ACTG Sales Management Blog

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Why Are My Salespeople Not Perfoming as Expected?

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Jun 26, 2020

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!

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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: improve sales, sales management secrets, sales meetings, individual sales success, sales management responsibility, humor, inspect what expect, sales management skills, 8 Steps for Closing, hiring salespeople, sales practice, sales management, sales results, sales management success, improving sales results, sales metrics, inspiration, sales problems, hiring sales managers, sales management, sales success, keys to selling, sales pitch, sales performance management, sales prospects, how to manage salespeople, sales onboarding, hiring better salespeople, sales menagement, sales management tools, #1 sales assessment, hunting for sales prospects, how to improve sales results, initial sales meetings, how to get a commitment to buy, how increase sales, hiring top salespeople, sales recruitment, sales motivation, how to close a sales deal, how to hit goals in sales, sales skill assessment, consultative selling, 5 keys to coaching sales improvement, how to prospect, sales productivity tools, professional sales training, consultative sales coaching, insurance sales training, 5 keys to sales coaching, online sales management training, insurance prospecting system, consultative sales coaching cincinnati, consultative selling cincinnati, sales management training cincinnati, sales productivity tools cincinnati, hiring sales people cincinnati, increase sales cincinnati

Develop Your Sales Pipeline to Increase Sales

Posted by Jack Kasel on Mon, Jun 01, 2020

Sales pipelines are similar to the story of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears. " This one is too fat, this one is too skinny, and the rarest one of all; this one's just right. 

Why does this happen with pipelines and what should leaders be doing about it?  In today's blog, we discuss developing better pipelines to improve your coaching skills, increase sales within your organization, and to build better habits in 2020 and beyond.

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Fat Pipelines

This usually results from the overly optimistic salesperson.  They call on a prospect and come back thinking some iteration of this, “We really hit it off . . . They really liked what we can do . . . We have a LOT in common”. 

Another cause for a fat pipeline is that it feels like comfort food.  Their pipeline has $X amount in it and they feel pretty good about it.  I mean, come on, some of it has to close doesn’t it?  This type of thinking gives them great comfort.  Pipelines need two things:

  • The proper amount given their ability to win business (close ratio)
  • It must be properly staged

Here is where your leadership plays a critical role.  Your skills at asking great questions are absolutely essential.  Tone and tonality are of paramount importance, AND they must be fierce and helpful.  Questions like:

  • What did you hear the customer say that leads you to believe they would be a great customer for us?
  • When you asked them the impact of not fixing this problem, what did they say?
  • Who else in their organization will be impacted if they switch providers?
  • What did they say when you asked about their decision making criteria (not process, criteria, there is a difference)
  • When is the last time they chose a supplier that wasn’t the lowest cost?
  • How much is in their budget to make this problem go away
  • When asked them “How do you envision working with us”, what was their response?
  • How did they choose their current provider?

Never EVER ask, “How’d the call go?” It’s a waste of time.  Be great at asking questions.  By asking great questions, you are coaching your salespeople.  The questions listed above are the type of questions they should be asking the prospect.  Your coaching session is nothing but a sales call.  Be curious and when you coach, simply keep this in mind when meeting with your team, “Am I asking questions or am I making statements?”

Also, by asking great questions to your team, you find out where your people need to be coached.  If you hear your salesperson say, “I didn’t ask that question” during your pipeline discussions, you need to find out if they are unable to ask those questions (they need more sales training) OR if are they unwilling to ask those questions.

Skinny Pipelines

There are two main reasons that a salesperson might have a “skinny pipeline”.  They are getting beat up if something doesn’t close, or their activity isn’t where it needs to be.  My question to you as a leader is, “When a piece of business doesn’t close, what does your lost business conversation sound like?” 

There is no sin in losing a sale, the only sin that occurs is if nothing is learned from it.  Don’t let one loss beat you twice.  A couple of quick questions “What did you learn?” and “How will you get better because of it?” 

The other reason for a skinny pipeline is activity.  What are you measuring, how frequently are you measuring it (you need to measure weekly), and are you allowing excuses for poor effort?  Salespeople fail for two reasons:  Lack of Effort and/or Lack of Execution.  You need to know which it is. 

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Just Right Pipelines

These types of pipelines are the rarest of all because they require the salesperson and manager to have a great and open relationship, while staying committed to their sales process and understanding the metrics needed to win business.  For the salesperson, they need to understand what is their late-stage (close in 30 days) win ratio?  If their late-stage win ratio is 50% and their monthly goal is $100,000, they need to have a minimum of $200,000 in late-stage opportunity each month.   

The only reason a “Just Right” pipeline is possible because the salesperson is finding opportunities all-the-time.  They understand prospecting is an all-the-time thing.  They are constantly making calls, asking for introductions, and networking.  

It’s healthy to have a pipeline “flush” on a regular basis.  An opportunity moves through the pipeline or moves out of the pipeline on a regular basis.  If a salesperson wants to cling to an opportunity, and want to defend keeping it their pipeline, is probably because they have nothing else to take its place.   Coach them, encourage them, challenge them.

 

Topics: sales force development, Sales Coaching, hiring better salespeople, hiring top salespeople, consultative selling, banking sales training, consultative sales coaching, corporate sales training, sales force performance management, sales training courses, insurance sales training, 5 keys to sales coaching, sales force performance evaluation, consultative sales coaching cincinnati, consultative selling cincinnati, banking sales training cincinnati, corporate sales training cincinnati, sales coaching cincinnati, sales management training cincinnati, sales productivity tools cincinnati, sales training programs cincinnati, sales training workshops cincinnati, train the trainer cincinnati, hiring sales people cincinnati, increase sales cincinnati, professional sales training cincinnati, sales candidate assessment cincinnati, sales effectiveness training cincinnati, sales force performance evaluation cincinnati, sales performance management cincinnati, sales training cincinnati, sales training courses cincinnati, sales training seminars cincinnati

How to Sell in Any Market

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Apr 17, 2020

There is always something going on in the market that makes selling difficult.  However, you can choose to develop strategies and utilize virtual technologies to get in front of your prospects and clients.

Take this time to really get to know your clients and their needs, fears, and pressures so that you can help solve their problems, while helping to push both of your organizations forward.

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Earlier this week, I conducted a 30-minute Live Zoom Broadcast titled, “How to Sell in Any Market”.  The primary focus of the session was to help people understand the following:

  • There is always something going on in the market that makes selling difficult. If you’ve been in sales long enough – more than 10 years – something is always happening with the economy, politics, health crises, competition or decisions made by your company.
  • Don’t let outside conditions be the reason you don’t succeed. Maybe the market has shrunk as it did in 2008 – 09 but it didn’t disappear unless you were making recreational vehicles in Elkhart, Indiana or Houseboats in Cumberland, Kentucky.
  • No one owns 100% of the market, so if there are 100 opportunities and the “800lb gorilla” in your market has 20% market share, that leaves 80% for you to go get in addition to taking some of the low hanging fruit from the “gorilla.”
  • Old technology still works – pick up the phone and call someone! Don’t rely on emails that are getting deleted by the dozens.
  • Have a strategy:
    • Get face to face – via virtual technology – with the top 20% of your client list
    • Call and talk to your next 40%
  • Email, or better yet, snail mail the next 20% of those that you believe have the potential to grow to the top.
  • What you are doing today is either helping you race to the top or race to the bottom, you get to decide!
  • Identify the 3 things that you should be doing NOW to help your build relationships and forge friendships, rather than the 3 things that will help you increase sales. Remember, those that you are calling on in B2B business have lots of things they are worried about and buying from you may not be top of the list.  These worries may include:
    • How is my business going to survive this crisis?
    • Who do I let go and what’s the best way to do that?
    • How do I best serve and keep my clients safe and secure?
    • How do I protect myself and my family from harm and illness?
    • How do I take care of those people that have helped me build, run and grow this business?
    • I do have a business to run so unless you are bringing something valuable and unique to my situation, I don’t have time to talk to you or respond to your emails.

In closing, here are some responses below that we received from some of the 50 participants in our session.

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Thank you be safe and stay healthy.

  1. It’s time to make friends not money
  2. Run zoom rooms with top 20
  3. Using the quote about “People want to know how much you care before they care how much you know.”
  4. Change my attitude
  5. Make sure you listen to your clients
  6. Get to know your clients better
  7. Assume that your clients need a solution, not a sales pitch
  8. Short term actions lead to long term results
  9. Your best clients look great to competition at any price
  10. Human Touch in a High-Tech World….love this!
  11. Make friends, not sales
  12. Take advantage of technology, learn to provide creative solutions, pick up the phone and be unique!
  13. Be persistent, but not pestilent.
  14. Think Strategically

Interested in Leadership Development for your organization? While our program is personalized, it will often include an initial in-person kick-off training day or virtual zoom-cast, followed by a series of focused Coaching Calls with the “Leader in Development” as well touchpoints with the Executive team.

Leadership Development 

Topics: hiring better salespeople, train the trainer, online sales management training, sales training workshops, sales training seminars, sales training programs, sales candidate assessment, sales force performance evaluation, insurance prospecting system, assessment tools for salespeople, life insurance call script, sales team evaluation, keys to selling success, star sales training, keys to selling, consultative sales coaching cincinnati, consultative selling cincinnati, banking sales training cincinnati, corporate sales training cincinnati, hire better people cincinnati, sales coaching cincinnati, sales management training cincinnati, sales productivity tools cincinnati, sales training programs cincinnati, sales training workshops cincinnati, train the trainer cincinnati, hiring sales people cincinnati, increase sales cincinnati, professional sales training cincinnati, sales candidate assessment cincinnati, sales effectiveness training cincinnati, sales force performance evaluation cincinnati, sales performance management cincinnati, sales training cincinnati, sales training courses cincinnati, sales training seminars cincinnati

Is Your Sales Growth Stuck in the Chimney with Kris Kringle?

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Dec 11, 2019

In this blog, we discuss the concepts behind real, tangible sales growth and ask the question, "Is Your Sales Growth Stuck in the Chimney with Kris Kringle?" 

Sales growth is dependent upon Closing More Business, More Quickly, at Higher Margins and we are here to show you how you can accomplish this within your organization!

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This morning, my wife (and ACTG's President CEO Linda) and I were watching Morning Joe while talking business.  We were discussing our brand promise of:

"When you lie awake at night worrying about sales growth, we lie awake at night.” 

We compiled a list of questions that often haunt managers throughout the day and into the night when they should be preparing for a good night’s sleep:

As we’re talking, we see a news banner at the bottom of the screen about a man who was arrested for breaking and entering a home.  He was apprehended after the police entered the home and saw his feet dangling from the chimney.  As usual, I automatically started thinking about how that related to sales, sales management, performance management, coaching, pipeline, pre-call strategies, etc.

And, since it's that time of the year, it also made me think of this great scene in The Santa Clause: 

 

My first question, however, is this: 

  1. “Do you have sales opportunities that are important/critical for hitting your goals and growing sales that are stuck?”

My second, but maybe the most important question, is:

    2. “Is this particular opportunity a repeat offender?” 

 

QUESTIONS FOR EVALUATING OPPORTUNITIES

Now, there are 2 things to consider when attempting to answer that second question.

  1. Is that opportunity familiar to you and the salesperson who has entered the opportunity into your pipeline management system? (This isn’t the same as your CRM). If we’ve worked on this opportunity before and they – the opportunity – “got away on a technicality”, then this would be defined as a “repeat offender”:
    1. Not the decision maker
    2. Wasn’t able to undo the current relationship
    3. Decided to not make a change
    4. Couldn’t arrive at the price point
    5. Really didn’t have a solution that fit the features and benefits they were looking for
    6. The timing wasn’t right
  2. Are other opportunities stuck in the pipeline/chimney for the very same reasons as this one?  The salesperson failed to execute the qualifying steps in your sales process:
    1. No compelling reason to make a change identified
    2. Competition unknown
    3. Incumbent still part of the equation
    4. Budget for investing time, money resources is a mystery
    5. Decision making process has not been uncovered
    6. Timing or urgency of making a decision not clearly understood
    7. Agreement on next steps unclear
    8. Did not ask the question – Is this a “want to fix” or “have to fix” problem?

CMBMQHM AND WHAT YOU NEED FOR SALES GROWTH

Sales growth is dependent upon this – CMBMQHM.  My staff hates it when I make up acronyms like this.  When I put these in our learning decks, the people in my office want to know what the acronyms mean. 

Close More Business, More Quickly, at Higher Margins

So, what does it take to accomplish CMBMQHM?

  • You must have a milestone-centric sales system – something that can be quantified, measured and evaluated for progress towards the objective of “getting a decision”. (This is not the same as “getting the sale”.)
  • You have to have a process for building a success formula for each salesperson based on that sales system.
  • You have to have complete buy-in to the use of your pipeline management process. Here are the guidelines to get that buy-in. It needs to…
    • Be easy to use
    • Be effective
    • Be beneficial to the user
    • Provide you with business intelligence
    • Automatically generate and send reports to you so you don’t have to go find the information
  • You have to have a system of pre-call strategy sessions for EVERY opportunity that meets or exceeds the benchmark of your top 33%.
  • You have to have a post-call debriefing session for every opportunity you discuss in the pre-call session.
  • You have to conduct a CSI – “Crime Scene Investigation” – for every deal you don’t get.
  • Finally, you have to conduct 1-on-1 coaching sessions that are intentional.
    • They are based on the findings from your pre- and post-call meetings
    • They are based on what your data is telling you about the choke point(s) a particular salesperson is having or the most common choke point(s) for the group
    • The coaching needs to accomplish 1, if not 2, things:
      1. Change behavior
      2. Improve skill

Additional Resources:

Download the Success Formula Worksheet

Sign up for our Effective Selling System Online Demo 


 

Topics: Sales Training, hiring sales people, Sales Management Training, How to Increase Sales, Sales Coaching, increase sales, hiring better salespeople, how increase sales, grow sales, sales growth problems, will to sell, sales challenges, life lessons, creating new sales opportunities, practice schedules, selling tools, sales productivity tools, budget, solution, sales conversations, sales effectiveness training, banking sales training, professional sales training, consultative sales coaching, corporate sales training, sales force performance management, sales training courses, buyers journey, social selling, online sales training, politics, hire better people, insurance sales training, brand video, train the trainer

Why Prospects are Like Fruit and Why You Need to Pick the Right Ones

Posted by Tony Cole on Mon, Dec 02, 2019

In this blog post, we discuss the idea that prospects are like fruit and vegetables in the produce section of your local grocery – they are all perishable! 

Prospects, like their produce counterparts, have a shelf life, and none of them will last forever.  You must "eat" them, find a way to preserve them, or get rid of them!

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Years ago, while attending the Objective Management Group International Sales Conference, Dave Kurlan, president of OMG, talked about how to effectively manage opportunities through the pipeline.  He made the analogy that prospects are like fruit and vegetables in the produce section of your local grocery – they are all perishable.

That phrase has stuck with me all these years.  We continue to reference it when we are presenting our Effective Sales System workshops and when working with our new clients for Hire Better Salespeople.

NOT EVERYONE HAS THE SAME "SHELF LIFE"

Prospects:  They have a shelf life just like fruit: some of them a little longer than others. 

Bananas – not so long.

Apples and mandarins – a little longer

Potatoes – not forever, but if they start to sprout, you can at least plant them in the ground and get more potatoes. 

The bottom line is that none of them last forever.  You need to either eat them or find a way to preserve them for later.

As you go about looking at the shelves (prospecting in the market) for the produce you need for tonight’s (or future) meal, you must be somewhat selective so that the food you select today, is fresh enough for cooking and consuming over a short period of time.  I can buy a bag of potatoes and probably use them in two weeks.  However, buy a bunch of bananas and we’ll need to eat them soon or else next week we will have to turn them into banana bread.

WHEN IT'S TIME, IT'S TIME

The same holds true for prospects relative to their buy cycle.  They are not in that cycle forever. Depending on what services you sell, they could be off the shelf in a week.  They may be in the looking, considering, “thinking about” cycle for a while, but once they decide to buy – it’s time to buy!

Years ago, I was in the market for a new vehicle.  The Chevy Avalanche had been out for a couple of years and I knew, when the day came, that was going to be my purchase. There is a Chevy dealership just down the road from my house in Montgomery, Ohio, where I had purchased vehicles in the past from the manager Bill Wentzel. 

When the day came, I went to Bill and told him I had a check in my pocket, and that I'd like to test drive the red Avalanche. I asked him if he would get me a salesperson who wouldn’t get in the way, and would just let me buy!

Two hours later (car sales take awhile), I drove off of the lot in my new shiny red Avalanche.

***Note to bankers, advisors and insurance salespeople***  

Your prospects are ALWAYS in the market.  EVERYONE you sell to is using, consuming and/or shopping for the services you offer.  Your timing has to be good, but it doesn’t have to be great. What has to be GREAT is your constant contact with them so that, when they are ready, you are top of mind.


DON'T LET PROSPECTS PERISH

Here is my real point.  When going out into the market, you can find yourself wasting your time with produce/prospects that aren’t quite ready, or are already past their "prime" time for consumption:

  • Potatoes too green
  • Bananas too green
  • Tomatoes too yellow
  • Peaches too mushy
  • Stickers on meat packages that say “reduced”
  • Just renewed my insurance
  • Our lease expires in 11 months
  • We have to wait until this election is over

If you want to close more business, more quickly at higher margins, then find the highly perishable prospects – work with them on solving their problem(s). Present a solution to them and get them off of the shelf.  Do not neglect the potatoes, bananas, tomatoes or green beans; continue to check on them, plant them in your database (your CRM) and, when the time comes to make potato salad, they will be ready!

Additional Resources:

How Effective is Your Sales Process?

Do You Need Better “Shoppers” (salespeople) Who Won’t Perish? Sales Mistake Calculator

How to Determine a Qualified Prospect – Post-Call Checklist/Scorecard

Topics: Pipeline management, sales prospecting, closing sales

Topics: effective sales coaching, Sales Management Training, Sales Coaching, hiring better salespeople, consultative selling, professional sales training, consultative sales coaching, online sales training, hire better people, insurance sales training

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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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