It doesn’t matter is you’re one quarter, five or eights months or down to the last four weeks of the year, it’s always the right time for sales managers to assess themselves on their leadership of their sales team. Sales managers spend more time looking at their sales team and their performance and often overlook their role for the success of their people.
Top performing sales managers look at their past performance, what did and didn’t work, why, and what can they do different or better.
If you want to see a positive shift in performance ask yourself these questions today, next month and every month thereafter:
1. How much time I have been spending on one-on-one coaching?
2. Who on my sales team would benefit the most with a series of field ride coaching days?
3. Who on my sales team are the top performers and what I have been doing to reward them? Or have I been neglecting them and there’s a chance they do not feel valued?
4. What barriers has my staff expressed that they think are keeping them from making more sales? What can I do to remove those barriers?
5. How relevant, engaging and skill building are the weekly sales meetings? What can I do to maximize on this low cost, now cost training and motivating opportunity?
6. How can I improve the feedback I provide?
7. How can I continue to make the invisible visible (expectations, goals, making people feel important)?
8. How can I increase the amount of time my team spends interfacing with the customer?
9. What major time waster can I help minimize or eliminate to free up selling time?
10. What is one Purple Cow (Seth Godin) from ordinary to extraordinary that you can implement to increase sales productivity?
Curious to know the Top Performers Secrets to Linkedin?
Jill Konrath and Ardath Albee surveyed 3,094 sellers to find out how they were using LinkedIn to create new business opportunities. These sellers weren’t just salespeople. They also included entrepreneurs, sales managers, consultants and services providers who had revenue-generating responsibilities.
Jill and Ardath wanted to know more about the top sellers – those who generated ‘lots’ of opportunities by using linkedin, who cracked the code about how to leverage Linkedin as a sales tool and who everyone else should be learning from.
A few key findings:
- Prospect research is the most frequent Linkedin activity. 61.4% of those who do so, say they’re successful at initiating offline conversations with prospects.
- Top sellers use more of LinkedIn’s capabilities, plus they use them more often.
- Top sellers work Linkedin as if it was their personal database setting up a search based on particular criteria, thus providing a steady stream of new prospects.
- Top sellers leverage their connections at nearly double the rate of everyone else.
Get your free ebook Cracking the Linkedin Sales Code, read the research and tips and begin using the Top Performer Secrets to make this year your best sales year ever!
Get your free ebook Cracking the Linkedin Sales Code, read the research and tips and begin using the Top Performer Secrets to make this year your best sales year ever!
Every year in November and December sales professionals toss around the notion that this is a terrible time of the year to sell. I hear comments like:
- No one wants to talk business
- People are on vacation
- It's hard to get all the decision makers together
- You can't get anyone to set up an appointment
Let's agree that the rhythm is off for some people, yet business does go on and there are plenty of sales professionals worldwide making sales and appointments at this time of year.
If you are one of those naysayers, step back and agree to take on a different perspective. This is the time to connect with your current client base and continue to build rapport. Go beyond the "Happy Holiday" or "What are you doing for the holidays?" conversation with some thought provoking strategic business partner questions.
In last week's sales meeting, Better Questions to Ask in December and Early January, a team of sales professionals selected these as their best questions:
Starter Question Options
- What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming year?
- What are you most important objectives for the upcoming year?
- You’re coming to the end of the year, how well did you do in achieving this year’s plan?
- Where do you see your biggest opportunities next year?
- How do you expect the year to go from a financial perspective compared to this year?
- What are you most proud of having accomplished this year?
- If you were able to have a 'do-over' on something from this year, what would that be?
Follow-Up Question Options
- Of these opportunities, which is your priority to implement?
- What will that do for your business short term and/or long term?
- How important is it for you to capture those opportunities?
- What challenges do you expect as you move forward on those opportunities?
- What challenges do you foresee to prevent or slow you down from capturing those opportunities?
- What steps are you planning to take to capture on those opportunities?
- What will you need to put in place to make that happen?
- What is your plan of action to capture those opportunities?
- How will you address the challenges and opportunities?
- What is your timeframe for completion?
The objective of this conversation is to learn if there's anything you offer as a part of their solution, if they are interested in talking about this further with you, and if so to set an appointment for next year.
Good luck making your end of the year conversations make a difference and matter. You can sell in December!
Tony is the new sales manager (2 months) at a company in the UK. Five months ago the company hired a fourth sales representative. This sales representative has not met the monthly quota and Tony’s boss has asked him to consider giving the new guy one more month and if he doesn’t meet quota to let him go.
This isn’t unusual. Unfortunately it happens too often. A consultant to the medical device industry recently related a similar story, the company she’s been brought in to do field sales rides is churning reps by the minute. They hire fast and cut the cord within 3 months if they aren’t performing.
It takes a lot of time and expense to hire sales people. Why go through that expense every 90 days? Not only is it expensive in manpower and other hiring expenses as advertising, recruiters, assessments, background checks, it’s costing the company much more than that in reputation.
Companies need to stop and look at their professional onboarding process. The skin or swim routine needs to stop. Someone believed in the person that was hired or why would they have hired them. Then provide the new hire with the tools to be successful in the company – no matter what their experience level. These tools aren’t the CRM, laptop, ipad or desk. The tools are these five actions a company can do to improve success, reduce turnover and eliminate a bad reputation.
1. Set expectations. There shouldn’t be any surprises as to what’s expected and by when. Besides learning where the bathroom is, learn what the sales quota is, current accounts, average dollar per account, accounts conceivably in jeopardy, number of new accounts required to meet quota, sales close ratio, lead generation options, etc. Set the plan, actions, resources and deadlines.
2. Daily, then weekly, coaching and feedback sessions. Review the plan for the day or week and the results to achieving the plan. What went well, what didn’t, what challenges occurred? What support is needed to ramp up?
3. Sales training and product training. Sales training is different than product training. More companies have product training than sales training. Both are essential. Companies who invest in product training end up with sales people who go out and dump product information on their prospects. When product training and sales training are combined, sellers are collaborating with the prospect, filling needs and finding opportunities. That’s a completely different sales conversation and that’s the one buyer’s prefer.
4. Joint sales calls. It’s impossible to know what a sales representative is really doing on a sales call unless they are observed. What they say they did is often different than what really happened. Plus the sales manager doesn’t have the luxury of seeing or hearing tone, inflection, and whether there is any rapport or synergy between the two. A good coach needs to see the sales representative in action.
5. Goal setting. Successful sales people, who set goals, achieve their goals faster. During the first week of onboarding, ask each new hire to establish personal goals as well as business goals. Set the actions needed to achieve the goals, how they’ll be tracked and also measured. Review these goals throughout the first few months and adjust accordingly.
Tony asked his boss to give him another three months with the new sales representative before taking any firing actions. Tony is in the process of implementing these 5 actions and the new sales representative made his quota the next month.
It is all in motivation. People do not do their best when they are not motivated. How often do you think - if only I could get my sales team more motivated? Chances are you’re overcomplicating things. Now, you do not want to be like Michael Scott from The Office, but you may need to liven things up on the sales floor. Here are 4 tips to help energize your sales team:
1. Give Praise - Too often managers do not praise their sales team for a job well done. Making a sale or meeting a quota is an expectation. Even exceeding a goal is not acknowledged. People naturally want to be recognized for their hard work. If your sales team feels valued, it will be more energized and more productive. See? It is not so hard.
2. Listen and Observe - Joint sales calls may seem demeaning. Sure, your sales team may find it a bit obtrusive at first. However, once you are able to offer valuable insights into their sales approach, they will be thanking you. Listening and observing on a sales call allows you to evaluate your current approach and adjust so that your sales team can be performing at their best.
3. Better Meetings - Everyone hates meetings. Now, there is no need to recreate an episode of The Office and have everyone tearing their hair out at your antics. Instead, you can empower your meetings by turning them into mini training meetings. Short skill builders are practical and useful - something that most meetings are not. Spend 30 minutes per meeting on preparation, sales strategy, problem solving or personal development and you will see your sales team glide into the meeting room with a spring in their step and leave energized and ready to make sales.
4. Coach - What is a team without a coach? According to a recent Sales Benchmark Index survey, thousands of top performers say they seek out companies with an active coaching plan in place. As the sales manager, take on the role of a coach. As coach, you’ll be helping your sales team reach their full potential. Sales professionals are hungry to adapt, improvise and improve to exceed their goals of increased sales, shorter sales cycles and loyal customers.
As you can see, it is not hard to energize a sales team if you take the right approach. It all comes down to understanding the needs and key motivators for your sales team. A good leader can not only see the potential in her team, but also understands how to bring it out.
The pressure is on... making quotas and profits, retaining sellers, keeping the pipeline filled. Sales managers can find themselves reacting rather than being proactive. Here are 5 common mistakes managers make when sales are down. (Keep reading for the Tips to avoid these common mistakes).
1. Pressure Sellers. It’s bad enough that the sellers are down and out themselves. Many have been hearing more no’s than ever before. They’ll tell you they are working harder for the same dollars or less. It’s not that they aren’t trying or doing their best. There is a shift in buying today. It’s not a luxury, it’s a must. Adding pressure by saying, “You’ve got to sell more. Get more in the pipeline. Why didn’t they buy.” Isn’t helping.
2. Stop Training. Managers believe the minutes spent in training are better spend by sellers being on the street. The extra 30 – 60 minutes on the street aren’t going to make a difference. In fact, it will most likely backfire. Sellers need the interaction with their peers more now than when everything is going well. They need to hear of even the small wins and be able to collaborate on today’s challenges. Take that away from them and they are out there alone, repeating the same skills… and we know the saying, Insanity is keep doing the same thing and expecting different results.
3. Change Compensation Plans. Have you ever known a compensation plan change when things are tough in the favor of the seller? Most often, the company sees this as a way to cut expenses. At what cost? Plenty. You’ve just lost the momentum and drive of most of your sellers. They are still expected to sell the same, if not more to earn the same amount of money. That’s generally good for at least 6 months of lost productivity.
4. Reduce Field Rides. Even if managers were conducting joint field rides before, they tend to do less when the going gets tough. I hope some of you reading this disagree. I commend you. I’m always amazed that field rides are not standard practice with many of our client organizations. The job title is sales manager. That means manage sales and sales are brought in through your sellers. Watch your sellers in action – over and over again and coach them as you go. Can you imagine a pitching coach never watching the pitcher practice and only give tips in the office? Of course not, yet that’s what managers do day in and day out.
5. Status Quo is Your Biggest Competition. Look at what how your marketing and how the sellers are selling. Has anything changed? Maybe not. What message does that send to your current customers and long time prospects? Chances are your competition is doing something different. The buying experience is important. Feeling new, refreshing, leading edge makes a difference, especially when customers can get a very similiar product from several vendors.
Now, 3 Tips to Make a Difference
Tip 1: Increase communications. Speak with with your sellers often and in a variety of ways – face-to-face, telephone, emails. And listen to what they are saying. Drop the ‘what did you sell for me today’ language and turn it to ‘what can I do for you? What barriers are preventing you from selling more, improving your close ratio, gaining referrals? How can you remove the barriers? How can I support you?’ Do not take on the ‘monkey’ to do it for them. Teach a man to fish and…(get the fish quote).
Tip 2: Recognize there is a target on your back. Your competitors are all over you and if not now, they will be. Use marketing idea. That Tide does so well. They have New and Improved Tide®. What’s different, this time it may have little blue specs in it that make clothes cleaner. Next time they may add green ones that make clothes smell better. It’s still Tide®. Do something for your products and services look and smell like the new and improved Tide®!
Tip 3: Train, train and train again.
Your sellers need to be able to out-think, out-perform and out-sell the competition. Weekly training, if not daily. There are business today selling 20% more in this market. They increased their training efforts. Michael Jordan’s story is a model to follow. Here is one of the greatest players of all time and what does he do? He goes to practice early, he practices for several hours a day. You would think he was great enough that he didn’t need to practice that much. Wrong. That’s how he got to the level his achieved… practice makes perfect or perfect practice makes perfect. Do your sellers a favor – practice!
When it comes to recruiting for open sales positions many companies prefer to buy instead of build. They invest their recruiting time seeking top performers within their business category thinking they’ll have quick time-to-performance. Companies think these sales professionals can bring customers from their current client and prospect list and get quick sales.
There are some downsides to this method of hiring to consider.
1. Why is a top performer leaving their current company? As the saying goes you really don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. Are they truly the top performer you think they are? What does your company offer besides a new location than the current company? Money? Sure, money is great, but it isn’t the sole motivator for a driven sales professional.
2. The relationship is important in sales. Today’s buyers do not necessarily switch their current provider because of the sales person. While this was prevalent years ago, it just does not happen as often anymore. The economy and buying process is different today and there has to be a greater compelling reason to switch – with all of the internal changes that often come with a switch than the seller.
Plus, they might be thinking to themselves, “This sales man touted ABC’s product and expected me to buy, now they are at XYZ touting their product. Are they being truthful and will they still be there when I do buy and need them?”
3. Do the core competencies of a top performer at your company match? There are companies whose top performers are mavericks – close a deal any way at any cost. If your go to market strategy includes a long-term relationship and high customer satisfaction – those two top performer competencies may not match.
Look at your top performers or other top performers that you respect and value. List what they do that other sellers do not do and what they are doing that identifies them as top performers. You may be surprised to find the characteristics on your list with emotional intelligence competencies outweigh skill competencies. The EI competencies may be creative, goes the extra mile, high energy, does the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, goal setter, ability to work independently, self-motivated.
As you seek to buy or build top performers don’t overlook your on-boarding process.
Tips Whether You Buy or Build Your Sales Force:
1. Hire people with your required EI competencies. Success is not only about skills. You can develop achievement drive, you can’t make them have achievement drive. Seek out talent with the skills non-skill qualities that you want and need.
2. On-boarding training. Even with a proven track record, top performers invest in their business and personal development. They’re often known to ask at interviews, what skill and personal development opportunities are provided. Include relevant training to include expectations, goal planning, selling skills, product knowledge and internal procedures. The new hire will be more productive and you’ll avoid any surprises 90 days later.
3. On-going training and coaching. Keep your on-going training and coaching relevant. Sports professionals take part in on-going training and coaching. Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Lebron James, and all showed up at practice. Why wouldn’t you provide the same to your sales team – no matter how good of a producer they are.
Whether you ‘buy’ your team by selecting top performers from other companies or hire talent with less sales experience and ‘build’ your team, it’s what you do once they are on the team that truly makes the difference.
Consider These Facts
56% of salespeople say they are not being coached the right way.
57% of salespeople say they want more coaching from their sales managers.
Only 32% of sales managers are considered to be outstanding coaches by their salespeople.
A survey of 278 business executives found that the number one characteristic of effective sales managers is coaching skills.
60% of salespeople say they want better coaching from their sales managers.
The Value of Coaching
Everyone knows the value of coaching. Only it doesn’t get done as often as it should and when it does it’s not often done well. If only 32% of sales managers are considered to be outstanding coaches by their sales people, there is a lot of room for improvement. That improvement would naturally yield increased sales.
The next time you go to coach consider this:
• Coaching is collaborative with a blending of asking and suggesting.
• Coaching is broadening the discussion beyond activity and accounts.
• Coaching includes praise, questions, action plans, agreement on next steps.
A good coach plans the coaching session. A great seller wouldn’t go on a sales call without preparing and crafting their questions in advance. A great coach does the same.
A Linkedin discussion asked, “What is your best coaching question?” There were over 227 responses in a 10-month period. Here are some of the best coaching questions for you to be a GREAT coach.
Questions to Launch the Coaching Conversation
- What do you expect from me as your coach? Tell me how I can help you?
- If you'd be guaranteed to get one wish that will give the biggest positive impact for yourself AND the company right now and in the long term, what would that be?
- What drives you, motivates you, inspires you?
- What's your vision of the ideal...? What can you do in the next 30 days to move in that direction?
- What is one thing you could start, stop, or continue doing in the next 24 hours that will get you closer to your goal?
- What would have you jump out of bed in the morning excited about the day ahead of you?
- What would you like to be most proud of a year from now?
Questions to Gain More Insight and Direction
- What is the PAIN for you of NOT achieving your goal?
- If failure were not an option, what would you do?
- What can you learn from this situation?
- What does the leading lady/man inside you have to say about the subject?
- What's right about whatever obstacle or conflict the client maybe facing?
- What specifically are you afraid will happen if you take that step?
- What are the possibilities?
- What are you willing to keep and what are you ready to let go of?
- What would be your one breakthrough goal that you can conceive of but do NOT believe you can achieve?
- What is getting in the way of making you successful?
- What is the worst thing that can happen if you do 'X?
Questions When The Coachee Says, “I don’t know.”
- What would someone who does know how to do this do?
- If you did know what would you say?
- What would you say, if you did know?
- What do you feel inclined to think/say/do?
What questions would you add to this great list?
I’m a believer in affirmations. When I practice saying my affirmations – greater things come my way.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with affirmations – they are statements that you repeat to yourself. By repeating the affirmations, your subconscious mind acts on them and creates situations that mirror the affirmations.
For example, one of my personal favorite affirmation is: My income is constantly increasing. On the days and weeks that I actively repeat this over and over and read the index cards with this message that I have posted in my office, on my bathroom vanity and on my computer screen, money comes my way. It may be a check from the insurance company with a rebate that I had no idea was coming, a new client, or an offer to pay for something I was thinking of buying. It shows up in a myriad of ways… and I don’t discount the penny, dime or quarter found on the ground at 3 different places in one day!
A few tips on Affirmations.
• Keep them short and simple.
• Write as if in the now – as if they are already happening.
• Reflect the specific results you want.
Julia Rogers Hamrick, author of Choosing Easy World shared these affirmations:
• I choose to live in Easy World where everything is easy.
• I attract inspiring, empowering, supportive business partners in Easy World.
• Everything I need for a successful business is available to me in Easy World.
• Because I choose to work in Easy World, all my work is joyful!
• I breathe, relax and allow Easy World to effortlessly organize all the perfect circumstances, events and people for brilliant success.
Here are a few of my favorite business and personal affirmations are:
• My income is constantly increasing.
• I easily and effortlessly attract an unlimited amount of new clients who are buying sales and leadership training from me now.
• Everyday I engage with decision makers who are buying from me now.
• As I transform, my life transforms.
• Great things are coming my way today.
• My life is abundant and overflowing with love.
• I feel great weighing 115 pounds with a flat stomach.
• All of the cells and bones in my body are strong and healthy every day.
What affirmations do you use to increase your sales?
An earlier post mentioned my incredible experience with the top international 25 Sales Training Experts. For two days we collaborated on best practices and how we can touch more people and change more lives. Some words the women used to describe their brain power experience were: awesome, inspiring, energized, enlightened, refreshed, renewed, overwhelming, brain trust, and award winning.
Allow me to introduce you to these talented women as they offer a wealth of information, resources and free content.
Trish Bertuzzi: www.bridgegroupinc.com
Karin Bellantoni: www.blueprintsms.com
Nancy Bleeke: www.salesproinsider.com
Carolyn Coradeschi: www.RainmakerMindset.com
Melina Emerson: www.suceedasyourownboss.com
Lisa Erickson: www.advantageperformance.com
Barbara Giamaco: www.scs-connect.com
Julie Hanson: www.actingforsales.com
Lynn Hidy: www.upyourtelesales.com
Alice Kemper: www.salestrainingconsultants.com and www.sharpenz.com
Jill Konrath: www.jillkonrath.com
Lisa Leitch: www.teneoresults.com
Lisa Magnuson: www.toplinesales.com
Janice Mars: www.saleslatitude.com
Bernadette McClelland: www.bernadettemcclelland.com
Krista Moon: www.strategicthinkingonline.com
Laurie Page: www.bridgegroupinc.com
Suzanne Paling: www.salesmanagementservices.com
Amy Palmer: www.fearbustinsales.com
Laura Posey: www.dancing-elephants.com
Lori Richardson: www.scoremoresales.com
Barbara Smith: www.smithweaversmith.com
Colleen Stanley: www.salesleadershipdevelopment.com
Babette Ten Haken: www.salesaerobicsforengineers.com
Hazel Walker: www.hazelmwalker.com