Sales & Sales Management Expertise

How Great Salespeople Continue to Learn and Earn

Tags: sales attitude, desire for sales success, achieving sales success, sales motivation

When I Googled ‘Keys to Great Sales Success’ here are some of the links I found interesting:

Each of these are good articles with great suggestions and there is nothing written or stated that a reasonable person would argue about.  There is no shortage of information about how to become a great sales person. But if was that easy then why do so many, apparently talented sales professionals seem to stagnate or completely struggle with improvement? With that question in mind I want to share with you what I’ve Learned when it comes to being successful in any profession, not just sales.

Yearning and Learning Leads to Earning.

As a boy watching TV with his dad, I became enamored with football.  At the age of nine, I asked my dad if it would be okay to go out for football.  He said “sure”.  He gave me the phone number for Matt Gazzara – coach for the local Pop Warner football team – The Hammonton Hawks – and told me if I wanted to play I needed to call Coach Gazzara and ask if I could come to a practice.  I called, went to practice and fell in love with the game.  I finished the first practice and announced to my dad that I would one day go to college to play football.

I didn't say I would like to go to college to play football. I said I would go to college to play football.  For the next eight years I did everything I had to do to put myself in a position to accomplish this goal.  My senior year I signed a full scholarship commitment letter to play football at the University of Connecticut.

The unseen aspect of this story is what I had to do in the classroom.  I played ball with other talented, faster, larger football players but they didn’t hit the books the same way, get the same grades to qualify for college.   When college coaches came knocking on Head Football Coach Joe Cacia’s door, not only did I look the part of a college football player on film, but my grades allowed me to qualify for the academics.

What I didn’t think about at the time but now realize, is that the yearning and Learning led to my Earning that scholarship. The Earning didn’t stop there.  I Earned a college degree at little cost to my parents and me.  The yearning earned me an opportunity to work as a coach at UConn, at the University of Cincinnati and at Iowa State University.  This Yearning Earned me the opportunity to meet Ralph Grieser who helped me land a great job with Nautilus Exercise Equipment that paid me my first real income of $47,000 as a sales person.  This was good money in 1983.

This story goes on but I want to cut the story short so I don’t lose you.  The shortened version is this:  I went into the insurance business in 1987 after relocating. I didn’t know anyone and selling insurance is all about who you know.  I Yearned to have a better life for my family and so I hired a coach and paid him with a credit card because I didn’t have the cash and didn’t want my wife to worry.  That decision – to Learn more about the art and science of sales - lead to Anthony Cole Training Group and where I am today.

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Linda and I own Anthony Cole Training Group. We employ eight people and we serve clients across the country.  Over our 25 - year history we’ve developed long- lasting relationships with our clients, product providers and business advisors.  Our family has been well taken care of.  We contribute to our community. We love the people we work with and the clients we serve.

So how about you and your team? Do you and your people continue to Yearn, Learn and Grow? If so, what do they have in common?  What is it that they Yearn for that keeps the fire burning and drives them to do the right things more consistently then those who don’t?

Think about your best people and their willingness and ability to Learn and adapt to ever changing circumstances.  You will probably find that they don’t make excuses. My guess is that they take the time to Learn and assimilate new information, adopt new thinking and strategies and implement tools and systems to keep themselves in-the-game and top of your stack-ranking reports.

And what about their Earnings?  Not just the money but also the client relationships they’ve Earned and retained over the years; The respect they have in your company and in the industry; the satisfaction of knowing they’ve done a good job; the recognition of their peers as leaders and top performers.

Finally think about the talent you have and the gap between those who are succeeding and those who are not performing at the level you anticipated when you hired them. What is missing? The Yearning or the Learning? Think about any new candidates you are looking to hire. What do they Yearn for?  Are they coachable (have desire to Learn)?

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Motivating Salespeople Involves Knowing Them

Tags: motivating sales people, sales motivation

How well can you relate to the following situations: producers not meeting sales expectations, there aren't enough opportunities in the pipeline, too few of the people are carrying the sales production load for the entire team? In almost every sales organization, these three situations exist no matter how many sales meetings are held, what CRM system is used or how closely the sales team is managed- these problems persist.

Now, why does this happen? Is it because your salespeople aren’t armed with the right tools to go out, find and close business? Nope. Maybe it’s because they don’t have the required skills? Possibly yes. Maybe they just don’t care about their own success? Or maybe it's because YOU don't care enough about their success.

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That seems harsh, I know, but let me explain. According to the article "You Can't Lead People You Don't Know", written by Jim Bouchard, creator of Black Belt Mindset Productions, less than half of the leaders they work with report knowing the people who report to them. They obviously know the role that they play and the features of their job, but they admit to not knowing them on a personal level. So, my question is this: how can you expect to motivate someone to meet sales expectations, generate opportunities and produce results when you don’t know them? You don’t know what drives them, what gets them out of bed in the morning. Your salespeople don’t care about shareholder value and year over year growth of the division or the department. They care about their kids in school, paying off college debt, building a deck on the back of the house, saving for the wedding, the vacation home and the retirement years. That is their sales motivation. 

Our partners at Objective Management Group believe that there are three ways people are motivated- altruistically, intrinsically and extrinsically. Salespeople who have altruistic motivation are those who care more about the success and well-being of those around them. They are more relationship focused and they thrive off of doing great work for the benefit of others. Intrinsically motivated salespeople find motivation in the praise that they receive for a job well-done. And those that are extrinsically motivated are considered the “original salesperson”- they’re motivated by making money. The point is you obviously need to know your salespeople personally in order to understand what motivates them to succeed.

So, what do you do now?

First, watch this short video featuring Tony Cole on the importance of motivation and personal goals. Next, create an environment where your salespeople believe their dreams can come true. You foster the ability to pursue those things that are near and dear to their heart. You create a recognition program (or incentive process) that recognizes the things that are important to them. You find a way to mesh what they want, with want you want (more sales) and what is required in their role. Motivating your salespeople is crucial for the success of your organization, so go out and meet your team. Learn what is important to them. Discover what drives them so you know how to drive their success.

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Why is It So #%&@ Hard to Solve the Sales Growth Problem? – The 5 Constraints to Growing Sales – Part III

Tags: sales leadership development, sales performance coaching, sales productivity, predictable sales growth, sales management responsibilities, sales motivation

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In my series (see previous posts) regarding the constraints to growing sales, the two remaining topics are:

  • Ineffective motivation of the sales team
  • The “just enough is good enough” approach to hitting setting and hitting goals

THE POWER OF THE “RIGHT” MOTIVATION

Ineffective motivation of the sales team is not uncommon and it is the subject of one of the more frequent questions people ask me: “Tony, how do I keep my sales people motivated?”  My first response is normally a question in return:  “Do you know what motivates your people?”  The most common answer: “Well, uh, yeah, I think so.”  I cannot help myself when I ask, “Do you know or do you think you know?”  Their most common answer: “I think I know.”

With that in mind, how do you possibly motivate people when you just think you know what motivates them?

What we know about motivating salespeople is that it has changed over the years.  When we first started evaluating sales teams using the #1 Sales Evaluation Assessment – Objective Management Group Sales Evaluation and Impact Analysis – the findings told us that people were externally motivated.  Motivation was money and the things money can provide.  Today, however, we see a different set of results (Read this HBR article on motivating salespeople).

The current findings tell us that sales teams are highly motivated to succeed, but the source of motivation is internal rather than external.  They are motivated by a job well done. They want to be recognized for success and they are motivated by achieving their own personal standards for success and achievement.

I was 9 years old when I walked off the football field the very first time.  I had just finished practice and my dad was waiting on the sideline for me.  He asked me what I thought and I told him I loved it.  “Someday I’m going to go to college to play football.”  Dad asked me if I was sure and I said “yes.”  He then told me, “College football players are in great shape so, if you are going to play college football, you’ll have to be in great shape. Take off your helmet and shoulder pads and start running some laps.”  I followed his advice and I ran laps every night after practice to get in shape to play college football.  In February of 1973, I signed my letter of intent to go to the University of Connecticut to play football.

My dad - my manager - knew my goal and used that occasionally to keep me on track.  Occasionally, when I would fall off the training wagon, he would ask me if I still planned on playing college football.  I would always answer, “Sure!”  He would then say, “Well, I wasn’t sure. I haven’t seen you run or lift weights in a while.”  That’s all he needed to say.  Off I went.

When you know what motivates your people, you can then have the appropriate discussions to keep them on track.

 

“JUST ENOUGH” IS NEVER GOOD ENOUGH

“Just enough is good enough.” THIS MINDSET DRIVES ME CRAZY!  How do you know that this is your culture?

  • Year over year growth is one of the metrics you use to determine if you are getting better
  • Comparing one unit in your organization against another is the way you communicate to the teams about which ones are having success – stack ranking and comparing the rank of one team against the others as a way to explain, “If they can go from #22 to #15, then so can you!”
  • Hitting sales goals on the backs of the few
  • You have people on your sales team who - month after month, quarter after quarter and year over year - fail to hit their sales goal.
    • I don’t mean those that are at 99% one year and 101% the next and then 95% the third
    • I mean those that consistently perform in the low 90’s or high 80’s.
    • Those people that fail to perform still earn incentive comp, are not subject to any disciplined approach to improving skills or changing behaviors
    • There is never a discussion that sounds like, “What happened to the superstar sales person I thought I hired ____ number of years ago?”

I understand how this happens. There is so much pressure to just hit the numbers that, at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter how you hit the numbers; you just have to hit them.  But what are the long-term consequences of this sales environment?

  • Turn over of really good producers that are tired of carrying the load
  • Producers who are close to being really successful manage themselves downward instead of upward.
    • They witness that there are no consequences for failure
    • They become “at leasters” – “I’m not as good as Julie, but at least I’m not as bad as John.”
  • Recruiting top talent is difficult because, when they talk to your top performers, they tell them that there will be a lot of pressure to perform because nothing happens to the slackers and the company depends on the top producers to make up the difference.
  • When goal setting time comes around, people at the top get more heaped on them and those in the middle to bottom of pack argue that the goal you give them was never one they bought into.

 

SETTING THE BAR FOR SUCCESS

Bottom line is:

  • Organizations have to have a mind-shift first about what it means to be successful in the organization.
  • There have to be systems and processes in place to catch failure before it happens rather than when it actually happens. Failure never happens all at once. It’s gradual; however, instead of addressing the issues when they appear, managers put salespeople on “double secret probation.”
  • The metrics used to determine success have to include diagnostics of the improvement of quintiles year over year. (See chart below for a snapshot of quintile performance.)  The idea is that when you take the snapshot next year, the numbers for each quintile have to be better than the previous quarter, year, etc.
  • A willingness and commitment to set the bar higher for success and then hold people accountable to actually DOING the THINGS required to be successful rather than just looking at training data.

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I will continue to explore and discuss these constraints to consistent and predictable sales growth.

Additional Resources:

The 80/20 of the 80/20 - What it means for your company and next steps

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