Is there a gap between your intentions for your sales team and their performance?
I’m guessing you feel that way at least sometimes. It’s a frustration we hear a lot.
Sales leaders continually seek solutions for so-so sales performance in new marketing materials, developing new sales scripts, improving team motivation, implementing the latest thought leadership and best practices to improve sales, among other solutions, but they come up short. They get beat by their competition month after month, and it’s incredibly disheartening.
They just might be chasing the wrong solution.
Over decades of conversations with sales leaders, I have found that the cause of much of their problems is how they are communicating within their own organizations. In other words, internal communication is lacking.
I’m not alone in this assertion. Renowned sales coach Jack Daly devotes a whole section in his program that explains ways to communicate better with your sales team that will improve their performance.
The main issue is this: Your sales team needs to internalize your message, not just be able to repeat it or give it cheap lip service.
To internalize it, they must deeply understand and feel it. So, if you are not translating that message effectively, you’ll never be able to achieve the goals you set for the sales team. You’ll just constantly spin your wheels and grasp for straws: the next new marketing solution, the next team building technique, the next piece of new advice that you hope will improve your numbers.
Stop the madness.
Companies with internalized messages are communicating effectively and have these 5 things in common:
1. The company strategy is well-known and integrated into the daily routine.
Every member of the sales team understands exactly what the company is working to achieve and how it plans to get there. That’s essential because the sales team is at the front lines of the effort to reach that goal. If they don’t win, no one does.
Winning teams have studied the company's strategic plan and have individual quarterly and annual goals that tie into the company’s key initiatives. The sales team embraces the plan enthusiastically, thus the commitment to participating in driving new sales.
Messaging is purposefully delivered, encouraging, and repeated often and in various formats to capture and inspire as many employees as possible. The content is engaging and useful, and its impact is tracked to measure the effect.
2. The team is aligned with company culture and values.
Culture is at the heart of what a sales team does, and successful teams exhibit behavior consistent with their company’s clearly-defined culture. The team and its leaders have a common way to explain lessons and share successes. Good work is acknowledged and celebrated among the team, not selfishly guarded by individuals. The team has learned to embrace an “abundance” mindset.
3. Leadership is engaged in each salesperson's success.
Success starts at the top and then moves its way down. Instead of observing from a distance, leadership teams in winning organizations are deeply engaged with the sales staff. Leadership is involved in regular sales coaching and will do what is necessary to make sure their team is successful -- even accompanying them on field visits if necessary. Company and individual metrics are regularly shared and discussed, and success and failure are learned from rather than forgotten. Leadership celebrates strong performance.
4. Communication between sales and management is regular and robust.
Beyond sales coaching, leadership also gets regular time with sales team members for discussion, questions, and feedback. These interactions allow for deep two-way communication and encourage better information sharing. Metrics allow everyone to be on the same page. They also allow issues to be quickly identified and solved. As a result, individual and team performance grows and improves.
To that end, sales meetings are efficient, effective, and practiced. They don’t waste time or create bad practices. The facilitator starts and ends the meetings on time and follows a clear agenda. In the end, there are actionable takeaways and measurable follow through to track progress.
5. The sales team is continually training and learning from other's success.
Great sales teams don’t allow their members to work in isolation.
Best practices are absorbed and integrated into training and culture, starting at onboarding. The sales team has a process to ensure marketing materials are used properly and thoroughly.
How you communicate with your sales team impacts how they perform. When you’re ready to get help in this arena, give us a call.
Whenever I speak or write about what makes a truly excellent sales leader, I always end up talking about coaching. That’s not because coaching is the only thing that makes a great sales leader. It’s just really, really important.
Coaching is something that eludes a lot of sales leaders, and most training efforts fail to reach their objectives. Why?
The answer lies partly in what’s expected of sales managers in the eyes of senior leadership.
Most sales cultures lead a sales manager to believe that reporting numbers is their top priority.
It’s obvious that their top priority should be improving numbers – what’s often not so obvious is how that is accomplished.
Improving a sales organization’s ability to consistently hit its number is accomplished through coaching each representative up to a higher level of sales performance, which results in increased sales.
When all that is asked of a sales manager is to create pivot tables and reports, sales managers become inspectors and not coaches.
Pivot tables and reports are nothing more than exercises of examination, and constant inspection of them creates a false sense of security among sales leaders because they are working under a common false assumption: that results will improve with higher levels of inspection.
Ironically, the opposite is true. Just ask any sales professional or manager how many hours they have spent presenting data and what observable difference it made in their ability to improve revenue.
Actually, don’t waste your time; the answer is virtually none.
For an outside-of-sales example, just imagine a football coach whose team is trailing at halftime.
Once in the locker room the coach attempts to inspire his team by shouting, “I looked at the scoreboard. You didn’t score enough points! You need to score more points!”
How is that helping his team improve? It’s not.
He’s just stating facts about numbers -- numbers his team already knows. He’s inspecting, not coaching, and the second half of the game will be much the same as the first.
So, if inspection of numbers doesn’t move the needle on revenue, what does?
Coaching. Focused skills, tactics and strategy development through one-on-one coaching of sales professionals with their managers is the answer.
When I find organizations steeped in introspection and short on coaching, it’s usually because of a lack of understanding of how to coach up or an unwillingness to invest the time and effort.
I am here to assure you that you can learn to be a good coach and doing so won’t be incrementally more difficult, time-consuming, or onerous than what you’re doing now.
In fact, done well, effective sales coaching will save time by replacing many of the counterproductive activities you’ve likely taken on.
Here our top 3 tips for effective coaching:
1. Use motivation other than money.
We tend to think that salespeople are only motivated by money and that they’ll do anything to get more, but the data suggests the opposite. Most sales reps today are intrinsically motivated.
When coaching your sales team, you must remember that each person is unique, and likely motivated by different things. Think outside the box with competitions around a specific goal -- a prize for the winners -- or rewards of extra vacation time. Conduct a formal evaluation of your sales force to help you determine the source of their motivation.
2. Clarify your expectations.
For ongoing coaching sessions to really move the performance needle, everyone must begin with a common goal. Clarifying your expectations upfront is, therefore, essential.
Hold each other accountable to a schedule, create clear goals, and focus on building and nurturing your relationship. A deeper connection will improve your results.
3. Share a Common Way of Tracking Progress
No one is more accountable for the team reaching its goals than the sales manager, therefore, the manager needs to create a clear, effective way of tracking progress.
In theory, the path to your goal should be clearly outlined in your CRM, but, for the most part, the truly valuable and actionable information will be found in the story the data tells.
Most salespeople use their own subjective criteria when reporting on their pipeline to managers and themselves, which leads to inaccurate forecasts and missed goals. A shared way of tracking progress is essential.
When it comes to sales coaching, there is no magic wand to wave, and there are many more characteristics that make up a great sales leader and a great coaching program.
When you’re ready to implement a coaching program that will produce a dramatic difference in the output of your sales organization, give us a call.
In this tip, I’d like to share with you some ideas on how to achieve your personal best performance through mastering your “inner game”.
I’m referring specifically to your mindset and your beliefs when it comes to being a success in business and sales.
I continue to find it fascinating that, with some exception of course, it’s rare to see a sales team with over 50% of its Salespeople at or over quota.
This is an interesting topic because it is often misunderstood.
When giving thought to establishing a “relationship” with prospects many Sales Representatives think of the process in terms of establishing a “friendship”.
Here is how Wikipedia defines friendship:
“Friendship is a relationship of mutual affection between people. Friendship is a stronger form of interpersonal bond than an association.”
Many Salespeople set out to establish a friendship with their prospects falsely thinking that if they are liked by the prospect they will be successful in differentiating themselves from their competition.
Selling has officially become a game of “strategy”.
When I first started selling business telephone systems years ago there was no internet. Buyers relied on me to bring them product information, information on market trends and any information I could provide on their competitors.
Basically I was a “walking and talking brochure”, and they needed me.
When the internet, and Google, arrived on the scene full force information escaped. At that point in time the way in which I was needed shifted immediately and dramatically. That was the point in time when selling was redefined.
One Saturday morning, when I was 10 years old, I was playing with my dog in the backyard. My Father came out, handed me a rake and asked me to rake-up and bag a pile of leaves that had accumulated up against the fence in the back corner.
When I was done I ran into the house and told my Mother that I was riding my bike over to my friend’s house and would be back at 5:00 for dinner.
When I got home my Father asked me to come out in the back yard with him. We walked over to the corner where I had raked up the leaves and he asked me if I did a good job. He asked me if I was happy with the job I did.
I could see there were still some leaves in the corner and in my Dad’s gentle yet direct way of communicating it became clear to me that in fact I did not do a good job.
In this tip I’d like to share with you some ideas on how to achieve your personal best performance through mastering your “inner game.”
I’m referring specifically to your mindset and your beliefs when it comes to being a success in business and sales.
I continue to find it fascinating that, with some exception of course, it’s rare to see a sales team with over 50% of its reps at or over quota.
This begs the question: Is it because of a lack of good books on sales techniques?
Is it because there’s a lack of training on how to establish rapport? Or how to create and ask great probing questions and qualify a prospect? Or how to effectively present your solution, articulate value and close the sale?
Prospecting is arguably the most important and impactful activity for any organization, yet it’s the most misunderstood.
The revenue and the profit that prospecting can generate for an organization, and for an individual sales rep, is obviously valuable and strongly desired by all of us.
Yet prospecting is the most avoided of all sales activities. And as a result is rarely done effectively or consistently.
Why is that?
The answer is simple, and we all know what the answer is, it’s because of the rejection.
Have you ever wondered how it is that two people can be speaking about the same subject but one of them is surrounded by a group of people while the other only has one listener? How about when there are two restaurants in close proximity to each other; one has a long waiting line while the other has plenty of open tables. What’s going on there?
It’s a fascinating phenomena because both the lone speaker and the empty restaurant owner want what their competition has – an audience of people willing to give them a chance. They both have access to the things that should help them become a success, but for some reason, it doesn’t happen.
The same situation can be found within sales teams. Each member has access to the same resources as well as territories full of opportunity, but some reps will consistently outsell their team mates. The question in the minds of those who are struggling is: “What does he/she have that I don’t have?”
We’ve all seen it. Many of us have done it. We get excited about something new. We get even more excited by the results we are getting as we continue to follow our new action plan until, all of a sudden, we stop. Sometimes we don’t realize it at first, but then, the moment comes when we realize we’ve started sliding back into our old habits. It’s just one of those quirks of human nature.
Do this in the business world though, and people will think of you as a flash in the pan. You started off brilliantly, with everybody talking about you, but now you’re nowhere to be found.
When we think about persistence, we very often think about it terms of the ways we stay in contact with our clients and customers. But consider persistence from a client’s point of view. How visible are you to them? Do you have a presence above and beyond the phone calls you make or the emails you send?
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.