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

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Oct 11, 2019

Why do so many of my salespeople fail to perform as expected?  It's a loaded question.  Or, is it?  In our corporate sales training experience, we've seen that evaluating underperforming salespeople in the pre-hire sales assessment is crucial for success in your business.

From poor diagnosis of the right contributing factors for success to other candidates being eliminated due to weaknesses rather than hiring on sales STRENGTHS, there are specific reasons that not all of your salespeople are performing the way that you thought they would.

Did you hire them this way or did you make them this way?  Let's take a look...

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If you are a sales leader and you look at your numbers and the people producing those numbers, do you ever scratch your head in confusion over why you are looking at a lack of sales results?

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 here.  The reality is that your team’s performance is a result of who you’ve hired or what you’ve done (or not done).

So, in general, why do so many salespeople 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?

Topics: Sales Management Training, hire better salespeople, consultative selling, creating new sales opportunities, sales productivity tools, sales effectiveness training, banking sales training, professional sales training, consultative sales coaching, corporate sales training, sales force performance management

Huddles: The 3rd Sales Productivity Tool That Will Change Your Results

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Oct 09, 2019

In this article, I discuss "Huddles", the 3rd tool on the sales productivity tools list.  Over the years, I have used football huddles as an example of how sales huddles work.

Your huddles should provide real-time information, so that you can make real-time decisions and provide real-time feedback or coaching.  But just like in football, you must not only collect the data in a huddle, you must then gain business intelligence from the data and share that business information with the team.

ftball

I was first introduced to the idea of "Sales Huddles" when I heard Verne Harnish, Founder and President of Gazelles, speak at Objective Management Group’s Annual International Conference.  At that conference, Verne described Huddles as:

  1. A communication process or system that allows for sharing of real-time information
  2. An opportunity to focus on "burning platform" issues for a team or company
  3. A way to bring sharp focus and attention to a critical business driver
  4. The most important 15 minutes in any company

Over the years, I have used football huddles as an example of how sales huddles work.  Generally speaking, there are two types of huddles. One is what you see in the middle of a football field where the players gather around a single individual to get instruction on what they are going to do next. The other type of huddle is one that you would see on the sidelines after a unit comes off of the field. They gather around the offensive or defensive unit coach to receive information about what was seen in the press box, and how that relates to what they will attempt to do the next time on the field.

Your huddles should provide real-time information, so that you can make real-time decisions and provide real-time feedback or coaching.

This one very important point about huddles is what makes them so valuable to sales teams and salespeople. This is one of THE KEYS to driving more immediate and productive results from a sales team. If you wait 90 days as a manager to get data about how your team is conducting itself on a daily basis, it will be outdated and may not be of any use to you or your salespeople.

One of my favorite questions when working with sales managers in our Performance Management Class is this:

“When you get lost, when do you want to know that you're lost”? 

The answer to that question 100% of the time is,

“As soon as possible."

And that is why you must have huddles!

Gathering real-time information allows you as a salesperson or manager to make real-time adjustments to either a specific sales situation or in your overall sales growth strategy. But just like in football, you must not only collect the data in a huddle, you must then gain business intelligence from the data and share that business information with the team.

Only then will the team benefit from the huddles, thus reducing resistance to the process. Additionally, you can make in-the-moment decisions on sales opportunities and long-term decisions on training and development, recruiting and talent.

To find out more about Huddles and other tools we offer, visit our Sales Productivity Tools resource below:

Sales Productivity Tools

Topics: Sales Training, Sales Coaching, sales productivity, consultative selling, sales productivity tools, banking sales training, professional sales training, consultative sales coaching, corporate sales training

The Probability Scorecard: The 2nd Sales Productivity Tool

Posted by Tony Cole on Tue, Oct 01, 2019

In this article, Tony discusses the Sales Probability Scorecard, the second tool in our 9 Sales Productivity Tools series.  

Comparative to the yard markers on a football field, the Probability Scorecard gives salespeople and sales managers a clear, definitive look at how much ground needs to be covered in a sale, and the overall likelihood a specific sales opportunity will close.  Read more about this predictive sales productivity tool below!

crystal

As I stated in my initial blog about the top 9 Sales Productivity Tools, the Probability Scorecard is like the yard markers on a football field.  The yard markers give you a clear, definitive look at how much ground has to be covered before you score points; or in the case of defense, how much ground you have left to defend.

An effective Sales Probability Scorecard tells you almost exactly how much ground you have to cover and the likelihood of closing a specific opportunity.

You may already use a tool or system like this in your sales environment that is meant to track, collect, manage, and create movement in your sales pipeline. It may provide forecasting, and (supposedly) increase sales.  But if the sales enablement tool you are using isn’t built around specific criteria, activities and a milestone-centric sales process, your predictive capabilities and forecasting are no better than looking into a crystal ball.

The milestone-centric sales process breaks down the step-by-step accomplishments required to effectively create, qualify and close business. Normally, salespeople check off the major items on their checklists accomplished in the sales process—like uncovering a compelling reason or “pain”.  An effective probability scorecard tool provides the salesperson with a list of secondary objectives that must be accomplished. Here is an example of the first step identified in our Effective Selling System and the required secondary objectives:

Uncovering Compelling Reasons (to move, change, buy)

  • Compelling reasons are: “have to fix” problems, rather than “want to fix” problems.
  • The result of not making a change has been monetized
  • There is a “personal” reason why the problem has to be fixed
  • The incumbent has been unable to solve the problem and the prospect can/is willing to change providers

Checking off those secondary items gives the salesperson, and the sales manager, a more complete picture of what was actually accomplished and what is left to be done. If those secondary items cannot be accomplished, everyone now has a much clearer view of the “real” opportunity, or lack thereof.

The salesperson now knows what they need to find out from the prospect to make it a more closeable deal. This also allows for more intentional coaching on the part of the sales manager to help their salesperson develop into a more consultative seller.

In order to accomplish this, your Sales Probability Scorecard should:

  • Establish the factors important to qualify the prospect (can be industry specific)
  • Identify the most important or predictive factors
  • Have a baseline for what a "closeable opportunity" is (i.e. 70% score is considered closeable)

To find out more about the Sales Probability Scorecard and other tools we offer, visit our Sales Productivity Tools resource below:

Sales Productivity Tools

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Topics: Sales Training, hiring sales people, Sales Coaching, increase sales, consultative selling, sales effectiveness training, banking sales training, professional sales training, consultative sales coaching, corporate sales training

How to Improve Sales:  5 Keys to Coaching Sales Improvement

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Jun 27, 2019

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. 

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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?

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.

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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:

  1. You must gain insight. You gain insight by using various data points. The data points you MUST use are: 
    1. Observational joint sales calls – You do not run the sales call; you observe your RM
    2. Data from your CRM or SAT program (SAT – Sales Activity Tracking)
    3. 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
    4. 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
  2. Provide feedback. In advance of the discussion about lost opportunities, you want to provide your RM with the data you have – no ambushing.
    1. You discuss – ask the RM questions about what they see in the data
    2. You provide them feedback based on what you see and where the problems might be
    3. You discuss what the future might look like if the current trends continue
    4. You agree that there is a problem
  3. 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.
    1. 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?”
    2. 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.”
  4. 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 second 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. 
  5. Action steps – each coaching session must end with action
    1. Bill, so what I want you to do is call Mary and have this conversation we just role played.
    2. 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.

 

Topics: sales skill improvement, consultative selling, 5 keys to coaching sales improvement, how to improve sales, grow sales, develop talent

How to Find and Cultivate Prospects That Fit Your Business

Posted by Tony Cole on Mon, Jun 03, 2019

Today, our customers are bombarded with sales, marketing, and advertising pitches from companies all hoping to win their business. They’re overwhelmed, or, in most cases, they simply tune us out.

So, we try to reach as many potential customers as we can, but our salespeople spin their wheels and end up stuck in the same place, week after week, month after month, or year after year.

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The problem? We’re not sure who we’re trying to reach. Many of our potential customers view their time as their greatest, most valuable asset, and so should we. We can protect that asset by having a clear understanding of who our target customer is.

Identify What a Zebra is:

In order to hone that understanding, we have to begin with first identifying our “Zebra,” or our ideal prospect persona.

 We can do that in three easy steps:

  1. Begin by segmenting our business’s book into thirds. For most companies, that top third brings in 90% of the company’s revenue. They are generally the best clients.
  2. Look for common traits and demographics in that top third. Ask questions like:

·      What do these customers have in common?

·      What industry are they in?

·      Who is our main point of contact?

·      How do we contact them?

·      What is the size of their organization?

Having the answers to questions like these helps identify other potential customers in the market.

3. Once we know what traits we’re looking for in that top third, we should commit 2/3 of our time to looking for, or attracting, customers from this group.

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Identify What a Zebra Isn't:

Of equal importance is to know, and clearly articulate, what isn’t a Zebra for us. If we know who doesn’t fit our ideal customer persona, we’ll bring clarity to our network and prospecting efforts, and again, continue to value time as our greatest asset. Here’s why it’s important to know what a Zebra isn’t:

1.    We eliminate ambiguity

Introductions have been proven to be the No. 1 way that top producers grow their business. But if we aren’t specific about who we serve best, it’s hard to get those introductions. We need to be specific and clear about what type of zebra we serve best.

2.    We reduce frustration with our Centers of Influence (COI)

We want to capitalize on our COI’s relationships, but if we’re not crystal clear with who we’re looking for, our COI may make an introduction to someone we can’t help. When working with our COI, it’s helpful to articulate the type of business or individual we’re looking for, along with what we’re not looking for and why.

3.    We reduce our opportunity cost

Our opportunity cost is what we’re not working on that might have been more viable for our organization. If we’re calling on Company ABC, we’re not working on Company XYZ. Are we losing out on better business, because we’re not calling on the right prospects?

If we know what we don’t want and the reasons why, it might reduce the quantity of opportunities in our pipeline, but the quality will increase dramatically. 

 Cultivating Zebras

Once we’ve determined which customers are and aren’t Zebras, we need to understand the best ways get in front of them and build relationships.

Start by doing some research.

Should we call or email them?

What is their preferred social media platform – LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter?

Knowing how and where to reach our target persona will positively impact our ability to hunt, qualify and discover potential new business. Undoubtedly, our most effective approach is to utilize the relationships we have with our top third by asking them to introduce us to others they know, who will most likely fall into that ideal customer profile.

It takes work to find these prospects and then contact them, but it’s well worth the effort. Our chances of success are now much higher because we know we’re reaching the right audience, the Zebras who become our best clients.

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Topics: Questions for Prospects, qualifying prospects, sales prospects, consultative selling, how to prospect

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    About our Blog

    Founder and CLO Tony Cole has been working with financial firms for more than 25 years to help them close their sales opportunity gap.  He is a master at using science based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss his weekly sales management blog insights.

     

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