Ep21. Leigh Parker. Setting a Sales Process and utilising Sales Coaching to be Successful.

Ep21. Leigh Parker. Setting a Sales Process and utilising Sales Coaching to be Successful.

Join Pete Evans as he speaks to SalesStar’s Head of Capability & Performance, Leigh Parker. The pair look into the importance of coaching through utilising data, time, effort and being a good sales leader. Leigh looks back into his experience to look at how sales processes have to be managed effectively whilst making sure you have the team that works to the plan as opposed to being a maverick. 

About our Guest

Leigh Parker is an experienced professional with a strong background in business and capability development. He has over 25 years of business management, sales and capability development experience both domestically and internationally.

From 16 years with McDonald’s, Leigh understands the value of systems having learnt the business from the ground up. His roles included managing Franchising and Training for McDonald’s New Zealand, to becoming a Franchisee. From there Leigh has held senior Sales, Account Management and Learning & Development roles

About our Host

Pete Evans has over 20 years sales experience with a successful corporate sales career. If you’re involved in B2B selling, cold calling, sales recruitment, sales training, sales coaching, sales transformation or have a desire to grow your business then this podcast is for you.

Pete is currently MD and Practice Partner of SalesStar UK. SalesStar combines sales training with sales coaching to deliver long term results in line with your sales strategy so you can smash your targets and grow top line revenue. SalesStar works with growth minded CEOs and sales leaders who are frustrated with their sales results and are looking for a proven system to grow sales.

Episode Transcript

Intro/Outro | Pete Evans | Leigh Parker

Welcome to the Creating SalesStars Podcast. Each week, our host, Pete Evans, will be joined by some of the big and upcoming names within the sales industry. This is brought to you by SalesStar UK.


Welcome to this week’s edition of the Creating Sales Stars podcast. I’m delighted this week to welcome Leigh Parker, who is part of the Global Learning Development Team for SalesStar. And on a bit of background to Leigh. Leigh is an experienced and professional with a strong background in business and capability development. Leigh has got over 25 years of business management, sales and capability development experience, both domestically and internationally and interestingly from 16 years with McDonald’s. Leigh understands the value of systems, having learned the business from the ground up. His roles with McDonald’s include managing, franchising and training for McDonald’s, New Zealand and in fact, to becoming a franchisee. And from there, Leigh has held several senior sales and account management learning development roles. So Leigh, Welcome to this week’s edition of Creative SalesStars Podcast. Delighted to have you on and looking forward to the conversation.

Well, thank you, Pete. And I’m delighted to be here. Thanks for having me.

Yeah, you’re welcome. You’re following in some very esteemed footsteps from the SalesStar team with our CEO, Paul O’Donohue and and also your boss, Alex Chan. So, Leigh; obviously, there’s lots of things we can talk about in terms of developing salespeople. And obviously, you’re working closely with the SalesStar Coaches and practice partners globally to develop our own capability. What do you see as some of the challenges that sales leaders are facing currently? Because we’re in some pretty tough economic times, you know, both locally and globally.

And, you know, it’s it’s a great question, Pete. And I think that I think we’re all experiencing similar things in terms of that those looming recessions, if I think about even in New Zealand, the news that we hear about the UK in inflation may be hitting 18% and the pressures that that brings and and the marketplace and discretionary income. I think the the reality is we can continue to look out and look at what’s happening in the economy and the risk of that, Pete, is that we lose sight of just looking internally and taking our eye off the ball. So I think one of the big things that we’re focusing on in Sales Star is in working with the clients that we are lucky enough to support, is making sure that we are ready. Making sure that we are ready to support our clients, really for our clients to make the most of every sales opportunity that they’ve got. So I think the the big challenge in the in the market at this time, Pete, is it the risk is that we get sidetracked, that we get so externally focused that we take our eye off the ball of investing, supporting the capability, build of our teams so that when they do have those critical sales opportunities and maybe they’re reduced, that we still make the most of every single opportunity that we have.

And that’s a great response to the question, Leigh. Now, obviously, I know one of the things you’re really passionate about and we’re really passionate about at SalesStar is coaching. Why do you think some businesses are still reluctant to invest in coaching the sales teams? What do you think of the barriers that business owners and sales leaders see to actually investing in consistent and effective coaching for the salespeople?

Do you know what, Peter, for being really honest about it? I think that for some businesses it’s the fear of coaching. It’s the fear is we take great salespeople, we give them a promotion into sales, leadership roles. And what made them good as salespeople doesn’t necessarily make them good sales leaders. And I think sometimes the reluctance to invest in coaching is because of fear, fear of being found out, fear of not knowing the answers, fear of venturing into that coaching space and actually understanding what that is. And I think that’s a could be a bit of a theme for our discussion today, Pete, is fundamentally understanding the role of a sales leader in the fact that we know that 50% of your time as a sales manager, a sales leader, should be in coaching. And if we fundamentally buy into that principle and that allocation of time, then we should be thinking about how do we ensure that we are supporting our teams with the very best coaching skills? So I think part of it would be easy to say right now that it’s because of the economic situation and perhaps funds are a little bit tighter. But come back to my first point. Now more than ever, we should be investing in our people. Now more than ever, we should be investing in our leaders to help them be great coaches and removing that fear. And I think that’s one of the things that we do so well as sales star is actually demystify what is coaching we get alongside leaders, whether they’re brand new or super experienced, and help them understand the fundamentals of coaching, help them support their team and coach them to be the very best that they can be.

Yeah, I’d really like to explore this, this challenge of coaching and what it really is in this podcast, because I think I think this is going to be great for the the listeners, the podcast this week and obviously on the on the recording which goes out. So, so a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Kevin Beales, the founder and CEO of Retract.ai, which is now Allego. And I know you’re obviously you’re a big fan of that and Kevin and I really tried to impart the challenges around, around coaching. And I think one of the things that Kevin and I discussed on that podcast was, is often sales leaders and sales managers make excuses for why they’re not able to coach the team. And some of those excuses around, you know, I’ve got to fill forms in for management, so I’ve got to calculate commissions. So I’m not being allowed the time to coach my people. What you know, what what do you make of those comments where the business isn’t allowing the time for the sales managers to coach because they’re still they’re almost stuck in the weeds in terms of, oh, I’ve got to prepare for the sales meeting, I’ve got to prepare these stats for the board or my boss. So I just don’t have time to coach my sales team.

Yeah. And look, I think it’s on one hand, Pete, it’s, it’s a reality that is sales leaders. We wear multiple hats. And that’s why I mentioned before that stat of 50%, and if we’ve really buy in to that and it’s up for sales managers to have that conversation with sales leaders. Do we fundamentally buy into the fact that as a sales manager, half of my role is in coaching my team? If we buy into that in this half of my calendar, half of my availability is that dedicated to time with my team. So that’s a fundamental discussion that needs to be had up front. And I think for Pete, you and I are both rugby fans you’re more into your league and I’m perhaps more rugby union and I think even further listeners who don’t necessarily follow sport, they can all relate to the fact of the the sporting analogy and the role of a coach and how important that role is to be getting alongside the team and helping them practice and build the skills needed so that when they go out on match day, they can perform. And it would be unusual or unacceptable for us to see a team fail and go, “oh, it’s okay because that coach had to do a report. They needed to write something. They needed to be sitting behind the desk.” We would say No way. They need to be with their team and they need to practice the fundamentals ahead of match time or match day. And then on their day, their coach needs to be there alongside them, out from behind the desk, supporting them to be successful. So that that’s the time part in coming back to when you mentioned Kevin earlier and talking about Allego. I think one of the other aspects around coaching is our inability to get down to like the root cause of what’s going on and what Allego allows us to do in that conversational intelligence is to really dig into the data. Too often sales coaching is how do you think that went? You know, we might have had a sales call we leave that meeting and we say, How do you think that went? Now that’s a real right brain approach and a left brain approach is actually gathering data, gathering information to equip us to have a really powerful information, rich coaching conversation. And that’s where tools like Allego allow us to listen to calls to be able to assess them to provide really data rich insights to talk about, well, how did that go? What words did you use? Were you able to articulate our value proposition? Did you use our positioning statement? Did you ask questions? What was your talk time versus listening time as a percentage? These are all really data rich points, which I think would help us feel far more comfortable about spending more time and coaching.

Yeah, and I think its really interesting, the, the, the comparison you’ve used with, with sport – like you say you wouldn’t expect the team that you support to the pitch with not having a game plan we should have been coached. You know sometimes your team that you support doesn’t always execute that game plan or it could be that the the team they’re playing has a better game plan. So they get they get they get outplayed. But what they have got is they’ve got rich data that they can analyse and the coach can give both the team and individuals coaching feedback after that match. And I think you’re right, we’ve got to use data to improve performance. And I think when we we use data, like you say, we can have a much richer coaching conversations with people and it helps them embed the the behavioural change that’s needed to get better and I think what I’ve I’ve noticed, you know, in terms of particularly coaching my team, you know, we’ve got a we’ve got an apprentice Dylan, but using the Allego’s tool is really helps us do that analysis and also you can still ask coaching questions around that, you know. So what do you see when we use this data if you’re talking 70% of the time on the call, you know, how do you think that prospect is feeling? How could you improve this but you’re using not subjective evidence but, like you say, you’re not actually getting down in the trenches and you know you’re working alongside your team. So I do agree the data can give you, you know, rich and rich insights. And also it allows the person you’re coaching to actually go back over their own data as well and use it. Yeah. You you’ve also talked about- We talked about maybe some of the the time barriers that get in the way of sales managers and sales leaders coaching and you mentioned before Leigh about you know great salespeople going into sales management roles and not necessarily being the the best people or organisations and equipping them with the necessary skills to be a great and a great coach. Which is obviously interesting because, you know, great sports people don’t always make the best sports coaches either. Erm, you know, and you get a lot of great coaches in sports that were the most successful in the in the sport they were in. What steps can an organisation take to equip its managers with great with great coaching skills because you talked about the fear as well, you know, of of perhaps coaching people successfully.

Yeah, it’s a great question, Peter. And I think as we mentioned before, that time is an enabler. So we need to make sure that our sales managers are given the time to coach, that they are then prioritising their time with the with the teams. And I see that as a fundamental part of their role. And I remember reading an article about FedEx and their approach to the bonus structure for their sales leaders was not that they met their overall sales target, but it was based on the number of people within the sales team that had met their target. Now, the reason I mention it is because I think that’s a fundamental approach and insight into how that business viewed the role as managers. So fundamentally, we need to equip them with the time. We need to make sure that they understand that their role is no longer in delivering on an individual target that they are responsible for and going and selling that. But in fact, their role is about enabling the team and I think we can overcomplicate it, Pete. We can blow it out into something that’s really difficult. And I think initially it’s about actually having our people, our leaders come out from behind the desk, whether it be, you know, a physical desk or virtual and actually being out there with the teams. These are physically spending time one on one with them and being led by their teams. So the fear comes from having to or thinking you need to know all the answers. And in fact, good coaching is just about creating space for thinking is one part and transferring ownership and responsibility of the decision making on the other side. So I think for me it’s really about making sure as sales managers, we understand that it’s our role, that we provide them the time that we ensure that we are out there with our teams, giving them the support that they need. And the last thing I would say, it’s around the culture that we are wanting to and we want to create. And you said what what perhaps leaders need to do to equip the managers to coach. Well, I think it comes down to the culture of the business and it starts from the top. And you’re a great example of this, Pete, with your team, you lead with humility, right? We’re all on a journey of learning. And as long as we acknowledge that and set that as a foundational truth and everyone feels comfortable that we all need to be humble, that we are vulnerable, and that leadership quality of showing that we’re vulnerable, that we’ve all got things that we need to work on and then have a culture of learning that we’re all in this together and we don’t miss an opportunity to grow and develop our capability daily and that comes back to our sporting analogy before. You wouldn’t want a team to turn up and try a new move for the first time on the opposition. You would want them to practice that a hundred times in practice, in a safe environment where it’s, you know, there’s no points on the line. So for sales leaders, it’s about creating that culture right from the top down that we have this humility. We’re all vulnerable. We’ve all got things that we want to work on. And we’ve got this culture of constant learning and capability development.

Yeah, I love what you’re saying and I think there’s a lot of organisations out there that at board level. Talk about the the importance of coaching, but they don’t carry it through. So it’s like we’ve got a tick in the box that we’ve written down. Well, actually, one of our key things we’ve got to work on is, you know, getting our managers to be better coaches, but then they don’t allow the people to. And it’s interesting as well, organisations which have a toxic environment, you know, you can put that into some team sports as well. You know, where were some you look at some teams on paper, they have the best players in the world. But it’s just such a toxic culture that actually coaching doesn’t work. And I think you get the same things in businesses.To be successful in culture, you’ve got to have the right culture. The leaders are going to really buy into it. They’ve got to create that and create that environment. I think where we’ve had more success with organisations is where the sales leaders and the leaders have really bought into the program and they want to be coached as well and they’re willing to just expose themselves, but they’re willing to demonstrate that humility, to say they’re still on a journey of learning. And I’m sure you’ve had experience in your career where organisations that we’re going to invest in some training and development for our salespeople, but we’re not being part of the program. And it almost lost credibility, doesn’t it, because the the leaders don’t want to be coached.

That’s right. 

Yeah. And I think that was quite an interesting concept. So I know in the past we’ve joked about your career with McDonalds. But you know what were some of the key learnings from, you know, being involved in, you know, managing franchising, training and obviously being a franchisee that you learned in your time at McDonald’s, which, you know, leaders can apply to coaching sales teams. What are some of the things that you learned and apart from obviously, you know, as you keep telling it, if it’s a Big Mac in New Zealand, it’s got to be a Big Mac in the UK.


And it’s also the things you learned.

Yeah. Look I just thinking there’s a, there’s a number one of the couple of things that that really jumped out as a store manager as a franchisee. There’s an incredibly high level of expectation around your hands on involvement working in the business and it doesn’t that wasn’t that they expected a franchisee to be on the fry station. And in fact, they would frown upon that, not because they didn’t want you in there getting your hands dirty, but the old adage they wanted you working on the business, not in the business. So what that meant to me was every day that I was in a in one of my restaurants, I was using it as an opportunity to work alongside my particularly my management team and using it as an opportunity to help them grow and develop. Often that would be us standing back together and observing what is going on. And it’s a great example of we are in a sales environment quite often we are on the daily grind and we’re just doing what we’re doing day in, day out. And it’s not often enough that we step back and we actually observe and analyze what are we doing? Is this actually being successful? And as a franchisee asking a manager, What do you see here? What are you observing? What could be done differently? So I think that they’re working on the business as a key element in the fundamental, Pete, is around processes. This notion of being able to get a Big Mac in Huddersfield the same as you get a Big Mac in Chicago, you don’t get that through desire, you get that through process, and then you get that through following that process, inspecting that process, being bloody minded about this is what we should be doing and being unapologetic about it. And I think that’s the same in sales. Do we know what our sales processes are we coaching against that sales process? We are holding ourselves accountable because at the end of the day we want our clients to get the right experience or we want to get the right outcomes in terms of the sales. So that fundamental clarity around what good looks like I think is super, super important.

Yeah. I think its interesting you talk about, about process and you know, I’ve come a lot of across a lot of sales people so you have to say, well, the reason I’m successful is because I’ve got some magic sauce and I know I’ve got a winning personality, so I don’t need to. I heard a few weeks ago from from somebody at a new client. And that always makes me makes me laugh. But I don’t need to follow process because I win sales on my winning personalality. You know, how would you respond to somebody like that? You know, how does a sales manager, coach, somebody like that; who thinks I’m a maverick and I don’t need to follow a process, you know, what advice would you give to a sales manager who’s is probably new to to coach? He might have inherited a team with a couple of a couple of mavericks who on paper are, you know, bringing in the money, bringing in the numbers.

Well, look, I think there’s always going to be people that can do that and have had success for one reason or another. I think it’s about scaling it up. Right, and having a different view. We work with our OMG Objective Management Group as you know, Pete, have surveyed over 2 million salespeople and formed a view of what great looks like when it comes down to fundamentals like mindset and the components of mindset in sales, DNA, what makes a great salesperson? So do you want to build your business on a maverick and what could work or might not work? Or do you want to build a business on the substance and insights and fundamentals of over 2 million evaluations and actually then build a process to actually coach your team individually around those things. And I, I think that the risk is that this maverick might be doing a great job today. It may be they’re selling to people that enjoy that style or that approach. But great salespeople are chameleons, right? They’re able to adapt to what’s in front of them. They understand that different disc profiles, different personality communication styles will require different things from them. And fundamentally, we know that we’re going to be most successful when we follow disciplined sales processes, and that removes the maverick or removes the luck and actually instils more predictability and certainty to our sales success.

Yeah, it’s interesting, if I link it back with sports which we’ve talked about in some particularly rugby; I was trying not to mention the team but I was talking to somebody who played for a Rugby League team in the UK and he was saying that the this team doesn’t necessarily have the best players, other teams have better players, but what they’re really good at is following the process and executing on that process and executing on it consistently.And when they don’t win, it’s because they don’t execute on the process. So they, they have to have players with skill and they have some players who’ve got some flair. But even the flair players have to follow the process and the the culture of this particular club. And they do and they do win trophies is that it’s about following the process. You’ve got to train, you’ve got to become you’ve got to be coachable because together we win. And, you know, but we we also lose together if we don’t win, then we analyse it. And I think that’s actually quite interesting, is the you can’t scale a business on a bunch of mavericks. 

No, no.

And also, I think the the world has changed.I think buyers are getting more more savvy. And actually the salesperson who is going on to the maverick saying, well, it’s about more winning personality magic sauce. Hasn’t necessarily changed, They sell on, like you say you’ve got to be in sales, you’ve got to be a chameleon. And this is where things like disc profiles really, really help. And I think we’ve all seen sporting teams that have had like the prima donna maverick player. It doesn’t necessarily become sustainable because it can honestly create a toxic culture as well.


Yeah. And obviously Leigh, you know, you know, part of a global business with responsibility for, you know, making sure the coaches, that the practices follow a system, you know, follow a process. So the, you know, when we’re coaching clients in the UK, it’s the same as in the US or New Zealand and we know what.What things are you learning in your journey with SalesStar that some of our listeners could adapt into their practices and, you know, into their businesses in terms of coaching.

A couple of things come to mind. One is our CEO Paul O’Donohue and his approach. And then the other thing would be consistency. So I’ll start with with Paul. So Paul founded the business 18 years ago and I would still regard Paul as our number one salesperson now. That’s not his role, but what it does demonstrate is, Paul’s absolute dedication to the craft, the skill, the mindset, the dedication around the discipline of sales is just as remarkable to me. You know, I think what it how that translates to our listeners as from the top down, we need to have that clarity of purpose. We need to have that clarity around the importance of selling and the fact that we revisit it daily. Paul is involved and our our training is involved when we bring on new sales people and new coaches and he might come along less often now and do what we call cameos, but he’s still role models.Our discovery calls our warm call scripts, our positioning statements, role plays for our newbies, what great looks like. And I just think that- To be honest, I’ve never seen that complete dedication and role modeling at such a senior level so consistently, in the businesses that I’ve been involved in. And that feeds into the second point around consistency. One of our core values at SalesStar is being a product of the product. We’re a sales transformation company. We help businesses transform their sales performance. And we talk about eating our own dog food, which isn’t a very lovely thing to say, but every day we are we are trying to improve our sales performance. And today I was with one of our senior salespeople. He was taking me through the results of a discovery meeting, taking me through his draft presentation and asking me for feedback. He doesn’t need to do that, but he wants to do that because that’s how iron sharpens iron. That’s how we get better. And we’re just consistent. We know that it’s not about I think one of the risks for sales people, for sales organizations is it’s about the new product, it’s about the new initiative, it’s about the new focus. And as a sales leader or a new sales leader, you think you’ve got to come up with the next big focus. What are we going to be doing that’s different? How do I state my mark? At SalesStar we don’t have that. We’re about sales and we’re about can we today be better at selling than we were yesterday and being that product of the product?

Yeah. And I think you’re exactly right. And I love what you say about, you know, Paul creating that culture and still still getting involved and, you know, paying a keen interest. So it’s not just words, but he’s actually, you know, he’s been a product of our product and he’s obviously getting getting stuck in and helping new salespeople, helping new coaches, you know, helping you sell. So I think what the message on takeaway is that if you are a leader, you can’t just pay lip service to coaching. You know, you’ve actually got to walk the talk and be a product to the product yourself. And actively participate. So I think the message on takeaway is that, you know, your salespeople, your sales managers, if you’re a sales leader, they will observe what you do and you’re much more likely to get by. And if you’re demonstrating that true leadership and you use the word humility as well and, you know, demonstrate to the is still humble enough to get actively get involved as well. So you can you your leader, you’re leading the way. And I think that’s really, really important. So what was the one sort of nuggets of advice that you would give to a new sales manager, you know, new into managing his team? What’s the one golden nugget that you’d like to share with our listeners this week?

Well, I think it’s a wrap up, Pete. One of the things that we haven’t really touched on is the the role of mindset and I think that it’s a common term. I think people understand that mindset is a key part of being successful in business. But people kind of say it and in I don’t know if they really buy into it. So my my nugget for a sales leader would be and a new sales manager would be understanding the importance of mindset. And we know that mindset as opposed to skillset accounts for around 80% of sales successes. So three things here. One is you’ve got to believe it, you have to believe that mindset is a key part of your team. Sales success and then is a new sales leader or a sales manager, you need to define it and we talk in the OMG World Objective Management Group. We define or break down mindset into desire, commitment, outlook and responsibility. And the great thing there is that you can define it. You can break mindset down into those four critical components. And then as a sales leader. You can coach it so you can spend time with your team understanding. Do they have the right desire to execute on the strategies that you’ve got in place? Are they committed to doing the work, doing the activities day in, day out in order to be successful? Do they how do you support them as a manager to have the right outlook? So if they are knocked back from a from a cold call or they don’t get that deal over the line that they thought that they were going to be, how do you support them to bravely go out there and do that for the very next deal? And then lastly, how do you create a culture of responsibility? So there’s no excuse making we’re all in this together. We’ve got these results that we’re going after. And how do you create an environment where we are always building their capability to be successful? So for me, it’s that transition from understanding. I might have been a great salesperson in being focused on my skills in regards to selling, but as a manager, I need to understand that a key component is about mindset, and my role as a sales leader is to be a coach, to be alongside my team, to be aware of their mindset, to be able to define that with them, meet them where they’re at and coach them to have the mindset that they need in order to be successful.

Yeah, and I love that. And the thing has been a real theme in this discussion Leigh, you know, about the importance of data to support coaching, you know, and having the right tools to you. You’ve mentioned the, the great piece of research that OMG have done over the last 30 years. And you know that insights that it can give you as a manager and actually knowing what are some of the hidden weaknesses that get in the way of a salesperson, get it getting to the next level. You know, we know what OMG tells us about what a salesperson knows they should do, but often there are limiting beliefs which prevents a salesperson from asking great questions in a discovery meeting or prevent them from picking up the phone. So I think, you know, the message I’m really taking away from this interview this morning with you, Leigh, is that is the fact that you’ve got to use data not only have subjective coaching, but have data to support the coaching as well. I think that’s one of the great message I’m taking away. And I think the other thing that I’m really taking away from this is that the fact that you’ve got to get your people to follow a process consistently and having a milestone centric process also allows you as a manager to coach your people about bits of the process they might be missing. I think some great takeaways. Leigh So Leigh, I really enjoyed this, this podcast this week with you. I think you’ve shared some great insights for our our listeners. I could carry on talking about this subject for hours and hopefully in a few weeks time when I’m in New Zealand, we’ll get the opportunity to do so. But if people want to connect with you, reach out to you. What’s the best way that they can reach out to you Leigh.

Well, they can certainly reach out to me on LinkedIn and connect that way. That might be one of the easy ones, Pete. Or if they wanted to drop me an email, they can certainly do that. It’s leigh.parker@salesstar.com

I want to thank you very much, Leigh, for being a guest on this week’s podcast and we look forward to welcoming you back in the future.

Thanks very much for having me. It’s been a real pleasure.


Thanks for listening. This podcast was brought to you by SalesStar and hosted by Pete Evans. For more information about what we can offer you head to our website at salesstar.com/UK. You can also find us on all social media platforms just by searching for SalesStar UK.


Presenter and Producer: Pete Evans
Special Guest: Leigh Parker
Producer and Intro/Outro Voiceover: Oliver Eaton
Podcast Editor: Alex Mullen

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