What comes to mind when you picture a great leader? Is it your football coach from high school? A great boss? Maybe it’s your superior officer from your career in the military. Lots of people come into our lives and are placed in positions of leadership, but only a few are great. Who are they to you?
Whether we’re talking about sports coaches, military officers, or senior executives in business, strong leaders are hard to come by and make all the difference.
The same is true in business. Strong and effective sales leadership is the most critical piece required to build a high performing sales team. In fact, a study published by Harvard Business Review found that 69% of salespeople who exceeded their annual quota – top performers – rated their sales manager as being “excellent” or “above average.”
However, hiring sales managers, the leaders of your sales team, is one of the most frequently botched tasks in all of recruiting. People have a tendency to want to promote superstar sales reps into manager positions thinking the competencies of a good salesperson naturally translate into the competencies of a good sales manager. They don’t. Sales rep and sales manager are two vastly different roles with two vastly different skill sets. If you rush the hiring process, you’re destined for trouble.
We know the cost of a bad sales hire is enormous and reverberates across the company in a myriad of ways from lost market share to damaged sales team morale. This is not a mistake you want to make.
Thankfully, there are ways to mitigate this risk, and it starts with knowing the competencies possessed by the world’s best sales leaders.
Here are the top 5 competencies of great sales leaders:
Don’t make the mistake that too many companies make: equating a person’s individual sales success with their ability to recruit, train, and lead a sales team that consistently achieves and exceeds budget. Consider these 5 competencies and utilize the right tools in the hiring process. We’re here to help you build a strong sales organization.
Every company tries its best to recruit, interview, and vet salespeople before hiring them. But way too many weak salespeople still get through the hiring process, end up on the payroll, and do not produce.
As Seinfeld would say, “What’s the deal with that?”
A full roster of salespeople is the goal for many business owners and sales managers, but it can be a dangerous one. The sense of urgency to hire more salespeople often leads to rushed decision making and a changing or lessening of the criteria for hiring -- a “good enough” mentality if you will. Sales leaders start out saying they want “strong” salespeople, and they settle on having just “more” salespeople. There’s a huge difference between the two realities.
Hiring bad salespeople is unbelievably expensive and frustrating (you can find out just how expensive here). Bad salespeople tank the productivity of others and waste the time of the truly strong members of your team with repeated attempts at training them to perform better. The reality is that bad hires often cannot be taught to produce. Sales just isn’t a fit for everybody.
That’s why we are so adamant about using proven assessment tools to properly screen candidates, like the Sales Candidate Assessment by Objective Management Group. This tool eliminates 96% of the mistakes made when hiring salespeople (and sales managers, too), mistakes like getting fooled by applicants’ charming personalities, perfect track records, or exaggerated resumes.
Our clients are often surprised by the small number of candidates that actually come back from the assessment process qualified for the job. As a percentage, it’s often very low, especially if the job is difficult or the client had many custom requirements that weren’t made clear to the candidate before applying. Other reasons for a low return are:
Above all, exhibit patience in the hiring process. Attracting and assessing the right candidates takes time, but it’s worth every second. Don’t rush it!
One of the important areas we focus on when coaching sales managers is helping them teach their salespeople how to sell “value”.
The importance of selling value is a concept that has been bandied about quite a bit in the context of selling, however, the vast majority of salespeople struggle to understand and apply the techniques necessary to build value in the mind of their prospect or buyer.
The first step is to get clear on the fact that the seller does not define value, the buyer does.
The problem starts when a company attempts to define value for their salespeople and then trains them to articulate value through the features and associated benefits of their products and services.
The problem with this approach is it creates “misalignment” between the rep and the buyer and as a result erodes credibility.
The salesperson shows up and launches on a feature dump in an attempt to impress the prospect and build interest. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the information the rep is providing is usually of little interest to the prospect and not relevant to their situation.
As a result of people having little to no patience, and a very short attention span, it’s imperative that we only present what we know to be of interest to the buyer. This creates and maintains alignment.
The key to selling value is to ask enough relevant questions to unveil the prospect’s compelling reason/s to buy.
This is the phase of the sales process where many salespeople miss the mark. Instead of teaching salespeople to how to pitch the features of products and services let’s teach them the intelligent business questions to ask. This is guaranteed to create involvement on the part of the prospect and alignment.
A common mistake made by salespeople is to assume they know what the prospect’s definition of value is without asking.
When that incorrect assumption is made the salesperson then focuses all of their questions and presentation highlights on incorrect information which prevents them from building the level of credibility and trust necessary to differentiate themselves and close sales.
This is a really important concept to understand because it changes the way your team should be selling: away from feature and price-focused discussions and toward linkage and expressions of value.
If you focus on what the prospect defines as “value”, the price becomes less and less important. If you neglect to focus on the prospect’s vision of value, they will default to price each and every time.
If you find your team putting too much emphasis on price, and discounting, here’s what we suspect is happening:
That’s not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.
Now, for the good news: You can teach your team the principles, strategies and tactics inherent in selling value through proper training, coaching and role-playing. Often it’s not their fault; they don’t know what they don’t know.
If you would like to discuss these concepts in more detail please contact us via email or phone.
We’re here to help you get started on the process of consistently selling value.
Sales management expert Duane Cashin has lead award-winning sales organizations and trained sales teams for companies of all sizes. He’s earned membership in Presidents Club and Circle of Excellence, successfully built and sold his own multi-million-dollar business, and enjoys sharing his passion for sales.