Sales & Sales Management Expertise

Did Your Salespeople Grow Up on the Farm?

Tags: managing sales people, record collection, coaching sales people, sales habits

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You and your salespeople are a product of mom and dad, the people met, the experiences had and the education/knowledge acquired:

  • Nature and Nurture
  • Heredity and Environment

Recently, I read a Jack Reacher novel.  Jack is a fictional character in many of Lee Child’s novels.  Jack is a former military police officer and states to himself, “You can leave the army, but the army doesn’t leave you.”  I stopped and thought about that comment and related it to my own life and realized, “You can leave the farm but the farm doesn’t leave you.”

Those that know me and have heard me speak or train know that I reference my youth and growing up on the farm in Hammonton, New Jersey.  Hammonton is the blueberry capital of the world, home of the Hammonton Hawks, the Hammonton Blue Devils and Bruni’s Pizzeria.

I am a product of those experiences as well as the numerous people I’ve met, places I’ve been, books I’ve read, speakers I’ve heard and work/fun experiences I have had since I was 18.  But, I am pretty sure much of what I am today - how I think and how I act - are a result of those first 18 years.  The farm and growing up the son of Ray and Geri Cole laid the foundation that is me today.

The core values and beliefs I learned on the farm that still guide me today:

  • When all else fails, hard work works.
  • Get up early and go to work.
  • Go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep.
  • Learn how to hunt and provide for your family.
  • Working piece meal pays you your true value (i.e. working on commission).
  • Don’t try to control what you cannot control (i.e. Weather and the rate at which blueberries ripen for harvest).
  • There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
  • Someone will always have it better/worse than you.
  • Two things have to happen – death and taxes.
  • God will provide wisdom, strength and courage – you have to do the work.
  • Not everyone gets to play.
  • Winners are rewarded.
  • God provided us with two ears and one mouth, listen twice as much as you talk.
  • You have to be in great shape to play college football.
  • Thank and love Mom, Dad and God.
  • 4th place didn’t get a medal.
  • If you hoe long enough, blisters will become calluses.
  • Trucks run better with all four tires.
  • Hard work can be fun.
  • Make your handshake mean something.
  • All we have is our integrity.
  • Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be answer, ask and it will be given.
  • The only way to get a pretty girl to go out with you is to ask her out for a date.
  • Your heart will be broken and mend.
  • If you plant trees in good soil, take care of them with food and water and shelter them from harm, they will last a long, long time (See my picture of the sugar maple my dad planted over 60 years ago).
  • Love grows best in little houses.
  • Kids taking care of pets learn about responsibility, life and death.
  • Hugs are free.
  • There’s always room for Jello
  • Money doesn’t grow on trees.
  • I’m not a Rockefeller.
  • Practice what you preach.
  • Take care of your equipment and your equipment will take care of you.

Most, if not all, of this list has served me well over the years. There is also a list of things I had to unlearn/undo because it didn't/ doesn't serve me well.

  • Don’t talk to strangers.
  • Life isn’t fair.
  • Rich people are ‘rich bastards’.
  • You want people to like you.
  • Don’t upset the apple cart.
  • Fit in.
  • Play it safe.
  • Don’t trust salespeople.
  • Biases based on gender, religion and color of skin.
  • You can’t be wealthy and happy.

I’m sure I could add more, but I’m also sure that this is getting boring, so I’ll get to the point.  That point is this: you have to do more in your training and development program than just teach tactics and techniques.  There’s lots of stuff in your head -  and in the heads of your people - that influences what you do and won’t do.  To get the most out of any training and development program, you have to understand the “root” cause.

Understanding who your people are is critical in getting them to perform. Understanding who you are will help you help them.

Here is a way to learn more about how your people think when it comes to sales and sales management:  Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis.

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What to Stop, Start and Keep Doing to Drive Sales Growth (Part 1 of 3)

Tags: managing sales people, Sales Growth

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What to STOP Doing:

Stop Worrying About Sales Production!

You can stop worrying if you do the things you should be doing as a sales executive/sales manager. Understand that “doing” doesn’t always mean “start doing”. It does mean that you should stop doing certain things. Bob Newhart in this YouTube video clip coaches this concept very well. Start the start doing by watching this video. Go ahead… I’ll wait…

Stop It!

Stop Recruiting the Wrong People: You know what they look like, act like and sound like. You see it in the current team you have today. Take a look at performance records, daily activity, improvement in skill and you know which people you have that are/were hiring mistakes.

Stop Collecting Data: You are probably collecting data and one of two (maybe three) things is happening: 1) You are doing nothing with the data. In other words, you aren’t taking the time to derive business intelligence from the information. 2) You are only collecting lagging indicator information – pipeline and sales. Neither accurately predicts the future success of an individual performer or the team as a whole. 3) Your coaching from the information is ineffective. Telling someone they need to make more calls, see more people or increase their average size sale isn’t coaching. It’s reporting the weather.

Stop Assuming You are Hiring Nothing but Skilled/Experienced Sales People that Can Get the Job Done: Yes, they might have the experience and they might have a track record. Remember this: sales people are like mutual fund investing – past results are no guarantee of future results. AND even the best require some level of performance management and coaching.

Stop Thinking that “Coaching the Deal” is the Same as Effective Coaching: I come from an athletic background. I played and coached football from the age of 9 to 22. I can probably figure out all the competitive games I played, but I cannot count the number of practices and time outs. Practice is where you coach to improve skill and change behavior. Time outs are for coaching in the moment – to help move a deal or close the deal. They are not the same – don’t treat them that way!

Stop Making and Accepting Excuses: Excuses are the answers to the performance questions of why or how come. When you are attempting to find out from a sales person why the results are not as planned, an excuse maker will blame you, the company, the economy, the pricing, the competition or the dog that used to eat their homework. Stop lowering the bar of acceptable behavior and stop accepting excuses. ALSO stop taking bullets for those that are not performing. Simply admit that you are not developing, coaching, or motivating them appropriately. Or admit that you made a hiring mistake.

Stop Setting Goals from the Top Down: It is not motivational; it doesn’t create ownership and it actually sets up a discussion somewhere over the next 12 months that sounds like – “It wasn’t my goal to begin with” or “I never agreed to that goal.”

Stop Conducting Sales Meetings that People Miss or Want to Miss: Sales meetings should be about selling. Effective sales meetings have 3 rules: 1) Make it a meeting that no one ever misses or finds reasons to miss, show up late or leave early. 2) Focus on nothing but sales –such as ops meetings or emails for ops and administrative issues. 3) Provide  ideas or information that they can leave the meeting with and use RIGHT NOW to drive more sales.

Stop Accepting Mediocre Performance: How do I know you do this? I know this because you probably have a performance chart that looks like a bell curve. You have 3 to 4 standard deviations from the median consisting of people that are underperforming. Your sales results probably resemble the 80/20 rule. But that isn’t unusual. As a matter of fact, it would be expected. You have people on your team that are close to retirement, so their goals may not be as high as middle career sales people. You have new hires that are to the left of the bell curve. But, my guess is that you have others populating the middle of the bell that are simply failing and continue to fail because you let them.

Come back to see the next step – START DOING!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Tags: managing sales people, meeting sales goals, setting sales goals

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Time to Make Sure that You have Set Your Goals for 2016!

When asked, most sales managers say that one of their greatest challenges is their ability to motivate their salespeople. If a sales manager can figure out what makes his people “tick”, he can better help them hit their goal numbers. Motivation seems like hard work because salespeople often value different things. There are however, several steps a sales manager can take to establish a motivating environment.

The first step is to recognize that motivation is an “inside-out’ job. When the topic of motivation is discussed, we typically think about incentive compensation, sales contests and recognition programs. All of these certainly encourage sales teams to focus on generating new business because these are rewards. However, you will gain true engagement and enthusiasm if you create an every-day environment which encourages each individual to identify and visualize his own internal motivation.

Do you remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid? The bottom two largest tiers are Physiological and Safety because these are the most basic needs of every individual. This same concept holds true for new salespeople. Hopefully they will make their way up to self-actualization at some point, but they must first have income for food, shelter, safety, etc. Only once they realize they have attained all of these basic necessities and have established a cushion, can they turn attention to the higher tiers of Self-Actualization and the bigger dreams and goals to which they might aspire.

To put it another way, salespeople do not care about corporate shareholder value unless they are shareholders themselves. What they care about is food, shelter, clothing, recognition, paying for college education or wedding, buying a vacation home, etc. These are personal desires and make up the vast majority of things that are important to people. So the solution is to create an environment where this internal motivation can take place. See The Dream Manager book by Michael Kelly.

This means that it is up to you to help your salespeople identify what is important to them. Make the effort to set up time off-site that is dedicated to planning and spend time developing each individual’s dreams and goals. This is time that you will spend ON your business instead of in it. Take a day or two that will help you and your team take a giant step forward to plan for the future.

Create a process where people can establish personal goals because this is where true motivation, passion and desire are born. Hence, it is from this process that each salesperson’s business plan must evolve.

You might position this process as though you are the coach and the salespeople are players on a competitive baseball team. Each of you has a part to play so that the whole team wins. When someone objects to the dream building exercises by saying something like “You are just going to provide a goal for me anyway so why do I have to do this?”, tell him that, as with a baseball team, each player must excel at his job so that the team can win and go to play-offs.

Say to him or her “Pretend that you are my ace shortstop and you want to be the best shortstop in the league. As coach I will do everything I can to help you attain this goal. But understand that I too have goals and my biggest is that we get to the World Series. We are working together, heading in the same, not different directions, to accomplish the same goals. This is a win-win for both of us.”

Salespeople will understand this. If someone does not get this, he or she may not be suited for selling. Selling requires desire, commitment and a need to win. Selling is a competition.

Create an environment where people get a chance to unplug, sit down and outline their goals and dreams; a time when both of you can establish timeframes and attach financial values to these items. Once you have attached financial values, you will know what level of prospecting and selling activity is necessary for each salesperson.

Reward yourself and your people when they have a success. Many years ago, when just my wife and I were running ACTG, we celebrated every time we sold a new account. But over the past 20+ years, selling new accounts has become business-as-usual. We stopped celebrating our successes along the way. So, as your people go through this process and identify their goals, as you sit down and establish your own personal goals, be sure to specify how you will reward yourself and your people as each of you achieve these goals.

Download Tony Cole’s eBook The Extraordinary Sales Manager

Addtional Resources:

Need help setting goals? Get YOUR copy of our Goal Setting Toolkit!