Sales & Sales Management Expertise

Variability in Performance – Let’s Talk Recruiting

Tags: recruiting sales people, getting consistent sales results, variability in sales performance

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Earlier, I stated that eliminating the variability of performance all starts with people, right?  And then, I proceeded to tell you that I thought that eliminating variability starts with systems and process.  Now, it’s time to talk about people and that means talking about recruiting.  Here are the big ideas about recruiting:

  • You don’t have to like it; you just have to do it.
  • You must be excellent at it.
  • You must know exactly what you are looking for – What is your *Zebra?
  • You must stick to your plan of hiring nothing but Zebras!
  • You must have an excellent onboarding system and process.

Companies hiring salespeople do not hire talent intending for that talent to be average.  Companies creating business plans do not put plans together with an end game of “Let’s be average.”  No one starts a company, starts a career or initiates a marketing campaign with the excitement of “I think this is really an average idea that will bring us average results and make us average in the marketplace!”

So, why should we use average, above average, okay, trending, making progress and “in line with out peer group” when describing our results?  It’s the wrong way to measure success or progress.  If you don’t intend on having average results, then don’t intentionally hire average people and don’t accept it when evaluating effort, execution or performance!

How do we know that this actually happens?

  • Companies use stack ranking and the sales managers/executives reviewing the sales reports brag about outperforming their counterparts in similar markets. If the counterparts are successful, then that’s a good analysis.  If the counterparts suck, then one team just doesn’t suck as bad as the other teams.
  • Companies use year over year performance. I get it.  I understand it because companies are trying to demonstrate that they are improving. That makes sense, kind of.  But, let’s suppose you are a sports team that plays 10 games.  Last year, you won 2. This year, you won 4 – a 100% improvement; however, you still lost 60% of your games!
  • The 80/20 rule doubled. If you look at most sales teams that have at least 10 salespeople, normally you find that about 36% of the salespeople are responsible for 90% of the results.  What the heck is the other 64% of the team doing?

How does this happen?  Recruiting, on-boarding, training and development, sales coaching and performance management. 

It is possible to fail in many ways…while to succeed is possible only in one way (for which reason also one is easy and the other difficult – to miss the mark easy, to hit it difficult.)   - Aristotle

How do you minimize the opportunity for failure in recruiting thus minimizing the variability in performance?  Answer: Have a system.  Have a system managed by quality people that are more interested in hiring quality people that will actually sell.  Have partners internally and externally whose objectives are aligned with the ultimate goal – creating a sales team built for growth.  Manage the process like you would manage any other process in your organization.

With all of that said, here are a couple of key things to consider:

  • Have a pipeline process. Imagine for a minute that you were talking to your salespeople about their prospect pipeline and they informed you that they didn't have one. What would your reaction be?  Why then is your company allowed to NOT have a candidate pipeline or a process to build a pipeline when necessary?
  • Have huddles to discuss internal activities designed to generate candidate leads. Internal ownership in the recruiting process is critical. Hiring an outside firm and them blaming them or using them as the excuse for poor hiring is not an option.
  • Profile the results needed to be successful rather than write and publish a job description. Look into what is being done by your most successful salespeople (*Note- These may not be the same people with the biggest revenue contribution). What are they doing? What kind of activity do they have, who do they call on, what is their average size case, close ratio and sales cycle?  How are they being managed and at what level do they succeed? Attract those that aspire to work and succeed at that level.
  • Assess for job fit, sales skills inventory and WILL to succeed in selling. The resumes are going to look good. References are pointless these days and almost all of them will have a decent profile on LinkedIn.  So, use a pre-hire assessment tool so that you have the same set of sales skills inventory questions being asked the same way all the time.
  • Screen for the skills you need. Just as an example: If phone skills are important and the salesperson will often face prospects that are not terribly over-excited about getting a call from a salesperson, then you must first screen for that skill, that talent.  If closing for an appointment is important for sales people to do, then make sure that this candidate closes you for the next step.

These are the big ideas in recruiting. This is the start of the transformation of your sales team.  Stop hiring those people that end up on the wrong end of the 80/20 curve.  Be a leader and break the trend of accepting mediocrity from people you hired to succeed.

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Variability in Performance in Sales Teams, pt.2

Tags: sales management, managing sales teams, getting consistent sales results, variability in sales performance

Let’s start with the right people

This isn’t new.  Jim Collins in Good to Great clearly explains the concept of “getting the right people on the bus” and “getting those people in the right seats”.  Aside from that, however, there are other “people” components that have an impact on the variability of performance that are probably just off the radar of our thinking when we discuss ‘The Right People”.

There are three other contributing factors:

  1. The Executive Champion – The executive champion has to support the effort when things get tough. The executive champion has to be able to manage up and down when resistance begins to fight against change.  This leadership starts at the very beginning of the process of trying to get it right relative to minimizing/eliminating the variability of performance.  When we first started our engagement with the community bank at Key Bank, their fearless leader, Beth Mooney, stated time and again in all of our kick-off sessions that “This too shall NOT pass.”  Beth did a great job of anticipating the reactions of the participants and warned them early that they were not going to be able to “wait this out”.
  2. The people being trained/coached/motivated/instructed on what and how change was/needed to take place need to be coachable and trainable. In our studies of sales organizations over the last 20 years, it is clear that about 20% of the population is not trainable or coachable.  This doesn’t make them bad people. This doesn’t mean that they should be exited. BUT, if some of these people manage large books of business and, as a result, have become account managers instead of business developers, then there is going to be a variance in performance simply because they are unwilling to change.
  3. The trainers – Are they capable of leading people to a place where they themselves have never been? Think about a field general trying to lead a group of soldiers into a battle and that general had never experienced the stress, fear, and confusion of battle.  How can a trainer possible facilitate transformation discussions if they’ve never done it themselves?

Let’s talk about the right stuff

We are getting ready to submit a recommendation for a workshop at a conference where we’ve had the great privilege to speak for the last 6 years.  One of the topics we can submit content for is Insurance and Protection Products.  I’m anticipating that respondents attending the conference looking for a platform to speak about their insurance and protection products are also going to submit proposals. Those proposals, I'm assuming, will consist of how their insurance products can solve a variety of problems facing the prospects in the market that are looking to:  pass on an estate, transition their business, protect assets, avoid unnecessary taxes and avoid the risk of losing buying power to inflation. These will be very solid presentations…but they will focus on the wrong stuff.

You see, the problem at this conference isn’t a lack of understanding of how and why insurance and protection products are important to their clients.  The problem isn’t a product knowledge problem.  And I would suggest to you that when you evaluate your sales team and your sales team’s results, you would probably rarely arrive at the conclusion that your people fail to sell because they lack technical expertise or that the technical expertise needed isn’t available.

What you would find out is that one of the two factors below is the significant contributor to lack of results:

  1. Lack of effort
  2. Lack of execution

Lack of effort is a recruiting and performance management issue that needs to be addressed by training and coaching your management team rather than training your salespeople to “do more”.  Lack of execution has a number of deep-rooted causes that keep salespeople from asking quality questions, getting to decision makers, and uncovering motivation to change or take action.  Salespeople have been taught the techniques and the language, but they still fail to execute.  Why?  Consider the following root causes for failure to execute:

  1. Lack of desire to commitment to success in selling
  2. Failure to take responsibility for outcomes
  3. Unsupportive belief system about certain aspects of selling
  4. Fear of rejection
  5. Difficulty recovering from rejection
  6. Too trusting of prospects

These are just a few samples areas that can be remediated by training and coaching the right stuff.

Lets talk about the right way

When we started our business over 20 years ago, the primary technology for delivery of training was face-to-face instructor-led training.  A lot has changed since then and now there are many options for distance learning.  BUT WAIT – distance learning has been around since the 15th century… in the form of books!

Distance learning isn’t new.  It’s been redefined by technology, but there have been hundreds of thousands of sales eople trained and coached by reading books and listening to audio materials.  What made those technologies work are the same things that make distance learning work today – the ability to learn and study when it works for the learner.

I have listened to hundreds of hours of David Sandler, Tony Robbins, Mark Victor Hansen, Og Mandino, Zig Ziglar and countless others.  I have bookshelves full of books that I’ve read at 5:30am on airplanes on the way somewhere and late at night in hotel rooms.  The unavoidable truth is your training and development program must be delivered the right way.

  • Get the technical information delivered via written, audio or video form,
  • Use live webcast for discussion principles, tactics and ideas
  • Use live – interactive – preferably face-to-face – instructor led training (from someone that has already been where you want your people to go) for the soft skill development needed via drill for skill, role play and strategy development.

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The current state of building and developing an effective and consistent sales team is as tough as it has ever been for many reasons, including the difficulty recruiting talent and keeping up with changes in the buyer’s buying process.  However, the mobility of people and the availability of information via technology allows for training/learning anywhere at any time.

Make sure, when looking to deal with the variability of performance, you are dealing with:

The right people, doing the right things, the right way!

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