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.  

Leveraging Sales Enablement Practices that Drive Performance

How much focus do your sales managers put on conversation speed and tonality when they coach their salespeople? At Intelligent Conversations, we use a powerful analytical tool called Refract that looks at conversation speed and tonality, among dozens of other factors which play into your team's sales performance. If you'd like to learn more about sales enablement best practices, please join me on Tuesday, June 25th at 1pm CST for a free live "Sales Enablement Mistakes - And how to Avoid Them!" webinar, sponsored by Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. All registrants will be invited to submit a brief recording of one of their top sales performers in action, and receive a FREE call analysis.

Even without a tool, a good place to start is to have your sales managers listen to live calls or recordings of calls. It's common for salespeople to ask and answer their own questions before the prospect has an opportunity to engage. You can coach them to slow down and to be comfortable with a pause.  Even though your salespeople have had this conversation 500 times before, they should remember it's the first time for the prospect..

Blog Photo1The next time you meet with a sales leader, ask them to pay attention to this when they coach their team.  Whether they're making cold calls, following up on an inbound lead, or even in a face-to-face meeting, a good mindset to teach salespeople is go “low and slow.” As salespeople get nervous or grow uncomfortable, they tend to speak faster and at a higher pitch. When they slow down and talk with a lower pitch, they sound more authoritative and confident.

The pace of their speech should depend on your market and where they are calling.  For example, if you're in New York City, and calling on prospects in the Northeast, a faster pace is appropriate.  If your New York sales rep calls a prospect in Birmingham, Alabama they should slow down.  In other words, let the market dictate the pace of your conversation. The ideal pace - across any region - should be somewhere between 100 and 150 words per minute. Speaking slower than that may indicate a lack of confidence and any faster than that may come across as nervous or difficult to understand. 

Where they are in the sales cycle can also affect speed and tone. As your salespeople hit crucial moments in the conversation, coach them to allow a little space before asking, "Would you like our help?" or "Would you like to move forward?" A simple pause before a question like that can make the prospect more comfortable and facilitate a smoother communication. Be comfortable with the pause, and don’t say anything until they've had an opportunity to consider and respond.

Even early on in a cold call situation, give your prospect time to absorb the fact that they're receiving a phone call. Too many salespeople introduce their name and company, and immediately launch into their pitch. It's better to just say their first and last name, then let the prospect respond. 

We hope you'll join us on Tuesday, June 25th at 1pm CST to do a deeper dive into all things 'Sales Enablement'! Register for free, HERE!

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How to Retain High Performing Sales People

Top Performing Sales People, sales coaching, sales management, high performer, Intelligent Conversations, Mike CarrollOver the years you may have noticed a difficulty in keeping your highest performing sales people on your team. You may have asked yourself, "What do I need to do to make sure I can keep my top performers engaged?" The most important thing you can do as a sales manager is take the time to understand what's important to each person on your team. What are their personal goals? How can you help them see your company as the vehicle through which they can achieve their personal goals?

It is important to take the time to understand what's important to each sales person on a personal level, not just their business goals. Business goals will happen along the way but understanding what's important to them first is key. Do they want to spend more time with their family? Do they want to save for retirement? When you as a manager take time to understand each individual employee’s personal goals, you can then go the extra step of translating that to, "Here's what you need to do as a sales person to achieve that goal."

For example, years ago we had a high performing sales client who was a young, single mother and frustrated that she couldn't save enough money to buy a house. Even though she was making a lot of money as a high performing sales person, she couldn't organize a budget to purchase a home. Her sales manager sat down with her and said, "What neighborhoods are you interested in? Here is what you need for a down payment. Here's what the mortgage would look like." Once they had mapped it out, they found that she could have a down payment in six months if she increased her sales by 10 to 15 percent. Because of connecting that personal goal to business performance, her sales manager was able to hold her accountable and she ended up having the down payment ready in three months.

The single most important thing you can do to retain your employees is to take the extra time and understand what's important to them. Understand their personal goals, and then map their personal goals back to their business activities. When employees see your company as the means through which they can achieve their personal goals, they're not only going to be more motivated and loyal, it also becomes easier for your managers to hold them accountable. In terms of keeping your high performing sales people, that’s the number one thing you can do for them and your company.

What UNC Coach Dean Smith Taught Us About Sales Metrics

Legendary University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith died on Saturday.  Sales managers across the country who have been through our sales leadership program know that I often use Dean Smith’s scoring system as an example of what sales leaders should focus on when measuring performance.

During his 36 seasons the UNC basketball coach (from 1961 to 1997) Dean Smith amassed a record of 879 wins and 254 losses.  His Tar Heel teams made it to 11 Final Four appearances and won National Championships in 1982 and 1993.  He had great players come through his program and he coached them to work together as a TEAM. 

Courtesy of NY Times

One of the ways he did this was by creating a team scoring system that awarded points for making the right play, the best-possible-play in the situation, instead of the end result.  It also subtracted points for making the wrong play for the situation (regardless of the end result).  So if James Worthy took a beautiful 10-foot jumper and made the shot instead of passing the ball to an open Michael Jordan who had a better shot, in Coach Smith’s scoring system Worthy would get a negative score (even though he made the basket).  And if instead he passed the ball and somehow Jordan missed the shot, Worthy would get a positive score for making the right play (even though no points were scored). 

Focusing on the right activities, within a clear system, with a common goal and where everyone understands their role and expected contributions, drives results.  For Dean Smith that meant accumulating 879 wins, 11 Final Fours and two national championships.

We see sales managers focusing on results instead of the right activities all the time.  It’s part of what frustrates managers who have a team of Lone Wolves (in the Challenger Sales model) because while sales people with this profile put up impressive numbers, they all do their own thing and want to be left alone.  They don’t work well with others.  They don’t like to fit within a system.  Dean Smith didn’t tolerate lone wolves.  If you played for UNC during his tenure you followed his system or you were gone.

If you want to build a predictable, repeatable, scalable sales engine to drive growth at your company, have your sales leaders turn their focus to the activities that drive results.  Instead of having your sales leaders focus on results (closed deals) with their team, challenge them to focus on activities earlier in the sales process that should drive those closings (and I’m sure there are enough people in your company tracking closed deals!).  And while the activities that lead to closed deals will vary from company to company, typical activities to monitor might include:

  • Net new meetings per week/month with qualified prospects (frequency will vary based on the length of your sales cycle)

  • Compelling reasons identified during discovery conversations

  • Quantification of those compelling reasons (both time and money impacts)

  • Learning how and why the prospect will buy

  • Understanding the buying landscape (know all the players and the influence do they have)

  • Identifying the budget and timeline for a decision

  • Disqualifying low-probability opportunities

  • Maintaining proper balance in their opportunity pipeline (by stage, by deal size, by offering, etc.)

  • And so on….

When your sales leaders move the focus to activities earlier in the pipeline and give positive feedback for making “the right play” in that situation regardless of whether or not they “got the sale,” results and consistency will improve.  Sales forecasting accuracy will improve.  Revenue will grow.  Your leadership team will have more confidence in the sales forecast.  Ask your sales managers to focus on making the right play and your sales team will start to score more baskets (closed sales).

My sympathies go out to all of Dean Smith’s family and friends, as well as to all of my North Carolina friends who are mourning this loss.  Go Tar Heels!

Keeping Your Sales Team Focused through Goals-Based Coaching

As a follow up to our recent post “Is Your Sales Forecast Giving You a False Sense of Security” I think it’s pretty safe to assume that your company has at least a few of the signs we listed that may indicate your CRM installation is failing (or is “sub-optimal” as CRM integrators like to say).  Please don’t feel bad, many companies we work with struggle when it comes to getting their sales people and sales leaders to using the CRM properly and fully leveraging its power.  This isn’t a new issue; however in this post we’d like to suggest a new approach that can help you do something about it. 

Basically you have two options:

1.  You can continue the beatings until morale improves (“Ok team, get your CRM updates in by Friday or else!).  I’m joking, but this is actually quite common.

2..Or you can try something different.  An option we’re helping our clients focus on as they drive remarkable sales growth is to simplify things by using a goals-based coaching methodology. 

We’ve built an entire system around this and if you want the details you can send us anemail.  For purposes of this post let’s keep it simple.  Have everyone on your sales team identify a small number of goals to focus on for the upcoming quarter.  These should be meaningful, achievable, easy-to-measure goals that align with their territory plan and their annual sales goals.  How many goals?  A good target in our opinion is three (3) business goals and one (1) personal goal.

Intelligent Sales Coaching

For example, quarterly goals may include:

  • Sales People –  acquiring a new account in an under-served vertical market or in an under-served geographical market, selling new/additional products or services to existing clients, achieving certain revenue goals (new revenue, profit margin, etc.), or holding a top-of-funnel event to attract new prospects to the sales funnel (e.g. lunch and learns, breakfast events, networking mixers, etc.)

  • Sales Manager – making a key hire, increasing profit margin across the team, improving forecast accuracy, shortening the sales cycle, improving proposal win ratios, creating more consistent LinkedIn profiles across their team, etc.

  • Personal Goals – these goals can be anything from fitness-related goals (losing weight, working out more consistently, eating better), to family-related goals (home by 6, family vacation, coaching your child’s team, etc.), to personal development goals (reading three books, taking a class, learning a language, and so on). 

When sales people create a handful of meaningful goals (both business and personal) and begin to see the company as the means through which to achieve their goals, it is easier to motivate them and hold them accountable.  And when a sales manager supports their team by understanding both the business and personal goals of every team member and discussing these goals during a formal weekly coaching session, it becomes easier to stay focused on the right activities and behaviors that drive success.  And this focus and clarity will absolutely help you cut through the data fog we see too many failed CRM installations create.  You might be surprised how powerful an impact this coaching methodology can have on your organization and sales growth.  If you’d like some help getting started, please contact us.


Wisconsin CEOs: Lessons Your Sales Team Should Learn from the Packer’s Stunning Defeat

I’m still shocked.  The collapse I witnessed during the NFC Championship Game on Sunday is going to bother me for a long time.  But maybe we can create a silver lining by drawing comparisons between a few key events in the Packer’s loss to common mistakes and challenges we see the business-to-business sales teams we work with every day.  Actually, it probably won’t help me overcome my negative feelings today - but here it goes.

Green Bay Packers Loss

1.  Complacency – with about 8 minutes to go in the 4th quarter you could just feel the game starting to slip away.  It just seemed the Packer players moved with less urgency.  It was as if they believed they had already won the game and they were just not as aggressive as they had been the entire game.  How many times do you see your sales team going through the motions, taking things for granted, taking their foot off the gas a little?  How can your sales leaders help everyone on the sales team stay focused and maintain a sense of urgency?  Is complacency in your sales organization slowing growth?

2.  Execution – there are three key plays that really stand out where the Seahawks out-executed the Packers, and these few plays turned the game completely around.  With the Packers up by 5 points and time running out, everyone knew the Seahawks were going to do an onside kick. The “hands team” lined up.  Some players are supposed to block, others are supposed to catch the ball.  Packer tight end Brandon Bostick’s job was to block, but he lost focus and decided to go for the catch (instead of blocking and letting Jordy Nelson get the ball).  He mishandled the ball and the Seahawks recovered.  Then with 1:33 left in the 4th quarter and the Packers defense trying to hold them to a field goal, Marshawn Lynch sliced through the defense for what looked like an easy touchdown.  He made the right cut and the Packer defenders missed the tackles.  And with 1:25 left in the 4th quarter the Seahawks decide to go for the 2-point conversion.  The Packers put immediate pressure on a scrambling Russell Wilson, who heaved the ball into coverage and it floated into tight end Luke Wilsons hands as Packer defenders looked on in disbelief.  When it counts, does your sales team execute like the Seahawks or do they lose focus like the Packers?

3.  Discipline – in the first quarter after an interception by Packer safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, defensive tackle Mike Daniels ran over to taunt Seattle lineman J.R. Sweezy (right in front of an official).  This drew a flag and instead of first and goal on the 4-yard line the Packers had first and 10 on the 14-yard line.  They settled for a field goal instead of a touchdown.  Are your sales people shooting themselves in the foot like this?  Do they ever ruin a great sales meeting with an offensive joke or off-color remark?  Do they lose focus and fail to follow up in a timely fashion?  Do they consistently stay “in-the-moment” and not let their emotions get the best of them?

4.  Letting Up to Soon – with 5:13 left in the game, Packer safety Morgan Burnett made an interception and immediately went to the turf.  He had plenty of room to run, but instead of advancing the ball he just slid to the ground.  It seems that he assumed that interception would seal the victory and the best move was just to hand the ball over the Aaron Rodgers and the Packer offense.  But there were still more than 5 minutes in the game.  Could he have advanced it far enough to put the Packers in field goal range?  We’ll never know.  This is the equivalent of a sales person getting a great compelling reason from a prospective customer and then stop asking questions.  We advise sales people to build a case by identifying 6-8 compelling reasons, not one or two.  Are your sales people taking a dive too early in the call, or do they press forward with additional questions, exploring every potential issue or challenge a prospect may be experiencing?

5.  Return on Luck – I had the opportunity to listen to Jim Collins a few years ago and one of the concepts he talked about is how “great” companies seem to realize a higher return on luck.  There are so many factors that are out of our control in business, but if we can take advantage of favorable circumstances when we have them we’ll do better.  And the key to this is always being ready to execute.  When Seattle won the coin toss in overtime, they executed and Aaron Rodgers never got his hands on the ball.  Is your sales team ready for this type of crisp execution?  Are they able to capitalize on opportunities to maximize your return on luck?  Are your sales leaders able to recognize these opportunities or are they so focused on the pipeline metrics and key performance indicators that they lack the broader perspective needed to both see and seize these chances?

There are probably other sales lessons to learn from this game, but these are the ideas that immediately come to mind as I reflect on this stunning loss.  Take a moment to think about how these may apply to your organization, because unlike the Packers, you don’t have the next seven months to figure it out and get ready for next season.  You need to get going right now.

Article Source: Tom Silverstein, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://www.jsonline.com/sports/packers/series-of-blunders-miscues-sent-packers-home-for-season-b99428503z1-288995461.html). '

Image Source: (Getty Images)


What Can CEOs and Sales Leaders Learn from Barry Alvarez?

Many of you may not be following the recent developments on the University of Wisconsin football program as closely as I have been, so let me set this up with a brief overview before I dive into what I think are five key lessons CEOs and Sales Leaders can learn from Barry Alvarez.  In full disclosure, I graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1990 and am a huge badger fan!  When I attended UW Madison we had to endure Don Morton’s ill-conceived and poorly executed “veer offense” which was not only terribly boring to watch, but also easy to defend.  The results were horrible (Morton’s record at Wisconsin was 6-27) and when Barry Alvarez came to Wisconsin in 1990 we were all thrilled.  If you’re interested in his career stats you can go here.  I’ll just sum it up by saying he had a lot of success and really put UW Madison’s football program on a national stage.

In 2006 Alvarez named Brett Bielema head coach and Alvarez became the athletic director.  It seemed perfect, a smooth transition to a new head coach, continued success in major bowl games, continued recruiting success (one great running back after another)…… and then suddenly Bielema decided to bolt for an arguably less prestigious position at the University of Arkansas.  Alvarez returned to the sideline to coach the Badgers in a loss to Stanford in the Rose Bowl while the second search for a head coach in three years was underway.  They recruited Gary Anderson from Utah State and it seemed as though Alvarez had done it again.  The program rolled on with continued success (right up until the shellacking we took against Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship Game) when suddenly Anderson announced he was leaving Wisconsin to take a head coaching position at Oregon State (again, arguably a less prestigious program).  So now the search continues and badger fans are hoping the third time in 5 years will be the charm.  We’ll see.  

Sales Coaching

So what does any of this have to do with CEOs and sales leaders interested in driving sales growth?  Here are five lessons for you to consider, three negative lessons (learning from what appear to be Alvarez’s mistakes) and two positive lessons (learning from what Alvarez appears to be doing well).  As you read these lessons, consider how they may apply to your situation, particularly when it comes to recruiting and hiring decisions as well as consistent management communication.

 

 

 

  1. Set Clear Expectations During the Interview Process – there were two primary reasons Anderson gave for leaving Wisconsin.  First is family, he said he really wanted to move back to the West Coast because of his family.  I can respect that, but wonder how thoroughly that was explored during the interview process.  The second reason Anderson gave was his frustration with not being able to get some of the Junior College athletes he wanted into the school (I’m glad UW Madison is at least applying some standards concerning academics – my sense is there’s probably still room for improvement but they seem to be better than many programs).  Lesson Learned: Use the interview process to explore all the reasons why your star candidate shouldn’t take the job.  Are they sure they can live two time zones away from their family?  Are they sure they can build a strong team AND maintain strong academic standards? Try to disqualify your strongest candidates with these types of questions and if you can’t, you’ve got a great candidate.  

  2. Let Go and Let them Lead – my friend and colleague Gretchen Gordon made this point (while she was calling to give me a hard time after the embarrassing loss to Ohio State).  She wondered if one of the reasons Wisconsin has high turnover is because Alvarez meddles in the football program too much (instead of focusing on leading the entire athletic department).  I have no idea if that’s the case, I’m not there and they’re not a coaching client of ours.  What I can tell you is I’ve seen this situation in companies we’ve worked with over the years.  CEOs who had tremendous success in sales and sales leadership throughout their career tend to hire weaker sales leaders or undermine strong sales leaders by meddling in their business.  Lesson Learned: Hire strong people, then let go and let them lead.


  3. It Shouldn’t Be a Surprise – if you have a healthy environment and healthy relationships with everyone on your leadership team – which means you have regular, consistent, open, frequent, authentic, and transparent communication with each of your team members – you really shouldn’t be caught off guard by someone deciding to suddenly leave.  Lesson Learned: Create an environment of trust and open communication throughout your company (and especially at the leadership team level).  Need help?  Start with Pat Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team and then read Keith Ferrazzi’s Who’s Got Your Back.


  4. Maintain a Strong “Virtual Bench” – Alvarez maintains a short list of potential coaches at all times.  He stays in touch with them and keeps track of their successes.  He thinks about who would be a good fit for the Wisconsin Football Program and has a list of strong candidates ready to go.  So when Anderson resigned his position, Alvarez was able to fire up the search process almost immediately.  How quickly would it take you to react if one of your key leaders or top producing sales people suddenly departed?  Lesson Learned: Build (and maintain) a virtual bench. Send notes and cards, have lunches or dinners with them, build a real relationship so if the opportunity presents itself you can quickly make an offer and fill a key gap on your team without missing a beat.


  5. Know Your Brand – as much as it pains me to say it, the University of Wisconsin Football program is not a premier top tier college football program.  It’s a very good college football program, but it’s not at the same level as an LSU, Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon, or Florida State.  Alvarez understand this and has a realistic view of Wisconsin’s “brand” as a football program.  While I hope the next coach they hire to lead the Wisconsin football team is a perfect fit and will be there for years to come, the last two coaches have made it clear that being head coach for the Wisconsin football team is not a destination job.  Lesson Learned: Be realistic about how the market (and potential job candidates) really see your company.


How solid is your talent recruiting?  Should this be an area of focus for your company in 2015?  If so, ask us about how our Topgrading program or our STAR Complete sales hiring program could help impact your business and make recruiting a strength for your growing firm. Email us at info@intelligentconversations.com.

 


Coaching Rhythm and Texting While Driving

My last post talked about the challenges of teaching my middle daughter, who recently got her learners permit, to drive safely.  We compared teaching safe driving to the importance of consistent sales coaching and the types of conversations that should happen with regularity and consistency between your sales leaders and sales team.  For this post I want to continue in the theme of safe driving and sales coaching.  My oldest daughter has been driving for a few years now and we recently had a conversation about texting while driving.  The data is overwhelming.  Here’s an infographic I found on this topic:

Texting and Driving

When you think about how little time it takes to travel the length of a football field while looking at your phone – and all the bad things that can happen while you’re distracted – it’s hardly surprising that so many accidents happen as a result of texting and driving.

So what is the connection to sales coaching?  In our sales consulting practice we recommend sales leaders establish a regular rhythm of coaching conversations with everyone on their team.  Ideally these should happen weekly and biweekly at an absolute minimum.  I can already hear sales managers groaning as they read that last sentence and thinking “when am I supposed to fit that into my already full schedule?”  Well, think of scheduling regular, structured, formal weekly coaching sessions with everyone on the sales team as the same as looking forward and paying close attention while driving down the highway.

Would you like your team to avoid big, spectacular sales crashes?  Ask your sales leaders to look forward on a regular basis.  Challenge them to ask questions on a regular basis.  Ask them to observe (and share) patterns and trends in the market on a regular basis.  Ask them to observe (and share) patterns, trends, bad habits, and self-limiting beliefs from your sales team on a regular basis.  Challenge them to engage in role play on a regular basis (most sales managers will resist this at first because most are really bad at it).  In short, make sure your sales leaders coach your sales people on a regular basis so they can stay ahead of all the subtle nuances and changes in your sales pipeline, allowing them to make minor smooth corrections rather than sudden shifts and dramatic changes.

As CEO what can you do?  How often are you coaching your sales leaders?  When you talk with them, are you simply going through a tactical review of the pipeline?  Are you asking the right questions?  Are you leveraging the market feedback your sales team can provide in real time?  Do you see patterns in where your sales leaders are focused?  Are they focused on the right things?  The right activities?  The right people on their team?  What would happen to your sales culture if you lead by example and coached your sales leaders as you expect them to coach your sales people?

Not sure where to start?  We can help.  We start by helping you understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of your sales leaders.  How do they measure up in terms of their coaching skill set?  How about the skills required to create a culture of accountability?  Motivating the team?  Attracting and retaining A-player sales talent (A-players won’t work for B-managers)?  Growing the team?  How about your sales people?  Are they capable of growth?  How much?  Where do they need help?  What self-limiting beliefs get in their way?  Are they coachable?  If you invested in their professional development would it be worth it?  How long would it take you to realize a return on your training investment? 

We can help you understand these and many other important questions with our Sales Effectiveness & Improvement Analysis.  We’ll be glad to send you a sample and discuss whether or not this would be a good next step for growing your revenue.  Or you could just keep your eyes down and hope you don’t crash.  It’s up to you.

For more information on how we can help Optimize Your Sales Team - click Here.

 

5 Difficult Questions You Need to Ask About Your Sales Team

Examine Your Sales Team, Objective Management Group sales reports, Intelligent Conversations, Mike Carroll, Milwaukee consultants, Sales Force Evaluation, Expert Advice, Sales Questions, Sales GrowthIf you had the opportunity to really study your sales organization - to take a very diagnostic look at the people, systems and strategies that impact sales;
- What questions would you ask?
- What are the most frustrating, difficult, drive-you-absolutely-nuts questions about your sales team or business development group that you would want to know?
- What would you do with the answers?
- How would you leverage that information to turn things around and start growing massive revenue?

If you would like to learn more about how you can take an x-ray of your sales team so you know exactly where to focus your time, energy and team investments, let's schedule a call of a date for a cup of coffee.
Click here to contact Mike Carroll for a phone conversation
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Click here to contact Mike Carroll for a cup of coffee.
 
 
5 important questions for you
Many of the CEOs, Presidents, and Business Owners we talk with have a very general sense and a surface-level understanding of what might be holding their sales team back. And they will readily express their frustration. But when asked to be a more precise, to pinpoint exactly where their concerns are with their sales team, most just shrug their shoulders and say

"I don't know exactly, that's why I called you!"

Without having a conversation and asking you a lot of questions about your current circumstances, it is impossible for me to guess which questions would be the most important for you to understand.  That said, I'll make a guess by sharing these five (5) questions we commonly see when talking with frustrated CEOs, Presidents, and Business Owners.
 
 
1. Do we have the right people on our sales team?
Teams tend to evolve over time. People are hired because they seem like a good fit and they were available at the time you were hiring. Or they worked at a competitor and they appear to know your industry. Or they were on the sales team of a company you acquired and it didn't make sense to let them go. Or they are a good friend's son or daughter who recently graduated from college, needed a job, and interviewed well.
 
There are are all sorts of reasons why we add people to the team - and usually what we see is a hodge podge of random hiring decisions made at different points in time for different reasons with different considerations and goals for making each hire. Rarely is there a consistent, systematic, disciplined hiring strategy with focus and clarity around the type of person you need, the experience they MUST have, the skills they need to succeed, and much more. Do you have such a system in place or have you assembled a hodge podge team?
 
 
2. Are our people doing the right things?
We know there are specific activities every sales person and sales manager should do every day, every week, and every month. And we know that team members did these activities with a consistent focus and discipline, massive results would follow. And you probably already know what these activities are for your company. And yet, your sales team still does not do them. Or at least they don't do them consistently. How much time are they spending in sales conversations every week? Are they talking to the right people or did they settle for the person they could reach? Are they asking the right questions or are they asking the safe questions where feel most comfortable?
 
 
3. Are our sales managers doing everything they can to drive business growth?
Sales managers have tremendous power and influence. Effective sales managers hold people accountable, ask great questions, coach consistently and effectively, grow the team and hire sales people who are stronger than they are. Yet they still feel comfortable coaching stronger sales people, raising expectations and helping them succeed. Great sales managers can be worth their weight in gold. And yet, great sales managers are extraordinarily rare and difficult to find.

How are your sales managers doing?

Are they effective coaches or do they just muddle through? Do they recruit the right people to build the team or are they selecting people who are weaker than they are so they don't feel threatened? Are they raising expectations and then giving the support their team needs to crush their goals or are they just going with the flow?
 
 
4. Are we tracking the right stuff?
Too often CEOs, Presidents and Business Owners focus like a laser beam on one statistic and one statistic only - sales growth. If sales are growing, the team is fine. If sales are stalled or declining, look out! Looking at sales results and monitoring revenue growth is obviously important, particularly when communicating with outside parties (your bank, your investors, potential business partners, etc.).

For an internal focus we recommend tracking activities rather than results. Pick a handful of activities that, when done with consistent focus and discipline, will drive the results you want. Measure them. Track them frequently. Use them to hold people accountable. Do not let up. If having every sales person make a minimum of 10 prospecting calls every day will drive the results you need, track it. If having every sales person generate two quality referrals every week will drive the results you need, track it. Whatever your key activites might be, find them, track them and hold your people accountable to hitting them consistently.
 
 
5. How much revenue have we lost by not addressing these issues with our sales team?
Ignoring a problem isn't going to make it go away. Getting the right people, focused on the right things, with the right sales coaching and leadership, and tracking the right activities can make a massive difference on your sales growth. Even nailing down three out of the five can have a big impact. What are you doing this quarter to address the issues in your sales organization? Where will you focus first? What will have the greatest impact and biggest return for your effort? What will it cost you this quarter in terms of lost sales if you wait? And if you are on plan or ahead of plan, what would focusing on these issues do in terms of generating even more revenue?
 
 
These are just a handful of the questions we help our clients understand. If you would like to learn more about how you can take an x-ray of your sales team so you know exactly where to focus your time, energy and team investments, let's schedule a brief phone conversation or meet for a cup of coffee to figure it out.

Mike Carroll

Click here to contact Mike Carroll for a cup of coffee.

 

What is the Most Important Step in the Sales Hiring Process?

Sales Hiring, 90 day plan, ramp up, new hire onboarding, on-boarding, sales management hiring mistakes, Top Grading, STAR hiring system, Dave Kurlan, Objective Management Group, OMG, Mike Carroll, Milwaukee, Intelligent Conversations, Sales Hiring SuccessThe most important step in the sales hiring process is not writing the perfect ad so you attract the best possible pool of candidates....and it's not going through a rigorous qualification and screening process that saves you valuable time....and it's not improving the selection process by asking targeted interview questions that go right to the heart of a candidate's potential short-comings....and it's not doing all of these things in a predictable, repeatable, scalable, systematic manner that allows you to develop a deep virtual bench of sales talent.


No, while all of these things are absolutely crucial to
successfully hiring A-players for your sales and business development teams, these are NOT the most important step in the sales hiring process.

 

What is the most important step in the sales hiring process?
In my opinion, based on the hundreds of sales hiring decisions we have helped facilitate with our clients, the final and most important step in a killer sales hiring process is executing a well-planned 90-day ramp up for every new sales person. And yet we see so many (otherwise smart) sales managers either skip this step entirely or just go through the motions and do it "half-fast" (so to speak).

Why do some sales managers miss this critical step?  Here are a couple of theories:
 

Rigourous Process Breeds Complacency - We help our clients implement a powerful sales hiring system - the "Sales Talent Acquisition Routine" (or STAR Hiring System) designed and developed by Dave Kurlan, Founder and CEO of Objective Management Group.  It is rigourous and highly predictive.  So when a strong candidate for a sales position successfully navigates through this system, many sales managers make the mistake of assuming they can skip this final step because they've just hired such a strong sales person.  Wrong!  The 90-day on-boarding phase is absolutely crucial to successfully running the STAR Hiring System.  
 

Lack of Time, Focus, and Discipline - Time is scarce for busy, productive sales managers. Whether it is an unrelenting travel schedule, the pressing urgency of helping sales team members win important deals, or the crushing demands of internal meetings with senior management and other departments, many sales managers struggle with staying focused and prioritizing what needs to get done. So while intellectually they may understand the importance of planning and executing a strong 90-day ramp up plan for new sales hires, if they do not put it on their calendars and budget the time to invest it simply does not happen.
 

Dangerous Delegation and Responsibiltiy Shift - Because many sales managers are so busy the logical step is to delegate the ramp up and on-boarding of a new sales person to someone on their team.  While getting other people from the company engaged in the on-boarding process is a great idea, it is still the sales manager's responsibility to make sure the new sales person is getting the help and support they need to get off to a strong start.  
I have seen sales managers ask a (not-so-busy) sales person on their team to "take the lead" on getting the new sales hire up to speed.  What kind of lessons will that (not-so-busy) sales person pass along to the new hire?  This kind of "Tribal Training" can be dangerous and demotivating to the new hire because it can drive home the wrong lessons and send a bad message.  

I know of a company where the first thing the "veteran" sales person taught to the eager new sales hire was how to make more money by fudging expense reports. I'm NOT kidding - there was a genuine fear that if the new sales person ever turned in an honest expense report it would stand out and raise alarms.  Now there's a great message to pass along to a new employee!
 

Pure Laziness - I'm not going to sugarcoat it. I think there are some sales managers who are just plain lazy and choose to skip this important step in the sales hiring process because to do it right requires a lot of hard work, consistent follow up, detailed coaching and feedback conversations, a signficant investment of time and effort, and strong focus and discipline to make it happen. Not every sales manager is willing to put in the effort required to do a great job with new hire on-boarding (even when their job might depend on it).

As CEO, President or Business Owner what can you do to make sure your sales managers are focusing on this final and (in my opinion) most important step in the sales hiring process? What is the single most important element of a successful 90-day on-boarding program? All of our clients who use a candidate screening tool from Objective Management Group will tell you they view this report as "the Bible" for bringing on new sales people. The information and insights available are remarkable and help sales leaders focus on the most important issues to address with a new sales hire. Simply put, using this tool the right way will shorten the timeframe from hire date to revenue production.  It's like magic.
 

Learn more in this free webinar
Want to learn more? You don't have to listen to me talk about it - you can hear all about it from the very person who designed it. On Tuesday, March 12th at 9:00 am central time Dave Kurlan will be our guest in our webinar series.  

It's free and you can sign up here.  
Why not register today?

  

CTA sales hiring process webinar