Coaching Ruts and How to Get Out of Them

Every sales manager we talk to says, "I coach my team all the time."  But their idea of coaching often means quick hallway conversations or phone calls, pipeline reviews focused on opportunities that can close right away, or ride along coaching calls where the manager dominates the conversation and the salesperson just watches.  Rarely do sales managers have structured, focused, consistent coaching conversations focused on development rather than production.  That’s where we step in to teach them a better coaching methodology.  And the sales managers who implement our coaching methodology can make tremendous progress almost immediately.  They get better at asking coaching questions and the whole sales team starts gain momentum as a better coaching rhythm is established.  And then - usually around three or four months into establishing that rhythm - they hit a wall.  Usually we hear something like, "I think we're losing momentum. It's not working as well. "

Almost always, it turns out coaching ruts photothat the manager has fallen into a rut. They've become predictable. They're going through the motions and their sales team knows it. What happens is, they start to ask the same handful of questions and use the same format week after week. They start every coaching conversation the exact same way, the salespeople know what they're going to ask before they ask it, and they're absolutely sure which direction the manager is going to go. Your sales team can just go through the motions and think, "Okay, he's going to ask about this, this, and that. I'll have those answers. We can be efficient." When that happens, the manager will say to us, "We're losing momentum. The coaching calls are getting shorter."

The way to avoid falling into a coaching rut is to make sure your sales managers mix it up. Change up what they're asking. They've obviously got to cover similar topics week to week. For example, in a weekly, structured coaching conversation, they know you should take a look back and say, "Tell me about the week that just passed. Tell me what's going on with your sales pipeline. Tell me about your calendar. Tell me about any challenges you have." A lot of sales managers will ask the same backward-looking questions instead of mixing it up, so coach your sales managers to be more intentional and change the question focus. Have them try asking more specific questions such as:

  • Tell me about the call that you were most excited about that didn't turn out like you expected.
  • How about a call that you had no hopes or expectations for that actually turned into gold?
  • Which meeting are you most excited about from last week?  And why?
  • Tell me about a call where you met another key decision maker or influencer.
  • Tell me about the call that was an absolute disaster.  What did you learn that you can apply going forward?

In these examples the sales manager is still looking back at the week that just past. They're asking the salesperson, "Hey, tell me about your week," but instead of being generically predictable they're keeping the salesperson on edge by asking very specific questions about their week and what they learned.  And when your sales managers do that consistently, slightly changing the focus of their questions from week to week, the coaching conversations stay fresh and the team keeps making progress.

If your sales leaders ask generic "how did your week go?" questions they'll get generic (and unhelpful) answers like "pretty good."  Instead, the coaching conversation should explore potential areas where a salesperson may struggle and make mistakes.  And speaking of mistakes, if you have salespeople who aren't making mistakes fairly regularly, they're probably staying in their comfort zone. They're probably not trying new questions or new techniques. They're just going through the motions. When your sales managers have regular, consistent coaching conversations that discuss mistakes salespeople make (and lessons learned), disastrous sales calls (and lessons learned), calls that the salesperson thought would be easy that turned out to be quite hard (and lessons learned) as well as calls they expected to be difficult that turned out great (and lessons learned) they create an environment where making mistakes (and learning from them) is not only acceptable but regularly encouraged. 

The second part of that conversation - the "lessons learned" part - is crucial.  It has to be, "Tell me what you learned from it. Tell me what you're going to do differently next time. Tell me how that made you better as a salesperson." Then, if it’s a good example and your salesperson is comfortable with it, "Hey, would you mind sharing that at the next sales meeting?" is the next step.

A great way for your sales managers to reinforce the "lessons learned" in their coaching conversations is to ask about future goals as well.  It sounds like "Tell me about the week or the last two weeks, and then let's look forward a week. Looking at your calendar, what call are you most nervous about, and how can I help you?" Or, "Looking at your calendar, what are you most excited about next week, or what deals absolutely have to move forward next week?" Mixing up your conversations in this way does a couple of things. First, it makes it more interesting for the sales manager. You're going to explore different areas and find different weak points in what that salesperson is doing or not doing. Second, it's also going to keep it fresh for the sales person. If they come into a meeting and they're not exactly sure what direction the sales manager is going to go, it's not predictable for them. They have to stay on their toes a little bit, and they have to be ready to go whichever direction the sales leader takes them.

If your sales managers are getting in the habit of establishing a consistent, structured, coaching conversation – which every sales manager absolutely should do – ask them how they're mixing up their questions and what they focus on from call to call.  Make sure that they're not just following the same agenda week after week after week, because you will absolutely find them in a sales coaching rut and they'll be less effective as a sales leader.

Need help?   Please reach us at Intelligent Conversations by taking a moment to complete the form below.  We'll give you a call to discuss whether or not you're a good fit for our program to raise your sales team's performance and drive remarkable revenue growth.

What Makes Your Sales Team Likable, Knowledgeable, and Memorable

Salespeople and sales leaders often ask us: "What can  I do to stand out?" This is particularly important when selling in a highly competitive market or facing strong resistance and fierce competition. There are a handful of things that salespeople can do to stand out from the competition to be a little bit more likable, demonstrate their knowledge and expertise, and most importantly, be memorable.

One of the things you can do to be a more likable salesperson is learn to be agreeable. Something as simple as smiling and nodding, even if you're disagreeing with the client, will make it hard for the client to wLa7SDhxgant to argue with you. Just listen to them as they're questioning your product or challenging you in some way. They're going to find it difficult to stay angry if you're open and seemingly agreeable.

Another thing you can do is simply ask questions. Find ways to genuinely appreciate them as a person, find things to compliment, give them strokes, and smile even in the face of challenging questions. 

Think about the energy you're bringing into the meeting or conversation with your client. Leave any negative calls, rejection, anything going on in your life that's going to hold you back at the door. Put that aside, and be enthusiastic. Your energy will influence your client’s feelings towards you and your company. Remember, sales is a transference of emotion, and you've got to get the prospect as excited and as passionate about your product or service as you are.

You need to understand how your product or service may impact your customer. The best way to appear knowledgeable isn't by showing up with stats and figures you've memorized from the technical manual of your product. It's about asking good, thought-provoking questions. If you can lead the prospect through a conversation they haven't had before,  shining a light into areas of their business where you can create value or efficiencies, you're going to come across as much more knowledgeable than the competitor. 

Don't be the salesperson who just shows up and starts talking. Make it about the prospect, and ask questions that make them say, "I'm not sure. I'd have to look into that. I've never really considered that." These are the things that make you memorable. You'll stand out from the competition, who just shows up and shows them a brochure, or walks through a PowerPoint deck.

If you're a sales leader looking to coach your sales team to differentiate themselves and sell more effectively in the field, or are a salesperson wondering what might give you an edge on the competition with your customers, please reach us at Intelligent Conversations!  We have several approaches to personal and professional development in these areas!

 

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!

For any other inquiries about Intelligent Conversations,please fill out the text boxes below:

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 

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?

When Sales People Give Up Too Early or Celebrate Too Soon

The beauty of having an effective sales process is that it creates a level of consistency and discipline often lacking in sales organizations.  It also provides a coaching framework so your sales managers can help reinforce that consistency and discipline.

What would happen if your sales people applied the same rigor and consistency to every deal

Unfortunately, that is not usually the case. When there is not a clear sales process in place, or sales people do not stick to it throughout the process, prospects fall through the cracks. Two common ways that we see this occurring is when sales people either give up too early or celebrate too soon. While these may seem like opposite issues, they are actually two sides of the same coin.

Giving Up Too Early

Giving UpWe have observed a phenomenon in some of our coaching calls recently: Sales people who give up too early.  Selling is hard.  There are lots of ways to screw it up.  Even when you do everything right, you still might not win the business.  So why do we regularly see sales people take their eye off the ball in the late stages of the sales process? 

In some cases sales people take a pessimistic view and just assume that they’ve lost a deal when they really have not. They give up early, simply go through the motions, and fail to stay on top of the opportunity, shifting their focus to other stuff. Sometimes these deals they had written off come through and they are “shocked” to get the business.

By not closely monitoring and reviewing your sales team’s pipeline during weekly meetings, they are no longer held accountable for taking each step of the sales path and can give up too early in the sales process.  As you and your sales team become more efficient at following a well laid out sales process, their attention to detail and following through will become a natural habit.  Take the time to have these coaching meetings, and ask them to lay out each step they have taken.  Quite often you will see that there are several more opportunities for follow up, which may in fact save the deal.

Celebrating Too Soon

Sometimes, the problem is just the opposite.  What happens when your sales people are celebrating too early?

In some cases it’s a matter of sales people getting complacent.  Everything seems to be on track and they assume everything will just flow according to plan and then are surprised when they get the news that the prospective client has changed plans, eliminated the budget, or chosen a different supplier.  The reality is, you cannot take anything for granted.  You need to follow the process and stay on top of it all the way through the close – and frankly beyond the close and through client on-boarding and ramp up.

I was reminded of an infamous play from Superbowl XXVII. Take 15 seconds to watch the video below. The ironic thing is that everyone else can see what is happening except for Leon Lett, the guy with the ball. This is why coaching is so critical, bringing in some outside perspective and tangible accountability.

The best time to really hold these teams accountable is during your weekly sales team meetings.  Ask them to start ranking each prospect on how close they are to closing.  We often find in our Must Win Deal workshops that sales people are ranking these prospects at 75-85% closed, when in fact they haven’t done a good portion of the needed qualifying.  Take the time to ask some of these questions at your next sales meeting:

  • Do you know their budget and timeline?
  • Are you actually talking to the decision maker?
  • Are they already working with another vendor?  If yes, how loyal are they to this vendor?
  • Do we meet 100% of their needs?

Many of your sales team will have never even thought of these questions, and this is not even scratching the surface of what needs to be answered to ensure your prospects are 100% qualified.

Take some time this week in your sales meeting to ask your sales team about each step they have taken with a few prospects in their timeline. Are they following every step of the sales process, or are they skipping a few?  Is there a consistent sales process, or does each sales person have a different process in mind?  Are they, in fact, giving up too soon on great opportunities or celebrating too soon on luke warm leads?

High Performing Sales People - How to Identify And Keep Them

High Performer

High performing sales people are customer centric and have the ability to execute and produce positive results, in turn increasing revenue and profitability.  While the definition seems simple, when interviewing and reviewing potential candidates, it can be hard to narrow down exactly what you should be looking for to identify high performers.

Here are some characteristics which will aide in identifying high performers:

Autonomy

High performers have the ability to manage themselves, their projects, and their priorities. They are independent and can work well, even without a lot of oversight. Ask them about a project or accomplishment they completed on their own, without a lot of outside accountability.

Input and Feedback

High performers are able to communicate clearly and effectively with supervisors and peers, at every level of the organization. They openly accept feedback, seeing it as a way to continue their growth. They are also willing to give feedback to others.

Taking Initiative

They know what they need in order to succeed.  In other words, high performing sales people are resourceful executers! Period.

Networking skills

High performers are able to develop relationships inside and outside the work environment. Building and maintaining relationships is part of how they live and work.This broadens the knowledge and contribution offered to the organization.

Open Mind

High performers enjoy introducing and managing change; keeping the organization up to date with technology, new concepts and solutions, and leading edge products and services. If something offers the opporutnity to improve the company or sales results, they do not think twice about changing the status quo to move forward.

While these may not come as a surprise, why do your hiring managers continue to settle for subpar performers? High performers are scarce in today’s volatile work environment.  By implementing a boundary spanning talent acquisition strategy you will be able to place high performers across the entire organization!  While they seem simplistic, take the time to discuss them with your sales management team. 

Often when we assess the existing sales organization of one of our clients, we discover the need to replace or add new members to the sales team. One of our many valuable services is assisting our clients with their hiring initiative. 

Whether you are in the process of hiring a new position or not, you can take the time to review your existing team to identify if you have any high performers.

Please contact us for more information on how to achieve a high performing culture.

 

Planning For 2014: 5 Things CEOs Must Focus On To Improve Sales

Sales Team

It’s the time of year when we take stock of where we are, and make plans for where we want to go. What went well in your business in 2013? What didn’t go so well (or “needs improvement” as some people like to say)?

As you create a sales plan for 2014, and map out where you would like your business to go, consider some specific things you can do to improve sales productivity. Here are five (5) objectives we suggest you consider.  Whether you select one of these or come up with a sales improvement plan of your own, pick at least one area to focus on in 2014 and stick with it for the next four quarters.

1.  Face the brutal truth

In Good to Great and the many subsequent books resulting from his research on what makes companies great, Jim Collins notes that the first step to being a great company is to face the brutal truth. 

In our opinion, the single most impactful investment a CEO or business owner can make in their sales organization is to conduct a comprehensive Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis from Objective Management Group.If you are serious 

Sales Effectiveness Analysisabout making significant progress this year in terms of growing revenue, improving margins, building a predictable sales process, shortening your sales cycle, closing more business, and developing your people, investing in a detailed analysis of your people, systems, and strategies should be your first step (link to sample SEIA report landing page).

2. Focus on your sales pipeline

Your sales pipeline is the single most accurate forecast of incoming revenue in your company.  Your management team should review it regularly and make adjustments accordingly.  Your operations manager must use your sales pipeline as a guide to adjusting capacity requirements.  Your Chief Financial Officer should use your sales pipeline as a guide for making strategic investments and managing cash flow more effectively. 

In fact, everyone on your management team should look at your sales pipeline and gain confidence.  Most companies don’t use their sales pipeline this way because it is usually a joke your sales manager tries to defend and justify at management meetings.  What would happen if you had a reliable sales pipeline your leaders could count on?

3. Commit to coaching

Your sales managers should spend about 50% of their time directly coaching your sales people.  It is the only way your sales people will make consistent improvements so that every week, every month, and every quarter you will be able to look at the behaviors and activities across your sales organization and say “Yes, we’re clearly getting better.  We’re having better conversations.  We’re getting into better opportunities.  We are winning business more consistently because our proposals are better qualified.  We are selling better work at higher margins.  We are improving customer satisfaction.  We have better communications from our sales team to the rest of the organization.”  To be able to say these things you need to commit to a consistent and rigorous coaching routine.

4. Hire stronger sales talent

Upgrading your sales talent can be a growth strategy.  How many people on your sales team would you enthusiastically rehire?  Who are the mediocre performers on your team that you tolerate because you don’t want to make a change?  What is your plan for these B and C-players?  Can you develop them?  Coach them?  Put them in a position better suited for their skills?  What would happen if you committed to an A-Player-only hiring strategy?  Perhaps this is the year to make that happen.

5. Narrow your market focus

Sometimes we just take the work our sales people can sell instead of being focused and disciplined around selling to accounts that best fit our model. 

Who are your best accounts?  The idea of “best” could mean most profitable, easiest to work with, most strategic potential, deepest relationship, or many other factors.  What would happen to your business if your entire account base was comprised of customers who really fit what you do?  Who are the customers that take up disproportionate resources?  Can you adjust your pricing to encourage them to leave (freeing up valuable resources for customers who are a better fit)?  Looking at your sales pipeline, are your sales people targeting the right types of accounts and are they having conversations at the right level?  Or are they just taking whatever they can get?  What would your company look like 12 months from now if you narrowed your market focus and aligned your sales organization around the accounts that best fit your operation?

Make it a priority to clearly define what your ideal account looks like, and include it in your entire sales process.

Where does your sales team “need improvement” this year? Let us know which one you picked and we’ll check in with you in 90 days to make sure you are sticking with it!