The Importance of Simplicity

 

 

As a CEO, one of the things you can coach your sales managers on is to really inspect the language choices their salespeople are making. Are they sounding like a brochure? Do they speak in terms of features and benefits? Do they spew facts and jargon without even realizing that they're doing it? One of the most impactful things your sales managers can do when coaching their salespeople to higher performancJwrVASdQe is being mindful of their language. There's a huge difference from a customer's point of view between knowing and understanding. Salespeople are naturally inclined to flex their knowledge and expertise. They throw three letter acronyms around to appear to have more authority, but in actuality, it undermines the opportunities they may have to build relationships and ultimately, sell.

It's much better to keep things simple when  you speak to a customer about your product or services to fit the customer's point of view. Putting it in simple terms requires a deeper understanding and a deeper level of expertise than just spewing out three letter acronyms and jargon terms. Asking your sales managers to really listen to the phrases used on sales calls, information shared in emails and proposals, and really challenging their salespeople to simplify and clarify rather than throw around formal language will have a huge impact on the quality of the sales conversations your company has and ultimately the revenue your salespeople generate.

Part of the simplification of language is dependent on the context of the sales interaction. There are times where your salespeople may be talking to a high-level executive who really doesn't want to get into the weeds of your product or service; they just want to know about the impact you can have on their company. There are other times where your salespeople might be talking to somebody who has a more technical perspective. Maybe they're in operations, or they're the person who will actually work with your product or service. They’ll most likely have a different set of questions, so being able to adapt is critical. Simplifying isn’t a one size fits all situation. Your salespeople have to be able to interpret who they're talking to, understand what's important to them, and make their language fit accordingly.

As an example, we have a client that sells financial performance management software to the CFO and that whole department. It was easy for these guys to start talking about technical finance terms, and how the workflows could improve with their solution when we first started working with them. It was always a very technical conversation about improving KPIs and driving better outcomes, but they didn't really cover the ultimate benefits of their product! The ultimate benefit was "Hey, we're going to free up your team from running these mundane reports so they can begin to work on the things that really matter."

Naturally, they would run into resistance because if you come in with a solution that's going to automate something that a mid-level manager spends 35/50 hour workweek doing their immediate reaction is "Why would I ever bring this in here? I'm going to lose my job." It wasn't until they were able to put it in terms that were simpler and convey the benefits of "Imagine what you would do with your time if you didn't have to run these manual reports every month or do a data query in this arcane fashion. You could program that in and it would happen automatically. You could actually invest your time in higher impact activities that drive more value for your customers or your company."

When they made that change and adjusted their messaging to start talking about the benefits that would appeal to middle-level managers or CFO’s depending on the audience, they started having much more productive conversations. Don't over-complicate things. Your sales team's job is to simplify and make your offering easy for your prospects to understand. If you can coach your managers to inspect the language that your sales team is using and make sure that they're keeping it simple from the customer's point of view, you'll see a dramatic change in your sales results.

At Intelligent Conversations, we implement leadership training and development programs to coach leaders on how to coach their sales teams to do this effectively. We also leverage Software which helps us closely inspect specific language choices which may be the key to unpacking why they're facing the challenges their facing with their clients! We're happy to help, simply reach out to us at Intelligent Conversations!

Creating a Healthy Coaching Environment in Sales

One of the barriers sales leaders encounter when trying to establish a consistent coaching rhythm with each salesperson on their team is they have not established a healthy coaching environment.  What does that mean? There are several components that go into creating an atmosphere that is conducive to coaching. 

1. Mutual Respect.  First, there has to be a certain level of mutual respect. The salespeople have to respect the sales leader, or they won't listen to the advice or coaching they get. The sC4o8SJsgales leader needs to feel like their advice is being followed and that they're respected, so there's a healthy coaching relationship. The manager needs to earn it, and the salespeople need to give it, but if in its absence, the coaching experience is going to be negatively impacted. If the sales leader doesn't feel like he or she has that respect, their coaching will be more tentative and less effective.

2.  Trust.  What's the level of trust across your sales team? Do your sales people feel like they can share everything with the sales leader and really come to them when they need help? Does the sales leader feel like he or she is trusted by the sales people? Part of a sales leader's job is creating a culture of accountability, managing agreements, and making sure that they hit their numbers, but when a sales person is struggling, do they really feel safe? Do they feel they can go to their manager when they're behind on their plan or not moving deals forward (or do they hide and hope nobody notices)?

The irony in this is when a salesperson's pipeline is stalled that's when they need coaching the most, yet it's also when they're least likely to ask for help if they don't trust their manager.  One of the ways a sales manager can establish trust is to take the time to get to know each individual on their team at a personal level.  The sales coach/salesperson relationship should go beyond a conversation about metrics and pipeline movement.  Your sales managers don't have to know everything about a salesperson’s personal life, but should have a general understanding of where each salesperson on their team is in their career, what their career goals are, and what their personal goals are, what's important to them, etc.  When sales managers take the time to show they care about and take an interest in each individual (beyond the numbers) salespeople are more likely to ask for help when they need it.

3.  Coachability.  Another element is how "coachable" are your sales people? If you hire salespeople who feel like they have nothing to learn because they already know everything, their willingness to implement whatever suggestions your sales manager makes will be pretty limited. Of course, that's going to be frustrating for the sales leader when they have good ideas and they're ignored. Having a team that's open to input and willing to try a suggestion even if they disagree with it is an important aspect to the coaching environment as well.  Ask questions about growth goals, what they're working on, and where they want to improve during your interview process to make sure you're hiring "coachable" salespeople.

4.  Time Coaching.  One of the biggest factors that a manager absolutely can control is the amount of time spent on coaching. We recommend about 50% of a manager's time should be spent coaching their sales people. Some of that will be in formal, structured, weekly conversations where you go through their pipeline, review their calendar, look at upcoming calls, and debrief on calls that have recently occurred. The focus should be on making incremental progress each week with each sales person, giving them that coaching. The other part of that comes from informal coaching conversations that happen throughout the week.  When a manager spends about half of their time coaching their team and being there for them, they create a really strong coaching environment.  Most sales managers say they coach all the time, but in reality they are pulled in other directions and when they do finally sit down with a salesperson the meeting agenda defaults to a pipeline review conversation focusing on what can close right now instead instead of on mid-to-long-term development objectives.

5. It's Not All About the Sales Manager.  Finally, it's not all about the sales manager. Being a sales manager is really about having a servant mindset.  They are their to help each salesperson on the team succeed. It's a bit hard if your sales manager used to be the "alpha” sales person who loves getting the win and celebrating their victories. It's difficult for that type of person to take a backseat role.  What often happens is that type of sales manager simply functions as a more productive salesperson by using their team to extend their reach and set up closing conversations.  The salespeople line up closable deals and the sales manager swoops in and mows them down.  This can be productive in the short term but ultimately limits growth as high-potential salespeople get frustrated and leave, and the ones who stay never learn how to close.

Make sure your sales manager has the right mindset and remembers it's NOT about them, it's all about helping the team win. When they do that, they'll create a strong, healthy coaching environment rooted in trust.

As a reflection, think about your sales managers and the relationships they have with their salespeople.  How strong is your coaching environment?  In which of these five areas do they need to improve?  In your next conversation with a sales leader, ask them, "When you ask a sales person to come into your office, is their reaction, 'Oh boy, what have I done? I'm in trouble,' or is it, 'Oh great, he's going to help me.'"  The answer to that question will tell you all you need to know about your coaching environment.  

5 Old School Sales Habits of High Performers

shutterstock_91528481.jpgI have the privilege every week of coaching and working with high performing sales people. I also coach many sales people that are high potential, but not yet achieving at a high level.  That's where I come in, to help them get to that level. As I conduct these coaching calls every day I start to see patterns emerge between high performing sales people and high potential sales people. One of the things that has jumped off the page the last couple weeks is there are certain habits that high performing sales people do consistently. They may even be considered “old school” sales habits, but let's share them now and talk about how your team can incorporate these habits into their daily sales rituals to improve performance.

  1. Pick up the phone: High performers pick up the phone and call people. In this day and age of social selling, in-bound leads, and all the attention around using LinkedIn and other sources to make connections, there's nothing better than picking up the telephone and having a conversation with a perspective buyer. You cannot build a relationship by sending an email or a LinkedIn InMail request. Calling someone goes a long way towards building trust.
  2. Be Grateful: High performers are grateful people. They send thank you notes. This is as old school as it gets, but have your team go to the store, buy generic stationery, and get into the habit of sending hand written thank you notes to customers and prospects. It's amazing how much a personalized, hand-written thank you note stands out among all the email blasts and junk mail that comes through. It will really set your salespeople apart.
  3. Read and Learn: High performers read a lot. Not only do they read the newspaper and the local business journal to stay current with events, they read books. They read sales books. They read business books. They read fiction. They read everything they can get their hands on. Why is that important? Sales is about communication, and people who read, and read often, tend to write better and speak better. It doesn't have to be all dry business books either. Sales is about storytelling, so if your salespeople read fiction as well, it's going to help them tell better stories.
  4. Attend Networking Events: High performs attend networking events. Not only do they go to their industry events, but they're plugged into their local community as well. They'll go to the chamber of commerce or the rotary club events. They're networked and they love to connect people and make introductions. They are highly visible at these events. It's one of the ways they get referrals and introductions.
  5. Proactively Help People: High performers are connectors. They help people in their network. They help their customers. They help their centers of influence. They introduce people to other people who might benefit from the introduction. When your salespeople give more than they get and consistently connect people (without being asked or expecting something in return), good things happen.

As you look at this list of five “old school” sales habits that can separate high performers from high potential sales people, which of these are your team currently doing? How can you challenge your sales managers to help their team incorporate these “old school” sales habits to raise performance as you go into the end of this year, and raise performance and expectations for next year?

 

 

Everything you want to know about sales compensation, but were afraid to ask

For companies who operate on a calendar year, now is the time when sales leaders are asked to review and revise their sales compensation plan. And of course, they have to do this on top of everything else they need to do: closing year end business, finalizing next year’s sales forecast, organizing holiday thank you gifts to current customers, etc.

If you have asked your sales manager to review the compensation plan and make recommendations for revisions (or if you’re a sales manager who has been given this task), let me help you out with a list of blog articles to consider as you get started. The most important thing to keep in mind as you tweak a salesperson’s compensation plan is that you have to show them how they can continue to be successful under the new plan. In other words, you have to be able to sell them on it.

Blogs:

Get Sales Compensation Right to Recruit Winning Salespeople
Do We Have Sales Compensation All Wrong?
But I'm a Sales Guy! The Story of Motivation and Compensation
Dunkin Dunuts - Time to Make Sales Compensation and Sales Competencies Work

How to Change a Crappy Sales Compensation Plan to a Better One
Sales Compensation - Exceptions to the RuleWhen it Comes to Compensation Sales is Not Like Baseball
Does Changing Compensation Increase Sales?
Sales Candidates, Sales Compensation and the Number of ResumesTop 7 Sales Force Compensation Secrets
Compensation Stupidity Again?

Compensation - the Unchanging Role
How Wrong are Company Methods to Rank and Compensate Salespeople?
Sales Compensation and Stupid Human Tricks
A Different Look at Sales Compensation




   

It’s Sales, There Are No Participation Medals

New data from Objective Management Group (OMG) suggests that while the top 10% of millennials are just as strong as the top 10% of veteran salespeople, millennials as a group are far weaker than veteran sales people.  There are two key data points I want to explore in this post.  First, the OMG data shows that millennials, as a group, have a lower level Commitment to sales success.  And second, millennials have a lower overall Sales DNA.  Let’s unpack these points and discuss what that means for anyone hiring younger salespeople.

Commitment

The commitment finding is by far the single most important data point on the OMG sales evaluation.  It measures a sales person’s willingness to do “whatever it takes” to be successful.  We see many sales people with conditional commitment – they’ll do whatever it takes as long as it’s not too hard, doesn’t push them beyond their comfort zone, or when they are being closely managed.Salespeople with a higher level of commitment will make extra phone calls, ask extra questions, find a way to push through resistance, work more deals, ask for referrals, apply new ideas and training faster, and generally will do whatever they can to succeed. 

Salespeople with a lower level of commitment will consistently choose easy over hard.  They will also need to be managed more closely and are more likely to resist any coaching or training that pushes them out of their comfort zone.  When we are working with clients to help them recruit salespeople, we NEVER recommend a candidate with low commitment (anything below 60 on the 1-100 scale OMG uses in their assessment).

On average, millennials have a 53% commitment versus a 62% average commitment for veteran salespeople.  That is a big concern for anyone hiring younger sales people because they will need closer management and are less open to training. 

Sales DNA

A person’s Sales DNA is a combination of beliefs that will either support or work against a salesperson’s ability to execute the right tactics and behaviors to be successful in selling situations.  There are six components as shown on the chart below.  The dial to the right shows the average cumulative Sales DNA for millennials at 61%, which makes them suited for easy selling situations.

 sales dna.jpg

I have had several conversations with CEOs in the past few months who want to pursue a strategy of hiring raw sales talent right out of college. The advantages are obvious, lower base pay, ability to teach them the unique aspects of their business and market, and the ability to make several small bets on the hope of finding that one rockstar salesperson who will be with them for a long time. It’s a great strategy, but hard to execute. Implementing a tool like the pre-employment assessment from Objective Management Group can help you find out if you are attracting millennials from the top 10% who have high Commitment and Sales DNA. Without this evaluation in place you are more likely to attract candidates from the other 90% who will require extraordinary efforts to get up to speed. Is that a risk you can afford?

Building Your Virtual Bench

shutterstock_375157798.jpgAs we head into the fourth quarter you should have a pretty clear line of sight on how things are trending across your sales organization, and salesperson by salesperson. As you look at what's in the forecast between now and the end of the year you should know where you are year-to-date. How strong is your forecast going into the fourth quarter? Who on your sales team will hit their numbers, and who's going to fall short?

One of the things we tell CEO's to emphasize is that high performing sales managers should be constantly searching for sales talent. They should continually be building their virtual bench of high performing salespeople so they can make better decisions about who to hold accountable, and how to make changes when necessary.

As we are already a couple weeks into the fourth quarter, you only have about 4 to 6 weeks left. If you don't already have activities underway to build, and maintain a virtual bench of high performing sales people, there's time if you act right now. You've got about five (5) weeks before you get into the holiday malaise where candidates become much more scarce. Once you get into the week of Thanksgiving and beyond, through the holidays and the end of the year, it's much more difficult to engage high performing salespeople. They're inwardly focused on their families. They're more focused on finishing their year strong. Typically, sales people who are on the annual calendar year are going to stay where they are until they get their year-end bonus. If you want to recruit high performing salespeople, if you want a sales manager who's constantly looking for sales talent now is the time to act. Now is the time to begin building your virtual bench, so you can start those conversations before the holidays, and move quickly when you hit the next great wave of salespeople switching jobs.

If you start those conversations in the middle of January, or beginning of February you may miss out on the high performers who have already engaged in a conversation with somebody else. Act now.

We recommend implementing our Sales Talent Acquisition Routine. It's a sales hiring system designed specifically for attracting, selecting, and onboarding high performing sales people. Once it's set up you can screen, and recruit candidates almost automatically. You need to invest time in setting it up right, but once it's setup you can just let it run automatically. Your sales managers can continue to focus on the activities they need to focus on: coaching your team, holding people accountable, and working on deals to bring in by end of the year.

If you need information or would like to talk about how to turn on a system like our Sales Talent Acquisition Routine, please contact me. Don't wait. You only have about five (5) weeks to start building that strong pipeline of high performing sales candidates. In January if you need to make decisions about switching people out, or getting rid of some under-performing salespeople (you know who they are already), start building your virtual bench today.

 

 

10 Activities Sales Managers Should Focus On

When I talk with CEOs, I often hear them complaining about how their sales managers are always busy, but not productive. When I dig a little deeper, I usually find this is an issue around how sales managers define their priorities and where they focus their time. Often times, sales managers miscalculate which activities need the most attention, and waste their valuable time doing nonproductive things.

In this article I will concentrate on a list of 10 activities that sales managers should focus on. In your company you may have more than 10, but let’s use this as a starting point:  

  1. Coaching Salespeople: This should account for about 50% of sales managers time. They should focus on 3 types of coaching conversations – administrative, strategic and situational. In a 40-hour work week, about 20 hours of their time should be spent directly coaching their salespeople in a structured, organized fashion. This almost never happens in companies before we start working with them and helping managers learn how to coach.
  2. Motivating Salespeople: Motivating sales people should be around 10% of their time. Your sales managers need to learn what motivates each individual salesperson. It seems obvious, but few managers understand that not everyone is motivated the same way. For example, do your sales mangers know who on their team is intrinsically or extrinsically motivated? Do they understand that an intrinsically motivated person is going to get more motivation from a quiet, “atta-boy” in the hallway after the sales meeting? On the other hand, an extrinsically motivated person is going to thrive on public praise and wants attention during the sales meeting.
  3. Measuring Performance/ Accountability: This should be about 15% of their time. Holding people accountable is really about setting clear, key performance indicators. What are your sales managers measuring, and how are they holding their team to these standards? Best practices for this are to have a handful of leading indicators - number of appointments, quality of appointments, activity, how many calls are they making per week. Also, be sure to have lagging indicators - Are we closing business when we say we will? Are we holding our margin? Are we tracking to our revenue plan? And most importantly, how do the conversations between managers and salespeople change when they are falling behind?   
  4. Recruiting: Recruiting should be about 5% of their time. We believe sales managers should be recruiting all the time, but that doesn’t mean it needs to take up a lot of their time. Part of creating a culture of accountability is being ready to let go of low performers, and the only way you can do that effectively is if you're constantly recruiting and building your virtual bench. We believe a busy, productive sales manager should spend about 5% of their time maintaining your virtual bench and doing some sort of recruiting activity. Obviously, that might spike up in certain periods if you're opening more positions.
  5. Crisis Management: About 5% of their time should be budgeted for this. This really refers to handling client crises and other situations that may come up. The key here is to make sure it doesn’t consume all of a sales manager’s time. If that’s the case, there may be a bigger problem in your sales process.
  6. Internal Company Issues: About 5% of sales manager’s time should be used for internal company issues. When dealing company issues such as new policies or sitting on a marketing committee, really guard your sales manager's time. Ask yourself before you invite them, do we really need their input or can we move the ball forward without it and then review it with them later?
  7. Planning/Managing Compensation: This should really be 1% of their time. It shouldn't be a big issue. It's something you're typically looking at annually. Again, that goes back to understanding how your team's motivated, are they more intrinsic or extrinsic? Most sales people are going to get more motivation from a higher-based salary and the opportunity for unlimited upside potential. Make sure your comp plan aligns with that.
  8. Organization/Reorganization: Organizing and reorganizing, again is more of a periodic activity, and should maybe be 1% of their time. Again, make sure you guard your sales manager’s time. We’ve seen situations where managers are consumed by a constant shuffling of territories, people, and strategies.
  9. Business/Product Strategy: Limit business and product strategy to maybe 3% of their time. One of the advantages that sales people bring to product managers is their real time feedback from the market. As this is helpful information, sales managers often get sucked in too deep with this that it consumes their time.
  10. Direct Selling: We think 5% of manager’s time should be allocated to directly selling to the market. We believe every sales manager should have a book of business. That's the only way they're going to stay sharp. That's the only way they're going to stay current. They still need to have some clients and directly sell.

You may have other activities that you want your sales managers to focus on, but this list provides a good starting point. When is the last time you focused on where your sales managers are investing their time? How confident are you that they are spending their time in the right areas? Are they getting a good return on their time and if not, what needs to change?

Also, if you don’t have sales managers, and you’re the sales manager by default, which of these activities are you not getting to? My guess would be; you're probably not spending as much time coaching your sales people as you need to. If that's the case, we need to talk, so contact me and we can tell you more about our accountability coaching program.

SM_graph.jpg

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.

 

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? 

chart_2-1.jpg

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

shutterstock_75845788.jpg
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.