July 2011 | Click links (>>) below to read articles
  • Keeping Your Reps Accountable by Eric Slife >>
  • Save the Salesperson, Not the Sales Call by Brian Jeffrey >>
  • A Company's Success Is Based Upon Its Sales Force by Roy Chitwood >>

Keeping Your Reps Accountable
by Eric Slife

Do you struggle getting your sales team to prospect consistently? Do they not turn in paperwork or attend training classes? Are they content in not growing their current customer base? The reality is most sales managers can answer, “Yes” to at least one of these questions. However, when I ask, “What have you done to fix the problem?” the typical response is, “Not a whole lot we can do, we don’t want to upset them.”

The first step in holding your reps accountable is changing your attitude and perception. You should be more concerned with your reps respecting you than whether they like you. One of the most difficult aspects of leadership is to get out of your comfort zone and into someone else’s comfort zone, and make them uncomfortable. It isn’t easy assessing, critiquing, and coaching others; especially if you were once colleagues. However, take the attitude that by keeping your reps accountable to do the activities they dislike will only make them better sales people, and ultimately benefit them by making a bigger pay check. On the other hand, if they don’t succeed, not only will they lose their job, but other people in the company as well because of decreased revenues and profits.

In order to hold reps accountable, there must be a standard to hold them accountable to. You need to create a management plan that solely focuses on how your team will achieve the company’s monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals. It should consist of the following:

  • Assessing each rep’s knowledge of your company’s products and services.
  • Monitoring and tracking your rep’s prospecting activity to ensure a continuous healthy sales pipeline. This would include inspecting their follow up campaign.
  • Frequently observing and assessing your reps in the field.
  • Evaluating reps time and territory management.
  • Assessing each reps sales plan. There should be a specific focus on their strategy to penetrate and close their top accounts.
  • Implementing and mandating your reps get ongoing sales training whether they are fresh out of college or have years of experience. I’m going to shamelessly plug our program at www.SalesTrainingCentral.com because it’s easy to use, affordable, and can be customized. However, it can be as simple as your team reading a sales book together.

This requires some work up front, but it will pay off in the long run. In addition, what gets planned gets done.

After this is in place, your job is much easier because now you have activities and standards you are coaching to and assessing. As a result, you are able to sit down with your rep and provide solid feedback based upon actual assessments and information that is measurable. For example, if you are coaching a rep whose numbers are inconsistent this may be directly related to inconsistent prospecting activity. You can then address this specific issue with the rep, and monitor it more closely.

When addressing the issue with your rep, it is important that they take ownership. In keeping with the above example, during a performance review you show your rep their prospecting reports. You should ask questions such as:

  • Do you agree that your prospecting has been inconsistent?
  • How many daily prospecting calls do you think you need to make for consistent numbers?
  • How would you like me to help you achieve this?

Reiterate to them, you want to help them be successful, and then together agree to a plan to help them achieve their goals. This same technique works great for your top performers as well. “You’re doing awesome. However, if you had to pick 3 areas to improve, what would they be?” After their response, just ask how you can help them do better in those areas.

Finally, if you do have a rep that you have to let go by keeping performance logs, you are more objective and have concrete evidence of an individual’s lack of performance. This can prove to be worth its weight in gold if someone files a wrongful termination lawsuit against you and your company.

Keeping reps accountable shouldn’t be a task you avoid or dread. There are times when it’s not pleasant; however, focus on how you are helping others succeed.

About The Author: Eric Slife is president of Slife Sales Training, Inc. Through their website www.salestrainingcentral.com they help those companies who don’t have large sales training budgets receive ongoing access to premier sales training that can be adapted to their specific need. Sign up for their free newsletter, and receive their audio program Top 10 Voicemail Blunders.

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Save the Salesperson, Not the Sales Call
by Brian Jeffrey

As managers, it’s likely that most of you have gone on joint sales calls with your salespeople. And it’s also likely that many of you have found this to be one of your most painful experiences — particularly if it’s been with a salesperson that hasn’t been doing so well. It’s also painful for the salesperson, I might add. Why? Because many sales managers mishandle the joint call.

Many sales managers have come up through the ranks and were made sales manager because they were good salespeople. Unfortunately, some of them haven’t made the transition from salesperson to sales manager and this can cause problems. It takes more than being a good salesperson to be a good sales manager and sometimes your best salesperson can make your worst sales manager.

Good salespeople are often outgoing, ego-driven individuals who enjoy being center stage. Problems arise when these qualities are carried over to the sales manager’s position. When this happens, joint sales calls become a battle of egos at best. At worst, the joint call destroys any remaining vestige of self-esteem that the salesperson has as he/she watches the sales manager take over the call.

Even with all my years of experience as a sales manager, I still find it painful to make a joint sales call with someone who is botching up the call. The temptation to jump in and “save the day” is almost overwhelming. When this happens to you, my unequivocal advice is, DON’T DO IT! You may save the sale but you’ll lose an excellent opportunity to coach your salesperson to even greater success down the road. It’s your chance to change a lost sale into an investment that can pay off big time in the future.

Succumbing to the temptation to jump in on a sale going bad doesn’t help in the long run. You simply can’t be there on each and every disastrous sales call so you must coach and train your people to recognize when something is going wrong and help them develop the ability to correct it on the fly.

Be a Coach
Your job is to observe. Then after the call is over, constructively comment and provide insightful coaching on how the salesperson can improve for the next call. Comments like, “You sure blew that one out of the water,” are not considered constructive! And insights like, “That was one of the worst calls I’ve ever been on,” aren’t too helpful for the long-term development of your salesperson.

Like military peacekeepers abroad, on joint calls your job is to observe only and to fire only when fired upon (by the customer). Even then, your job is to see how well your salesperson reacts under fire. The coaching process begins when you’re back in the car or some other private location.

Use the standard three-step process:

1. Comment on something the salesperson did well.
2. Comment on the area that you feel needs attention.
3. End the coaching session with another positive comment.

Limit your coaching to just one or two points in order to avoid overwhelming the salesperson.

Draw Out Ideas
When making suggestions for improvement, try to draw ideas from the other person rather than telling him what you feel he needs to do. Questions like:

  • What are some other questions we could have asked to qualify the prospect?
  • What do think would have happened if we had done…?
  • If you were going to do the call over again, what would you do differently?

will all help the salesperson save face while he or she learns from the experience.

As I mentioned, if you detect several areas that need attention, limit your critical comments to only two. After two smacks at their egos, most salespeople will begin to become defensive and the coaching session will degenerate into a bitching bout.

The joint call can be a real pain but it provides an opportunity for real gains in terms of personal and professional development.

One of your tasks as sales manager is to develop your people. This means putting your ego and biases on hold, making sure that your people, not you, are in the spotlight, and that you build on their strengths.

That’s why the best salesperson doesn’t always make the best sales manager. It isn’t an easy job but it’s a critical one if you are to get the best from your people.

About Brian: Brian Jeffrey, co-founder and president, Salesforce Assessments Ltd, works with organizations who want to make the right hiring decisions by assessing a person’s suitability for sales using his sales assessment test. After years of hiring as many losers as winners, Brian figured that there just had to be a better way to make the hiring decision. That’s when Brian started the research and testing that ultimately evolved into the Sales Temperament Assessment. For over 20 years, companies have used the Sales Temperament Assessment to assess thousands of salespeople and make even better hiring decisions.

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A Company's Success Is Based Upon Its Sales Force
by Roy Chitwood

The truly professional salesperson has made a commitment to a calling and has the education, training and expertise an amateur doesn't have.

Selling, like any other profession, must be learned and the salesperson must serve the apprenticeship. The commitment to a calling means the salesperson buys into the professional philosophy of selling that the professional salesperson makes a sales call for only one reason and that reason is to be of service to the customer.

When a professional salesperson sits across the desk from an executive and believes the best thing for that executive is to buy his or her product or service, that is a far more convincing sales strategy than all the gimmicks and high-pressure selling tactics many salespeople use.

I've said many times that I believe any company's future will depend more on its sales and marketing expertise than any other aspect of its business.

It is my belief that a company's greatest asset is not its people; it is the undeveloped potential of its people. Companies must invest in their greatest asset in training, developing and managing their sales organizations.

Even a small increase in sales can result in a major increase in profitability.

"You've got to be very realistic about where you are but very optimistic about where you can be," Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft Corp., said in a recent interview with The New York Times. "You have to believe; you have to believe; you have to believe."

To be realistic about where they are, companies are beginning to recognize that the hit-and-miss approach to selling that goes on in so many organizations not only poorly represents the quality of the company's goods or services but fails to produce increased profits. Companies are seeing that their sales process should be one that is uniform and should be adopted company wide.

As they look for ways to improve top-line revenue and profitability, companies are starting to look more to their salespeople as well as to other companies for best practices to help them achieve greater success. One of the best sales differentials is that a company's sales force can simply outsell its competition.

However, if those companies are not exposed to other types of innovation as well as techniques they can use to make improvements, it's difficult for them to know what's really a best practice. In choosing a best practice, companies should not commit solely to one inflexible way of doing things. Examining and adopting a best practice implies a method and approach based on continuous learning, constant evaluation and a commitment to continual growth and improvement.

To develop a best practice for selling, it is important to understand the fundamental difference between sales education and sales training.

Education does not emphasize the transfer of skills crucial to putting any sales methodology into practice. Only sales skills training will provide the method by which sales education can be utilized. In education, there is not an emphasis on transfer of skills, but in training, there has to be.

Role playing should also factor into a selling best practice. Understanding a skill, writing it down and performing it repetitively helps to assimilate that skill into a salesperson's behavior so that it will eventually become second nature.

The sales methodology used must be consistent with the science of selling.

One of the mistakes companies and salespeople make is that they are product-centered, not people-oriented, not understanding that the sale of that product can be made only when the customer's buying decisions have been satisfied. Using a sales methodology that does not take into consideration this science of selling is practicing at doing things wrong and getting better at getting worse.

Prospects have a hidden agenda of five unconscious buying decisions that will be made in a precise psychological order.

This agenda is hidden because most prospects are unaware that they're going through this process.

The five buying decisions are:

1. About you, the salesperson.

    In a business-to-business sale, the goal of the initial meeting generally is not to sell a product or service. The first meeting is to create interest, determine if there is a need and if you have a genuine prospect. It is most important to build rapport and develop trust. Research has shown that trust develops (or doesn't) in the first few seconds of the initial meeting. It doesn't matter how much you know about your product or service: If the person sitting across the desk doesn't like you or trust you, you're not going to make the sale.

    2. About your company.

    Will it back its commitments? Does it have a good reputation? Will it perform as promised?

    3. About your product or service.

    Does it fill a genuine need? Does it solve a problem? Is it the best choice?

    4. About the price of the product or service.

    People don't buy price - they buy value - and they want the best value for their investment. One of the worst things a salesperson can do, then, is compromise on price. Not only does this decrease the value of the product or service in the prospect's eyes but if you're dealing with a competent buyer, they're likely to try to persuade you to lower your price now that they see it's worth less than previously thought.

    5. About the time to buy.

    If the other four decisions have been made satisfactorily, this is the point at which the salesperson will ask for the order. However, how many times have you heard someone say, "It sounded good but I just didn't feel right about it"? That's a strong indicator that one of the five buying decisions was not made in a positive manner. If at this point the salesperson is able to make the sale, though, that is an indicator that the buying decisions have been made positively and that the needs of the customer have been met.

As Ballmer advised, companies and individuals should be optimistic about where they are going.

Attitude is a crucial factor in success, but equally important is how you achieve that success.

If you believe in yourself, adopting a proven sales methodology based on the science of selling and continuing your efforts to improve will almost guarantee your success.

ROY CHITWOOD is an author and consultant on sales and customer service. He is the former president and chairman of Sales & Marketing Executives International and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle, 800-488-4629, www.maxsacks.com. If you would like to subscribe to his free Tip of the Week, "You're on Track," please e-mail contact@maxsacks.com.

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