Wanted – Humble Sales People

iTEJd_6QOne of the challenges when you're hiring salespeople (or coaching them) is the dichotomy between being confident and being humble. Part of being effective in sales is coming across as knowledgeable and confident, but if your sales people push that too far they'll be seen as arrogant and cocky.  What would happen if they came across as humble and curious as well as confident? You can explore this tension between confidence and humility as you're interviewing salespeople.  Ask tough questions and change topics quickly to see how can they handle pressure. Also, ask for examples of how they've grown and what they've learned - then listen carefully for stories of humility and curiosity.

From a practical sales perspective, the balance between confidence and humility really comes down to being a great listener. Nobody wants to talk to a know-it-all, and yet so many sales people spend all their time focusing on mastering the technical aspects of their product. You certainly need to know your product, but more importantly you need to know what questions to ask. It's not about having the right answer, it's about having a great set of questions – without being overbearing – that can uncover the compelling reasons for a prospect to buy and help them understand the full impact of their current situation.

An arrogant salesperson will ask a question then begin to answer it before the prospect has a chance to jump in to contribute to the conversation.  Or, they'll asks overly complex questions that make the conversation harder than it needs to be. Many salespeople falsely believe that showing off their intellect and demonstrating their technical knowledge makes them seem more confident.  Usually they are just masking their insecurity and are afraid to just have a conversation.

In our experience, the most effective questions are simple, direct, and straightforward. Most importantly, a good salesperson takes the time to pause after asking a question. There’s no need to rush in and start talking right away if the prospect is considering your question.

Humble sales managers can make a huge difference as well.  We’ve seen great sales people get promoted to become a sales manager, and suddenly it's like they walked through a magic portal with the title "sales manager" above it and forget to ask questions. The very thing that made them so effective and helped them rise to the top of their sales team was likely their ability to ask great questions and be a great listener. Yet, when they become a sales manager, they forget all about that and instead they start telling their team, "Well, here's what you need to do."

What ends up happening is rather than developing a team of diverse personalities, each with their individual strengths, they start building a team of clones. Sometimes that can work well in the near term, but ultimately they’re limiting the growth of each team member by just making them do the job their way. It's not about telling your team, "Do this, do that, here's what you need to do next in this situation," because you're doing the thinking for your sales people. Instead, think like you're back in a sales role. How can you get them to the right answer? How can you ask them questions that help them discover what they need to do next?

If your sales people come to the conclusion on their own, it's their idea and they'll start to apply it. They'll have more ownership. If you just tell them what to do and it doesn't work, they can blame you. For salespeople, be humble and ask questions. Ask questions that make the prospect think and give them a pause to answer the question. For sales managers, rather than telling your team, “do this, do that,” ask a question to help them get to the right answer. Being humble enough to ask questions rather than show off how much you know because you were once a top distribution salesperson can really make a big difference.

Two Great Sales Lessons From the Film Free Solo

A few weeks ago I was flying across the country, and was able to watch the Oscar-winning film Free Solo. Watching it in an IMAX theater would have been a lot cooler than on a four by four screen on a Delta airplane, but I enjoyed the movie nonetheless. There were two awesome sales lessons hidden in the film, and in no particular order, I'll share them here.

The whole movie is centered around Alex Honnold and his desire to “free solo”, or climb without ropes, El Capitan in Yosemite Valley. El Capitan is probably the most famous rock wall in the world, and it had never been free soloed. The thought of free soloing El Cap is truly insane. It's a monumental accomplishment. After he climbed it, somebody on the film crew asked him, "Well, what are you going to go do next?" And he just said, "Well, I'll probably go do some hang boarding." He'd been working toward this goal for years and years, thinking about it, staging it, doing similar climbs, trying to prepare for it mentally, overcoshutterstock_280705463ming all of the fears and doubts that he had, and then after this pinnacle achievement what does he go do? He goes back to fundamentals. The sales lesson here is you can win the big deal, you can close the big sale, you can get the biggest sale in company history and just be humble and go back to the fundamentals. 

The best time to make a cold call is immediately after closing the big deal.  Go make some cold calls. Go practice your next pitch. Go think about other questions you can ask. Let that momentum of a big goal accomplished be a slingshot to carry you toward your next goal rather than an opportunity to rest on your laurels. Don't rest on your laurels!  Accomplish something and then think, what can I do next? Go back to the fundamentals.

As Honnold was going through his prep work to do that ascent of El Cap, he went through and rehearsed key sections. There were four or five critical sections that he wanted to dial in on and really practice every single move he was going to make. He did this with a rope so that when he was without a rope, when it was showtime so to speak, the muscle memory would kick in and he would be able to climb without hesitation. There was one particular stretch called 'the boulder problem' where he had two options: He could either leap from one tenuous ledge and grab onto another more substantial ledge, but he'd be totally out of contact with the wall, or he could do what he calls the karate kick, which is a little bit more complicated, but he would stay in contact with the wall. He went back and forth between these two moves, really thought it through and decided to do the karate kick.

The lesson we can take learn here from a sales perspective is how much time is your sales team using to prepare for a phone call, meeting, sales pitch, etc.? Are they really thinking through every option, looking at it from every angle, and thinking through who's going to be in the room? Who's going to be on that call? What are their primary objectives? What are their concerns about our product or service? You have to go in the sales call, just like Honnold had to go on the climb, prepared and able to react well in the moment.

There's probably no better example of being in the moment than when Honnold is free soloing, but that relentless preparation and rehearsal made it possible for him to just glide through the climb without hesitation. So, a few valuable lessons from Alex Honnold's successful free solo of El Capitan are: Don't rest on your laurels, and relentless preparation will help your team perform well when the moment comes.

As a sales leader, how are you enabling your sales team to 'free solo' on their cold calls or in the field? Are you tracking whether your top performers are resting on their laurels after a big win, or if they're using that momentum to exceed their targets? Next Tuesday, June 25th we're going to have a live Webinar on Sales Enablement Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. To join us in conversation on Sales Enablement best practices, click HERE TO REGISTER. 

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.

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 

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.

Why Managers Struggle When Holding People Accountable

Now That's AccountabilityCreating a “Culture of Accountability” is the cornerstone of building an over-achieving sales team.  And really it’s fundamental to building over-achieving teams in general.  As a CEO, President, or Business Owner you probably understand this and chances are most of your leadership team understand this concept as well.  And yet, many sales managers (and managers in general) struggle when it comes to holding their people accountable.  Why is that?

Here are five issues and barriers we have observed through our consulting practice over the years.  There are many more we could list, but this will give you a good place to start if a lack of accountability has been a challenge in your organization.  How many of these apply to your managers? 

Unclear Goals

If your managers don’t have a clear line of sight to your company’s goals and a clear understanding of what their team needs to do to help achieve them, how can they possibly hold their team accountable to the daily activities and behaviors that will get you there?

No Coaching Rhythm

We recommend sales managers hold a regularly scheduled “formal” coaching meeting at least every two weeks (weekly is better).  This is in addition to all the “informal” coaching conversations that happen around the office or driving back from a joint sales call.  Without a regular coaching rhythm where your sales manager and each individual sales person review progress toward the goals, activities driving the goals, as well as potential barriers and challenges getting in the way, it’s very difficult to hold people accountable and keep them on track.

Too Much Complaining

There are a couple of ways to look at this issue.  In some cases, your sales manager is the whiner (“we don’t have enough resources….operations is letting us down….the competition is killing us in a price war….” and on and on).  In other cases, they are too sympathetic and tolerant of the whining and excuses they hear from their team.  When someone on their team is complaining about a challenge they have, strong managers ask questions (“What can you do to change the situation?” or “Are you telling me this because you want me to do something or are you just letting off steam so you can focus on solving it yourself?”).  Most managers join in and simply add gasoline to the fire.

Too Friendly

While it’s important that your sales managers build a strong rapport with their team and establish a high level of trust, many managers go too far and become too “buddy-buddy” with the people on their team.  Or worse, they become buddy-buddy with some members of the team but not all.  When that happens they start treating people differently and it breeds tremendous resentment across the team.  The key is to establish clear goals, review them regularly, stop accepting excuses, and manage agreements about what needs to happen each week/month to reach the goals.

Too Aloof

Some managers go too far the other way.  They don’t invest the time in getting to know each team member, what their goals are (both business and personal goals), and they really don’t know them as people.  These managers become unapproachable and come across as inauthentic when they try to be friendly.  When your managers can get to know the personal goals of each member of their team and help them see your company as the means through which they can reach that goal, it becomes much easier to hold team members accountable to the daily/weekly/monthly activities need to reach their goals (both business and personal).

Which of these examples rings true to you?  CEO Coaching Tip:  select one for each of your direct reports and during your next one-on-one discuss your perspective on how it is impacting their ability to hold their people accountable and ask them what would happen if they focused on getting better in that particular area.  Alternatively, if you see something on the list that applies to all (or most) of your managers, discuss it during your next leadership team meeting.  What would happen to your results if you focused on these barriers to creating a culture of accountability?  When will you start?

Building a Profitable Sales Process - Make Every Appointment Count

All of the work your sales people are doing at the front of the sales process (identifying the right targets and making initial contact to get an appointment) is a waste of time if they blow the appointment.  What needs to happen to make every appointment count?

Here are five (5) key goals every sales person on your team should focus on when they get in front of a prospective buyer:

 

Sales appointment, asking great sales questions, discovery process, make every appointment count, building a profitable sales process, Milwaukee sales consulting, Intelligent Conversations, Mike Carroll, Sales Expert, Objective Management Group, coaching

1) Set Clear Expectations

A sales appointment isn't just about having a nice conversation and hoping a next step results.

Your sales people should make it clear - right at the beginning of the appointment - why they are there and what they want to accomplish.  

 

 

Something as simple as "I have a lot to learn about your situation so I'm going to ask you a lot of questions; I'm sure you'll probably have a lot of questions for me; so let's ask all of our questions and by the end of our discussion if it seems like we might be able to help you we can talk about potential next steps.  And if it doesn't make sense, I'll let you know.  Does that sound fair?"  

 

2) Ask Great Questions
Questions are the answer. Too many sales people show up and start talking about all the features and benefits of their product without ever asking the prospective customer what is important to them.

Instead of diving right into a demo or launching into a presentation, what would happen if your sales people asked questions that made the prospect think about their issues and challenges differently?  What would happen to your revenue if your sales people were more memorable?  Do they have the skills they need to drive this type of conversation and help a prospect discover the gap between where they are now and where they could be if they worked with your company?

 

3) Create Urgency
Will a prospect feel compelled to take action by the end of the conversation your sales people typically have during an initial appointment?  Or will they politely say "thank you" and get on with the rest of their day?  The questions your sales people ask...the areas they explore to identify issues and challeges....the way they summarize and recap what the prospect says...all of these things should drive the prospect to want to take action (whether with your company or with someone else).  A run-of-the-mill demonstration or presentation doesn't do this.


4) Ask Questions 3-deep
When your sales people are asking great questions and creating urgency, make sure they don't rush through each issue in a hurry to get to the end of the call. Slow down!

Ask follow up questions. Ask questions about when the issues identified first showed up. What impact is it having on their business? What would they do if they didn't have theses issues? How would that translate to improved revenue or greater efficiency or stronger margins or a faster product launch?  And what would that mean to their business?  Chances are your sales people rush right past these issues and move onto the next area they want to explore. What would happen to your sales pipeline and the quality of your proposals if everyone on your sales team slowed down and asked at least 3 questions for every issue they uncover?


5) Concise Summary and Next Steps
After spending enough time asking questions and exploring each area (at least 3 questions deep), your sales people need to master the skill of summarizing what they've heard into clear, crisp bullet points that get right to the heart of the matter.  At this point they should know whether or not it makes sense to discuss next steps. If the prospect doesn't have the types of problems your company can solve....or if they have these probelems but they are not urgent enough to be a high priority....stop the process and let the prospect know that while you might be able to help them eventually, right now may not be the best time to move forward. They will thank your sales person for being direct and honest. And if they had the right conversation (great questions, strong follow up questions, and a succintct summary of the situation) they will call you back when the timing is right.  

And the other side of that coin is when the prospective buyer has urgent needs and is a great fit for your prodcut or service, the clear next step will be to talk about how you deliver, what the investment requirements and terms might be, and how you might work together. In other words, a qualification discussion.

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Qualifying all of the areas necessary to move an opportunity forwared in a profitable sales process will be the focus of our next article in this series.  

 

Sales Effectiveness & Improvement Analysis
How long is your sales cycle? Could it be shorter? What would your business look like if it were? Are your sales managers capable of coaching your team to set strong agreements at the beginning and end of each sales meeting they go to? 

Need answers? Ask for a free overview of our newest tool - the Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis - and we will follow up with you to find out if it makes sense to talk about helping your sales organization become more effective.

 

 


Creating a Culture of Accountability for Your Sales Team

Accountability for Your Sales TeamAre your sales managers doing everything they can to create a culture of accountability for your sales organization? If you ask them they’ll say,

“Absolutely, we hold them accountable every sales meeting.”

And your follow up questions should be “Accountable to what?!” In our experience many sales leaders struggle with true accountability because they focus on the wrong things.

Here are six (6) specific areas where your sales leaders should focus their time, energy and attention to create a culture of accountability for your sales team.



  1. Raise expectations – too many sales managers we encounter have a high tolerance for mediocrity.
    Stop accepting mediocrity and raise expectations.  It starts with your sales manager, so that’s where you should focus.

    - Are they too quick to defend their team?
    - Do you hear sales managers making excuses
    on behalf of their sales people?
    - Have they set the bar too low for the sales team?

    Do they throw other departments under the bus, blaming marketing or operations or engineering or everyone else? Raise your expectations for your sales manager.  If you know you have a sales leader who has already established a high tolerance for accepting mediocrity perhaps it’s time to
    start looking for a new sales manager.
     
     
  2. Be their manager, not their friend – is your sales manager to friendly with their team?
    Too many sales managers we coach want to be “one of the gang” and are a little too close to the sales people they manage. Obviously building team spirit and rapport is important, however for some sales managers it is more important to be liked by their sales people than to get the results you expect from them.
     
    It may happen gradually over time. It may be difficult to detect.
    When you see your sales manager turn a blind eye toward a weak performer it’s time to raise expectations and remind them that at the end of the day they will be judged on the numbers, not how well liked they are by their team. 
     
     
  3. Take responsibility – the worst message to send to the sales team is to have sales managers who raise expectations and hold everyone accountable but fails to take responsibility for themselves.
    Do your sales managers take full responsibility for the results they produce? When they lose a deal or miss a revenue target, do they look at themselves and ask questions such as “What can we do differently next time? What can I do better?” Or do they avoid responsibility and look for someone to blame? Are they too quick to throw a team member under the bus when ultimately it was their responsibility?
     
     
  4. Manage behaviors – what does your sales manager measure, results or activities? Too many sales managers are focused solely on the results rather than focusing on the behaviors that drive those results. Sales leaders who can keep their team focused on doing the right behaviors day-to-day, week-to-week will nearly always get the results.
     
    Sales leaders who don’t manage behaviors just hope they get there and cannot explain how they did it or predict whether or not they can do it again. 
     
     
  5. Ask questions – are your sales managers applying the same strong questioning skills they developed when they carried a bag for a living, or are they more likely to make statements and proclamations?
    Something seems to happen when you add “manager” to a sales person’s title; suddenly they seem to forget that it’s always better to help the customer discover the answer and get to the right conclusion by asking good questions. The only difference now is the “customer” is the sales person they serve and support.
     
    When your sales leader can get a sales person to discover the right answer on their own, the sales person will remember it forever. When your sales leader simply tells them what to do, the sales person will likely ignore them (or worse).
     
     
  6. Manage the Pipeline – are your sales managers closely monitoring every stage of the pipeline?

    - How often do they review it?
    - Is it balanced?
    - When do they jump in to focus on a sales person who is struggling or out of balance?
    - Do they use the pipeline reports to focus their coaching conversations?
     
    If sales managers are ultimately judged by the numbers they produce each month, quarter and year it is imperative that they hold the team accountable by closely managing the pipeline.
 
Conclusion
As you read this, if you have a sinking feeling that maybe your sales organization lacks a strong culture of accountability please contact me. You can also sign up for our next webinar, scheduled for April 16th. This will focus on specific areas to measure and will help support this conversation with your sales manager as well.
  
  
FREE Sales Accountability Plan!
The difference between top producing sales people and everyone else is their ability to hold themselves accountable on a consistent basis. Our simple, four-step Sales Accountability Plan will help you do just that.
 
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You Will Definitely Miss Your Sales Target This Year!

Blindfolded Salespeople, CEO Sales Guide, revenue growth, sales excellence, planning, sales forecast, pipeline, growing business, Intelligent Conversations, Mike Carroll, MilwaukeeDid you hit your sales forecast right on the nose last year?
Are your powers of predictive forecasting so strong that you nailed it right down to the penny? Of course not! 

I was talking   with my client Dave Baney – a very smart consultant in Chicago – and he gave me a new perspective on a belief I’ve long held. You’ve seen me discuss the importance of focusing on activities rather than results. What Dave pointed out was that in his consulting practice he only spends 10% of his time defining the annual budget and then 90% of his time defining the activities needed to drive the results.
 
 
What activities should your sales managers focus on? 
Don’t let your sales managers spend too much time this month working on getting the sales forecast "perfect" because I guarantee they won’t hit it (exactly). Instead, focus on identifying the activities required to not just hit it, but absolutely crush it! What activities should your sales managers focus on? Have them work backwards from the sales goal - whether by sales person, sales territory, product line, vertical market, or any other way you want to track a sales goal - and then have them focus on....

  • Typical revenue per sale and the number of sales required to hit that revenue target...
  • Propsoal win rate and the number of proposals needed to win more than the number of sales required above...
  • Number of conversations and meetings required with qualified prospective customers to generate the number of proposals needed above...
  • Number of phone calls, referrals, in-bound marketing leads, and other activities required to get into the number of conversations needed above....
These numbers will vary by sales person, by sales territory, by time of year, by market segment, by product line, and so on. It is very easy for sales people and managers to get lost in the muck and not know where to focus, so make sure they keep it simple by focusing on just two (2) or at most three (3) driving numbers that produce the outcomes you want.  
 
 
The breakdown
To absolutely crush the sales forecast, make sure everyone on the sales team overshoots the required activities at each step. For example:
  • Let's say John Quotacrusher needs to sell $100k per month to hit his sales goal for the year.  
  • The average sale is $25k, so he needs at least four (4) wins of about that average size per month to reach goal. (Aim for 5)
  • If he closes about 50% of the proposals he submits, that means he needs to generate eight (8) proposals per month. (Generate 10)
  • Let's say about half the meetings and conversations he has with qualified prospects turn into a proposal opportunity, that means he needs about 16 good meetings every month. (Schedule 20)
  • And then let's say he needs to speak with about five (5) potential prospects for every qualified meeting he sets up, which means he needs to call or be introduced to about 80 prospects per month, to generate 16 good meetings every month. (Aim for 100 conversations)
  • That breaks down to or about 20 conversations per week with potential prospects, or about four (4) per day.  Maybe John will get referrals, introductions, and in-bound marketing leads to hit that number, but to do it consistently he will need to prospect as well.  How many calls will that take?  It depends, but let's say it takes five (10) dial attempts to get into a conversation with a decision maker at a potential client, which means John needs to make about 40 outbound dial attempts per day to maintain the right activitiy level to hit goal, assuming he's not getting other leads, referrals, and introductions. (Aim for 50 attempts per day)
How closely your sales manager will monitor John will depend on whether or not John is ahead of or behind plan,how strong his pipeline is, how the product he is selling is doing in the market, and many other factors.  For a sales person who consistently exceeds their goal, your sales leader might be fine just spot checking the number of proposals being generated and the overall proposal win rate.  
 
 
Conclusion of the breakdown
For a struggling sales person who is falling further and further behind each month, your sales leader may want to inspect activities earlier in the process. That might mean looking at the number of meetings scheduled and if that number looks looks shaky (or the quality of those meetings is suspect), then your sales leader should investigate how many conversations the struggling sales person is having. And if that looks weak, they need to look at the list they're calling and maybe sit in on some prospecting calls and closely manage that activity.
 
When you go through this exercise with your sales leader and work your way back from a sales goal, what do your numbers look like? And how does the activity your sales leader is monitoring align with the numbers at each step of the sales process? Do they know the numbers at each stage? Don't worry about hitting your sales forecast, focus on the day-to-day, week-to-week activities your sales team needs to hit and you'll absolutely crush it.
 
  
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Does Your Sales Team Have Consultative Selling Skills?


Change SalesOur last article discussed how sales has changed over the past few years, why selling is so much harder, and why taking a consultative sales approach is crucial to consistently winning more business.

"Does your sales team have the consultative selling skills needed to drive revenue growth and win more business and more profitable business?"

 
 
Here are five questions to consider as you help your sales leaders drive the transition from transactional sales tactics to consultative sales success. And even if your sales managers have already successfully lead this transition, continue focusing on these questions to reinforce the progress your sales team has made.
 
 

  • Do your sales people ask good questions?
    Too often sales people stay in their comfort zone and avoid asking questions that lead them to an area they may not know. And sales people desperately want to avoid unfamiliar ground so they stay safe by asking easy, surface-level questions.
     
    If you have taken steps to map out your sales process and understand the most common business issues and challenges your prospective customers face (from their perspective, not your perspective), you are on the right track.
     
    Tip:
    Use your next sales meeting to brainstorm the top three most common business problems your product and service addresses, then develop question funnels that can help your prospects discover and quantify these areas for themselves.
     
     
  • Do your sales people ask enough questions?
    I'm always amazed by how quickly sales people want to move on to another topic. When practicing a sales call or observing a sales rep in action, I can never understand why they are in such a rush! Just when they find something to dig into, they move right past it to the next issue.

    - Tell your team to really slow down, take their time, and dig deep.
    - Ask follow up questions.
    - Ask questions about the problem.
    - Ask questions around the problem.
      1. How long has it been an issue?
      2. When did you first notice this?
      3. What impact has that had on
          (your operations, your budget, your team, your market position, new product development, recruitment, etc.)?
      4. What have you done about it so far?
      5. How did that work?
      6. How much did that cost?
      7. What do you think you'll do next?
      8. What happens if this isn't fixed?
      9. What does that mean for you?

    And on, and on, and on. You can always ask more questions, and the more questions you ask that help the prospect consider their business challenges from a different perspective, the more valuable your conversations will be and they will want you to stick around.
     
     
  • Are your sales people creating urgency for the prospect to take action?
    Asking good questions and asking lots of questions will only take your sales people so far - are the questions they are asking creating urgency for the prospect to act? Are they helping the prospect discover their problems, think about them differently, quantify the impact, and want to do something about it (whether or not that means doing something with you).
    When your sales team starts asking questions that create urgency, the opportunities in your sales pipeline will begin to move more quickly and the deals they close should be at higher margins.
     
     
  • Are your sales people effective listeners?
    It is nearly impossible to keep a consultative sales conversation on track without being a really good listener. Your sales people need to decide to listen, block everything else out, focus in on the most important issues the prospect shares, and ask follow up questions with ease. When your team can let go of the need to control the conversation and just listen, respond, and ask a follow up question, you'll know they're track to becoming consultative sales professionals.
     
     
  • Do your sales people quickly develop relationships?
    How well do they know their prospective customers? Can they quickly build trust and is it genuine? Without a foundation of trust a great relationship, it is nearly impossible to dig into all of the issues they need to explore and ask all the tough questions they need to ask.
     
    The sales person who builds rapport quickly, asks great questions that makes the prospect think about their business differently, and adds value by summarizing the challenges and offering new ideas or approaches will quickly develop relationships and will be able to ask enough questions.

 
Consultative selling
In this economic environment it's crucial to master the art of consultative selling. Challenge your sales managers to focus on these five questions with their sales teams and hold them accountable to follow through and reinforce these concepts. The sooner you establish that you will no longer tolerate mediocre margins and transactional selling, the faster you will see your revenue picture improve. 
 
 
Free Download
The difference between top producing sales people and everyone else is their ability to focus their time, energy, and sales efforts on their best prospect and client opportunities on a consistent basis. Our simple Sales Focus Worksheet will help you do just that. 
 
Click here and download the free sales focus worksheet