What Should CEOs Worry About When Hiring a New Sales Manager?


In last week’s post we talked about growing your company to the point where it makes sense to hire a sales manager and we discussed some of the common pitfalls  that companies experience when they promote one of their sales people to become a sales manager. Today we want to focus on some of the pros and cons of bringing in an experienced sales manager from the outside.

Whichever approach you take to recruiting this new sales manager, we strongly recommend using a predictive pre-employment assessment to really measure what their strengths and weaknesses as a sales leader might be and whether or not they match your environment. These assessments also help you interview better, so you really know whether a sales management candidate will be a good fit and how to approach the interview. Assuming you find a good candidate pool after these assessments, as a CEO you need to explore and focus on their experiences when it comes to the following:

  1. Growing the Team: How strong are they at growing a sales organization? Ask them for examples of past experiences where they took an organization from X sales people to Y sales people (whatever is relevant to your situation). Not only did they grow the team in terms of number of sales people, but how did theyshutterstock_105224906-1.jpg grow each sales person individually to make them more effective and productive?

  2. Coaching Style: How much time do they spend coaching their sales people? What does coaching mean to them? Many sales manager spend all their time having coaching conversations where all they do is review the pipeline. To me, it's about situational coaching  and the ability to model the correct behavior through effective role play. Really press them on their coaching experience because that's going to lead to growing the team (see above).

  3. Motivation: What's their approach to motivation? How important is it to them to understand the individual goals of each sales person? How do they get to know what makes each sales person on their team tick? How do they adjust their management style and communication methods to match each salesperson?

  4. Accountability: How do they hold people accountable? What does accountability mean to them? What are some of the key performance indicators that they monitor to hold people accountable? Ask them for examples of leading and lagging indicators. Ask them for examples of forecast accuracy and date integrity (i.e. things close when they project they will close).

  5. Systems and Processes: Ask them about their experience building systems and process. If you're a scaling company and you're at the point now where you need to invest in a sales management function, how much better is it to bring in someone who's done it before? What CRM tools have they used in the past? What inbound marketing and lead generation tools do they recommend? Have they developed and implemented a sales playbook? Look for examples of success.

  6. Recruiting: Lastly, as you continue to scale, one of the core competencies that your manager is going to need is the ability to effectively recruit and onboard new salespeople. This ties back to accountability. Part of accountability is not holding onto mediocre salespeople. We can't really hold them accountable unless we have a strong pipeline of sales candidates, so what's their recruiting philosophy? Are they always recruiting? Do they only recruit in a reactive, as-needed basis? How are they recruiting and what's their approach?

Twice a year we offer a comprehensive, live interactive 12-week online training program that brings our STAR hiring system alive. This training teaches hiring managers how to effectively attract, select, and onboard strong salespeople and sales leaders. If you’re interested, please respond to me directly.

Top 5 Mistakes New Sales Managers Make

shutterstock_259428155.jpgIs it time to provide some “adult supervision” for your sales people? Has your revenue grown to the point where you can make the business case to invest in having a full time sales manager? Congratulations! As you scale your business you’ll find the complexity of managing your pipeline, developing your sales people, expanding into new markets, implementing systems and processes, etc. will continue to increase and accelerate. If you’re ready to hire a sales manager, here are some common mistakes you will need to navigate to realize the full return on your investment.

The first decision you have to make is where to find your new sales manager. This article will focus on hiring from within or promoting one of your current sales people. Next week we will focus on hiring a brand new sales manager from the outside.

When sales managers get promoted from within they often struggle to be successful and the impact can hurt your business. Not only do you have an ineffective sales manager, you also lose the revenue that person used to produce. In many cases it’s as simple as helping your newly promoted sales manager remember the skills that made them successful when they were a sales person. Here are five common mistakes to watch out for:

  1. Ask Questions: The number one thing we see is sales managers forget how to ask questions. Great coaching conversations revolve around asking questions. Getting your sales people to discover for themselves why they are getting in their own way, why they're not asking enough questions, why they're not discovering things with their prospects. Instead of telling people what to do, sales managers need to transfer their great questioning skills that made them successful as a salesperson to their new role as a sales manager. The questions they need to ask are going to be different, but the skill set needs to transfer.

  1. Understand Differences: The second mistake we see new sales managers make is they assume everyone is going to be like they were. They assume that everyone should do what they did to be successful, instead of recognizing that everyone on their team has their own unique set of strengths, and challenges, and tailor their coaching around those. Instead of trying to build everyone in their image, they should instead take the time to understand what makes each person on their team effective, and how can they build on that rather than try to change it to match what they used to do. The faster a new sales manager recognizes that not everyone has to do it the way they did, the faster they're going to grow and develop their team.

  1. Holding On: The third mistake that we see new sales managers make is they care too deeply about their old clients. It makes it extremely difficult for the new person who has to take over those accounts to be successful and to establish credibility, if the new manager is babysitting and checking-in with those old clients. You have to let that go. Give your new person space to establish a relationship and build rapport with those customers and serve those customers.

  1. Too Friendly: The fourth mistake we see new sales managers make, particularly if they were promoted and they are now managing their former peers, is they're too friendly. They really need to assume their role as a sales leader. Be a little standoffish, be a little aloof, and establish that space. They're no longer a peer, they're a boss and they have to act accordingly. They have to maybe skip going out to that happy hour, or skip going to the ball game unless it's in a business function, and not be so friendly.

  1. Avoid Tough Decisions: Finally, somewhat related to that, another mistake we see new sales managers make is an unwillingness to let go of mediocre talent. They're too patient and too tolerant. It may be in part because they know these people from when they were peers. I think this a problem that not only affects new managers, I think all sales managers struggle with this. They'll look optimistically at a person's pipeline and think, "Boy, they're right around the corner. They're going to turn this around," instead of setting high expectations and holding them accountable to it. Being ready to initiate a recruiting project when somebody's not performing up to par.

These are some of the common pitfalls you need to navigate if you hire from within. The advantages of promoting an existing team member are that they already know your business, markets, and customers. So if you can navigate through these pitfalls, promoting from within may be the shortest path for making a return on your investment. Then again, we’ve seen too many companies promote their top sales person to sales manager with disastrous results. As CEO make sure you are carefully considering these common pitfalls before looking outside for a new sales manager.

Not sure you're ready to take the big step of hiring a sales manager, but still need help holding your team accountable?  One of our services here at Intelligent Conversations is our Accountability Coaching Program.  This program helps sales teams that report directly to the owners/CEOs through regularly scheduled, structured accountability coaching calls with our Intelligent Conversations coaches.  Learn more about that program here.

 

Why Sales Managers Suck at Hiring Sales People

shutterstock_128236088.jpgAre your sales managers using sales recruiting as a growth strategy for your company? Are they consistently and proactively building a virtual bench of top sales talent? One of the main challenges we see in our consulting practice is sales managers who struggle when it comes to attracting and retaining the best sales talent available. Here are 5 reasons why many sales managers struggle to effectively hire top sales people.

  1. Too Busy- Many sales managers simply have too much on their plate. There are too many “urgent” tasks on their to-do list and the can never catch up. Because they have so much going on, hiring sales people always seems to fall to the bottom of their list.
  2. Overly Reactive- As a direct result of number 1 (too busy), they are not proactively managing their sales team. Rather than thinking ahead in terms of covering territories and continuing growth, they react to whatever crisis is right in front of them.
  3. Industry Bias- Sales managers tend to stay in their comfort zone by looking for people who come from a similar industry. That makes sense if those sales people can bring customers and strong relationships that help them ramp up quickly. However, we’ve seen many sales managers use that as an excuse to overlook bad habits and weak selling skills.
  4. Lousy Interviewers- This could be because sales managers are too busy and overly reactive, or simply because no one has ever trained them how to do it. Many sales manager interviews focus more on bonding and rapport-building to find out if they like the candidate. Is this the kind of person that I would want to work with? Are they like me? Too many managers fail to ask the hard-hitting questions that are going to uncover potential issues and challenges sales people are going to encounter in the field.
  5. Bad Onboarding- The single most important step to a successful new hire is an effective onboarding plan. Very few managers do this. This may be because no one has told them how to do this so they just let human resources dictate what needs to happen. It also doesn’t help that they are “too busy” to really pay attention. More often than not, it’s because they have waited too long to get a sales person in place. When this happens the new sales person is walking into a desperate situation. The overwhelmed sales manager just sort of throws them into the fire, instead of bringing them on the right way allowing them to: effectively learn the product, understand the market, learn about the competition, and build a quality pipeline.

If your sales managers fall into any of these categories – what can you do to change this?

  1. Slow Down and Do It Right- take the time to implement best practices like Topgrading or our Sales Talent Acquisition Routine (STAR hiring system). Your sales managers will have a much better success rate at hiring and onboarding successful sales people using these systems.
  2. Build a Virtual Bench- Successful sales managers should work tirelessly to build a network of top-performing sales people. Overtime they should build and maintain relationships with these sales people so they can contact them if and when you're ready to hire. That way they’ve already established rapport and you can reach out to them when the time is right.
  3. Attract the Best- Make sure that you've built the right kind of environment. Is your opportunity attractive? Is your compensation right? Is there a growth opportunity? Is there opportunity for learning and development? Are they excited about the opportunity to come work for your company?
  4. Contact Intelligent Conversations- We're here to help! Whether you need us to help you implement a system like our Topgrading or STAR hiring system, or if you want us to just do it for you, we can help you attract and retain the best possible sales people.

     

Are Your Sales Managers Having the Right Coaching Conversations?

Most sales managers believe they’re already having coaching conversations, but when we dig a little deeper it’s easy to learn that what they consider a “coaching conversation” usually is more focused on updates and administrative tasks than development and growth. The conversations we observe from sales managers tend to fall into three categories: 

  • Administrative – reviewing the sales forecast, discussing key performance indicators, checking progress against the plan for the month/quarter/year, updating the forecast, reviewing progress against a specific marketing initiative, discussing the territory plan, making plans for an upcoming trade show, reviewing expense reports or mileage, etc.  Typically, this should be about 10% of a coaching conversation – or six minutes during an hour long meeting.  It should be a quick discussion to review and confirm information that is already available somewhere else (in the CRM, reviewing calendars, etc.).  Too often we see sales managers focusing 95% of their conversation on these types of administrative topics.  Certainly you can fill a 60-minute coaching conversation going over these items, but is that the best use of time for two valuable team members?
  • Strategic – identifying new markets to pursue, updating a “top target” list, sharing market intelligence, reviewing pricing strategies, exploring different ways to solve a problem, planning a negotiating strategy, reviewing market coverage statistics, etc.  Typically, this should be about 10% of the coaching time, but not every week.  These are the types of conversations that should occur once a month or once per quarter where you may devote most of a meeting to a strategic topic.  Most sales managers who are focusing 95% of their time on administrative topics will balance the rest of the call with this type of discussion.  We’ve observed some managers who love “being strategic” and spend an inordinate amount of time developing “new strategies” to take sales to the next level.  But they never stick with anything long enough to execute these strategies and top sales professionals grow tired of the ever-changing directions and simply leave to find a job where they can do what they love to do – sell.
  • Situational Coaching – this is where the rubber hits the road.  In our opinion, 80% of a sales manager’s coaching conversation should be focused on what we call situational coaching.  This is where learning can occur.  What is it?  It is taking the time to review a recent call or make plans for an upcoming call and really diagnosing what happened or what needs to happen. 
    • Looking back at a past call, it’s about reviewing what happened, what could have happened differently, as well as how and why the sales person got to where they ended up.  Did they miss an opportunity to ask a question?  Why?  Were they distracted and not listening?  Why?  Did they gather the information they needed?  Why not?  Did they build a stronger relationship?  How?  What could they have done better?  Why didn’t they?  And so on.  A call review should look at both the underlying issue and the outcome.
    • When looking ahead it’s about talking through all the “what if” scenarios.  If a sales manager has been doing a good job reviewing past calls, they probably know what patterns to look for and can help the sales person think through how to avoid past pitfalls.  The best managers will role play the scenario, first demonstrating the right behavior (here’s how to position it, here’s how to ask this question, here’s how to keep them comfortable with you as you ask tough questions, etc.) then it’s about testing the sales person by having them role play.  Share feedback and observations, offer helpful tips, etc.

Here is a chart of the conversations we often see sales managers having during coaching conversations. How many of your sales managers are in the far right column? 

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For another good article on Sales Management check out Dave Kurlan's post from today, if for no other reason than the great title: Why So Many Sales Managers are So Bad 

Why Hiring Only for Skill Leads to High Turnover

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When we talk with hiring managers, the number one thing they tell us they are looking for is finding someone with "the right skill set." Does a candidate have the skills to get the job done? Did they go to the right school?  Do they have the right certifications?  Do they have the right industry expertise? Of course one of the challenges we see is the longer the list of “skills needed” the smaller the pool of available candidates.  It’s like looking for the perfect unicorn.

But what if focusing on skills didn’t have to be your main focus?  What if instead you looked for candidates who fit your culture first, then focused on skills. In some cases, a cultural fit is more important than a skill fit for a company. After all, you can train for skill but it’s harder to train for culture. If people aren’t a good cultural fit, they're not going to mesh well with your company. Why is that important? If you only hire for skill and you hire people that are a cultural misfit, you're going to increase turnover. You're going to have low employee engagement and low employee satisfaction. Your hiring managers are going to get frustrated and you may create high turnover there as well. In short, you're feeding a vicious cycle of turnover.

Hiring for a cultural fit doesn't mean compromising your process. You still need a rigorous process and you have to define exactly what you're looking for from a skill set perspective, but think in terms of defining the minimum skill set required. What's the absolute minimum they need to be able to do what you need? Make sure that they have the skills that you’re looking for, then shift your focus to culture.

For example, when hiring a sales person, we look for people who've had success in a similar sound environment. They don't necessarily have to have sold the exact product or service our client sells. We want them to have some parallels between what they've sold and where they've been successful in the past and what we're going to ask them to sell. We're looking at questions like who were they calling on? Were they calling on CEO's and owners, middle managers, consumers? What type of person were they calling on in the past? What level of resistance did they encounter in their sales process? How large sale price did they have? Was it a low dollar, high transaction kind of sale or was it a high dollar long sale cycle kind of sale?

Think about the people in your company who've been most successful. Think about the core values and attributes you look for in your company and for successful people in your company. Use this as a checklist of things you should look for when hiring. If you focus on the cultural aspect in hiring you are going to have employees who are a match and both the employee and your company will thrive. Cultural fit is something that's hardwired, while skills can be taught.

If you can shift the focus to be more on hiring for culture and training for skill, your candidate pool will improve and you will have more satisfied employees.

 

Dog Days of Summer

Dog days of summer, slow down, CEO

Are you accepting excuses from your sales team during the dog days of summer? When the weather turns nice everyone wants to enjoy long weekends and warm summer nights. But as prospects disappear, are you letting your sales team fall behind when they don’t need to?

One of the challenges we see with companies across the board this time of year is that everything slows down. It's tough to add new deals to the pipeline. It's tough to keep current opportunities moving forward. Particularly in a complex, multi-party sales environment. People are taking vacations this time of year, so if one of the key decision makers is out or on vacation, everything just takes longer. People take longer weekends and it's just easier for them to delay. You know how it goes, “Joe's not back until next Wednesday, we're meeting on Thursday, but then I'm on vacation the following week”.

It makes for stalled deals and slow movement. When that happens, it's really easy for your sales people to slow down as well. They take their foot off the gas, accept put offs, stalls and delays from their clients, and just wait until things get better. As a CEO what can you do to solve this slow down?

  1. Number one, everyone on your sales team needs to increase their activity level. While prospects may slow down, your sales team can counter that by increasing their activity levels. More calls, more voicemails, more emails, more InMails via LinkedIn. Think in terms of “polite persistence.” You don't want your sales team to be a pest, but you absolutely want them to consistently pursue prospects in multiple ways. It's not that buyers and decision makers aren't working this time of year; it just takes more effort to make contact with them.

As they’re doing that they can create a commentary. Coach them to say things like "Hey I know things slowdown in the summer, just wanted to find out if there's anything moving on this opportunity. When's the next time we should talk? You were supposed to get this to me by Friday, I didn't see it, how we doing?" Have them actually talk about the fact that it's slower in the summer and that's ok.  Just acknowledge it, and again, increase the activity. The other thing sales people need to do at this time of year is ask more questions. It's easy for the prospect to coast through the summer and not have an urgency to move forward. It’s not ok for your sales people to do the same. They need to ask questions to create urgency, to create incentives to move faster on these deals. Make prospects realize the benefits they'll accrue when they buy your solutions faster. That's what's going to separate and create urgency even in the dog days of summer.

  1. Second, remind them that while in July and August things really slow down, September is right around the corner. We get past Labor Day, kids go back to school, everyone's back from vacation. Buyers and decision makers look at their calendar and they realize, oh my goodness, I've only got four months left to make my number this year. If you wait until September to get going, you're already behind. It's your responsibility to make sure your sales team uses these dog days of summer to build momentum going into the final year-end push. 

 
  1. Third, remember many companies are starting their budget process in the August/September time frame. How can your sales team start planting seeds for getting in the budget for next year? Do they have the urgency to start filling their calendars right now, even though its summer?

As a CEO, are you accepting excuses and put offs from your sales team?  Ask them to do a little bit more during the dog days of summer and you’ll have a much stronger pipeline in the fall.

Is Your Hiring Process Stuck in 2014?

shutterstock_104559317.jpgTwo years ago there were more candidates available than positions available. It was fun!  Hiring managers and HR recruiters were able to do all sorts of things to people applying for jobs.  You could make candidates go through multiple steps, take online assessments, and go through round after round of interviews. And the best part was, candidates HAD to put up with it.  They had no choice.  If they wanted a job they had to go through whatever you threw at them.

Guess what?  The market has shifted and is no longer employer-centric. Today there are more positions
available than candidates to fill them.  So if you still have an overly complicated hiring process you’re probably noticing a high attrition rate. Candidates simply are not willing to go through multiple steps to get to an interview or get the job. 

The challenge is, how can you streamline your hiring process without compromising its integrity?  If you use best practices such as Topgrading or our Sales Talent Acquisition Routine (STAR hiring system) you know how valuable it is to implement a rigorous selection process. Is your hiring process as efficient as it can be? 

We recommend taking a critical look at every step of your hiring process and looking for opportunities to streamline it. Review every single thing that you ask a candidate to do, from the candidate's point of view, and ask yourselves, "What value do I get from this step? Can I remove it without detracting from the rigor of our hiring process?" It's a balancing act. You don't want to take away from having a rigorous selection process, but you also want to restructure it to make it more candidate friendly.

In our practice, we help our clients hire sales people all the time. For years, we would have candidates fill out an application, and then ask them some basic questions. After they took the application, we'd have them take an online sales assessment. After that, if they were recommended, we would schedule a series of interviews. We found this process was no longer getting us the candidates we needed, so something needed to change. We decide to eliminate the initial application because with their resume and assessment we would get all the information we needed.  We didn’t compromise our rigor, we just made it more streamlined and candidate-centric.  What steps can you review, modify or simply eliminate from your selection process to do the same?

Once you’ve streamlined your selection process the next step is to make sure you have your hiring team fully engaged.  When you have a quality candidate who's interested and engaged in the process, have everyone on the hiring team on high alert and ready to go.  Nothing on their calendar is more important than engaging the candidate in an interview.  Do your best to accommodate the candidate, not the other way around. After speaking with candidates, come to a consensus quickly, and decide what you want to do. Quality candidates are not going to wait around. I've seen too many companies lose great candidates because they can't get their hiring team to engage in a timely fashion. 

Eliminating steps in your selection process and keeping everyone on your hiring team focused and engaged will help you win the war on talent. The companies who are able to maintain a rigorous, candidate-centric process, are going to attract better talent and hire better people. The faster you can get someone onboard, the faster they can get through the learning curve and begin producing results for your company.

Questions Your Sales Leaders Should Ask Halfway Through the Year

Yesterday marked the end of June, which means if your company runs on a calendar year you've hit your mid-year point.  Two quarters down, two quarters to go.  It also means that, based on the results produced thus far, some of your sales people are strutting around with a huge ego and others are slinking about with their shoulders slumped forward and their eyes on the ground.  And the reality is, both may be wrong!  Here are some questions your sales leaders should ask to make sure each sales person on their team has the right focus and attitude midway through the year.

For Sales People on Plan or Ahead of Plan

  1. Are they bringing in the right kind of revenue?  With the right customers?  Consistent with your corporate strategy?
  2. Are their wins producing solid margins?  No discounting? 
  3. Were there any deals that should have closed Q414 that slipped into Q115?  Were there any unusual (i.e. once-in-a-lifetime, difficult to repeat, not likely to happen again soon) deals that are boosting their year-to-date numbers?
  4. Are they maintaining their activity levels?  Booking net new appointments every week?  Maintaining an active sales pipeline?  Moving opportunities from stage to state in a timely fashion?  Consistently asking for referrals?
  5. Do they remain open to coaching and feedback?  Are they still hungry to learn and get better?  Remember, small incremental improvements can make a huge impact with your top producing sales people.
  6. Will they keep their foot on the gas through the end of the year or are they likely to coast?  What will motivate them to keep driving at their current pace?

For Sales People Behind Plan

  1. How strong are their weekly activity levels?  How many net new appointments are they going on every week?  What problems are they finding to get invited into a new appointment?  What can they do to increase activity at the top of their sales funnel for the second half of the year?  What do they plan to do differently?
  2. Are they creating enough urgency for prospects to take action toward the next step in the sales process?  Are they slowing down during the discovery process to really understand the issues and situation (or are they rushing to get to the proposal/close too quickly)?
  3. What is in their pipeline that is closable?  What will it take to get the win and put some points on the board?  Is there anything they need from the company to support their efforts?
  4. Do they remain open to coaching and feedback?  Are they still confident?  How can they focus on their tonality and improving their questioning skills until they get back on track?
  5. Is there too much on their plate?  What non-sales activities can be removed or postponed so they can focus during prime selling hours?  Can you narrow their focus (temporarily reduce their territory, emphasize only one or two product lines, etc.)?
  6. Can they turn it around and save their year or have they already given up?  What will motivate them to pick up their efforts and finish strong?

 

Predictive_Validity

 

Whether you have sales people who are ahead of plan, behind plan or somewhere in the middle, remember that part of building an over-achieving sales team is having sales leaders ask the right questions so they know why their sales people are ahead (or behind).  Sometimes it’s possible to do everything right and lose the deal.  Other times you can do nearly everything wrong and win the business.  It is your sales leaders’ responsibility to make sure everyone on their team knows the difference and takes away right lessons from every opportunity (win or lose).

Consistent coaching (ideally weekly), weekly planning by every sales team member focusing on outcomes, defining 3-4 clear quarterly goals and staying focused on them, and continuing to learn and grow are a few of the keys to building an over-achieving sales team.  One more factor for building an over-achieving sales team?  Effective recruiting!  We’re halfway through 2015 and we are in a candidate-centric market, which means it can take 90-120 days to find a great sales person.  If your sales leaders have team members who may not make it to the end of the year, NOW is the time to begin recruiting.  Remember, a decision to recruit is not a decision to hire – why wait?  Want an unfair advantage?  Learn more here.

Are Your Sales Managers Acting Like Tony Soprano?

Paulie:  “Here you go Tony.  I know my envelope has been a little light these

past few weeks, so this one’s nice and thick.  I’ll keep doing better.”

Tony:  “Nice work, you’ve always been one of my best earners.”

Are your sales managers too focused on the numbers?  Do they feel pressure to deliver sales growth week after week, month after month, every quarter?  What impact is that having over the mid-to-long term?  How does this focus on the numbers impact coaching and development?  Do your sales managers give their team members room to fail/grow/learn?  Or is it all about how thick their envelope is?  

Of course you want your team focused on delivering sales results – but that’s only part of the picture.  That’s an outcome with all kinds of decisions and actions leading up to it.  Along the way your sales people need to: 

  • Decide if the customer is the right fit for your firm
  • Ask questions to discover the problems and challenges they have
  • Monetize the impact of those problems and challenges (both time and money)
  • Find out how long they have had these problems and challenges
  • Find out what else they’ve tried to address these problems and challenges
  • Get the prospective customer to agree that they have these problems and challenges and that they are significant enough to continue the conversation
  • Discover who else at the prospect’s company cares about these problems and challenges
  • Find out how they make decisions and bring on new vendors
  • Ask questions to understand the decision timeline
  • Ask questions to understand the competitive context (not just other potential proviaccountability2ders, but also other priorities in their organization, or worse, the decision to do nothing)
  • Find out if they have the money to invest in a potential solution
  • Find out if they are willing to make the case to get money if it’s not in the budget
  • Get the prospect to agree to make a timely decision upon receiving a proposal
  • Draft the proposal, considering all of the information previously discovered
  • Present the proposal
  • Ask for the business
  • Finalize the terms and conditions
  • On-board the client for a successful engagement or project
  • And then start all over on the next problem, issue or challenge

And of course current market conditions, competitive context, resource constraints within your company, strategic priorities, and any number of other important factors can impact each of these decisions and actions along the way.

If your sales managers are only focused on the bottom of the funnel (show me your envelope!) they’ll miss all the opportunities to coach and offer suggestions along the way.  It’s very difficult to drive change and impact long-term growth if you don’t know the activities leading to those results.  Everyone in your sales organization understands that ultimately they will be measured by the sales results they deliver.  That’s a given, so don’t obsess about it.  Instead, have your managers focus on the activities, decisions, actions, and behaviors that drive long-term success over time.  Your reward?  Consistent, sustainable, predictable growth.  Good selling.

Driving Growth through Goals-Based Coaching

How much do your managers know about the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of every member on their team?  How much do you know about the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of the folks you lead?  Too soft?  Who cares?  You should – and here’s why. 

The job market has shifted dramatically in the past 6 months.  We are now in a candidate-centric job market, which means if you’re not engaging your team members and helping them connect the dots between what they do at work and why they’re working in the first place, you may soon find yourself scrambling to replace key team members.  sales_coaching

It doesn’t need to be complicated.  Make the decision to get started and then focus on making incremental progress.  Here are a few ideas to help you get started.

  1. Weekly Coaching Rhythm – our practice has traditionally focused on the coaching rhythm between sales managers and sales people (although that’s changing with the addition of our new partner and rock star Topgrading expert Jenny Rodriguez-Vargas), but establishing a weekly coaching rhythm is a best practice for nearly every department.  Most managers will fight this, saying they “talk with the team when needed” and that “they always have an open door.”  Don’t give them a pass.  They should continue the ad hoc, got-a-minute coaching they’re already doing - and they should also add a brief, 30-45 minute structured coaching conversation with every team member.  Ideally this would be every week, although circumstances may require a bi-weekly rhythm.  It can be face-to-face, on the phone, or Skype.
  2. Weekly Priorities – nearly everyone in your company is keeping some type of weekly “To Do” list.  And more often than not these lists focus on activities rather than results.  And many of the items listed get dragged from week to week with little actually being accomplished.  Change this to instead focus on the 6-8 “Big Accomplishments” a team member will prioritize.  Think outcomes and results, NOT activities.  For example, an outcome would be “have 3 CEO conversations by Friday” and an activity would be “make CEO calls.”
  3. Quarterly Progress Goals – most teams we work with have some high level goals defined.  For sales teams that might include revenue growth targets, account retention targets, net new account targets, additional sales targets to existing customers, etc.  More often than not these targets are established during an annual budget planning session, quickly forgotten, then measured at the end of the year.  What would happen if your managers broke these targets down to quarterly progress goals (i.e. where should we be by the end of March, June, etc.)?  What corrective actions could they take if team members were falling short?
  4. Personal Goals – when managers take time to learn the personal goals of their team members, it becomes much easier to engage and retain them.  When your team members see your company as the means through which they can reach their personal goals (rather than just a job) the conversations between your managers and their team members change dramatically.  People work for their reasons, not ours.  It sounds obvious but it’s easy to forget.  Nobody is going to push harder so you can increase EBITA by 2% year-over-year, but they’ll work their ass off when managers understand what they’re working for (more time with an aging parent, the ability to coach their son or daughter’s team, taking the vacation of their dream, saving for their child’s education, etc.).

While this may seem like a long list to begin with, as you start to utilize these each week it will become second nature.  We’ve recently built a custom platform, Intelligent Coaching System, which makes this easy.  This dashboard allows your sales people to track everything in an accessible format – and allows your sales people to keep their notes in one place (accessible by you).  For more information, send us an e-mail at info@intelligentconversations.com.