Sales & Sales Management Expertise

28 Sales Traits to Identify When Hiring Better Salespeople

Tags: Sales DNA, managing sales teams, managing salespeople, top sales performers

So, what are you looking for in your next great sales person?  I guess the most important question is this: Are you really looking for the next great sales person or are you looking for a sales person that will fill the FTE allocation?  Will you settle for someone that is “at least as good as” your average sales person?

No one in their right mind would say “yes” to those questions, but if your sales organization is large enough, the data would support that your hiring practices are getting you exactly that.  According to Geoff Smart (Topgrading), 75% of the hires made are not as good as or only as good as the person they are replacing.

If we were to look at the 80/20 power curve in your organization, we would probably find out what we normally do – that about 36% of the sales force is responsible for over 90% of your sales results.  So, what is the other 64% doing?  How did they end up on your sales team?

In order to get the right people, you have to know what you should be looking for.  In conjunction with Objective Management Group, we have studied our clients.  We have evaluated their top performers and non-performers.  Looking at over 100 data points, we know what separates those who will sell from those who won’t sell.  Do you?

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Ignore the words and numbers.  Just look at the sea of green which is representative of performers and compare that with the sea of red representing non-performers.

Here is the list we’ve come up with after analyzing the sales teams of 5 of our clients in the financial services/banking business:

  1. Strong desire for success in selling
  2. Strong commitment/motivated to do everything possible to succeed in selling
  3. Trainable
  4. Has a strong figure-it-out factor
  5. Possesses Sales DNA Competencies
  6. Has no need for approval
  7. Controls emotions
  8. Has supportive beliefs
  9. Comfortable discussing money
  10. Handles rejection
  11. Hunter
  12. Sales posturing
  13. Consultative seller
  14. Qualifier
  15. Closer
  16. Follows consistent sales process
  17. Compatibility with top performer profile
  18. Prospects consistently
  19. Schedules meetings
  20. Reaches decision makers
  21. Recovers from rejection
  22. Does not need to be liked
  23. Comfortable talking about money
  24. Has a strong self-image
  25. Loves to win
  26. Motivated by recognition
  27. Loves competing with others
  28. Rejection proof

What I find interesting about some of the items is that there are a few that have a significant variance between the performers and non-performers:

  1. Commitment – The commitment to succeed in selling is 77% GREATER in performers than in non-performers.
  2. The trainability in performers is 34% HIGHER.
  3. The hunter skill in performers is 112% HIGHER.
  4. Performers have a 48% HIGHER figure-it-out factor.
  5. Performers score 119% HIGHER in handling rejection.
  6. Those that hit sales goals score 87% HIGHER in sales posturing
  7. This one blows me away – neither group is particularly strong in closing: non-performers have only 13% of the closing skills required.  Even though top performers OUTSCORE their counter-parts by 150%, they still only have 33% of the required closing skills.

How do you explain that last item?  Look at the others strengths:  Desire, commitment, trainability, hunter, figure-it-out qualifier, consultative, posturing… they are REJECTION proof! 

The purpose of this post is to get you to think more seriously about what it is that you really know about the candidates you are looking to hire as well as what you really need to know before proceeding with the interview and hiring steps.

Any questions? Please call or write:
513.226.3913 tony@anthonycoletraining.com

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The Best of the Best, Sir!

Tags: managing salespeople, hiring better salespeople, Geoff Smart, Randy Street, recruiting sales talent, 80/20 Principle

In a scene from Men in Black, Will Smith’s character, Agent J, asks, “Why are we here?” (He is in a meeting room with the head of Men in Black, Agent Zed, along with several other recruits all from various branches of the military.)  Agent Zed asks one of the recruits to answer the question.  The young recruit stands and declares, “We are the best of the best, SIR!” (link to watch youtube video)

Isn’t that what you should be looking for when recruiting sales and sales management talent?  Yesterday, I wrote a post about hirebettersalespeople.com.  In the post, I mentioned the book, Who.  In that book, Geoff Smart and Randy Street suggest that you create a scorecard to help in the evaluation process.  The scorecard is supposed to be used to find that someone who has a 90% chance of doing what only the top 10 salespeople can do.  I think that is a stretch and unrealistic.

Now, to be fair to the authors, I believe they do a nice job of explaining that an “A” player for a company in New York is probably different than an “A” player for a different company in Manchester, NH.  In other words, not all “A” players need be the same nor are they created the same.  But, aside from that, I still have an issue.

If you look at many great “A” players in sales, the arts or in sports, they just didn’t show up that way.  Many have been groomed and developed over many years to become that “A” player.  The key is to look for the “A” DNA in someone.  We know what that DNA is.  (Click here to request a sample of the ideal fit candidate analysis)

What I believe makes sense is to look for someone that has a 92% chance of success at helping to contribute to the 96% of your results.  Let me explain.

You may or may not have read other articles I’ve written in the past about the 80/20 of the 80/20 and Perry Marshall’s book – The 80/20 of Sales and Marketing.  If you follow the method I’ve described (based on Marshall’s book), you arrive at the following in Figure 1:

8020-talent-chart.pngFigure 1

If you have revenue of $20,000,000 generated by 50 salespeople and then conduct the 80/20 of the 80/20, you discover that $19,200,00 of the 20,000,000 (96%) is generated by 18 of the 50 salespeople (36%).  Based on this, I believe that your best recruiting strategy is to find people that look like your top 36% or have the same DNA as that top 36% that are generating 96% of your revenue.

I’m sure the authors of Who would question the wisdom of this.  “Why…”, they might ask, “would you settle for salespeople that are less qualified than those that are at least as good as your very best?”

It’s not a matter of settling.  It’s a matter of understanding the today’s marketplace and understanding that talent has to be developed

First… the market place:

There has not been a single prospect or client that I’ve talked to in the last 5 years that has not shared with me the challenge of finding, recruiting, hiring and successfully on-boarding new talent - with the biggest challenge being the “finding.”  There are a couple of reasons for that huge challenge:

  • Most companies don’t work at it consistently and so they suck at it when it comes time to recruit.
  • There isn’t a process/system in place that utilizes filtering processes to attract the right candidates.
  • The pool of available candidates is smaller today than it was with the boomer generation.
  • Those available in the candidate pool today have a tendency to find jobs other than sales.
  • The un-steady economy has kept experienced salespeople from seeking other opportunities for fear of “last in, first out”.

Next… talent development.

As stated above, talent just doesn’t fall off of trees and, unfortunately, everyone in your market is vying for the same “A” talent.  If you cannot offer the same compensation as some of your competitors to attract and hire “the best of the best”, then you have to make great selections from the talent that is currently available.  In order to do this, you should have a very good understanding of what your talent looks like. Specifically, you should start looking at the 36% of your current talent that is generating 94% of your results and stop looking for and hiring people that look like your bottom 64%.

  • Identify the results being generated by the top 36%.
  • Identify the activities and behaviors of this top group.
  • Identify the following:
    • Will to sell
    • Sales DNA
    • Figure-it-out factor
    • Trainability and coachability
  • Determine if you have the talent in the management role to:
    • Coach
    • Motivate
    • Manage performance
    • Mentor, grow and develop people

I grew up on a farm where we primarily grew peaches and blueberries.  I just visited the old homestead and, though many things have changed, one thing has not changed.  In the farm acreage, there are various plots of blueberry plants.  Some plots contain plants that are mature enough to be harvested while others have plants that are still being developed and grown to produce.  In the nursery plots, there are plants with solid DNA that are being cultivated, fed and cared for so that, at the right time, they can be productive.  The same should be done with the talent in your organization.

For further assistance, call us at 513.791.3458 and ask for Alex – our expert at hiringbettersalespeople.com. 

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Desire and Performance Variability

Tags: managing sales teams, desire for sales success, managing salespeople, variability in sales performance

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“What you can conceive and believe you can achieve.”  - Napolean Hill

This is so obvious that any meaningful information could probably be expressed simply by stating:

If you have people with various levels of desire for success in sales, you will have variability in performance!

Done. 

Not really, but this isn’t going to take a long time either.

Many years ago, I heard Mark Victor Hansen (author, speaker and all-around good guy) present to the Cincinnati Association of Life Underwriters.  It was at our annual conference and he was our keynote speaker.  His topic was “Visualizing is Realizing.”  During his presentation, he made the comment, “Motivation is an inside-out job.”  I wrote that down in 1990, and I’ve used that phrase over and over again in our 23-year history as a company.

Time and again, sales managers, sales executives and presidents of companies ask me, “Tony, how do I keep my team motivated?”  I tell them that they cannot do that because it’s something their people have to come wired with. That's mostly true. Companies do have to have an environment where it’s possible for people to create reasons for staying motivated.  Compensation, contests, incentives, and recognition all play a part in keeping people motivated.  However, in the end, people have to have a really good answer to the question: “Why do I desire success in selling?”

Success in selling is very specific.  It isn’t just success in a vacuum.  It’s success in a very difficult role with very difficult challenges.  I was once asked why I was in life insurance sales.  I responded that I liked people.  The prospect said, “Bullshit. You’re in sales because you want to make a lot of money.”  I said, “Fair enough; you’re right. I do want to make a lot of money.”

But, money in and of itself is not the root desire.  It’s one of the basics that drive the desire. It’s represented in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  Money is just a way to take care of food, shelter, clothing, freedom from harm and security.  Traditionally, people that are very successful in selling have this one thing in common – they have lots of s**t to do that requires money.

Yes, sometimes people have a desire to be recognized as the best.  And they want to have self-satisfaction for a job well-done; but I assure you that none of that matters if there are bills to pay, kids to be fed, a college/mortgage/wedding to pay for or new cars to be driven.

With that as the foundation, let me make this as simple as I can to help answer the question, “So, how do I minimize variability in performance by focusing attention on desire?”

  1. Recognize that it is an inside-out job… so that means you have to recruit people that have huge desire for success in selling.
  2. Traditionally, desire is a result of people establishing goals.
    1. Your manager has to be leader in this. If they are not a goal setter (personal goals), then chances are your salespeople won’t be either.
    2. Your manager also has to set the example of goal achievement.
    3. Your manager has to create an environment/opportunity for personal goal setting.
  3. Your manager has to have the mindset that they must know what motivates their salespeople – why do they desire success in sales?
  4. The sales manager needs to recognize that it is their responsibility to help people raise their self-esteem by recognizing success in all forms when it happens.

As I stated in the beginning, the connection between desire for success and selling and the variability of performance is pretty obvious.  If you want to minimize variability in success, minimize the variability in desire for success.

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Top 14 Truths About Managing Salespeople & Increasing Sales

Tags: sales management, managing salespeople

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If you’ve followed my blog for any period of time, you know that there are several phrases that I use when discussing sales outcomes, sales management, recruitment and talent development:

  • Your organization is perfectly designed for the results you get today.
  • When you evaluate talent that is not performing as expected, you must ask yourself: “Did I hire them this way or did I make them this way?”
  • Hire people you cannot afford.
  • Hire great people when you find them, not when you need them.
  • Catch them early (refers to performance management).
  • You pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
  • When all else fails, hard work works.
  • They (your underperforming salespeople) either are lying about their activity or they suck at what they do.
  • You should begin the exiting process of an underperformer the moment you have the first thought.
  • All prospects lie all the time.
  • Don’t look, act or sound like a salesperson.
  • When goals are clear, decision making is easy.
  • Events happen to us all, destiny is what happens next.
  • They’ll only do it once.

That's about it.

Do you have favorite business phrases? Share your feedback and comments below!

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Upgrading Your Sales Team Military Style

Tags: sales management, managing salespeople, upgrading your sales team, extraordinary sales teams

I assure you that the military academies are all about performance management.  IF it moves, it gets measured.

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Ralph Pim and I were watching a competitive sports team practice one day at West Point.  Ralph was a professor and Director of Competitive Sports teams at the United States Military Academy at West Point at the time.  He was telling me about the coach that was responsible for the company’s competitive football program.  He told me that this individual was retired Army and the Academy hired him back to run the program as well as other duties.  I asked him, “Why would he retire and then get hired back?”  I will do my best to explain what Ralph told me.

In the military, the system works like this:

  • In the military, each soldier has a rank.
  • You progress up through the ranks based on merit.
  • A promotion board (my words) reviews the current career of the soldier and, based on merit and recommendations, either promotes the soldier to the next level or it doesn’t.
  • In the military system, there are only so many seats available at each rank in the military. (I’m assuming that that number may go up or down based on the current state of world affairs and the status of military funding.)
  • A soldier has only so long to stay in a certain rank. If the soldier gets passed by a certain number of times for promotion, then that soldier is considered “not promotable” and, at some time, is “retired”.

*From Militaryspot.com:  Enlisted:  Congress passes the Defense Authorization Act each year. This is how the number of Army members that can be on active duty in the upcoming year is determined. By separate legislation, Congress limits what percentage of the total active duty force can serve in each commissioned officer rank, what percentage of the total active duty force can serve in each warrant officer rank, and what percentage of the active duty force can serve in each enlisted rank above the grade of E-4 (there are no statutory limits for E-4 and below). These amounts are then the foundation of the Army enlisted promotion system.

My question is this: why wouldn’t this work in corporate America?  More specifically, how could you, as a director of sales, make this work in your organization?  How could this become part of your motivation and “upgrading” strategy?  You would need to outline your system and then plug your “sales soldiers” into the system to see how it plays out, but let’s give it a shot.

Ranking:  Let’s assume you could have ranks that look something like this top to bottom:

  • Sr. Advisor
  • Jr. Advisor
  • Advisor
  • Account Executive
  • NBD Agent

Depending on the business you are in, you could substitute the word consultant, broker or agent for the word “advisor”.

Criteria:  You would need to establish criteria to enter the sales team at a certain level (assuming you are recruiting people) and to be promoted from one level to the next.

  • Year of Service – not recommended – years of service have very little bearing on merit or accomplishment. “Survival” is not a solid criteria.
  • Annual New Business Production
  • Book of Business or Revenue stream
  • Company contribution
  • Professional designations
  • Professional ranking within the industry
  • Compliance with and support of company values, vision, mission and objectives
  • Stature in the market

Process:  You would need a process to acquire the appropriate data and information to make any kind of objective and reasonable determination for promotion.

  • Clearly identified metrics for success and established standards that determine success
  • Collection of data that support objective reporting of success in achieving metrics in each criteria
  • Timing of reviews and announcements of upcoming promotion board hearings
  • Criteria to be a promotion board member
  • Establish the size – number of people – at each rank. People at the top end of the sales rank would certainly be unlimited.  Other than the top and bottom ranks, you will want a fixed number of people at each rank.  This is the only way the system works.
  • Length of time someone can stay in a rank or…
  • The number of times someone can be passed for promotion before being “retired”.

I’m confident that you can think of additional ops and procedures that would need to go into this process.  Establishing the process is secondary to determining if your current system and process for upgrading your sales team and promoting people (giving them new titles vs earning new titles or ranks) is actually accomplishing what it should accomplish:  Motivating your sales team to perform at or exceed expected and required levels of performance.

Too often, I’ve been part of discussions about the lack of performance of very senior people and new hires.  Too often, I’ve heard excuses about them being protected classes, managing big books of business or have only been with the firm for a year.  I get it.  Making decisions that impact people’s lives and the lives of their family is important and serious work.  And because it’s serious work, a company should have a serious approach to upgrading the team.  The company should have a serious communication process that lets everyone know exactly what the rules are and what it takes to get promoted with the team, what it takes to stay on the team and what happens when there is failure to execute as expected.

Imagine for minute the following scenario:

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With this type of structure/system, you would have a career path method that is clear and objectively determined.  This will help the right people continue to be motivated to perform as expected when you hired them.  It will give you a better method to determine what to do with those that “have retired on the job.”

You may not want to position this as a “military style” of managing, as that may not be consistent with your style or your company culture.  But performance management is the fundamental contributing factor for having a team built for sales growth.

Additional Resources:

Sales Management – Complimentary Book on The Extraordinary Sales Manager

Setting Standards – Video – What if you gave your best!

National Webinar Series for Sales Management – to inquire how you can participate call 513.791.3458 and ask for Jeni Wehrmeyer or email: jeni@anthonycoletraining.com. Subject line: Participate in National Webinars

Interesting Answers to the Question You’ve Been Asking...

Tags: failing salespeople, hiring salespeople, managing salespeople

Why Do So Many of My Salespeople Fail to Perform as Expected?

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If you are a sales leader and you look at your numbers and the people producing those numbers and you scratch your head in confusion over why you are looking at a lack of sales results, what do you do next?  Certainly, you didn’t hire these people to be in the middle of the pack or at the tail end of the conga line, but that is right where they are.  I know you don’t believe you hired them that way, but it’s either that… or you made them that way. Don’t get upset with me or write me nasty comments; the reality is that your team’s performance is a result of who you’ve hired or what you’ve done.

So, in general, why do so many sales people fail to perform? I have detailed answers to that question that you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else besides right here.

  • Underperformers have 80% of the desire of top performers. *Note – not all performers have off-the-chart desire – that is about 7% of all top sales people.
  • Those that underperform have about 44% of the commitment to succeed in selling that top performers do.
  • These two factors combine to measure motivational level. Underperformers have about 60% of the motivation of your top people.

SUMMARY – Underperformers just are not as motivated to succeed.

SOLUTION – STOP hiring people that are not motivated to succeed at the highest level of performance!

Using the Objective Management Sales Evaluation, there are over 100 data points to measure the opportunity for sales growth of a sales team/organization.  Additionally, this data helps us to predict the likelihood of success of new sales people and managers.  Here are some interesting findings based on the raw data I have from assessing salespeople (as well as firsthand knowledge of some of the people in the study).

  • Top performers are trainable and coachable
  • Top performers have a high figure-it-out factor
  • Top performers have a low need for approval and…
  • Top performers score an average of 86.8 (higher score is better) and underperformers score 39.6 for handling rejection!
  • Top performers are hunters, consultative sellers and closers (average score for skills is 55% of required skills while underperformers average 39.6% of required skills)

SUMMARY – Salespeople – regardless of tenure or previous success - need training and coaching. Also top performers handle rejection extremely well and move on.

SOLUTION – Do not hire based on past performance. (It’s like investing in a mutual fund – past performance is not a guarantee of future returns.)  During the interview process, reject the heck out of the candidate – the strong ones will recover and attempt to close you over and over again!

The following data indicates that sales strengths are better indicators of success rather than sales skills:

  • Underperformers have 85% of the sales skills of top performers and have…
  • Only 71% of the sales strengths that support execution of sales skills and…
  • The severity of their sales weaknesses are 52% higher than that of top performers

SUMMARY – The skills are about the same, but those with strong strengths of desire, commitment, outlook and responsibility win.

SOLUTION – Make sure your pre-hire assessment process looks for strengths and “will sell” rather than just skills, personality and behavioral traits.

So, back to the original question:   “Why do so many of my salespeople fail to perform as expected?”:

  • Poor diagnosis of the right contributing factors for success
  • Candidates eliminated due to weaknesses rather than hiring for sales strengths
  • Too much credit given to sales skills exhibited during interview process
  • Lack of solid training and development on the root causes of poor performance

Now that you have the answers to the question, what will you do about it?

 

 

Additional Resources:

Would You Buy from This Salesperson?

Tags: sales performance, sales results, evaluating salespeople, managing salespeople

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Time for an Honest Assessment of Your Sales Team

There are many factors involved in the business of selling.  As any salesperson can attest, the sales process can be a complex and daunting experience fraught with obstacles like aggressive competition, tight markets, shrinking budgets and incumbent vendors.  While there are many obstacles like these that are outside a salesperson’s control, there are many others they can control.  So, as an effective sales manager, what do you need to do to understand how and why a salesperson is performing or not performing? 

The obvious metric to use to measure performance are the sales results of the individual. If they hit or exceed goal, all is good.  So, that takes care of about 10 to 15% of your sales force.  But how about the rest of them?  Sure, the results numbers tell you they are not performing but, as an effective sales manager, you need to find out why.  The only way to do that is to look at additional data points.

Data points that you must observe to measure performance:

  • Critical ratios in the success formula
    • Are they doing the right effort?  (dials, networking, LinkedIn)
    • How effective are they? What do the critical ratios tell you? (10% of the conversations turned into an appointment– that is an example of a critical ratio)
  • Observation
    • Joint calls – Are they executing the company sales steps/process?
    • Joint calls – Are they executing the fundamental sales skills…?
      • Asking enough questions
      • Asking the right questions
      • Using stories, analogies and metaphors to weave a story and be conversational
      • Effectively listening
      • Inquiring for further information to clearly understand the impact of problems described by the client
    • Role-playing
      • Do they understand the fundamentals of your sales steps/process?
      • Do they intellectually understand what you mean by consultative selling, challenger selling, and client-focused interviewing?
      • Do they demonstrate in the classroom what you expect them do to in the field?
    • Additional data
      • Pipeline data – Is the volume increasing? Is it becoming more reliable?
      • Stack ranking - Are the various quintiles in your organization performing better this quarter/year than last quarter/year?
      • Sales activity – Are they doing enough effort to give them enough at bats to be successful?

In particular, for this article, I want to share a thought on observing your people perform.  Either in role-play or in live selling situations, you immediately get a reaction when you observe your people perform.  My guess is that your reaction could fall into 1 of 4 categories:

  1. I would not buy from this person ever; in fact, I would love to compete against them.
  2. I would not buy from them right now based on what I just saw/heard.
  3. I’m on the fence post with them; I need more information or more time to make up my mind.
  4. I would buy from this person; they were compelling, they got me engaged, made me discover some things that bother me that I need to fix and got me to a point where I was thinking I could undo any current relationships, add a new relationship and spend money that I didn’t think I needed to spend.

I have a client that just had a sales meeting that included about an hour of role-play covering a very specific step in their sales process. One of the product line specialists/experts commented the following: “With the exception of 2 people that I observed, I don’t believe I would buy from anyone else that I saw in that one hour.”

Wow, what a courageous, honest assessment.

My comment or suggestion to the team is to go back and review all the video or audio recordings of the role-plays and grade them using the standards I suggested above. 

As a sales leader, effective performance management requires the following:

  • Supportive beliefs about what it takes to coach people and get them to perform. If you believe you can manage people better if they like you, then you’re in trouble.
  • Recovering from rejection – If you cannot recover from rejection or fear of rejection, then you probably won’t tell one of the salespeople you work with that you wouldn’t buy from them.
  • Knowledge of desire and commitment - If you believe that all of your people are trainable and coachable, then you will spend a great deal of time with the same people covering the same sales execution problems.
  • Data nutcase - If you don’t look at data, then you won’t be able to have any intentional coaching sessions.
  • Time allocation - If you don’t take time to do ride-a-longs or role-plays, then you are missing two important/non-negotiable data points.

These are just a few of the requirements of effective sales management, leadership and coaching.  The key point in the message though is to do an honest assessment of your talent and then have discussions with them about how you honestly feel about their performance.  Yes, it will be difficult.  Yes, you might lose somebody over this.  And, yes, you might actually get people to work harder at their craft.

Resources to help you improve performance management and intentional coaching:

To inquire about distance learning, call me or text me directly: 513.226.3913