How do you improve sales performance

Field service: improve the competence of your salespeople in 6 steps!

The coaching of salespeople in the field makes special demands on their managers - among other things because the field service employees largely act as lone fighters in their day-to-day work. Therefore, the coaching competence of managers should be developed with a system.

How do our salespeople organize customer contact? How do you react to customer concerns? Can you make our products palatable to customers and guide them to purchase decisions? Dealing with such questions and developing the relevant skills of their employees is one of the central tasks of sales managers. This is because the company's sales and earnings largely depend on this.

The easiest way is to coach the sales force and to specifically develop their competence in telephone sales and in sales in specialist and retail trade. Because here the managers can observe the behavior of the salespeople in customer contact day after day and give them feedback.

Field workers love their freedom

The situation is different for companies that market and sell their products and services largely through sales representatives - such as many financial service providers and pharmaceutical companies, but also manufacturers of industrial goods. When it comes to ensuring quality in their sales, they often struggle with the problem that their salespeople are deployed throughout Germany, if not Europe or worldwide, and largely act as lone fighters in their day-to-day work.

Correspondingly, it is often difficult for companies to control the behavior of their field staff; often they can only control the results of their work. More importantly, there are many sales representatives "Freedom-loving spirits". They are therefore quick to oppose if they have the feeling that my freedoms are being curtailed by the headquarters.

Regardless of this, a systematic development and expansion of competencies is necessary, especially in the field. Because the sales force is often the centralif not at all only contact person for customers for example in a region.
Correspondingly, in addition to the image, the company's sales success also depends heavily on the behavior and competence of their sales representatives.

In addition: As "lone fighters", the field service employees must be able to structure their daily work and control their behavior themselves, since their superiors can only correct deficiencies after a time, if at all.

Field service training consumes a lot of time and money

Most companies with a large sales force have recognized this. That's why they invest a lot of time and money in training their sales force. In doing so, they often struggle with the problem: Because their sales representatives are often on duty nationwide or even across Europe, they cannot often call them in for training at their headquarters.

Because this would be associated with too high costs due to the long journeys. In addition, the sales representatives are not with customers on training days. So you don't earn any money with a commission-based payment. Therefore, they often oppose too many days of training.

This is one of the reasons why most companies with a large field service now have one electronic learning platform for their employees. However, the further qualification of sales employees with electronic learning media quickly reaches its limits - above all because they can primarily be used to convey cognitive learning content. The sales competence of the employees, on the other hand, can only be increased to a limited extent with them and certainly not the behavior of the field service employees in customer contact with them.

Managers should coach their employees

That is why many companies decided in recent years: Our sales executives - for example our district directors and area managers - should be theirs Coach employees. They hoped that this would bring the following benefits:

  1. The sales competence of the sales force is increased systematically.
  2. Over time, they develop the necessary behavioral security in customer contact.
  3. Because the coaching is carried out by the immediate supervisor, the special features of a region or the specifics of certain customer groups can, for example, be more closely

That was and is a wise decision. However, practice shows: Most executives in the field find it difficult to coach their employees. One of the main reasons for this is that when preparing their executives for their coaching role, many companies proceed in a similar way to preparing their salespeople for their salesperson tasks: They send the executives to a two- or three-day seminar. Then they are let loose on the "customers", i.e. employees.

In such compact training courses, managers learn why it is important to coach employees. You usually also get to know the relevant coaching methods and instruments. But this means that managers - and many companies overlook this - are not yet qualified for their work as coaches. Because if a manager is to be the coach of their employees at the same time, then they need one different self-image as a classic manager.

For example, she should see it as one of her core tasks Learning and development processes with their employees to toast and to accompany - so that the numbers are correct in the medium and long term. And this in turn requires a change in leadership behavior. Instead of primarily dealing with the numbers, i.e. the results of the work of their employees, managers should deal with the behavior of their employees in the Day-to-day sales and deal with customer contact that leads to said numbers.

Managers should reflect on their behavior

Specifically, this means: Managers should sit down with their employees more often and talk to them about, for example:

  • What (new) challenges do you face in your work?
  • What changes could result in a solution to the problem?
  • How can you use your good resources for this?
  • What should we train?
  • What else do you need to achieve the goal?
  • What hurdles do you see and how can we overcome them?

In addition, they should accompany their employees to customers more often,

  • in order to then reflect together on the behavior of the seller in customer contact,
  • to define the resulting coaching goals and
  • to process these in the next appointments.

Many managers are already doing this formally. But often she has hers Role as coach not yet internalized. That is why they quickly fall into their old leadership behavior when coaching. This means that they tell their employees what they should do in the future, instead of initiating learning processes in them. And instead of encouraging and motivating their employees, they instructively point out all the mistakes that have been made, which leads to a feeling of paternalism - also because the managers do not adequately convey to their employees what the goal of coaching is: not the sales force even more to control.

Rather, the goal is: The sales force should be individually at Developing their competence supported so that they will work even more successfully in the future and consequently also earn more money - a point that is a strong motivator, especially in the case of the highly performance-dependent paid sales force.

On page 2 you can read how you can train the competence of your salespeople in 6 steps.

(Image source: © peshkova - Fotolia.de)

Iris Hartmann works as a sales trainer and sales coach trainer for the ifsm Institute for Sales Management, Urbar near Koblenz (Tel .: 0261/962 3641; Mail: [email protected]), which trains certified sales coaches, among other things.