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The Big Deal & The Coach

Across nearly 20 B2B companies (clients and employers) and my over ten years leading revenue teams, between 40-80% of bookings/ revenue/ARR goals are fulfilled by the “big deal”. Although how each company defines a big deal, varies, what does not vary is the strategic importance of managing them and bringing them to closure in a reliable way. And yet, surprisingly, most companies do not have a specific and separate process for handling big deals, even though they hold the sales team accountable to making or missing the overall revenue/quota number.

For this reason that one of the most critical skills to be passed on from sales manager to sale rep is how to close big deals. When this competency is transferred successfully, sales managers can scale their expertise across their territory. If not, the sales manager becomes little more than a glorified “big deal rep”, assuming many of the duties that should be performed by the rep alone.

To make the effort to pursue and win Big Deals a “no big deal” situation, sales managers should:

• Perform Big Deal Reviews. A Big Deal Review will identify risk and allow reps to apply corrective action.

Map the Complexity. Identify who is part of the Buying Decision Team (BDT) and ensure you know who approves what and how. This includes the extended sales prevention team -- Finance, Legal, Support, Contract Management, and technical review.

Find the Compelling Event. What must happen and why and when? Knowing those makes the big deal happen. Or it doesn’t.

Get Executives involved. Every Big Deal should have a specific sponsor from the executive team assigned to it. This is a great opportunity for a sales manager to ensure senior leadership is aware of competitive dynamics. And executive presence and participation in a deal increases chances of success.

Set up a War Room. Big deals need more than C-Suite involvement. So, market leaders set up a structured and reliable War Room process. Members should include the immediate account team and leader from the major functions that can add value -- product, marketing, legal, pre-sales, professional services, customer care, and a sponsoring executive.


M. Allen's research and work study has revealed that sales managers of market-leading B2B companies spend an average of over 60% of their time coaching. In fact, one of the hallmarks of a best practice sales organization is its reliance on such engaged coaching. So, if your managers are not dedicating this much time to the coaching discipline, odds are they are lagging their local marketplace.

Quality coaching matters because it moves the needle.

Unfortunately, our M. Allen interviews and assessments of front-line managers over the past three plus years found that only 34% of companies have a formal program in place to train managers on how to be excellent coaches. The inevitable result is that those managers who lack coaching skills pivot to a management-only mode – where they focus on spreadsheets, forecast numbers, analysis, and CRM compliance. And they avoid rep skill building or competency development.

RESULTS OF COACHING Sales leaders who increase their coaching hours will see improved sales results (% reaching targets improved by over 10%)

Coaching takes time, effort, and skill. Sales Managers often blame rep turnover or other events out of their control for their failure to coach well or enough. Don’t be fooled by these excuses, the root cause for lack of coaching almost always leads to the sales manager.

Given that there is an unmistakable link between more coaching and better performance, why don’t Sales Managers spend more time with their teams? Through our research and study of nearly twenty teams since 2020, found the following:

1. Too Much Admin – This is the #1 time drain. Sales Managers are typically required to generate many reports. That, coupled with a constant flow of leadership meetings, robs them of valuable coaching time.

2. Lack of Training – Most sales managers lack formal training on how to coach.

3. The Player/Coach – Often, Sales Managers are asked to manage a team as well as carry their own quota. When that happens the rest of the reps are short-changed. They are on their own for skill building.

4. Focusing on the “C” Players – Some sales managers spend too much time on their worst performers. Instead, they should spend most time with the “A’ players

5. One-to-many Coaching – A pitfall some managers make is to choose one specific skill gap and coach to that for everyone. Problem is that coaching is a 1-to-1 discipline. It should be custom to the individual.

6. Too Much Talking – This happens often. Coaching is listening first.

Good Coaching Will Make A Difference

There will always be other initiatives to be prioritized. However, those initiatives will fail without proper reinforcement and coaching. Front-Line sales managers need to bring the sales strategy to life for their team. They can only do this by coaching people to excellence. Great coaches get their people to perform better than they think they can. Here is what great coaching looks like:

• Frequent use of Role Plays. This reinforces process by allowing managers to demonstrate how to execute. It teaches agility, as a sales call is different and role plays enable mastery of key selling skills that can be adapted to any situation. It also builds credibility by allowing them to fail in a “safe” environment, so they can be effective in the moment of truth. Since, by definition, role plays are unscripted, the reps build up confidence because, in the end, practice makes perfect.

Regular Micro-Coaching. Micro-coaching is a focused coaching approach centered on a single sales opportunity. Micro-Coaching sessions ensure the sales rep and sales leader are aligned on all the key components of an opportunity. Micro-coaching sessions should happen as-needed based on the type of opportunities. Great sales managers aim for 3 microcoaching sessions per week per rep. Each session should be no longer than 30 minutes. Micro-Coaching succeeds because it is agile, targeted, and ideally suited for time-started managers.

Plan and promote so that you can persuade. If sales managers take the time to design their coaching program and goals, they can optimize each interaction. They announced the Cadence, continuously communicate, and then track progress over time. The result is that the team is lifted. And the sale manager no longer has to ensure success through heroic personal effort.

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