Telling the truth about SME life today

Start With Looking Inwards: A Coaching Approach To Developing Your People And Your Salesforce

Sales team

Some of the best people in front of customers are those that understand the value their product or service brings to their clients. Having seen their product or service in action they know how best to meet customer needs. However, often experts “in the know” are reluctant sales professionals, preferring to stay behind the scenes, confident in their own knowledge, but uncomfortable outside of their comfort zone.

There is rarely a one-size-fits-all approach, especially in today’s B2B world, solving increasingly complex and multidisciplinary challenges and opportunities, where there is always a degree of the unknown. 

In developing a salesforce there are broadly two options. Bring in sales “experts” – those who are confident in their understanding of the market, the issues and their ability to sell (whatever the product or service).  Alternatively, develop from within. This is particularly true in professional service environments, such as accountancy, law and engineering where individuals progress through a business based upon their technical expertise and at a more senior level are required to move into a revenue generating role.

Helen Wada The Human AdvantageHelen Wada is a seasoned business coach and chartered accountant with a background in business development who has observed the challenges that experts have when moving to a market-facing role. Her advice is to start from within and develop people from the inside. Referring to Aristotle’s quote: “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” Helen encourages individuals to “start with yourself and realise the power of articulating your values and value.”

Start by considering what is important to you, what are your values and your purpose. Ultimately, why do you do what you do? We do not have to all solve world problems, but having an appreciation of what matters to you can help to put your revenue-generating role into context. This is often far harder to do than you think – and is one of the areas where coaching can benefit an individual. Organisations often have values, but we are all individuals and people buy from people, which is an adage, but very true. If you do not understand what you stand for and the value that you bring, how can you articulate it to others? Unpicking what matters to you, as well as your motivation and ambition is a great place from which to start.  

The topic of purpose can be overwhelming and asking what it means for you can be a journey of exploration and discovery. Helen suggests breaking it down into bite-sized chunks covering your holistic purpose (family, beliefs, community), work purpose (interests, financial needs) and into the role (who do you serve and why). Thinking about personal beliefs can be deep work but helps us to understand how they shape our actions and behaviours, both at home and at work. 

Telling your story

Storytelling is valuable in a sales environment. Potential customers want to understand how you have helped others in a similar situation, what is your working style? What were the outcomes – and what were you like to work with. A useful framework to creating your story is thinking about the framework of FOAM (“what are the Facts, what are your Opinions, what Anecdotes can you share and do you have any Metaphors that provide an image or unique way of remembering your story). Practice with those who know you and refine them along the way. 

Explore your limiting beliefs

Taking time to understand what holds you back is also important. One of the biggest fears for technical experts is not knowing an answer, so being comfortable with the unknown is something that requires individuals to look inward and to unpick of what they are fearful. A supportive colleague or coach is often helpful to get under the surface of concerns and identify the root cause and resulting behaviours. Once these have been identified then a step-by-step plan can be put in place to move forward and take action, to overcome these limiting beliefs. 

Make the most of your network

Networks are hugely valuable in a sales environment, connecting with people that trust and respect you is critical to growing your impact and ultimately business. Ask yourself why old contacts (and even new ones) might want to hear from you, what are they interested in? Where has their career taken them since you last met? Having explored what matters to you, ask yourself how you can find out what matters to others? 

Recognise that everyone is different

We are thankfully working in a world where inclusion is moving higher up the agenda. Too often assumptions are made, relationships fall, or communication is misunderstood because we have failed to ask some fundamental questions up front. For example, how do people like to be contacted? What energises them? How do they like to receive information Having someone that understands you is crucial to building a working partnership.  Understanding your own preferences helps you to recognise that others also have their own preferred ways of working. 

Build your habits and resilience

Business development and sales requires resilience and conversations often evolve over a period of time. We all know that new habits are hard to form, but finding a pattern that works for you is key. Helen talks about the importance of mindset and refers to the body budget discussed in the book by Lisa Feldman Barrett, “Seven and a half lessons about the brain.” We need plenty of energy to do the things we find hard, so perhaps do them first thing in the morning – or do something that energises you first and puts something back in your tank before reaching out to old and new connections (a critical factor in growing your network and business). It’s about moving the things that always end up at the bottom of the to-do list, to the top. 

Make your human advantage, your commercial advantage

Creating new business is hard work, especially in today’s increasingly competitive market. It is at times like these where we need to hold onto the value of who we are and the insight that we can bring to our customers. Therefore this is about being confident enough to be the best version of yourself (and your team), to be curious towards others and to explore how you can help them. It’s a very human conversation. 

So what’s the next step? Consider coaching as you move to the next level of leadership, to better understand your strengths, explore your limiting beliefs and develop a clear action plan, to be more confident in building new commercial relationships to grow yourself and your business. 

About Helen Wada, The Human Advantage

Helen’s mission is to build a more human-centred working world, driving business success through the empowerment and development of individuals. By fostering a culture of coaching, where everyone takes ownership and feels that they can be themselves at work organisations can transform from within and grow their business as a result

Helen blends her extensive commercial experience with her deep coaching expertise to help businesses define their vision and support them to succeed.  Whether through group or 1-2-1 coaching, Helen and The Human Advantage offer a way for organisations to successfully make the human advantage their ultimate commercial advantage.


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