Companies are constantly trying to figure out how to drive organic growth by:
- Acquiring a revenue stream by buying a business or lifting out talent from a competitor
- Developing current talent
If you are not in the acquisition business, then you must develop your talent. One of the keys to doing that is to understand how to drive sales improvement. You must determine what is really happening with your salespeople when they fail to acquire a new piece of business. (See LinkedIn Article: What You Don’t Know Can Kill Sales Growth) Are your people just making excuses for failure or do they have deficits in the required sales competencies or will to sell?
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To be successful in determining the real issues with your salespeople, you must have a system
I read a blog the other day by Dave Kurlan. We’ve had a strong business partnership with Dave and his company OMG (Objective Management Group) for most of our 24 years in business. With OMG, we have the ability to determine the answer to the question – is it excuses or is it a talent issue?
Dave’s post - 12 Reasons They Didn’t Like You Enough To Buy From You – helps address some of the issues associated with “not getting the business”. It primarily focuses on the area of matching styles.
This got me thinking about the issue of “style” as it relates to talent, which relates to sales competencies and excuse making. The challenge for the sales manager is determining if the reason a salesperson did not get the sale was really a talent issue or if they are just making excuses for failing to execute the skills or sales process of the organization.
To determine the root cause of the results, a sales manager must work more closely with the relationship managers and implement a process that Bill Eckstom calls “intentional coaching”. This process of working closing with your RMs is addressed in our Sales Management Certification Program in the Coaching for Success Module.
Here are the 5 steps you must take to help you determine if your people have skill issues or an excuse-making issue:
- You must gain insight. You gain insight by using various data points. The data points you MUST use are:
- Observational joint sales calls – You do not run the sales call; you observe your RM
- Data from your CRM or SAT program (SAT – Sales Activity Tracking)
- Sales meetings – In all your sales meetings, you need to include a segment on skill development where you drill for skill, role play and conduct strategy development discussions
- 1-on-1 coaching – Each week, you should have time set aside for 1-on-1 coaching with those people that are NOT in the 1st quadrant of the “Where’s Walter?” matrix
- Provide feedback. In advance of the discussion about lost opportunities, you want to provide your RM with the data you have – no ambushing.
- You discuss – ask the RM questions about what they see in the data
- You provide them feedback based on what you see and where the problems might be
- You discuss what the future might look like if the current trends continue
- You agree that there is a problem
- Demonstrate – Once you identify the problem as either an excuse or a skill issue, you demonstrate to the RM what you expect them to execute.
- If they are making excuses – ‘They didn’t understand the value of our offering” – You ask, “If I didn’t let you use that as an excuse what would you have done differently?”
- If it’s a skill problem – “I asked them if they had a budget and they said yes.” “When you asked them what it was, what did they say?” “They said they didn’t want to tell me.” “When you asked, ‘why not?’, what did they say?” “I didn’t ask that question.”
- Role play – The scenario above allows you to now role play with you playing the prospect. You need to start with Drill for Skill and then graduate to the full role play. Getting them to practice what you expect them to do takes patience and repetition. Do not believe for a minute that one role play will be enough. You need to start your RM on a weekly coaching session repeating the required skills over and over again. (Note: At this time, you will also want to review their OMG results to uncover a real root cause for the failure to ask. In this case, it might be a problem with need for approval or buy cycle issues.)
- Action steps – each coaching session must end with action
- Bill, so what I want you to do is call Mary and have this conversation we just role played.
- I want you to report back to me by end of business today what happened as a result of that conversation.
Implementing a process of gaining insight, providing feedback, demonstrating, role playing and establishing action items will go a long way in helping your team discern the difference between making excuses for failure and the need for skill development.