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Coaching's Bankable Role in Sales Performance, with David Pearson
Episode 14111th October 2021 • Sales IQ Podcast • Luigi Prestinenzi
00:00:00 00:30:45

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How can you level-up on value creation if you don't have a sales leader showing you the way? What about building your commercial acumen? Or sharpening your outbound calls?

With all of the tech available today, self-coaching is a more accessible and powerful tool than ever. All you need is to define what "quality" looks like and take the time to reflect.

This week Luigi is joined by David Pearson who started his career at Miller Heiman. These days he is CEO at Level Five Selling, and a sales coaching evangelist.

Luigi and David chat about the opportunity that reflection creates at every stage of your career, whether you have a coach, are a coach, or are flying solo.

Connect with David on LinkedIn or by phone +1 630 808 6516. The Level Five Selling book trilogy can be found on Amazon.

Connect with Luigi

Find RingDNA here

To help you grow your pipeline check out our Create Pipeline Program



The self-reflection piece when it comes to selling is critical. And there's a couple of characteristics that separate high-performers from everybody else. And I want to break them down before we get into this episode, a couple of characteristics, and one of the main ones is a sales person's ability to be coachable, a sales person's ability to reflect and make some adjustments when required, both when they have a positive experience in a negative experience. Because remember every experience allows us to improve our capability. If we we're having an open mindset, we we're able to take that opportunity to improve what we do now for some of us in, in the world of sales, we don't have access to incredible coaches. We don't have access to leaders who are open. To helping us. And there's not much we can do about it, right? If we're in a role where the company has sales managers, that just don't coach, does that mean you don't coach yourself? No. Does that mean you don't go and find ways to improve? Absolutely not. One thing that we have a luxury of selling in today's modern environment is we have a number of tech tools that allow us to go back and look at the opportunities. Hear the calls that we have with our prospects and kind of, after the fact, really assess what went well and what we could have done differently. I want you to think about this because if you think about the best athletes in the world, what is it they do meticulously? They review the game tape, they go back and have a look at, "okay, what could I have done differently to get a better result or to improve and find that extra 1%? "This week's episode, we're talking to someone who ran Miller Heiman. I mean, anyone that's worked on strategic accounts in the past 20, 30 years would have come across Miller Heiman. Their concepts have essentially allowed salespeople, including myself, to close multi-million dollar opportunities. They take you outside of the world of the transaction and really make you think strategically about. But what David's really passionate about, what we're going to talk today about, is we're going to talk about the self coaching element.

Because again, if you haven't got that manager, that's a coach. If you haven't got that direct access to a coach that can help you see things differently, then the opportunity sits with you. You've either got to find that opportunity to self-reflect, identify opportunities to improve, or you don't and if you don't, things are going just going to keep happening and you might not see the outcome that you want to see.

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So I'm really pumped to get onto these conversation today with David, because this is a great opportunity for all salespeople, even marketers, anyone that's trying to think about how can I do things a little bit differently? How can I coach myself to achieve a better outcome? Because that's what it's all about when we're, when we have the ability, when we, when we have an open mindset, a mindset of growth, it enables us to be the very best we can be.

Welcome to the show, David.


[00:04:36] Luigi Prestinenzi: Pretty pumped. I'm pretty pumped to talk about, you know, the topic of how we can, we can self coach and self-reflect to help us drive more conversions and more sales and more opportunities through the pipeline. So I'm really excited about this episode, David, but before we get into this episode, we'd love to learn a bit more about you and how you started in the world of sales


[00:05:41] Luigi Prestinenzi: Yeah, fantastic. I know that obviously look for, for most organizations, the brand Miller Heiman, the name is such a famous name when it comes to kind of sales training. There's so many incredible books that they had created. I mean, I know that that was one of the books that helped me land my first kind of multi-million dollar opportunity was Strategic Selling by Miller Heiman. So, you know, coming through that business, what did it sort of allow you to learn from a strategic selling versus kind of transactional selling?


[00:07:03] Luigi Prestinenzi: Yeah. It's an interesting thread of conversation, right? Because I think there's one thing that we in the sales professional don't like there is a complete abundance of content and information to help sellers be the best they can be. Right. When we think about it, like now more than ever before we are living in an, in an age of information is just readily available, you know, go to market models, sales process, coaching huddles, more so than what it was like when I first started my career. Yet, when we look at the data we have coaching, you know, from leaders is at an all time low, right? Like the amount of time coaches spend or leaders spend with their team coaching is low. The amount of salespeople hitting target low, like it's, you know, what are we like 60 to 70% of salespeople are missing their target. The buyer and selling trust gap is bigger than ever before. I think some reports are suggesting, you know, 60 to 90% of buyers don't trust sellers. So even though the profession has evolved over the past few years, information has become more and more readily available for sellers. The gap just doesn't seem to be getting getting breached. Like we'd love to hear your opinion on why there is such still a big gap when it comes to skills, coaching pipeline, and trust. One of the key segments of what makes a successful sales professional.


If you define it like that. We're getting down to a lot of sales people down as low as 10% of their time is spent coaching. Now you're talking about a sales manager might spend 50, 60 hours a week working, and they're only spending four to six hours actually, truly coaching. Well, that's a huge issue. How are you moving the needle?


[00:10:45] David Pearson: The question around self-coaching and it's when you, we actually bring sales managers together often and ask them what does a quality sales call look like? And we'll say individually, I want you to write it down. And what happens is they come back and they don't agree on what a quality sales call looks like. So my question is, is how can you ever achieve quality in an organization? If the managers can't agree on what a quality call looks like? Now think about the same thing from a salesperson perspective, because it's more in line with your question.

What does quality look like for you when you're going on a sales call? And you have to really define what that looks like, and when you do that will allow you to build a self coach really well. So let me give you an example. In our book, Level Five Selling, we defined five levels of a quality of sales call and I'll share those.

And I think it's good because it's about each individual sales call. When you look at level one, That is a professional visitor call. That's where you go out, you think friends buy from friends, you have a conversation with people. You never really get any deep issues. And the problem is you only have so many friends. That's a level one call and we find about 10 to 15% of calls fall in that category level two we define it as a price seller. You know, you call up and you say, "Hey, how much are you paying for this? We can get you the same thing for a lesser price." And we know the challenges with that. We need to be adding value.

Yeah, the third. And by the way, about 10 to 15% of calls fall in that price seller category to the third is a really big one. I would call an epidemic which is a transactional seller. And these are people that know their product service and solution really well at. And they just can't wait to tell you all about it. And they get into demo mode and presentation mode, and they're not really understanding what the issues are of the, of the customer. Those first three levels are where we find that the biggest scrap and waste happens in sales calls, where they, it just fails to move the buying process. And, and about, by the way, Luigi, about 60% of calls that we find are scrap and waste, meaning they're not moving the sales call forward. It's huge. Now, when you get up into level four, you're getting into the first level of professional selling, which is truly understanding what's important to your customer. Ask them great questions, linking back a solution, differentiated, unique strengths, gaining commitment, keeping the sale moving forward.

Those are all elements of finding your, finding a spot for your solution. And then the fifth is the level five is the biggest of all of them. That's a value creator. People that are value creators at companies have far, far higher close rates and also average deal sizes, same with level four and five. And this is where you understand what's important your customer, but you are, you're helping them shape their thinking, shape the solution. You're bringing new ideas to the table for them.

So those are the five levels. And when you talk about self self-coach and one thing that happens is we all have calls that fluctuate on that. We might have a predominant area where we fall. I had a call not long ago and I got done Luigi, I'm like, "oh, was that I was?" I was a level three seller in that call. That's not who I am, but I knew right away where I was going wrong. And I knew what I needed to do to get back on track for future calls. I fell into a trap. And so I think that type of self-assessment is helpful.


[00:15:49] David Pearson: It's a great question. I think one thing you said Luigi, because you're one of the best salespeople out there, but yet we all have bad calls every once in a while it happens, but here's what is so good. You went back and reflected on that, call it. It what you wanted and you reflected and you thought about where you went wrong, so you don't make that mistake again. If you don't have that definition of what the quality looks like, what are you reflecting on? And how did it didn't go well, you know what, why didn't it go well? I don't know, you know exactly where it went wrong. So I would say to the best thing you could do is, is when you get done with your calls, look back on it, reflect what kind of call was that? Was it a level three? Call was level four? Was it level five? What could I have done to make it a level five call? I could have spent more time upfront, I could have planned better, I could have asked better questions. Maybe I should have done my research ahead of time and I could have found out that there was an opportunity over here. Things like that can be are things I think are important for us to do inthe reflection stage.


[00:17:23] David Pearson: Oh, hugely important. I mean, the amount of planning we do prior to call is absolutely critical when things go wrong in a call, a lot of times we just didn't plan really well. We plan, well, I mean, sometimes they go off the rails, you know, when we plan, but much less likely because we, we think about those things.

It's really important. In fact, we used to do this, you know, when I was at Miller Heiman, we'd ask the question frequently, how many hours a week do you work? And people say, oh, you know, 50 hours a week, 55 hours a week. And we'd say, how much time do you actually spend selling? And then we'd say, well, let me define selling. That's anytime you spend face to face or phone to phone with somebody uncovering some sort of gap as to where they are today or to where they want to be. And you know, the actual time is about five to eight hours per week is spent actually selling. Yeah. So it's crazy to think that we would go into a sales call and not plan the call. We're spending so little time in front of people. Let's make sure we do the best we can with that time.


[00:18:37] David Pearson: Yeah. It's I think the difference between when we talk about level four, which is a product service consultant and a value creator level five, the distinction between those is really key. One of them is about understanding the first one product service consultants, but understanding what's important to your customer linking back a solution, you know, asking good questions, linking back solution, differentiating.

It's about finding a fit for where, for what you have. So I've got a solution I'm looking for a fit there, and I'm walking down that path. When you get to the value creator, you're beyond that you understand your customer's business really well. You're asking questions and you're, you're really in a mode of helping them bring, bring value to them and bringing solutions to the table.

That may be even beyond what you provide, the solution that you provide. You're helping shape the thinking of that for that particular individual and shape the solution. Think about this in organizations, those that are the top, top salespeople and organization, they do that. And they do that regularly. I used to say in sales training, a lot of sales train does a good job at teaching you how to ask good questions to understand what's important, your customer it's standard stuff, but it fails, it fails to really focus on how you add that value beyond your solution itself. And when you do that, your sales are, are far, far greater.


[00:21:01] David Pearson: Business acumen is a really important piece. Understanding business acumen and how your buyer may be looking at their business as well. Overall. Hi, how are they impacting their customers? What are they doing in their business to be, to be successful? So understanding that you have to step out of your shoes from what you're selling and into your customer's shoes. And "what would I be doing if I were in that person's shoes" and "what value do I have that I can bring to the table?" I remember when I was very first started selling my sales manager just said to me, it was brand new brand new sales job. And he said, "David, if you can just get it through your head, you're in the business of helping people and not selling to people, you're going to be successful."

I remember that. And he was right. It's such a simple thing to say, but it is what expertise can I bring to the table? Another thing I think that it's important to Luigi is you need to understand the business that you're going in. Uh, you have to do your research, what's going on in their industry? What are some of the trends that are happening?

I like looking at annual reports and reading about companies. And in there you can tend to find, you know, we, we can find in the US we'll find 10 Ks have risk factors, you can read a lot about things that are, they're worried about as a company. And you can think about ways you can help to impact that. Now you're having different conversations with people and you're, you're really viewed differently when you have those conversations.


[00:23:31] David Pearson: Well, the fact that you want to be a value creator is good to start. You want to get there, you understand, you need to get there. And I would, in that particular situation, I'd be learning as much as I can about there, about the industry you're selling into.

You've got a very specific industry learn about it, read about it, read industry publications, look at the trends that are going on. I mentioned about reading what's, you know, these publicly held companies have all kinds of great information to read and very common on what the risk factors are, what they're challenged with, get your arms around that.

And the other thing is. Ask great questions to your customers and listen to them because the more you do that, the more experienced you're going to get, and the more you're going to be able to jump in there and be able to help them. There's also a lot of different courses out there around business acumen.

That can be very helpful too, because it, it teaches you "how does an executive look at their business?" You know, how are they looking at the finances and what are the things would be important? You know, jumping into that and learning business acumen is, uh, is a key to getting to that level five.


And all of a sudden my focus and the questions that I asked completely shifted, because I was able to have a better level of empathy for my customer and for my prospect. And I was seeing things from a different perspective and then my results just kind of skyrocketed.


And so you, you were smart. You went out and found somebody who had that type of experience or, or not that experience, but it was a coach. You could ask questions and find out what was going on in their business that might be able to help you to think through solutions and add value. And by the way, you were spending time planning. Smart. That's a key.


[00:26:15] David Pearson: Well, I actually took the intellectual property and learned it inside and out like a priest knows the Bible. I know it really well, but then it was all about how you implement and execute on it. And I think that was a really big key for me. And as a sales leader. Because as a salesperson, I used it and that I could be successful, but I full control over whether I use it or not use it.

I mean, that, that's something I can decide to do. And then would it be when I became a sales leader, it really became how I went about implementing it and making sure that people were using it and guiding people and coaching people. And that's when it really became successful for me, because now not only could I put it to use and be successful using it, but I can help others to be, to reach their potential and be their best.

And that was key. Everybody had a clear understanding of where we were trying to go and, and we can talk to it all the time and self-assess, as we were talking about earlier.


[00:27:18] David Pearson: I think it's an art and a science. How about that for an answer? There's a process behind what we do. And when you learn that process, it makes a huge difference. I was a sales person who learned tactical selling. I learned my very first sales training course. It was professional selling skills. It was with learning international at the time. And I thought it made a big difference. I learned how to interact one-on-one with people, but it wasn't until I said, wait a minute, there's when you get into a complex sale, but there's a lot more involved in this. I got to make sure I'm calling on the right types of customers. I have to make sure we're calling on the right types of people. There's a whole lot more to it. And that was, uh, made a huge breakthrough difference for me in my career when I understood that. And put that to use.


But I think what you talk about in order to get to level five, that's the art of practice. That's the art of rehearsal. That's the art of role play and reflecting and adapting and evolving. And for me, this is why I love selling is because no matter how, you know, how much I progress in my career and where I think that, you know what I'm getting better, there are moments of like I had this week just helped me realize that I've still got so much learning. I've still got such a ladder to climb, to be the best I can be. And that is what I love about this profession. And that is what I love about this career. I feel like I still today, I feel like I've still, I've still just only scratched the surface of what's possible.


[00:29:18] Luigi Prestinenzi: Well, David, I think we've got a couple of other episodes, we could probably cut from this because I, you know, the, the, the conversation, I could talk to you for hours about these sort of topics, but maybe before we let you go, where can our listeners find and connect with you?


One, we have a, we have a couple of books out and I recommend for managers. There's the level five coaching system book. Yeah. And that's out on It's got five stars. It's a very popular book and well-read, and for salespeople, I really recommend a level five selling, and it's going to define what the quality call looks like. So, that's a great way to get to know some of the content that we have, and they can certainly reach out to me directly anytime. And I'm happy to get my phone number out here too. If anybody has any would like to talk personally, and I can be reached at 6 3 0 8 0 8 6 5 6. By the way that's US 6 3 0 8 0 8 6 5 6


[00:30:34] David Pearson: Thanks for having me on here I love what you're doing and the work that you're doing is so impressive. So thanks for having me here. I was honored to be invited.