So How Do You Develop A First Class Sales Team?

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Pick up a typical annual sales report and what words do you find? Verbs like analyze, forecast, plan, assess and schedule, are used in pursuit of organizations that are efficient, productive and predictable. What set of people are required? Obviously, people who are efficient, effective, proficient, competent, productive and co-operative.

But I believe we need to go beyond; we need to be inspired, motivated, creators, who are enthusiastic and able to consistently deliver against our key objectives. We should be developing individuals who are not afraid to challenge paradigms, who are prepared to go that extra yard in search of excellence and who understand that success is 80% attitude and only 20% aptitude.

For a group of people to remain consciously competent at optimum performance levels, they require frequent injections of stimulation, motivational guidance, prompting and directing, otherwise they can easily lapse into becoming unconsciously competent or worse, unconsciously incompetent.

The primary objective of a professional Sales Manager has to be:

To achieve consistently superior results through the performance of every key individual.”

Here is a quick “sanity check” for you as we head into Q2:

When thinking about your own sales force …

  • Do you understand their motivators – what is driving each one of them?
  • Do you have visibility of their numbers – year to date, forecast vs. required performance?
  • Activity levels – are they working hard and smart enough?
  • Engagement – are they talking to the right level in their prospects/accounts?
  • Messaging – are they capable of delivering an appropriate message at the right level?
  • Qualification – are they only spending time on deals where they can compete and ultimately that they can win?
  • Closing – are they constructing successful campaigns and closing business?

Good luck for Q2!

The Golden Egg(s) Nestling in Your Basket

From quite early on in our sales careers, we are encouraged to explore every sales opportunity that presents itself – in fact in some companies, they are brainwashed into believing that “all business is good business.” And of course, we/they do not challenge this fallacy, simply because we/they don’t know any better. We/they are on the first rung of the ladder.

We/they are anxious to make our mark, get “runs on the board” and impress our manager – even our colleagues. At this point in our careers, our naivety sustains us, and in some perverse way, insulates us from the harsh realities of the sales environment – but only momentarily.

Maybe all new sales professionals should memorize this statement: “Selling is the most exciting, the most invigorating and the most rewarding career in the world – if you are selling well

Gradually, as we ascend that sales success ladder, we experience a life-changing epiphany – well those of us that become successful do – and it dawns on us that actually, it takes just as long to progress an opportunity that has no chance of closing through the various funnels and pipelines, as it does a profitable and closable one. We even manage to work out that whilst we are spending so much time on unwinnable business, we are letting winnable business slip through our fingers, due to a lack of time and attention.

It isn’t rocket science, but our ability to determine which is which early in the sales/buying cycle, could ultimately decide just how far we progress up that aforementioned sales ladder, because be assured, the very best frontline sales professionals – the top 5% – always position themselves with the real decision-makers and avoid those without “approval power.” They are able to first identify and then access the formal decision making unit.

They are also able to readily identify and know how to deal with the four different buying influences present in every sale and they understand how to prevent sales from being sabotaged by an internal enemy. They insulate themselves by developing strong allies within.

Finally, they are able to recognize fail-safe signals that indicate when a sale is in jeopardy. This comes from experience, but also information supplied by their allies.

But, most important of all, they are rigorous in tracking account progress and are able to accurately forecast future sales because they use proven methodology, which allows them to realistically weight every opportunity in the pipeline.

So, do you think if you re-examined your pipeline today, and you had to wager your house on those opportunities that will really happen, you could do so? Or are you happy to continue playing the numbers game?

Do try to spot the “golden eggs” in your basket – and encourage them to hatch – it will be worth it, I promise you.

What Makes a Successful Sales Team?

An organization’s vision is a guiding image of success formed in terms of a huge goal. It is a description in words that conjures up a picture of the organization’s destination. A compelling vision will stretch expectations, aspirations, and performance. Without that powerful, attractive, valuable vision, why bother?

A mission statement communicates the essence of an organization to its stakeholders and customers, and failure to clearly state and communicate an organization’s mission can have harmful consequences around its purpose.

As Lewis Caroll, through the words of the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland says, “If you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

Guiding principles are the consequence of a mission statement that are intended to inform or shape all subsequent decision-making, which also provides normative criteria allowing policy-makers to accept, reject or modify policy interventions and activities. They are a guiding set of ideas that are articulated, understood and supported by the organization’s workforce.

Values are beliefs which the organization’s workforce hold in common and endeavor to put into practice. The values guide their performance and the decisions that are taken. Ideally, an individual’s personal values will align with the spoken and unspoken values of the organization. By developing a written statement of the values of the organization, individuals have a chance to contribute to the articulation of these values, as well as to evaluate how well their personal values and motivation match those of the organization.

The “Human Capital Development Model,” created by Krauthammer International, is a logical process that can take top management concepts, and translate them into a context that has real meaning for staff at all levels.

The key to bringing this model to life is to answer the following questions:

  • Do my team understand the organization’s vision and how their role moves the organization closer to achieving it?
  • How can my sales team translate the organization’s mission into one that is relevant to them?
  • How does the organization’s guiding principles impact on the day-to-day responsibilities of sales people?
  • Which of the organization’s values does my sales team relate to?
  • How can we interpret these values so they become compelling for each sales person?

An effective sales team understands the big picture and the context of their team’s work to the greatest degree possible. That includes understanding the relevance of their job and how it impacts the effectiveness of others and the overall team effort.

Too often, sales people are asked to work on an activity without being told how their role contributes to organization’s vision, much less how their efforts are impacting the ability of others to do their work. Understanding the organization’s vision promotes collaboration, increases commitment and improves quality.

An effective team works collaboratively and with a keen awareness of interdependency.

Collaboration and a solid sense of interdependency in a team will defuse blaming behavior and stimulate opportunities for learning and improvement.

Without this sense of interdependency in responsibility and reward, blaming behaviors can occur which will quickly erode team effectiveness and morale.

The Importance of Building a Shared Mental Model

One of the most important responsibilities of a sales leader is to translate the organization’s vision, mission and values into a meaningful context that sales teams can relate to and feel excited by. If this is achieved then the leader will have created a sales team with a shared mental model. This transforms an ordinary sales team into a high performing one.

For clarity, here is a brief description of the following terms:

An organization’s vision is a guiding image of success formed in terms of a huge goal. It is a description in words that conjures up a picture of that organization’s destination. A compelling vision will stretch expectations, aspirations, and performance. Without that powerful, attractive, valuable vision, why bother?

mission statement communicates the essence of an organization to its stakeholders and customers, and failure to clearly state and communicate an organization’s mission can have harmful consequences around its purpose. As Lewis Caroll, through the words of the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland says, “If you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

Guiding principles are the consequence of a mission statement that are intended to inform or shape all subsequent decision-making, which also provides normative criteria allowing policy-makers to accept, reject or modify policy interventions and activities. They are a guiding set of ideas that are articulated, understood and supported by the organisation’s workforce.

Values are beliefs which the organization’s workforce hold in common and endeavor to put into practice. The values guide their performance and the decisions that are taken. Ideally, an individual’s personal values will align with the spoken and unspoken values of the organization. By developing a written statement of the values of the organization, individuals have a chance to contribute to the articulation of these values, as well as to evaluate how well their personal values and motivation match those of the organization.

The Human Capital Development Model, created by Krauthammer International, is a logical process that can take top management concepts, and translate them into a context that has real meaning for staff at all levels.

The key to bringing this model to life is to answer the following questions:

  • Do my team understand the organization’s vision and how their role moves the organization closer to achieving it?
  • How can my sales team translate the organization’s mission into one that is relevant to them?
  • How does the organization’s guiding principles impact on the day-to-day responsibilities of sales people?
  • Which of the organization’s values does my sales team relate to?
  • How can we interpret these values so they become compelling for each sales person?

An effective sales team understands the big picture and the context of their team’s work to the greatest degree possible. That includes understanding the relevance of their job and how it impacts the effectiveness of others and the overall team effort.

Too often, sales people are asked to work on an activity without being told how their role contributes to organization’s vision, much less how their efforts are impacting the ability of others to do their work. Understanding the organization’s vision promotes collaboration, increases commitment and improves quality.

An effective team works collaboratively and with a keen awareness of interdependency.

Collaboration and a solid sense of interdependency in a team will defuse blaming behaviour and stimulate opportunities for learning and improvement. Without this sense of interdependency in responsibility and reward, blaming behaviours can occur which will quickly erode team effectiveness and morale.

 NB: If you are going to be anywhere near London this coming Thursday, you really must come and meet me. I am just one of the keynote speakers at the MHI Global Sales Leadership Forum. You will find all the details HERE

What or Who Are “People Developers?”

Motivating is that leadership skill of developing other people to do a better job. Within every business, there are recognized criteria for people development.

What are those criteria for developing others (let’s call them “People Developers”)?

  • Achievement
  • Recognition
  • Participation
  • Growth

These four factors are inter-related and overlap. One factor may be more important to one individual than another and it is your job, as a leader, to ascertain what others require in their development.

Let’s look at these motivators as they relate to the development of your team and your leadership.

Achievement

Satisfaction – a sense of personal accomplishment that a challenge has been met and the job has been well done. For most people, achievement is a reward in itself. It is the basic thing, which spurs people to go and do a better job.

How do you, as a leader, use achievement as a developer? If someone knows that they have achieved something, they must first know what is expected of them – a set goal – if they are to realize later they have achieved it or exceeded it. Thus, if you intend to use achievement as a developer, you must be sure you clearly outline goals for your people to strive for.

Recognition

Closely related to achievement, it is meaningless unless earned. Recognition is an expression of approval, or appreciation, by others whose opinion and judgment is valued. Within the business world, you have many ways to show recognition.

Recognition and praise will show many unknown facets, like a diamond.

Recognition polishes it and allows latent talent to shine out.

Participation

People are more strongly motivated if they feel they have helped in the planning of their objectives, rather than being told. They should feel as part of not only their own work, but of the total group and Company.

Remember, inactivity is often caused by feelings of inadequacy. Participation can overcome this feeling of inadequacy.

Growth

The person who feels as if they are at a dead end, probably is. They must feel that there are the opportunities available for them to grow and that they are growing in experience, knowledge, skill and understanding. If we can help them start growing, the person will, in fact, exert more effort. Even the rewarding of others can achieve motivation, because it shows that opportunity is available for growth.

Remember, confidence is built by achievement levels set along the way to one’s goals.

Leadership development starts at the top.

A true leader learns all facets of the business they are involved in.

Don’t Ever Lose Your Uniqueness

I was recently asked that if I believed that all customers and clients – and presumably prospects – are unique, would I agree that all front-line sales professionals are unique?

Both the short answer and the long answer to that question is an unequivocal YES, most certainly they (we) are.

This is precisely why I rally against those who would have us all divided into boxes or categories. When someone tells us to try and sell in a certain way, and that way is alien to us, our approach is immediately identified by our prospect/client/customer as being “manufactured” and unauthentic.

The fact that we have chosen sales as a career would suggest that we have an outgoing and gregarious nature – but be assured, “outgoing” comes in various different flavors, and isn’t always accompanied by self-confidence. We all have a comfort zone, and when we are forced to venture out of it, we are, well … uncomfortable.

When we become uncomfortable, we become anxious, and that anxiety is transmitted to our prospects, so now everyone is … uncomfortable, you know where I am going with this.

One of the first issues I address during my workshops is the fact that nobody has the right to tell anybody else how to sell: I have always seen my role as one where I share my knowledge and experience, illustrate techniques, discuss concepts and new ideas, and then allow my students to take away what they feel comfortable (yes, there’s that word again) with, to integrate within their own selling style.

When you think about it, isn’t this rather like parenting? We do this with our children: We teach them core values, and then allow them to make their way in the world, whilst we retreat into a “supporting” role.

So my message today is a simple one – don’t allow anyone to tell you how to sell: The one unique feature that we have in a sales environment, where the playing fields have never been so flat, is ourselves – our unique selling style, unique personality, unique selling ability.

Say “Yes” to Confidence, and “No” to Arrogance

During a recent keynote, I made a case for confidence being one of the defining factors of all successful people we know, and I said….

It is their inner belief that they can achieve anything they want to achieve, and enjoy as much success as they wish – however they personally define success.”

The speech prompted several questions at the end including this one …

“I am wondering how best to test for the confidence level you discuss when interviewing prospective sales personnel. (If it has not been clearly demonstrated in past performance records). I believe over-confidence displays itself in cockiness and conceit and that amount of confidence is harmful (to me, my company and the salesperson himself) in the long run. Any thoughts on how to test for the “right” confidence level?”

My response  …

“There is a huge difference between confidence and arrogance (cockiness). Confident people understand the need to continually learn and expand their commercial bandwidth. They understand what they know, but equally recognize what they don’t know. Conversely, arrogant people think they know it all, and as a consequence, don’t know what they don’t know!”

And that really is the point: Crossing that line from confidence to arrogance is so, so easy.

Humility is, in my view, one of the most admirable and rare traits of the truly successful.

The underlying message of this post is this: It really doesn’t matter how good you think you are, there will always be people who are better, and your ambition should be to emulate them.

Even if you think you know everything there is to know about your chosen topic, respect others who know everything there is to know about their chosen topic – being myopic is a very unattractive trait.

Everyone you meet in this world will know something you don’t know – do not be misled by his or her status, because status has no relevance when it comes to wisdom. Some of the most interesting and mind-expanding conversations I have ever had have been with people in very humble situations – they probably couldn’t spell “arrogance” let alone describe it!

The Greatest Barrier to Sales Success Is?

The buyer-seller situation, like any human contact, is an exercise in human relations – the interplay, cause and effect of behaviour by two or more people on each other. In the buyer-seller situation, the seller must be responsible for shaping mutual behaviour – someone has to take the lead. At the start of the relationship, we want it more than they do – well that’s the theory.

What’s the difference between human nature and human relations? It is probably something you haven’t considered before so let me give you a hand:

  • Human nature is the instinctive behaviour that governs action concerned with the self and with self-interest.
  • Human relations are concerned with how we think and act in terms of others‘ interests.

Successful selling demands that human relations are dominant over human nature – but you probably guessed that already.

You may also have heard that selling is not something a salesperson does to a prospect. Selling is something you do with the prospect, in a process of discovery and interaction. This is human relations at work.

Now the interesting bit: The greatest barrier to success in this process is the “Egocentric Predicament”. This consists of being overly and unnecessarily concerned with self. Our ability to be perceptive and concerned about others is inversely proportionate to our self-concern.

When self gets unnecessarily in the way, the fruitful cycle of good human relations stops producing.

The key to understanding and accepting others is to first understand and accept oneself. This starts with the realisation that, rather than strive for an unattainable “I should be “image, we should settle for our real self as “I am”, accepting shortcomings along with strengths.

We should always remember: People buy our product not so much because they understand the product, but because they feel that we understand them. 

There are many effective ways of doing this. The best way to create this kind of buying climate is to transmit on their frequency. This opens their mind to you and makes them willing and eager to listen.

Before I sell my prospect what my prospect buys, I must first see my prospect as they see themselves.”

I Like You Because You Are Like Me

I was chatting to a good pal towards the end of last year and we were discussing the characteristics of effective networkers – and let’s face it, we all need to be effective with our networking activities these days, don’t we? I advanced a theory that I had been ruminating on for some time – “self-disclosure” This is my thinking…

Telling others how you feel and what you think and believe, as well as telling them about your background, is a kind of currency – the currency of self-disclosure. Give out information and usually you will receive a lot back in return.

People swarm, flock and group together by type, background, interests, beliefs, gender, type of work and so on. And one of the most efficient ways to get close to one another is through self-disclosure.

As we begin to experience a powerful common bond, so too does rapport begin. Mutual interests, ideas, values and beliefs are the wrap and weft of social interaction.

Most people like people who are like themselves!

Biographic Matching:

It is rare for two human beings to be together very long before seeking to discover similarities about themselves. This biographic matching can be social or economic, achieved through outlook, education or background, common experiences of the world.

When you match, you reduce resistance by playing down differences while building on similarities.

Pacing:

Once you are matching one another, you can continue to maintain the rhythm you have created by agreeing with one another, seeing from the same point of view. Pacing is a conscious continuation of matching.

When talking, you can pace:

Words that are used

Tone of voice

Language patterns

Volume

Body language used

Don’t overdo it – you may be accused of mimicry. Be elegant – your skills should remain unnoticed.

Leading:

Matching and pacing help you share someone else’s experience and you will begin to know intuitively when it is appropriate to make suggestions, to influence and to lead.

Mismatching:

You can also influence behaviour in others by mismatching. It is useful to mismatch when:

You want a meeting to come to an end

You want to conclude a telephone conversation

You need time to think before acting

What you are doing isn’t working

Matching is affecting your mood negatively

Networking:

Have you noticed how some people seem to be universally liked, trusted and respected? Chances are that they’re also good at networking and developing a wide network of friends, colleagues, allies and useful contacts.

Networking offers you a structured way of making certain that your ideas are effectively exchanged with others.

A final tip: Make yourself known – don’t stand on the edge looking in. Be part of the action!

It’s Time for a New Level of Realism

We are hurtling towards the mid-point in the “selling- season” and as all my clients will confirm at this time of year, I always urge maximum effort: I do not like the “hockey stick” syndrome; you know the one that dictates that we close the most business in the last month of the quarter, or the last quarter of the year.

My preference is to get ahead of the numbers as early as possible, and to come out of the traps flying. There is no room on my teams for those who want to spend the first few months of the New Year either reflecting on their success, or worrying about their disappointments from the previous year.

In sales, as in sport, you are only as good as your next victory!

But it takes courage, and a real sense of realism to focus in on what is probable – not just possible!

This is not a time to be optimistic. We need realistic.

You can’t manage what you can’t measure, and if you can’t measure your pipeline, then you can’t improve your productivity. There are a number of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) that can be measured, monitored and managed to ensure achievement of sales targets:

KPI’s

Pipeline Opportunities – These should be measured in value and the number of opportunities in the pipeline.

Opportunities by Milestone – Once these milestones and their different probabilities of closing have been calculated, these figures ensure greater accuracy of forecasting.

Average Deal Size – This ensures better focus on larger deals and ideally will increase steadily each year.

Sales Cycle Time – Shortening this can have a huge impact because of the cumulative saved time available for prospecting.

Profitability – Margins can be tracked to ensure that there is sufficient contribution to enable ongoing account handling.

Conversion Ratio – The number of opportunities won and the % of pipeline potential converted.

Finally, do remember that there are no prizes for having an overly pregnant pipeline – the prizes are reserved for closed business, and for the winners!

The reality is that for a number of reasons, 30% of the opportunities currently residing in your pipeline will not happen – do you know which ones they are?

If you weed them out early, you will give yourself so much more time to work on those that will happen.

Just get your head out of the clouds!