Particpating in a Team Call

How often have you “taken over” a call for your salesperson? Sometimes there are pressing reasons: the salesperson has frozen, the client is too tough, the opportunity is too big, the situation is too tense, the silence is too long, the salesperson is over his/her head, etc.

While all common sense dictates there are times to commandeer the call, your goal is to observe and participate in a support role. No member of the sales team, including the sales manager, should sit silently throughout the call. One reason is clients wonder, “Why was he/she here?” and another is the impression that “a bump on a log” is hard to erase.

“Live Coaching,” in which you observe and then debrief, is very powerful. To make the most of a team call:

Make it the responsibility of the salesperson to fully brief you — one-page summary — so you are prepared and not caught off guard.
Prepare with the salesperson to set the objective and call strategy and clarify your role. Decide on the most appropriate role you can play — credentialize your group or organization, cover a particular point, and field any organizational questions or objections.
Stay fully tuned in while the salesperson is talking, even if you have heard it 1,000 times before.
Do not interrupt. Remain silent when the salesperson is on.
If the client focuses his/her comments to you, of course, respond, but tactfully turn the dialogue over to the salesperson. Also, you can often invite the salesperson to respond by asking him/her a question or by saying, “John actually has experience with this. John, perhaps you can describe …” and let John pick up the conversation.
Indirectly coach. For example, if the client says something that needs to be clarified, but the salesperson has missed it, speak to the salesperson: “John, it would be helpful to learn a little more about what Sarah means when she says …” vs. asking the question yourself or letting the point go.

If problems arise during the call and the salesperson is sinking (if you are like most sales managers — even though some people feel it is okay to let him/her sink), throw a life raft, but do so discreetly.

You can give your salesperson direction as to how to get out of the jam by saying, “John, perhaps we can back up and find out what the issues are,” or, “John, perhaps we can look at …” Or you can jump in and position a response to the challenge, but quietly jump out.

The key is not to take over. Whenever possible, direct your input to the salesperson and turn the dialogue back over to him/her.

Use good team selling skills. For example, do not “pile on,” which means after the salesperson says something you, adding on your ideas to what he/she said. Ideally, the salesperson will check for feedback (“How does that sound?”) after he/she speaks to get feedback. Once the client responds, then, based on that, you can add your comments.

You can create high-performance team calls with your people. It takes preparation and restraint to hold back. Use “Live Coaching” and team calls to observe, lend a helping hand, preserve the credibility of the salesperson, and lightly coach during a call.