know what decision-makers have needed to be involved in companies like theirs that you’ve previously worked with. This helps them know who they need to get in the conversations sooner rather than later.
  • Provide a list of questions and considerations for your prospect to share with others in the buying process to help them discuss things internally and make a decision.

Jill also suggested focusing less on talking to everybody individually, and more on creating a bigger purpose that they can buy into. Teach reps how to facilitate conversations around the greater value, and help their internal champions get everyone working together toward the purchase because they know it’s in the company’s best interest.

Lesson 5: How to follow the changing (priority) tides.   

As a leader, you know that buyer priorities change all the time, so it’s important to train reps on shifting with those priorities.

Jill said that when priorities change, sales reps need to stop and think about what’s now happening in the company, what might happen and how they can reconfigure their business value to align with the new objectives.

“It’s our responsibility, as the salesperson, to connect the dots,” Jill said.

For example, if a company your rep is going after just had a bad quarter — earnings were stagnant or even down — help your rep get into the mind of the buyer. In this case, everyone in that organization is looking for ways to increase productivity, reduce costs and get customers in the door.

Explain to your rep that, in that situation, they could reach out to their prospect and say they know earnings weren’t great, and that’s why having a conversation about how your company’s solution can increase the prospect’s team productivity is more important than ever.

Lesson 6: Ask tough questions.  

Another reason to have your reps get more engaged with multiple people within an account is to prevent them from getting boxed in with the wrong person. Make sure they ask prospects critical questions to ensure they’re talking to the right people, like:

  • Who will need to sign off on this project?
  • Who else needs to be informed to keep this project moving forward?

Help reps build cadences with all the decision makers in the process, Jill said, so if one person is too busy then others can continue to move the sales process along.

In addition to locating the decision-makers in the buying process, show reps how to use tough questions to determine real interest. If the prospect seems nice and they ask a lot of questions, have reps ask serious questions about their intentions:

  • How soon do you think we can get started on this?
  • What can I do to help move this process forward?
  • Is there anything that’s stopping you from buying right now? If so, what?

This is also helpful for reps to identify where and why their deals aren’t moving forward, as well as what they can do about it.

Lesson 7: Bring more to the table.

While it can be helpful to give prospect’s all of the information, Jill suggested holding back information that isn’t crucial to know at the given moment — information that’s nice-to-know, not need-to-know.

Demonstrate for reps how those interesting pieces of information you saved can be used to reach out to prospects. Have reps think about things like:

  • What can I create or think about for them that will get them to look at things differently?
  • What new ideas, information or insights can I share?
  • What case study, relevant article or customer story might bring a new perspective to this prospect?

Encourage your reps to get creative in order to engage the prospect again.

“Your goal is to re-pique their curiosity. Make them think of something that they haven’t thought about before,” Jill said.

Additionally, Jill recommended searching for blind spots — issues the prospect is having that they might not even be aware of yet. A great way for your reps to do this is to think about similar customers and the kinds of things they hadn’t thought about before they purchased. Help reps identify what current customers learned or discovered that helped them ultimately make the buying decision.

Use these seven lessons — in no particular order — to help your sales reps become masters at managing their own pipeline. Click here to listen to Jill’s entire presentation.

Want to know how other top sales leaders are increasing performance? Check out our 30-day sales guide:

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Summary
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7 Sales Coaching Exercises for Stronger Pipeline
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As a sales leader, you should provide sales coaching for your reps on how to manage their pipeline and prevent prospects from going dark. Here's how. 
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Level Eleven
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