Written by Steve Gielda, Principal – Ignite Selling

Do you know a field sales force that would not benefit from coaching to improve performance? The manager’s role in strategic coaching is a vital one.

We have previously communicated a 6 step strategic coaching process. Once the target account has been identified, it’s critical to schedule time to develop or strengthen a strategy. And the place to start is with a preliminary strategy.

Prior to formally meeting with your sales rep to discuss the strategy, encourage her to develop a preliminary strategy on her own. What are her ideas? What is her approach? If we look at a military example, when a team begins an important mission they start with a small group of people to develop a preliminary strategy. They begin with those who know the situation best. Your sales reps should best know what’s happening inside their target opportunities. They will have the best insights to what strategies might or might not work, and why. Your sales reps should know whom the key influencers are and how to maneuver through the account. Therefore, it’s important that they put together the preliminary strategy prior to meeting with you. Your job will be to challenge their thinking and to put their ideas to the test.

Therefore, you should expect your rep to come to a formal strategic planning meeting with some initial ideas regarding what approaches might work best and the potential barriers or traps. There is no such thing as a generic sales strategy. Each customer – and each opportunity – is unique. Capturing the business is not about selecting a strategy; it’s about formulating a strategy. And formulating a winning strategy is all about having a comprehensive understanding of the customer.

Having your sales rep walk through the process of developing a preliminary strategy has two key benefits. First, it provides you, as her manager, some insights into what she knows and what she needs to find out about the opportunity. At a minimum, your sales rep should have an understanding of:
• The business environment
• The account’s business objectives
• The decision makers
• The account’s decision factors
• The key influencers
• The competitive landscape

A second benefit to having the sales rep establish a preliminary strategy is that it will provide you insights into which courses of action have worked well in this account – and which have not.

It’s difficult to develop a smart strategy if you don’t have some of these basic insights. Assembling the information you know – and researching the information you don’t know – helps to assess the relative merits of competing strategies. With this information, you can better develop an approach which has the highest likelihood of success.