How many sales “experts” do you think there are -- people proffering advice about what works and what doesn’t, offering a specific sales solution that will help right the course for any organization? Hundreds? Thousands? I couldn’t even begin to come up with a number.
Sales and sales management advice abounds. I know this because I read a lot of what gets posted on the Internet!
There are countless numbers of people offering up solutions for sales success -- for individual sales professionals seeking to improve individual performance or, like us, offering assistance to owners, CEOs, presidents and sales managers looking to improve their sales process, coaching, leadership, analytics, organizational effectiveness, methodologies, and other sales drivers or performance levers. It’s definitely a “noisy space”.
I’ve often quipped about how dangerous it all is.
More often than not, blog authors (and even business book authors), write based on anecdotal evidence.
The stories might be interesting, but the approach often fails in reality. Why? Because those folks applied a technique once or twice that worked really well, and then they wrote about it as if it’s the silver bullet of all sales techniques that will work anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances, in any organization.
That just simply isn’t the case.
Good sales advice, in fact, should go something like this: “In this situation, if you are experiencing this issue, here are some suggestions to consider.”
In other words, sales advice should be situation-specific.
The fact is, true success in sales comes from not having “a way of doing things” or following a stock solution, but by having a sales process in place that will allow you to determine what should work and what will get you the results you want in your specific situation.
Think about the differences in these selling environments:
Although the “fundamentals” are similar, the “application” of the fundamentals needs to be tailored and adapted to the situation and circumstances.
Formal sales processes have come a long way. In the old days, they were manipulative, feature-focused and intimidating. Salespeople were hired based on instinct -- on vague competencies like “killer instinct” and “smooth-talking” -- rather than hard science that assures a good fit.
Today, we know better. Research proves the positive impact that a formalized consultative based sales process has on sales performance, and we’re able to share that data with organizations so that they can be successful, too. Most companies today have some sort of sales process in place, whether they realize it or not.
But, here’s what worries me: In an era where the importance of a formal sales process is so widely appreciated, why are so many organizations still struggling to get results?
Research at Florida State University shows that 51% of sales executives are disappointed with their sales processes. Objective Management Group, my partner organization, finds that only half of salespeople are achieving their quotas, and that number is trending downward.
Something is off, and according to the author of the FSU study, the problem lies in our approach to implementing sales processes:
As an industry, we cling to this incorrect notion that there’s a single best way to sell. We select a sales process or methodology that we believe is a ‘best practice,’ and we tell our sellers to repeat that same sales approach with every customer in every circumstance. It’s a fundamentally flawed strategy.
Our research shows that the best salespeople don’t adhere to a single sales approach – they use several different approaches, depending on the buying situations they encounter. Meanwhile, average salespeople tend to follow a single sales approach regardless of the situation, which works when the approach fits but fails when it doesn’t. By enforcing a single sales process in our sales forces, we’re actually mandating that our salespeople fail by design.
No doctor believes there’s a single best way to heal people – they assess each patient’s illness and prescribe the appropriate remedy. No football team goes onto the field and runs the same play on every down – they choose the best play based on the circumstances and the opponent. No military leader believes there’s a single way to defeat the enemy – they react to the situation they encounter on the ground. Yet, we send our salespeople into battle with a single sales approach and then wonder why they get slaughtered. It’s madness.
It is, indeed.
At Cashin Sales, we believe that the era of the “best practice” sales process is over. What needs to come next is a new era of sales process development that’s customized to individual companies and situations, not a “one-size-fits-all” Band-Aid that you slap on every sales situation and challenge.
Think agility, not rigidity.
If you’re ready to start that process of building a sales process fit specifically for your organization and customers, one that truly gets results, we’d love to hear from you.
Most company leaders know that hiring wrong can be an incredibly costly mistake in terms of lost sales, spent wages, and the reduced effectiveness of other team members.
Poor performance is oddly contagious. A bad hire can be disruptive to an organization, and that’s another important reason why hiring “right” is so important.
Unfortunately, many organizations get it very, very wrong -- hiring without the benefit of truly understanding the candidates selling skills, and perhaps even more important, having insight into how they will react once they are in the field tasked with securing appointments with decision-makers and hitting quota month after month.
This approach isn’t successful, but it’s all some organizations know, and they just keep repeating it: hire wrong, slowly watch the recruit fail, begin the recruiting process anew.
If this all sounds a little too familiar, you’re not alone, but you do need to correct your recruiting process...fast. It’s costing you dearly.
Most poor hires result from sales recruiting mistakes made during or even before the recruiting process begins.
By learning about and recognizing sales recruiting mistakes, you can avoid making them in your own company and save yourself a lot of time and frustration.
Here are the top 5 sales recruiting mistakes we see most often:
1. Not defining the sales competencies and the mental DNA you desire in the representatives you on-board.
It will be very challenging to find a sales rep that fits your company culture if you have little understanding of the ideal sales representative profile you are seeking as it relates to your organization's core values, corporate identity, and revenue initiatives.
Ask yourself what you would like your sales organization to look like, what skills are needed, and then develop a process that will enable you to attract, identify and hire with those attributes in mind.
2. Not screening candidates properly before the interview.
Another common hiring error is failing to weed out weak candidates using a predictive candidate assessment prior to the interview stage. Companies look at resumes, essentially say, “good enough” based on the listed qualifications, and bring in those people for an interview.
The trouble is that weak sales candidates often have very strong interview skills, and they end up in positions they have no business being in because they “fooled” the interviewer.
Scrutinize every resume for the things that will make that person a good fit for your company, and then use a scientifically-proven candidate assessment with each candidate before you begin the interview process. You will come to find out that most people aren’t as qualified as their resume implies.
3. Offering too low salary.
While it’s true that money isn’t the main motivator to many salespeople today, most will have a good idea of what their skills are worth. If you’re offering non-competitive compensation packages, you’re unlikely to get a great batch of candidates.
This is one of the easiest sales recruiting mistakes to fall into because it isn’t immediately obvious where you are losing out.
Over time, however, your team is likely to become comprised as a result of the “C players” you are attracting and hiring. The more talented candidates will leave for higher-paying jobs at other companies -- perhaps even your competitors.
4. Rushing the recruiting process.
Harvey Mackay wrote a great book titled Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.
It’s a concept that lends itself well to recruiting. Recruiting is a process that should be ongoing. Waiting until sales are dropping to hire a new sales professional usually results in poor timing and can create an atmosphere of frustration that can sabotage a new hire's ability to effectively ramp up. Now everyone loses.
It’s a safe bet that, rushing the recruiting process will only make matters worse.
The more you rush the process, the more sales recruiting mistakes you are likely to make, and the more likely that you will end up with a disruptive or inferior candidate.
Rushing prevents you from spotting a flaw in someone’s character during the interview phase – or, even worse, makes you decide to just overlook it because you are desperate to fill the position.
You may also miss out on a great candidate who might enter into the recruitment process if you had kept the application window open for a bit longer.
In other words, slow and steady wins the recruitment race.
5. Hiring on past performance alone.
From your point of view, one candidate may stand out with stronger performances in past sales roles, but don’t hire them unless they also meet your other criteria (point 1 above).
Why? Here’s an example: A previously great performer may struggle on your team and become disruptive or nonproductive if they are used to being a star performer and are now asked to operate in a team environment that does not center on them.
When you implement these 5 steps, you’ll find that you need a lot more of the right candidates and the right tools to help with selection. Again, a very accurate, sales-specific assessment is your best bet for predicting sales success.
You may also find that you send out a lot of assessments only to have a few come back as qualified. Don’t let that panic you. It’s better to have a small pool of qualified candidates than a big pool of ones who just don’t have what it takes.
When we work with companies determined to improve their recruiting process, we collaborate with them to create a custom-tailored sales candidate assessment. It works for every sales role. It works in every industry. We can make it work for you, too.
You can even take a quick peek at the current state of your recruiting process by using this free tool now.
Improving your sales recruitment process should be a priority for reducing your cost of hiring, shorten your ramp-up and significantly increase the odds that you have on-boarded a winner. We look forward to helping you do it.
Over the weekend I tackled one of the projects I hate the most: weeding. Weeds grow incredibly fast in my neck of the woods, so pulling them is an unfortunate part of the process of keeping a garden looking nice. As it’s been very hot here this summer, I haven’t really kept up with the task. I’ve neglected my garden something fierce, and it was full of weeds.
Can you say the same thing about your pipeline?
You see, I tend to look at pipelines the way I look at my garden: full of exciting, beautiful possibilities provided I nurture it so that sun and food can reach the soil, but unimpressive and non-productive when thorny, troublesome weeds are allowed to take over and choke out the blooms.
Both the flowers and the weeds of a garden are like the opportunities in your pipeline. Either one will take over depending on how you're taking care of the garden. If you nurture the opportunities that will grow and produce sales, you can expect a good outcome. If you fail to weed out the undesirable opportunities that only serve to distract you, you won’t have much to show for your efforts.
Unfortunately, most sales pipelines are full of weeds that inhibit bountiful results.
My partner organization, Objective Management Group (OMG), has evaluated and assessed nearly 2 million salespeople. When it comes to pipeline, OMG has found that only 46% of all salespeople maintain a full pipeline, broken down as follows:
What are most pipelines full of? Generally undesirable opportunities -- a.k.a. weeds.
A “full” pipeline (that’s just full of weeds) provides salespeople with a false sense of security -- that they will eventually land deals with at least some of the opportunities in the pipeline because that’s just what happens.
That is not the case.
To consistently land deals, your pipeline must be transformed like a garden -- free from thorny weeds and full of strong soil and quality seeds (opportunities) that can bloom into something special.
It’s time to transform your sales pipeline. Here are 4 steps to get you started:
1. Pull the weeds.
Big, little, stubborn, you name it. Whatever opportunities aren’t helping you reach your goals aren’t needed. Weeding will leave you with a smaller pipeline, but don’t let that scare you. A small pipeline of qualified opportunities is better than a large pipeline full of garbage.
This is where a well-built, predictive scorecard will help.
2. Determine how many opportunities must be in your pipeline at all times.
To find the answer to that question you must know the size of your average sale or account, your closing percentage, and monthly sales goal.
Let's assume the following three metrics:
3. Determine the gap between what you need and what you have.
Let's say you actually have 4 good opportunities worth a total of $80,000. Using the example above, your gap is 16 opportunities worth $320,000 - just for one month!
4. Use the data from #3 to add opportunities.
If we continue with the example above, you’ll have to add 16 new opportunities this month. How? Referrals, introductions, inbound leads, cold calls, whatever it takes. Get your great account managers -- your hunters -- in gear, and hold them accountable. Sales managers must set clear expectations, designate this as non-optional work, impose a deadline, and enforce penalties for non-compliance.
I really wish this last weekend would be my last one weeding, but I know better. I’ll have to do it again soon. The same goes for your pipeline.
These transformation tips aren’t a one-time deal. They are part of a process to continually improve.
When you’re ready to start the journey in transforming your pipeline into a productive, beautiful thing to be admired, just like a garden, 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.
When we talk about Sales DNA, we’re talking about how a salesperson thinks.
We’re talking about how their thinking drives their reactions in certain key selling situations. Their thoughts, positive or negative, will have a significant impact on their actions and therefore their results.
When sales DNA appears as a weakness, it’s what sabotages a rep’s ability to execute.
We have a tendency to think of Sales DNA in very black and white terms: you either have positive DNA/thoughts or you don’t. And, while there is an element of truth to that statement, it misses a very big opportunity: that those salespeople whose thoughts are not always supportive can (and should) improve upon it with practice.
Professional athletes all have natural DNA, both mental and physical, that supports excellence on the field, but every one of them still practices for hours daily to improve their performance.
If they slack off, they lose their edge.
If they slack off self-defeating thoughts and insecurities can begin to creep into their minds. They’re not exempt from practice simply because they’re naturally gifted.
The same goes for good salespeople.
In training, salespeople learn how to improve their execution of sales process, listen and question better, qualify prospects better, so that, when they’re actually in front of a prospect, they don’t become overwhelmed and revert to old, familiar selling behaviors.
And, that’s the really difficult thing -- to overcome the tendency to backslide into old ways of selling.
It’s like a coiled spring: You can pull on it and it feels as though you’re changing it, but the second you release the tension, it reverts back to its original shape.
Improving Sales DNA requires much more effort and time than improving selling tactics and techniques because any one of a salesperson’s six Sales DNA competencies -- which are what comprise a rep’s Sales DNA Score -- can present itself as a weakness:
How can you change the shape of a spring? You just keep stretching it -- over and over again, stretching it further and further each time you do it.
Eventually, you’ll change the characteristics of the metal, and it won’t return to its original shape anymore.
But, that takes time and tremendous effort, and most people will quit during the process.
Sales leaders are no different. Most find it very difficult to help their salespeople overcome their DNA weaknesses because the work is not easy. It requires tremendous amounts of repetition, positive affirmations, permissions, workarounds, and role-playing.
Change doesn't occur quickly.
When you’re coaching a good sales rep and you see their DNA snap back into an old place, don’t quit. Picture the spring, and know that, with additional attempts, you’ll eventually change its shape.
It won't happen immediately, but your salespeople will eventually change and overcome negative sales DNA provided neither of you gives up.
Coaching like that is hard work. Practicing like that is hard work.
When you’re ready to get help, give us a call.
One of my greatest passions is helping sales executives improve the efficacy of their sales training programs. Unfortunately, I find a lot of them in bad shape.
Companies routinely hire sales reps (often hurriedly) and then fumble through a few weeks of product training and shadowing (unfortunately often with reps that are not setting the best example). It’s all a bit haphazard, and it’s often designed to be “fun” and “easy” so as not to intimidate the new hire.
Again and again, this approach to sales training fails.
Companies experience excessive ramp up time, dry pipelines, customer churn, inconsistent sales approaches and processes, and high employee turnover rates in the name of “not too difficult” training.
To vastly improve your sales team’s performance, you must go beyond easy sales calls and random basic training exercises.
Here are my top 3 tips to vastly increase new sales:
1. Lead by example.
Salespeople, especially rookie salespeople, need their leaders to model success for them. Research shows that employees work more proactively when they view their leaders as empowering and capable. In other words, your team is watching you. Set the example, and show them the way!
A good approach is a strict practice regimen.
Sales reps should be role-playing calls weekly with a colleague and a coach. Face-to-face group practice sessions should also be implemented weekly. Newer and/or lower-performing sales reps should practice daily.
Lead by example by being the first to jump in the hot seat. Encourage your team to come up with curveball objections, and allow them to challenge you. Maintain your sense of humor, and always remember your team is watching you. If you project the image that you’re too good to practice, they will adopt that attitude as well.
By the same token, don’t exempt anyone from practice, not even your highest performers.
Everyone practices. Period. A true practice culture means no one is exempt. A great way to get your seasoned reps involved is to ask them to be a mentor and provide support for the newer reps.
The data agrees: A study published in Performance Improvement Quarterly reveals that a well-coached salesperson displays superior performance, with coaching accounting for 2.9% to 6.2% of the performance difference between employees.
I’ve seen similar results across multiple companies, and the positive impact on team morale is clearly visible.
2. Make practice harder than actual play.
If you follow sports at all, you’re likely familiar with the incredible accomplishments of NBA star Steph Curry -- 3 NBA Championships, 2 time MVP, 5 time 3-point leader, 3 time free-throw leader, just to name a few.
Curry himself credits his success to an insane practice schedule that looks nothing like a real basketball game but sharpens his skills nonetheless.
Have you ever tried to catch a tennis ball while dribbling a basketball, or dribble a “heavy” basketball and a regular one simultaneously? What about continuously bouncing a ball between your legs while also maintaining a regular dribble with your other hand? It all sounds impossible, but this is Steph’s daily practice, and it contributes to making him great.
It’s tempting to go easy on the new guy or toss softball scenarios to an underperforming rep, but you’re doing them (and yourself) no favors when you do that. In fact, you’re just wasting your time.
Practice should be harder than a real-life sales call so that salespeople are prepared for any objection a prospect offers up.
Have reps practice over the phone as well as face to face, and don’t help them when they get stuck. Don’t let them break out of their roles by feeding them answers. Ask follow-up questions until they find solutions themselves.
With this strategy, practice is essentially a type of exposure therapy that prepares your sales reps to handle the unexpected moments in calls and meetings without panicking.
3. Practice everything, not just the first cold call.
When I ask sales executives about their training programs, almost all of them report practicing initial sales calls, but very few report practicing the calls and meetings that follow. This is a huge mistake.
Ninety five percent of all B2B deals are closed in the follow up process. Second only to a dry pipeline, an ineffective follow up process is often the reason for a lack of sales success.
Take the time to go over follow-up messages and the subsequent sales calls and meetings. Great sales teams excel in all types of interactions, so don’t limit practice to just the initial contact.
Commit to implementing a thorough practice program to help your salespeople hone their skills until they’re sharper than ever. We’re here to help.
Renowned sales expert Dave Kurlan of Objective Management Group has a wonderful training video on sales resistance, and it mirrors what many experts posit about sales: that the art of selling is every bit as much about reducing sales resistance as increasing sales acceptance.
Recently on LinkedIn, Tom Hopkins, one of the most respected sales trainers in the nation, said the same thing.
If that is the case, that good selling requires reducing sales resistance (and I agree that it is), then salespeople must find a way to anticipate that resistance.
Most salespeople don’t get this key point about anticipation. They are solely focused on developing relationships and being accepted. Relationships are good, but relationships in and of themselves do not eliminate or lower conflict or resistance. Everyone’s difficult uncle at the family reunion is proof of that!
To reduce resistance, salespeople must learn to recognize the actions or behaviors they exhibit that cause resistance in the first place. Are yours?
Most salespeople are so bad at anticipating resistance that they often do one of two things:
One of the reasons representatives don’t anticipate resistance is poor listening skills.
Only 25% of all salespeople emphasize listening over talking. If you’re not listening, you cannot hear and identify the resistance building in a prospect's voice. This is what I mean by “missing the signs”.
What causes that? Two things.
One, very few salespeople think “strategically”. They are so focused on “selling/telling” that they remain stuck “pitching” their products and services versus thinking like a business person with a broader and longer term perspective.
Second, a high percentage of salespeople don't listen because, while their prospect is speaking, they are thinking of what they are going to say the moment the prospect stops and takes a breath. What they’re not doing is paying attention and remaining in the moment where the action is.
If they aren't paying attention with their ears, then they certainly aren't paying attention with their eyes. Noticing changes in body language is key to sensing resistance. Again, distraction and a lack of focus is the issue.
When salespeople are busy contemplating their next move, instead of paying attention, they are not controlling their emotions and they miss the opportunity to participate in a rich two way business conversation.
You may notice there’s a big self-awareness issue.
Most salespeople lack self-awareness. In other words, they don’t notice how prospects are reacting when they (the salespeople) answer a question a certain way, ask a particular question, become defensive, rattle off their talking points, evade direct questions, or appear untrustworthy. They just keep on pushing the sale, and the prospect grows silently more resistant.
Sales closing rates vary wildly by industry but generally range from as low as 10% to near 50%. In its evaluations of 1,884,457 salespeople, salespeople scored an average of only 24% in the Closer Competency and only 6% of all salespeople have the Closer Competency as a strength. (See stats on all 21 Sales Core Competencies)
If 75% of salespeople are not really paying attention, we can deduct that resistance goes up in at least half of their sales calls (which is 37.5% of all calls assuming all salespeople make the same number of calls) without the salespeople knowing it. Failed closings average 70%, so if resistance occurs 37.5% of the time, then in roughly 1/4 of the cases, resistance is responsible for salespeople losing the sale.
It’s more than reasonable to put lowering resistance at the top of your to-do list.
Now, for some good news. If resistance is an issue for you, you’re in luck. There is no sales tactic that is easier to learn than learning how to lower resistance. We can help you get started.
People often choose to work in sales because they think it will give them more freedom and less structure.
They’re not wrong.
Working in sales does give you a certain degree of independence, but that independence does not negate the need for a formal sales process.
In fact, a formal sales process is what will make your team more effective, improve performance, and even help you close sales quicker.
It’s common to think of a sales process as a script your team must follow or an exact way of doing things. It’s not.
A sales process is simply a set of repeatable steps that a sales person takes to move a prospective buyer from the early stage of awareness to a closed sale.
Think of it as a roadmap for taking a potential customer on the journey from realizing they have a need for a product to making the actual purchase from you.
Typically, a sales process consists of the following: preparation/research, prospecting, initial approach, discovery/questioning, presentation, handling objections, follow-up and closing.
Most sales executives and their teams are aware that they go through these steps, but not many of them decide to outline and standardize the process, leaving it all up to individual sales reps to decide what steps to take and when. In addition, we find that many salespeople often take shortcuts in an attempt to speed up the process which is usually a strategic error.
As long as salespeople keep closing sales, how they do it is their own business, right? Wrong.
Let the numbers do the talking:
Yet, according to my partner organization, Objective Management Group, a whopping 68% of all salespeople do not follow a sales process at all! Do yours?
Something needs to change.
A formal, defined sales process can help you do the right things right and know for sure what works and what doesn’t.
Your sales team can:
As a sales manager, following a standardized sales process allows you to concentrate on the things that matter most: coaching each rep up to a higher level of performance, tracking qualified deals through the pipeline process, attending joint sales calls, as well as making more accurate sales forecasts and smoothing out the onboarding process.
Here are the four best practices for sales process implementation:
Ultimately, a formal sales process is what will increase your team’s performance and help you realize more revenue. You must define your sales process, commit to good pipeline management, and enable your managers to carry it out. Only then can you expect to hit your forecasts, hit your quotas, and see your sales reps succeed beyond what you thought possible.
When you’re ready to formalize your sales process, we’re here to help.
If selling was easy, companies would pay high school kids minimum wage to do it instead of investing millions in hiring, training, process development, and incentives like lucrative compensation plans.
Selling, particularly in today’s information-rich, buyer-centric environment, is hard for even the most seasoned sales reps. For reps new to the industry or the organization, the task of selling becomes even more difficult.
The bar is set high, and the learning curve is steep. You can’t really expect success right away but people do. I think that’s why so many sales reps quit so early in the game (or get fired). Lack of immediate success in making quota is incredibly disheartening.
It is tricky to say exactly how long it should take for a new sales representative to be selling with the company and closing enough deals to be making quota.
It depends on quite a few variables including whether the sales person is coming into a lead-rich environment or if they’ll be responsible for generating their own leads. In a lead-rich environment, the time frame for success could be mere weeks. Sales reps responsible for their own leads could have a ramp-up period of several months.
But, leads aren’t the only issue, and it’s important that you know what to expect from your team so that you can:
I’ve had the pleasure of directly hiring and promoting amazing sales reps across different geographies and industries, as well as coaching sales executives on how to successfully do the same. While no one can pinpoint exactly when a salesperson will be up and running at full speed and meeting sales goals, there is a way to roughly set your expectations.
There are six factors in total that determine the time to success, 3 on your side and 3 on the salesperson’s side.
Let's start with you. Consider:
All of these work together. If you have a six-month sales cycle, a three-month learning curve, and it takes 3 months to transition from their old world to your business, that translates to 12 months of pipeline building before you can reasonably expect your new salesperson to start closing business.
On the salesperson side, consider:
Wouldn’t it be great to know those things before you hired them? Can you imagine the frustration it would prevent? The money you’d save? A good hiring strategy will allow you to select the right salespeople from the start, experience far less turnover, fewer delays in growing revenue, and stronger sales teams.
If you’re interested, give us a call. We have access to the most predictive, accurate, and customizable candidate assessments in the world and can help you on your journey to smarter hiring.
Bottom line? Know what to expect and when to expect it from new sales reps.
When people make decisions, they base them on a number of factors, some logical and some emotional.
We know this somewhat intuitively. Yes, we take deliberate steps like weighing pros and cons, comparing costs, etc. -- but, we also sprinkle in a bit of intuition and desire to satisfy our “want” for a certain thing.
Here’s an example: It’s time to buy a house. I’m first going to determine what I’m looking for -- number of bedrooms, an updated kitchen, an easy-to-maintain yard, and so on -- and begin scouring listings.
I’ll read a lot of reviews about neighborhoods, talk to my friends about where they live, look at tons of pictures, and carefully consider the initial and monthly investment in making my decision of which house to buy.
Those are all logical factors. I’ll ultimately choose the house that makes me feel “at home” the moment I walk into it. That’s an emotional factor. Decision-making is always comprised of both.
Regardless of what decision we make, there is a process involved in making them and criteria that need to be satisfied.
Using my home buying example, my process would be to make a list of other houses I’ve owned and enjoyed. My personal favorites are my current home in North Carolina and the last house we owned in Connecticut before moving south. I’ve really loved them both.
Next, I’d identify the criteria that are important to me. My criteria for a house include location, physical condition, the features I mentioned above, price, and personal feel.
My point in sharing this is that your customers go through the same decision-making process and steps in satisfying criteria when they evaluate you as a potential vendor as you do when making a personal decision.
Success in sales requires an understanding of your customers’ decision-making process and their decision-making criteria. How certain are you that your sales team understands them both?
The truth is, most salespeople do not know the difference between their prospects' decision-making process compared with their decision-making criteria. What’s worse, they often fail to ask.
Data from my partner organization, Objective Management Group, reveals:
Only 27% of all salespeople are strong qualifiers. Most salespeople aren’t asking.
The danger in not understanding a prospect’s process and criteria is that it prevents your sales team from being able to differentiate your product or service. If I can’t identify what my prospect needs and desires, how can I possibly make my company stand out as the one to solve their problems? The answer is, I can’t.
It’s a well-known fatal blow to an organization to become seen as a commodity -- a situation where products and services have slipped into purely price-based competition because they seem like every other product or service on the market.
Not understanding their prospects’ decision-making process and criteria puts salespeople in real danger of falling into the commodity trap.
The only consistently effective way to differentiate is to take a consultative, value based approach to selling, featuring listening and questioning skills.
Unfortunately, most salespeople are unable to identify compelling reasons to buy, create urgency, and get their prospects to "must have."
Our approach teaches salespeople how to uncover more than just business issues. If you’re ready to begin the process of truly differentiating your company from your competition, give us a call.
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.