Sales & Sales Management Expertise

3 Reasons Why Sales Get Stuck – And 3 Steps to Keep Them from Getting Stuck

Tags: close more sales

sales-funnel-stuck.jpgEven if you are not in “sales”, you’ve actually been in sales your whole life and you’ve had sales get stuck in the pipeline. No? You don’t think so. Well, let me provide a few examples to clarify.

  • When you were 5, you spent an entire 30 minutes of shopping time at the grocery store asking your mom to buy you the shiny toy, and after asking please 100 times, you worked down the “buyer” and you got the toy.
  • When you were in high school, you wanted your own car and, after asking mom and dad 25 times, promising to do better in school, working part-time on weekends and getting all A’s and B’s on your report card, you finally drove your date to the prom in your own car.
  • Let’s be candid on this next one – how many “attempts to close” before you had that first “intimate moment” with that person you are now engaged to/in love with/married to?
  • Asking for the promotion
  • Asking for a raise
  • Asking to be transferred to another department
  • Asking for a shot at being partner

Every one of these situations requires some “selling”, and in every situation, you had to make a case for why the outcome you desired was a good outcome.  That, my friend, is the essence of selling.  So, why do sales get stuck?

saleseq.png

I’m working on an opportunity right now that has hit a snag. Coincidentally, at the suggestion of Dave Kurlan at Objective Management Group, I’m reading SALES EQ by Jeb Blount.  Based on the 29 pages I’ve read so far, I think I’ve figured out why we - the stakeholders and I - are stuck.

SITUATION:  The stakeholders were looking for a solution to a management problem. They, based on PEAR (Previous experiences/Education/expectations Appearing Real), had a vision of what that solution would and should look like – Sales Management Coaching.

WHY WE’RE STUCK:

  1. I succeeded in uncovering the emotional motivation for taking action, BUT I have also introduced additional factors they have to consider because these new factors help solve the root cause of the problem(s) they face.
  2. These additional factors have created cognitive dissonance for the stakeholders and they are now in a pattern of trying to reconcile 1)what they initially thought they needed with 2) this “shiny new object” (this new solution that makes sense to them but something they weren’t prepared to deal with from a functional or investment perspective).
  3. I failed to meet with one of the money decision makers. This isn’t always a problem, but in this case, I believe it is a problem because he has no emotional attachment to the “new” direction regarding the solution.

cog·ni·tive dis·so·nance noun PSYCHOLOGY

noun: cognitive dissonance 1.the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.

3 Steps to Close More Deals More Quickly (To Keep Deals from Getting Stuck)

  1. You must create cognitive dissonance (show them the “shiny new object”). This is done when you can express a value proposition, a brand promise, a catalytic mechanism that sets you apart and keeps you from looking, sounding and acting like everyone else selling anything else.
    1. NOTE: This is important!  Keep in mind that your prospects face lots of salespeople in lots of different aspects of their life.  They’ve been inundated with sales pitches and so are numb to the same old same old.
  2. You must find a way to connect your pitch to their experience. Mitch Anthony and Scott West do a great job of helping sales professionals do this in their book – Story Selling for Financial Advisors
    1. NOTE: Don’t let the title fool you or discourage you.  The principles of right brain selling work and make a difference in even the most left brain world like engineering and technology.
  3. You must “rehearse” their decision-making. What I mean by this is that, no matter what the situation…
    • Go to committee
    • Work with other trusted advisors
    • Talk to partners
    • Run it up the ladder
    • Think it over
    • Talk to spouse

The buyer(s) will go through a process of:

  • Remembering their original intent and have difficulty reconciling that original direction with the new information/potential solution you help them discover.
  • Then, assuming for a minute that your solution expanded their thinking and may require they expand their wallet, your prospect will start left brain thinking (logic). Depending on their finances, they may default to their original plan with someone else (they trust) simply because of the money involved.
  • **NOTE: “Rehearsing them” simply means that you must take them through the process of their thinking. Ask them what they will do when someone on the committee challenges their thinking.  What will they do when the current provider sharpens their pencil?  How will they deal with a partner who doubts or challenges a solution that differs from the original objective(s)?

Additional resources:

The 2 “MUST TAKE” Steps for Guaranteed Sales Results

Tags: close more sales, how to improve sales results, no excuses

Here’s the problem: Sales results are not what you expected.  Regardless of your role - sales manager or salesperson - you are looking at your sales results YTD and you are:

  • Not ahead of last year’s production
  • Not on pace to hit this year’s goals (personal or corporate)
  • Not keeping pace with those in your peer group (those you should be able to compete with based on experience and previous success)
  • Not up to par with your efficiency (conversion ratios aren’t the same, average size deal isn’t the same, you’re not getting the leads you used to)
  • Taking longer to get sales closed
  • Running out of time at the end of the week to get your prospecting done

 

Those are just a few of the symptoms observed by me, my staff and the many companies we work with when attempting to get our heads and arms around driving sales growth.  I have discovered that there are 2 “MUST TAKE” steps to address this; but, first…

I’m shooting in my first ever National Field Archery Association Indoor Nationals Tournament.  My brother, Michael, and his wife, Gwen, owners of Insight Archery in Binghamton, New York, have participated in this tournament for years.  This year, it is in Cincinnati, so I thought I’d enter.  The first round is today.

Yesterday, we went to the Duke Energy Center where the tournament is being held.  We registered, stored our bow cases and made our way to the practice venue.  I’ve been practicing some, but not enough, in the basement of my house.  My wife, Linda, is not thrilled with this, but I'm a pretty good shooter and honestly, there is very little down there for me to damage. 

The range I have in my home is about 11.5 yards long. The scores I am shooting (25 points per end) are really not a good indicator of how I’m shooting because the distance is too short.  The other night I shot a 244 out of a possible 250 and one floor joist when my release strap broke from my wrist and the arrow in the bow got away from me.

(Nice Shot!)

basement arrow.png

Yesterday, we practiced awhile and I realized that the shooting regulation distance – 20 yards – is a WHOLE lot different than the 11.5 yards I’ve been shooting at home.  The main problems, of which there are many, are

  • I can not see very well out of my right eye due to recent surgery.
  • The vision in my left eye isn’t nearly what it used to be.
  • Wearing glasses is not an answer because I haven’t figured out how to see around the frame of the glasses.
  • I shake a little more than I used to when I get up to about 50 shots because I haven’t had the time to practice to build up my endurance.
  • When I shoot by myself, I'm by myself. When you shoot in a tournament, there is someone right behind you and right in front of you creating a heck of a distraction.

When we finished practice, we walked over to another practice range and met up with Hilda, a friend of Mike’s and Gwen’s, who is also shooting in the tournament.  Right next to her was an older large gentleman with his bows and arrows… who  only had one arm.  He’s shooting at the same type of target I am …but minus his right arm.

I’ve seen videos of people doing this and I’ve heard stories about this, but I had never before witnessed it live.  He placed the bow (to rest on the stabilizer) on the floor between his knees.  He notched his arrow and lifted the bow with his left hand to bring the bow string close to his mouth.  He grabbed the release with his teeth and pushed the bow out to full draw with his left hand. He steadied his left arm, sighted slightly with his head and, finally, released the arrow by opening his mouth.

Then and there this article hit me!  I realized that the solution to sales success, sales growth and sales results really comes down to 2 basic fundamentals.  Sure, the man has skills, strength and stamina to do this, but he has 2 other things that trump everything else:

  1. Effort
  2. No Excuses

 

You don’t just show up at a tournament and NOT put forth the effort to compete... and then expect to compete.

AND… You don't allow excuses to get in the way of the effort (like I did - see above).

Sir, I don't know who you are. But I hope I see you again today, so I can say hello and let you know what an inspiration you are to me and maybe to anyone else who might read this article.

Defining Sales Success – The Art and Science of A Sales Managed Environment®

Tags: Sales Tracking, sales performance coaching, responsibilities of sales manager, how to hit goals in sales

I'm sure someone from the Harvard Business Review or the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business could prove otherwise, but when it comes to defining success, I don’t believe there is an art to it.

Artbusiness.com

  • DeWitt Cheng, freelance art writer and critic, Bay Area, CA: Jorge Luis Borges wrote," Art has become, in the experimental 20th and 21st centuries, impossible to define."
  • Robert Berman, Robert Berman Gallery, Los Angeles: "Reality is by agreement. The reality of art is usually by some kind of agreement. The arbiters are the museums, the museum curators, the people who spend their lives and their time actually being critical of what they see and judging what they see. If you add in four or five art critics who are then able to write about it, if you get four or five major collectors who are passionate about what they collect to patronize it, and several major auction houses to auction it, then a consensus or vetting process begins to unfold."cat art.png

I don’t have the space to include, and you don’t have time to continue to read, all the articles available when I google "What Makes a Work of Art Successful", so we’ll let these two quotes validate that, when it comes to defining sales success, it is best not to be arbitrary or hope for a consensus.

Science Defined by Merriam Webster:

1:  the state of knowing :  knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding

2a :  a department of systematized knowledge as an object of study the science of theology  b :  something (as a sport or technique) that may be studied or learned like systematized knowledge have it down to a science.

It is safe to say that if, within your sales managed environment®, you have "defining success" down to a science, then you will be in a better position to identify:

  • Metrics that determine success
  • What leading indicators lead to success (kind of like a math problem – although there are a multitude of formulas you could use to arrive at the number 4, there are probably only a couple that people would use:
    • 2 +2
    • 3 +1
    • The square root of 16
  • Define the goal to be achieved – it’s a number or a definitive outcome.

But…

Maybe there is something beside the math/science that has to go into it.  I’m not sure it’s art (so I would love to hear from you what you think it is…) but here is what’s been noodling in my head for a couple of days.

This basketball season, Northwestern University of the Big Ten Conference, beat Michigan (Sorry, Jack, Mark and Marty...) with a buzzer beater full court pass and short jump shot.  Take a look here:  NCAA Video

In the aftermath, every sportscaster was talking about how this was the most wins in NWU history, it will be the first time EVER that the school has made it to the NCAA tournament and the coach, Chris Collins, has increased the number of wins every year he has been the head coach at the University.  With the win over Michigan, they recorded their 21st win of the season.  This information would lead us to believe that Coach Collins is successful because you are comparing his results to a standard that is generally accepted as success:  Winning 20 games a season and qualifying for the NCAA tournament.

The head coach at Columbia University with the most wins is Lou Little.  Lou coached the Lions to 110 victories!  When Coach Ray Tellier retired from Columbia in 2002, the article announcing his retirement declared that he was the 2nd all-time “winningest” coach in Columbia’s history behind Lou Little.  When I read this, I was impressed and happy for him; Coach Tellier was an assistant coach at the University of Connecticut when I played there.

What I didn’t know at the time of the article, but found out later, was that Coach Tellier, over a 13-year period, lead his teams to victory 42 times - a 30.7% winning record.  And he was second on the list at Columbia.  Coach Little, with the most wins, had a winning percentage of 48.8% and averaged just over 4 wins a season over a 26-year career as the head coach at Columbia.

What does this have to do with selling and determining sales success? Everything.

Companies collect lots of data and sales managers do their very best to spin a good story when outcomes are not equal to or greater than expectations (goals).  Here are some examples of how outcomes are described when attempting to put a good spin on a bad outcome:

  • We are trending the right direction
  • Our year over year production is positive
  • We are outperforming our peer group
  • We have gone from #____ in stack ranking to #______
  • We will finish in the top percentile of our district
  • _____% of our team will qualify for incentive compensation

Those descriptions tell you nothing about how a team is actually performing.

What to do instead:

  • Identify metrics that are critical success factors for your organization. (In most organization the #1 metric is revenue – it pays the bills.)
  • Establish standards for those metrics that exceed previous performance levels and are consistent with what the market will allow. (You wouldn’t expect an operating unit in Bangor Maine to produce the same loan revenue as you would an operating unit in Manhattan.)
  • Make sure you are looking at execution metrics so that your success is duplicable and you can identify choke points when there is failure.

Do this now:

  • Call me about Scorecards for sales opportunities – 513.226.3913

Why Do Sales People Leave Companies? - Management

Tags: sales talent acquisition, sales performance coaching, responsibilities of sales manager

MANAGEMENT RESPONSIBLE FOR A $450 BILLION PROBLEM

According to the article, People Leave Managers, Not Companies by Victor Lipman, the research is unanimous in the premise that managers are directly responsible for the productivity of the people they manage.

Gallup data shows 30% of employees “engaged.” Towers Watson data shows 35% “highly engaged.” Dale Carnegie data shows 29% “fully engaged.” And these aren’t small studies; the Gallup survey includes more than 350,000 respondents and the Towers Watson survey includes more than 32,000. Gallup goes on to estimate an annual cost in lost U.S. productivity of more than $450 billion. This is a staggering figure. Even if it’s imprecise, it gives a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

INTERESTED IS NOT ENGAGED

My mandolin teacher is a better player than he is a teacher. I’ve not had music lessons before so I may not be an accurate judge of what makes a good music teacher, but I have been taught and coached before.  The best ones have always engaged me by first understanding what I wanted to accomplish, getting a feel for my current state (skill level) and assessing my commitment to being better.  I’ve not had this discussion with John at all. The starting point in my lessons was him jumping in and telling me about keys, chords, progressions and scales.  I might as well take Greek lessons.  I was interested… but not engaged.

lessons-playing.jpg

“LOSING THE SCHOLARSHIP”

I will not seek out another instructor… nor will I tell him he’s ineffective as a teacher because he spends his time showing off stuff that will take me years to learn while I pick my way through the Godfather Theme for the 1000th time.  Why?  Because I don’t have time to seek out someone else, I am learning something and, most importantly, I'm not going to “lose my scholarship” if I don’t get Country Boy by John Denver.

What does this have to do with managers, specifically sales managers? Everything.

I will admit that I just signed up for the music instructor that they had available.

  • Kind of like a salesperson taking a job and really not knowing the qualifications of the manager that will be leading them to success.

I will admit that I’m approaching music as a pastime and not like my life or my retirement plans depend on my music skills.

  • Kind of like a salesperson taking a new sales role and really not understanding what the expectations are for success in the first 90 days
  • Kind of like salespeople already on the staff that are “at leasters” and aren’t worried about their position because, as long as there are people below them on the stack ranking, they won’t “lose their scholarship” (job).

TWO POSSIBILITIES… ONE EVENTUAL OUTCOME

Eventually, one of two things happen:

  1. The company catches up with the WITALAIITUs and the salespeople get put on PIPs. They respond well enough to keep their job or they immediately start looking for a new one.
  2. Or they get fed up with the hassles of performing better without any significant support, training or coaching to help them get better and so they leave.

THE PROBLEM PERSISTS BECAUSE BUSINESS ALLOWS IT

At the end of the day, the turnover ratios in the company continue to put a drain on profitability. HR and hiring managers explain it all away as “the nature of our business”. 

It’s the nature of the business only because business allows it to be so. They allow ineffective recruiting, poor on-boarding, sloppy or missing solid performance management and last, but not least, the continuation of ineffective of coaching.

3 SOLUTIONS TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEM NOW

What to do?  These three things will get you started:

  1. Start with Better Ingredients - Like the cooking analogies I’ve used before, start with fresh ingredients. In this case, I mean start with better people.  I don’t mean people that are just better from a moral or ethical perspective, although that's normally pretty important.  In this case, I mean start with people that fit your culture and will do well on the scorecard for success.

Sample Scorecard For Success:

scorecard-2.png

  1. Have a Supportive Sales Managed Environment® - You have to have the structure in place so that the person in charge of running the show won’t have excuses or reasons to fail.  Essentially, you need to have systems in place for:
    1. Performance management
    2. Upgrading the sales force
    3. Motivating the sales team
    4. Coaching for success
    5. Recruiting top talent
  2. Management with a Coaching Bias - Phil Jensen spoke of the 3rd factor (as it relates to coaching) several years ago at an Ecsell Institute Sales Management Summit. The concept is simple.  There are two factors that most of us rely on to function and succeed – Nature and Nurture.  Jensen suggest that people also rely on a third factor – in the case of successful managers, they have a “coaching bias”. That is their 3rd factor.  They care more about developing people than they do anything else.  They experience success as a result of the success of the people they are coaching.

Additional Resources:

No More Hiring Mistakes. Guaranteed! – http://www.hirebettersalespeople.com

Identify Your Systems and Processes – Sales Effectiveness and Impact Analysis Sample

Intentional Sales Coaching – You Can’t Coach "Tall"

Tags: improve sales, sales performance coaching, development of sales, sales recruiitment

YOUR BIGGEST UNDETECTED CHALLENGE

One of the biggest challenges, mostly an undetected challenge, is providing coaching that is customized and intentional to the individual need.  I say “undetected” because most, if not all, of the time coaching is done based on symptoms:

symptom-chart1.png

I could add another 10 symptoms to the list, but I’m sure this has already caused you some nausea.  It doesn’t matter if you are a sales manager attempting to do the coaching or the sales person on the receiving end of the coaching, you probably feel the same way.  I’m tired of sales training, I’m tired of going to the same classes over and over again, I’m tired of telling my people they have to do a better job at cross-selling, getting introductions, networking and asking for the business.

In the end, everyone is sick and tired because, after all the training time, after all the role-playing and after all the investment of money, you look at the results and not a lot has changed.  How come? Well, because you can’t coach TALL.

YOU CAN’T COACH “TALL”

My daughter (recently engaged - thank you) played basketball in 7th grade.  She then tried volleyball but found her love of performing in front of others, not on the fields or courts of athletics, but on the stage of music and theatre. 

I was watching her basketball practice one day and was thinking she had a chance to be a player on the high school team, but she would need a lot of work on the fundamentals: handling the ball, keeping the ball up when rebounding and pivoting while in the low post.  After practice, I went to the coach and asked him what he thought. 

Like a lot of coaches who have to address parents when they ask about their child’s skill and potential, he couched his remarks carefully.  He stated what I had been thinking about her skills and fundamentals and then he said that she would still probably be a starter.  Somewhat surprised, I asked, “How come?”  He said, “You can’t teach tall.”

You see, Alex in 7th grade was already almost 6’ tall.  She could out rebound people because they simply couldn’t reach the balls that she could reach.  She was good enough on defense and blocked out well so she had some things going for her that helped her overcome any weaknesses she had that might have kept a shorter player from being a starter. (Watch this exception to the rule.)  Besides, she had dad, a former coach, to keep her working hard and disciplined. 

Alex-tall.png

 **Note:  Alex’s height created an interesting sight on the stage when she played the queen in Cinderella.  With her hair pushed up on her head and a crown she was at least 6’4”.  The leading man… about 5’4”.  It was funny.

INTENTIONAL COACHING IS ALL ABOUT THE ROOT

The thing about intentional coaching is that, in order to get changes in behaviors and improvement in skills, you have to understand the root cause of the problem:

symptom-chart2.png

The coaching required to address the symptoms is not teaching them a new technique or process.  It is not enrolling them in a wealth certification program.  It is not having them take a time management course.  The coaching required has to address the root issue.  For example...

Problem: I don’t have time to prospect. I have too much account management work to do.

Solution(s):  Assign account managers (and they still won’t prospect, they’ll just find another excuse) or enroll them in a time management class.

ADDRESSING THE ROOT CAUSE IS REALLY THIS SIMPLE

SO…that isn’t the answer for dealing with excuses (audio). 

The solution is to ask them, “If I didn't let you use that as an excuse, what would you be doing differently?”

This addresses the root issue.  I can guess that you’re thinking that it cannot be that simple. I assure you can call anyone of the hundreds of salespeople we’ve coached or salespeople we’ve trained and they will ALL tell you that IT makes a difference.  It changes things because you’re now dealing with the correct end of the problem!

KNOW ABOUT ROOT ISSUES WHEN HIRING

Finally, think about the candidates that you are hiring. There are things they have to come to the table with that you cannot coach or you don't have time to coach. Take a look at this screen shot of the sample pre-hire assessment we use to guarantee no more hiring mistakes:

omg-pic-2.pngWouldn’t you want to know in advance that they had desire and commitment to be successful in SELLING?  How helpful would it be to know in advance that they will struggle with rejections but they will be great talking about money?  Take a look at the next shot:omg-pic-3.png

Even though there are some obvious areas of weakness, this candidate is recommended for hire. (When a hire is made based on a "recommended for hire" finding, like this candidate, 92% of the time that candidate will be a successful sales person.) The benefit of having this information is that, if you were to hire this individual, you would know the extent of your "project" and exactly what you would need to do to help them be successful in your organization.

However, having said that, there are still factors that need to be considered. Look at the work that has to be done... AND notice this: the findins say they are trainable but are not considered coachable.  Do you want to take that on? Do you have the bandwidth to take that on?  If not, then this is a hire that shouldn’t be made.  Now, consider how many of your people today might look like this and what’s that costing you?

Additional Resources:

Why Prospects are Like Fruit

Tags: Pipeline management, sales prospecting, closing sales

Years ago, while attending the Objective Management Group International Sales Conference, Dave Kurlan, president of OMG, talked about how to effectively manage opportunities through the pipeline.  He made the analogy that prospects are like fruit and vegetables in the produce section of your local grocery – they are all perishable.

“In The End, We’re All Just Fruit” – Watch the video!

we-are-fruit.jpg

That phrase has stuck with me all these years, and we continue to reference it when we are presenting our Effective Sales System (this article has 2600 views – it’s worth reading) workshops and when we are working with our new clients for hirebettersalespeople.com. 

NOT EVERYONE HAS THE SAME "SHELF LIFE"

Prospects:  They have a shelf life just like fruit: some of them a little longer than others.  Bananas – not so long, apples and mandarins a little longer, potatoes – not forever, but if they start to sprout, you can at least plant them in the ground and get more potatoes.  The bottom line is that none of them last forever.  You need to either eat them or find a way to preserve them for later.

As you go about looking at the shelves (prospecting in the market) for the produce you need for tonight’s meal or for meals over the next couple of days, you need to be somewhat selective so that the food you select today is fresh enough for cooking and or consuming over a short period of time.  I can buy a bag of potatoes and probably use them in two weeks.  Buy a bunch of bananas and we’ll need to eat them soon or else next week we will have to turn them into banana bread.

WHEN IT'S TIME, IT'S TIME

The same holds true for prospects relative to their buy cycle.  They are not in that cycle forever. Depending on what services you sell, they could be off the shelf in a week.  They may be in the looking, considering, “thinking about” cycle for a while, but once they decide to buy – it’s time to buy!

Years ago, I was in the market for a new vehicle.  The Chevy Avalanche had been out for a couple of years and I knew, when the day came, that was going to be my purchase. There is a Chevy dealership just down the road from my house in Montgomery, Ohio where I had purchased vehicles in the past from the manager Bill Wentzel.  When the day came – my lease was expiring – I went to Bill, told him I had a check in my pocket and would like to test drive the red Avalanche. I asked him if he would get me a salesperson who wouldn’t get in the way and just let me buy.

Two hours later – that’s because the paper work takes that long- I drove off of the lot in my new shiny red Avalanche.

***Note to bankers, advisors and insurance sales people***  
Your prospects are ALWAYS in the market.  EVERYONE you sell to is using, consuming and/or shopping for the services you offer.  Your timing has to be good, but it doesn’t have to be great. What has to be GREAT is your constant contact with them so that, when they are ready, you are top of mind.

 

DON'T LET PROSPECTS PERISH

Here is my real point.  When going out into the market, you can find yourself wasting your time with produce/prospects that aren’t quite ready or are already past their prime time for consumption:

  • Potatoes too green
  • Bananas too green
  • Tomatoes too yellow
  • Peaches too mushy
  • Stickers on meat packages that say “reduced”
  • Just renewed my insurance
  • Our lease expires in 11 months
  • We have to wait until this election is over

If you want to close more business, more quickly at higher margins, then find the highly perishable prospects – work with them on solving their problem. Present a solution to them and get them off of the shelf.  Do not neglect the potatoes, bananas, tomatoes or green beans; continue to check on them, plant them in your database (your CRM) and, when the time comes to make potato salad, they will be ready.

Additional Resources:

How Effective is Your Sales Process?

Do You Need Better “Shoppers” (sales people) Who Won’t Perish? Sales Mistake Calculator

How to Determine a Qualified Prospect – Post-Call Checklist/Scorecard

Why Sales Coaching is to Growing Like Low & Slow is to Tasty BBQ

Tags: Sales Tracking, Sales Coaching, sales performance coaching, sales productivity

It’s this simple:  If you want great barbeque ribs, brisket or chicken, the key is low temperature and slow cooking. Having said that, if you want maximum flavor and tenderness, make sure you sear or char the meat first, then go low and slow.  This is an undeniable truth.  Just read the Science of Cooking and discover all the neat things you can do to improve the outcome of any meal.

EXPERIENCE DOESN'T GUARANTEE FUTURE SUCCESS

20 years in sales does not guarantee future success.  Just ask anyone that has lost a sale at any time in their career.  Something always happens just a little bit differently.  If there isn’t an adjustment, a lesson or some learning as a result, then the salesperson is prone to repeating the sames mistakes or errors over and over again.

When you effectively coach your people, they will get better.  When they get better, you will close more business, more quickly at higher margins.  This is undeniable as well.  Just look at the information provided by The Sales Management Association.  **FYI - it’s also undeniable that a lack of coaching has a negative impact on sales success and talent development!

(Bob Rotella – coach to PGA Tour Players – Author – How Champions Think)

golf-coach.jpg

THERE IS ALWAYS TIME TO COACH

In our Sales Management Certification Program, we discuss 5 Keys to Coaching for Success in our coaching module. These 5 keys cover what to do and how to do it when you are face-to-face with your salespeople. Many managers, before going through our certification, complain/tell me/make excuses that there isn’t enough time to effectively coach their people.  I don’t buy it. There are several opportunities for coaching without adding to an already busy schedule:

  1. Sales meetings
    1. Segment on sales training
    2. Role-playing phone calls to get appointments
    3. Role-playing conversations to get appointments with internal partners
    4. Role-play how to position financial planning
    5. Overcoming objections
    6. Appropriately dealing with questions, and stalls.
  2. Pre–call strategy sessions
  3. Post-call debriefing sessions
  4. 1-on-1 intentional coaching sessions
  5. Ad-hoc moments when they ask you if you have a minute
  6. Every time they give you an excuse for lack of effort or execution

IN-THE-MOMENT COACHING VS. COACHING FOR SUCCESS

Coaching does take place today, but most of it is in the moment. Kind of like when a coach calls a time out in a game. The team is gathered around the coach and a strategy is developed to take advantage of the “in the moment” opportunity. Normally, that’s the type of coaching that takes place in sales – in the moment.  That type of coaching helps close a sale, get an appointment, and/or move an opportunity through the pipeline, but it does nothing to change behavior or improve skills!

Do you find yourself or your sales managers constantly covering the same ground to close deals, improve effort or refine execution?  Are opportunities getting stuck in the pipeline in the same spot for the same reasons over and over?  When you look at the performance (effectiveness and productivity, not just the results), do you see actual improvement in sales ratios like average size sale, conversion ratios from opportunities to closes and average production for each quintile in the team?

Those are the types of metrics that determine if your coaching is effective!  Failure to collect that data leads to failure of the effectiveness of your sales manager and your sales team.  Collecting the data and then doing nothing about it leads to lackluster enthusiasm for entering data, thus limiting the integrity of your forecasting.

THE 5 KEYS FOR COACHING SUCCESS

So, let’s assume for a second that 1) you are collecting data and  2) you are creating opportunities to coach people.  We can now discuss The 5 Keys for Coaching for Success.

  1. Gain insight from data points: Your data points have to include data (numbers representing leading and lagging indicators), observational opportunities via joint calls, and observations made during role plays in meetings.

    The data points you have should not be a secret to your people. Share with them what you know and what you’ve observed.  Prior to meeting with them, call them to set up the coaching meeting. Tell them that the data you have indicates there might be some problems with them hitting their established extraordinary goal.  (Remember the extraordinary goal discussion?) Then tell them that you want to meet with them during your established coaching hours. Set the appointment.
  1. Provide feedback: Now that you both have the date, you don’t have to ask the worse possible question in your meeting, “So, Joe, what’s going on?”  Instead, you acknowledge that you’ve looked at the numbers and they’ve looked at the numbers and then you ask a question about the problem that you see.

    Let’s pretend that you see a choke point where his conversion of conversations isn’t leading to the assumed number of appointments. All the other assumptions look good, but - because the conversion is off - the number of appointments isn’t meeting the goal.  Without this information, the only coaching you can do is to tell Joe that he needs to see more people. But, with all the data, you see that the effort is there – the dials and discussions – but that effort isn’t leading to appointments.

    Instead of pointing that out, you ask Joe what he sees when he looks at the conversation ratio compared to the model in the success formula.  Assuming Joe sees the same thing as you, you are now in a position to ask further questions.  The key here is that both parties must agree as to what the problem is.

  2. Demonstrate what you expect to be done: In this case, you would listen to Joe’s approach to converting conversations to appointments.  You would identify areas where he might need to change or improve his approach and you demonstrate what that would look/sound like.

  3. Role–play: Now that you’ve demonstrated what you expect, you role-play various situations with Joe giving him several different responses.

  1. Action step: It is critical that every coaching session ends with an action step.  An example of that would be to agree to a number of calls that Joe is going to make over a short period of time (i.e. by the end of the day or week) and then instruct him to report back to you (on a specific day and time) the outcome of his effort.

(Click here for 9 critical coaching skills)

STOP WASTING YOUR MONEY ON SALES TRAINING

Understand that this might be an ongoing process for Joe, and you may have to take a more disciplined approach to his coaching and execution of the skills he is struggling with.  At the end of the day, the key is to recognize that improvement is vital for sales growth.  You cannot expect to grow sales without improving effort and/or execution. If you want to improve sales, invest your money in developing your sales managers and stop wasting money on sales training until your managers can and will coach.

Additional Resources:

Demo online Sales Learning Module

Sales Managed Environment® Certification Module – Free Document

Growing a Successful Sales Team – What Are Your Cultural Requirements?

Tags: sales force development, sales recruitment, teamwork coaching, sales skill assessment

When a new president of a company takes over a company or when a new sales manager takes over a sales team, you can imagine what happens, right? There were already people there as a result of the previous administration(s).  Those people, inherited by the new leader, chose to stay based on the previous leadership and characteristics of that leadership. (HBR book on leadership).

2 QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN “INHERITING” A SALES TEAM

Now, what happens when new leadership “inherits” and takes over a previously established sales team? Chaos, push back, dissension and political jockeying - sound familiar? I imagine it does, but that isn’t the point I want to make now. The point I wasnt to address here is that, when you find yourself in this situation, there are two questions that need to be immediately asked and answered. 

  1. What happens to productivity, growth and stability when there is a lack of teamwork?
  2. How do you fix it?

 

IGNORING EXECUTIVE ORDERS… WHAT?!?! 

Every POTUS comes into the office hoping to make a significant positive contribution to our country and citizenry.  No one takes the oath of office with the intent of doing harm or “screwing it up”.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean it doesn't happen and no President evert goes unscathed or un-criticized by those who didn’t vote for him/her (Hillary would have made that statement end with her!). 

Trump’s Executive Orders to restrict immigration from certain countries and the resulting backlash puzzles me.  Not because of the opposing views on the executive order but because of my lack of understanding of how our federal and state governments work and/or don't work together.  I had no idea that a judge in Washington could weigh in on such a matter as an executive order and declare that the state of Washington could ignore not just this executive order, but any executive order. 

Presidents and number of executive orders in my lifetime:

 exec-orders.png

Since I became an eligible voter, I had not previously heard of any judge at any time weighing in on executive orders.  I admit that I may have missed them. And so, what I’m really admitting to is that I don’t know how the whole thing works.  What I do know is that, for any organization to win more than it loses, it needs people that have a strong sense of teamwork who are willing to sacrifice their own personal agendas for the good of the team.

Teams work or don’t work, win or don't win based on the following:

  • Strategy
  • Effort
  • Execution
  • Performance Management
  • Motivation
  • Coaching
  • Talent Acquisition

 
SUCCESS REQUIRES EVERYONE’S SUPPORT

In order for a team to succeed, the strategy for the company has to be supported by the entire company.  There has to be alignment and support!  The middle manager in Washington cannot decide to not put forth the effort or choose to not execute the strategy simply because they disagree with the strategy.  If that’s the case, then that middle manager can no longer be part of the team.

To avoid this type of problem, the company's hiring strategy has to consider cultural fit.  In the case of government, teams and companies, one of the components of cultural fit to be considered is the Team Player.

THE MOST IMPORTANT QUALITY OF A TEAM PLAYER

A team player is one that sacrifices their personal agenda for the betterment of the team.  They are willing to do everything possible (assuming legal, ethical and moral standards) to assist the team in winning.

Linda and I recently attended the Sycamore Athletic Boosters Hall of Fame Induction dinner.  Our friend, John Traub, was one of the inductees.  John Traub, a former wrestler and current teacher’s aide at Sycamore High School, holds several school records in wrestling, has coached state champions there and was instrumental in establishing the youth wrestling program in our community. 

Also, on the list of inductees, was Bailey Su.

While at Sycamore, Bailey Su played tennis and lacrosse. She went on to college at Northwestern where she played on the 3 time NCAA National Championship team.  She recalled that her coach taught her about teamwork, the value of the team and how you have to sacrifice your own interests for the benefit of the team. She shared a story about a time when she and a team mate decided to donate blood. This left them tired and lethargic for practice. When their coach questioned them about this, he became enraged at their selfishness.

I know this sounds strange and I assure you that everyone in the audience was uncomfortable with the story about the coach, but Bailey insisted that it was a very strong lesson for her. She indicated that she could have accomplished the same thing another way without doing harm to the performance and goals of the team.

SCREEN FOR SKILL AND WILL

Do you have players who think that way… or do you have people on your team who are all about themselves and only think about their own needs?  Do you look for the team mentality when you are interviewing candidates? What else are you looking for to make sure there is a fit?  How well do you screen for those soft, emotional intelligence, cultural characteristics and behaviors that may cause you to think 6 months down the road that this wasn’t a great hire because of fit?

I recently wrote an article about making sure you always assess candidates for “skill and will” before you start the interview process.  That step is just that – a step.  And even that step must be put into perspective.  You need to make sure you have a scorecard that clearly spells out what it takes to be a successful team player IN YOUR ORGANIZATON, not just on how to be a successful sales person.  That scorecard must include “team player”.

Overcoming the Sales Goal Deficit – The Tom Brady Version of Sales Management

Tags: sales performance coaching, how increase sales, responsibilities of sales manager, teamwork coaching

Super Bowl LI was something special to watch - unless you are a Falcons fan and then it was a disaster.  You could see it happen right before your eyes. The Patriots struggled in the first quarter while the Falcons had complete control of every aspect of the game.  And then… it happened.

Depending on what expert you listen to, there are a variety of plays in the game that you could point to and declare, “That was the turning point!” Even though I played a lot of football (13 years), coached a lot of football (6 years) and watched a lot of football (50+ years), I’m no expert – but I believe the play below was the turning point in the game.  (Click to view on Youtube.)

Falcons-Patriots-youtube.png

In my opinion, it happened in the third quarter.  As you can see in the upper left hand corner of the picture, it’s 3rd and 8 with 4:49 left in the quarter and the Patriots are down 28-3.  So far in the game, they hadn’t had much success at all.  In their five possessions in the first half, they had punted 3 times and had 2 turnovers.  On this play, with no one open to throw to, Brady did something he rarely does – he ran with the ball.

2016

New England Patriots

12

28

2.3

64

2.3

5.3

0

15

10

35.7

0

0

1

Brady’s record shows that he had only run with the ball 28 times in 12 games.  That’s a mere 2.3 rushes per game with a total of only 5.3 yards per game.  His longest run in 15 years accounted for nearly 25% of the total yards he gained the entire season… and he fumbled once.  If you were going to run the ball to gain 8 yards for a critical 1st down, the last guy you would call on to do that would be Tom Brady. If, however, the game is on the line and you needed to call on someone that wants the ball when the game is on the line - and you want a guy that will get the job done again as he has in the past - then you would call on Tom Brady.

Why Tom Brady?  Well, in the words of Beth Mooney, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Key Bank, it boils down to this – The Shadow of the Leader.

The jobs of sales management (video) are many, but when it comes down to it, the primary roles fall into three categories:

  • Lead for Results
  • Manage Activities
  • Coach Behaviors

These roles make up the cornerstone, so to speak, in our Sales Managed Environment® Certification program.  Everything that you do or need to be doing day in and day out as a manager should be an activity that supports one of these three contributing factors to sales growth.

  • Lead for Results – This requires that your vision for your team supports the overall vision of the organization, but it is also a vison that your people support and are motivated by. Yes, we know by using the Objective Management Group Sales Force Evaluation that close to 70% of all sales people are motivated internally, but that internal motivation is often tied to the place where they work.  They want to feel like the work they do is meaningful. They want to be recognized for their accomplishments. They want to feel that they are making progress personally and professionally. They rely on work to make their personal dreams come true. They need someone – you – to lead them to places they don’t think are possible and to lead them when the odds seem to be against them.  (Down 25 points with 20 minutes left in the game.  No team in the Super Bowl Championship has ever overcome even a 10-point deficit!)
  • Manage Activities – These activities get the results you want. Everything starts with belief and belief controls your activities.  At half time, according to Tom, the discussion was not about “What do we do now?”  The discussion was about “This is what we’ve done.”:
    • We’ve moved the ball.
    • We’ve controlled the clock.
    • We’ve allowed them to move the ball the full length of the field for a touchdown.

We’ve been doing a lot of things right.  And we’ve made a couple of mistakes, but it isn’t like they are stopping us or completely running over us.  Let’s stay the course, do what we do best, control what we can control and - when the time comes - we’ll make the plays we need to win.

  • Coach Behaviors – There wasn’t a whole lot of “in-the-moment” coaching going on during the game. Yes, there were a couple of situations where Tom made a motion for a receiver to break his route and run deep and then Tom delivered the ball for a long gain. Yes, there were adjustments made to blocking schemes and defensive fronts, but those adjustments were easy to execute because of all the practice prior to the game.  Recently, I was listening to a talk radio show where they were discussing how the Patriots go about practicing pass patterns for when Brady has to scramble out of the pocket. These aren’t plays that just happen by accident.  They are due to hours of specific practice where the offensive team run through scenarios they might encounter in a game.  And they have to learn those plays on the practice field so that, in a real game when the lights are on and everyone is watching, they can execute them and make them look “easy”.  That's what Tom Brady and Bill Belichick demand and that is why the team performed so well under pressure to overcome a historic deficit and win Super Bowl LI.

Additional Resources:

Are You Wasting Sales Training Dollars?

Do Your Sales Growth Strategies Exceed The Limits of Your Sales Team?

Are You Drafting The Right People For The Right Roles?

Sales and Sales Management Scorecards – How Can They Drive Sales Growth?

Tags: sales performance coaching, predictable sales growth, how to hit goals in sales, salesforce evaluation

SCORECARDS DO NOT DRIVE SALES GROWTH

I don’t believe that scorecards drive sales growth. I say “believe” because I don’t have any definitive proof one way or another and I’m not about to sort through over a million responses from Google search to find out.  But, instead, I will tell you about my experience and exposure to scorecards and the impact they can have.

scorecard.png

TRACKING THE RIGHT INFORMATION FOR IMPROVEMENT

My golf experience would not indicate that scorecards improve my golf game.  However, many years ago, I decided to do more than just keep score.  I also tracked fairways and greens hit in regulation and the number of putts I took on each hole.  (Full disclosure here:  I am a lifetime mid 90s’ golfer which gives me a handicap in the low to mid 20s.) The year I decided to track more information, I set a goal to get under a 20 handicap.  At that time, I didn’t play a lot of golf – no more than 20 times a year, but I managed to end the season at an 18.  I believe that tracking the RIGHT information on the scorecard AND setting a goal AND working to improve metrics are what led to meeting the goal of making improvement.

I’ve been in two meetings this week where scorecards for performance were presented.  One scorecard was really a financial data update reporting on actual performance against goal and year over year.  The other scorecard reported on various initiatives and the current stage of completion. The stages were reported as:

  • Green – on track or completed
  • Yellow – close to being on track or completed
  • Red – not on track to be completed by deadline

THE REASON SCORECARDS DO NOT ALWAYS WORK

When Alan Mullaly left Boeing to take over Ford (see scorecard info), he implemented the Green, Yellow, Red scorecard concept that served him so well at Boeing.  If you read the book, American Icon (a GREAT read, by the way…), you find out one of the reasons they cannot be directly connected to sales growth.  Spoiler alert – not everyone reporting the status of the project is courageous enough to tell the new CEO when his or her project is not on target.

Alan met with the leaders of his production teams every week to get an update on progress being made.  The leaders had to report on what they were responsible for as Green, Yellow or Red.  For months, there was never a Red status on any project.  Alan knew that this could not possibly be true, but he let it ride.  He was certain that, sooner or later, someone in the group was going to step up and be willing to take some bullets.

Sure enough, a car launch that was scheduled for the holiday season was behind schedule and was in jeopardy of missing the launch date entirely.  The manager of that division decided that he’d rather take the bullets now rather than later and so he reported RED!.

(Back to my meeting…)

Nothing on the scorecard was RED.  As I sat there and calculated numbers on some of the various metrics, I saw that the levels of achievement year to date were in the 33% range when, to be on target, they needed to be in the 50% range.  I’m new on the committee, so I was a little uncertain as the newbie and I thought,”Should I speak up?  Is this something that has been addressed before and clarified?  Does the RED indicator show up when something is 30% or less?”  Finally, the gentleman sitting next to me asked the question, “How come we don’t see any RED?” The reasons given to the committee were both evasive and vague. 

HOW TO MAKE SCORECARDS WORK TO DRIVE SALES GROWTH

What happened next is what can happen to make a scorecard report contribute to sales growth.

  • Questions were asked about the various projects in YELLOW
  • Clarity was gained on the exact status
  • A series of What, Why, Who, When, How, Now What questions were asked
  • We arrived at standards that would change a status from Yellow to Red

The point is this:  If you are going to build and use scorecards to impact sales growth, the following has to happen:

  • You have to have metrics that are both leading and lagging
  • Standards have to be set and they have to be set high enough to allow growth and eliminate mediocrity
    • At or above 100% - GREEN - Good
    • At a maximum 90 to 99% - Yellow - Poor
    • Anything under 90% is RED – AND you have to be willing to call it FAILING.
  • You have to have established confidence and trust in your team so that they are comfortable being truthful about the status or production, pipeline, sales activity and forecasting.

YOU HAVE TO KNOW "WHY"

Finally, if you want to be able to answer, “Yes, our scorecards contribute to sales growth” you have to understand that the scorecard is like the meteorologist reporting the weather.  Normally, when it comes to weather, that’s all most of us care about. But, when it comes to sales growth, you better want to know why it is sunny or rainy!  That is Performance Management! To make your scorecards more effective always, ALWAYS be prepared to ask questions about outcomes that are either positive or negative:

  • Why are we getting this result?
  • When did we know this was going to happen? (I assure you it was known, or should have been known, way before the report was generated if you are collecting leading indicator sales activities via huddles.)
  • Who is or who are the DRI(s) – Directly Responsible Individual(s)?
  • What did we do/you do/they do the moment they knew?
  • What actions have been implemented to 1) duplicate this success 2) eliminate the problem and/or 3) slow down the negative trend?
  • What is happening now? What is the current status?

Having this type of discussion is what leads to sales growth not the scorecard alone!

Additional Resources: 

How well is your team doing? Try the free Sales Achievement Grader