ACTG Sales Management Blog

Sales & Sales Management Expertise Blog  

Leadership in Times of Change

Posted by Steve Jones on Thu, Aug 20, 2020

As a leader, have you ever wondered why your salespeople don't adapt to and follow the new guidelines you have established? Often, managers focus their energy on defining procedures and identifying expectations during times of change. However, they fail to understand the impact and personal needs of the employees that are responsible for following these new requirements. 

In today's blog, we discuss why it is so critical for leaders to understand the overall impact change has on employees and how to best get new policies in place with everyone on board. 

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“Due to the virus restrictions, we have had to institute many new procedures. Surprisingly, some of my best employees are struggling to adapt to them!”

“We had to shrink our sales team due to business performance. This required us to juggle some client assignments among the remaining staff. Some have jumped right in, but a few are resisting. We have been clear about why the business needs to make these changes. They should be happy they have kept their jobs, but you’d never know it.”

What’s going on? In the past, our team has risen to every challenge and met every new goal with excitement and enthusiasm. Our compensation is more than competitive. Our competition hasn’t introduced any new products or services that we can’t compete against. We were very clear on the new procedures and assignments, and our performance expectations are basically the same as they have always been.

What could be going on is that you and your managers have focused your energy on clearly defining new procedures and expectations but may not have spent enough time focusing on the personal needs of the employees. When things are changing, employees will often take a step back to understand how the changes affect them personally before they focus on how the changes will benefit the business. They need the time to understand what they need to do differently and to what extent their world is being changed.

They might be asking:

  • “Do these changes affect my work schedule, which will in turn affect my schedule outside of work?”
  • “Am I going to need to rely on or develop a skill I never really needed in the past? Do I feel confident in that new skill? Am I willing to put in the time and effort required to learn the new procedure?”
  • “Will my selling style match well with the new clients I have been assigned, or will I need to adjust? Will I be able to adjust? Do I want to adjust?”

When change happens in our lives, it is natural for us to resist at first, particularly if we thought things were going well before. If the status quo was comfortable for me, I would prefer to leave things as they were. Unconsciously (or maybe consciously), I am hoping that if I resist the change then it will go away. You will let me continue to operate in my comfort zone.

The mistake we make as managers is that we believe all we need to do is clearly explain what needs to be done and why. If we do that, everyone will see the need for the change and jump on board. However, as long as your people are in resistance mode, they are not ready to listen to your arguments on why the changes are good for the company. They are taking care of themselves first.

The next time you need to institute changes take a more balanced approach:

  1. Be clear about the need for the change and the long-term benefits of everyone successfully adopting the new procedures.
  2. Acknowledge that this is a change and seek to understand what concerns your employees may have about adapting to the changes. Be sincere in your understanding that change can be confusing, time-consuming, and scary. If you have the flexibility to accommodate an individual’s specific concerns, let them know that.
  3. Discuss what the employees need to get comfortable with the changes. Do they need more information? Do they need time to learn new procedures before they are implemented? They certainly will need your patience as they adjust, and your understanding if they are not initially skilled at the new behaviors.
  4. As a leader, you need to define the desired outcome. Allow your employees to participate in figuring out the best way to achieve that outcome. If you do this, you will find they will more quickly “own” the new procedures and behaviors.
  5. When your employees struggle with the new “rules of the game” – and they will – be forgiving at first and encourage them to keep working at it. Acknowledge the effort to change, and they will feel you appreciate that it isn’t easy.
  6. When you feel the majority of your folks have successfully transitioned to the new way, take some time to celebrate. Remind them how far they have come, thank them for their efforts, and revisit the benefits of making the changes. This will help them continue to move forward even when they have setbacks.

Change is hard. Change is uncomfortable. Given the choice, most people will choose to not change what they feel has been working for them. Don’t try to manage the change by focusing on processes, measurements, and results. Instead, try to lead them through the change by partnering with them and supporting them along the new path you have set for them.

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Topics: Sales Leadership, sales management success, managing sales teams, sales leadership development, increase sales, motivating salespeople

7 Things Companies Do to Thrive Anywhere, Anytime

Posted by Tony Cole on Tue, Aug 04, 2020

Regardless of the current state of business, it is easy to get caught up in managing day-to-day tasks. It's also easy to lose focus on the end goal and continue to take the necessary steps to move your business forward.  

If you and your organization need to thrive and not just survive, these 7 things can and will help!

JeffBezos-2This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA

With so much noise about the current environment, I wouldn’t blame you if you stopped reading now, but don’t! This is not the same old message about what to do in the middle of a crisis. This is information and direction for any organization any time they need to thrive.

Things companies do to thrive anywhere, anytime.

  1. To borrow from Jim Collins's book, Built to Last, great companies lean heavily on their core ideology. This emphasis is what makes companies visionary. Re-state your core ideology at every opportunity. Take this moment to become the visionary in your segment or industry. Make sure you have people that drink the ideology Kool-aid.
  2. Increase the intensity around achieving objectives. This doesn’t mean don’t have empathy for those that suffer either financially, medically, or socially. It does mean that the core of your organization will see you and your people through difficult times, but only if you remind them of the objectives, do not allow them to wallow in a pity party, and support them so that they can succeed.
  3. Focus on cash in the door. That means sales. Yes, sales will be tougher to get, and maybe fewer and farther between, but that just means you need to be more diligent about sales activities upfront. Raise the standards for activity, increase the frequency of huddles, use more data to help coach, and support and hold salespeople accountable.
  4. Hire great talent. Not just occasionally but all the time even when you don’t have the money or don’t have an open spot. What we know from our work with Objective Management Group is that of the 2M salespeople assessed, only 7% of them are at the "elite" level (Sales Quotient over 139). Another 18% score as "strong" (Sales Quotient between 130-1390). If the axiom is true – nothing happens until something is sold – then find great salespeople and hire them anytime, at any price. (Smartsize your organization NOW!)
  5. Improve the knowledge, behaviors, and skills of your people. There is a commitment to invest time, money, and resources to the development of the talent you hire. Recognize that your people, just like professional athletes, need constant conditioning, training, performance management, and coaching. Failure in this area is what leads to the "reverse" Pareto principle. I describe this concept in a recent article – The Evolution of Sales in 2020.
  6. Stay optimistic despite all of the evidence to the contrary. (Click HERE for the ‘There’s got to be a pony in there somewhere’ joke). When we started our work with Key Bank, Beth Mooney was fond of discussing the concept of "Shadow of the Leader". Quite simply it means that you as a leader, set the tone, posture, mental stability, and emotion for your organization. If you want your people to be energized and enthusiastic then it starts with you!
  7. They pick the can up and do something with it, instead of kicking it down the road hoping for a better time, a more appropriate set of circumstances, or for things to turn around. Great companies make things happen. They are creators rather than creatures of circumstance.

This brief outline requires many things from many people in your company. We can help in three areas:

 

  • Leading Through Change
  • Selling in Any Environment
  • Hiring Better Salespeople

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Topics: Selling Success, sales management success, improving sales results, increase sales, upgrade your sales force, sales advice, sales acceleration, sales productivity tools, driving sales growth 2020

Talent is the Key to Winning Sales Growth Teams

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Apr 24, 2020

In this blog article, we discuss the similarities between the NFL Draft and hiring better salespeople and increasing sales.  Like the draft, sales managers must do their best to discover if their potential candidate is a fit not only for the particular sales role, but the organization
as well.

What tests must your next recruit pass to excel on your sales team? What are you doing to ensure that your sales candidates have what it takes to become a top performer? 

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Last night, the first round of the NFL draft took place and here are a few important facts about the event:

  • There are only 224 out of 16,000 eligible draft players
  • Roughly $1.3 Billion in contracts will be negotiated and signed
  • They must participate and attain a certain score in the following;
    • 40-yard dash
    • Bench press (225 lbs x reps)
    • Vertical and broad jump
    • 20 and 60-yard shuttle
    • 3 cone drill
    • Position specific drills
    • 60 interviews in total at 15-minute intervals
    • Physical measurements
    • Injury evaluation
    • Drug screen
    • They Cybex test
    • The Wonderlic test

Not only must the player submit to these evaluations, but keep in mind that their entire college career, has been videotaped.  Statistics on yards, catches, passes, tackles, rushes, etc. are kept and used by professional scouting organizations to determine the likelihood of an athlete having what it takes to make and succeed on an NFL Football Team.

What tests must your next recruit pass to excel on your sales team? What are you doing to ensure that your sales candidates have what it takes to become a top performer?  How much data do you collect, and how reliable is it?  How much interviewing do you do?  And finally, is it consistent enough to eliminate variability in data, thus eliminating variability in hiring and eventually in performance?

In the coming months, I’m guessing that the following are going to happen:

  1. The sales talent pool will be flooded from many industries that suffered partial or complete shut down and had to let people go.
  2. A lot of unqualified salespeople will be hired only to be let go within the following 12 months.

What should you do?

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Take some pointers from the NFL playbook on drafting talent:

  • Know EXACTLY what role you are looking to hire for
  • Know EXACTLY what a candidate has to do in order to succeed in that role
  • Create the ideal job attraction post of the candidate that will execute the role
  • Assess ALL candidates before your interview them for their will to succeed in selling and sales DNA
  • Interview them for most the critical characteristics like:
    • Phone skills
    • Relationship-building
    • Qualifying
    • Closing
  • Have these candidates audition through roleplays and their ability to demonstrate success, recover from rejection and ask questions while listening intently
  • Implement a consistent vetting process that is managed and inspected
  • Prepare them to make a decision when you offer them the position
  • Onboard them as if they are new to the industry and role

I’ve talked to several people today.  All of them told me that they are on a hiring freeze and the companies they work with are also on a hiring freeze. That probably includes you. But this will not last. When it is over, you need to be prepared to act rather than wait until it’s time to start the process all over again. 

Here are some resources to help you hire the best people to be successful in your company:

  1. Access to a free trial of the highly predictive pre-hire sales assessment
  2. Objective Management Groups SmartSizing tool that will help you evaluate who to keep on your team and in which roles

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Topics: upgrade the sales force, increase sales, assessing sales talent, recruiting sales talent, top sales performers, eliminating variability, hiring top salespeople, building sales team

Leadership Development: How a Mentoring Approach Can Lead to Positive Outcomes & Increasing Sales

Posted by Patrick Kollmeier on Thu, Apr 23, 2020

Guest Blog Post from Gaia Hawkes

In this week's blog post, guest blogger Gaia Hawkes offers her insights into leadership development within sales organizations and explains how taking a mentoring approach can lead to positive outcomes and increasing sales.

In sales and sales coaching, the process of mentorship is crucial to passing on expertise and knowledge to more junior team members. It enables sales teams to drive growth and success, leading to increased performance and sales across the board.

In a previous article on growing a successful sales team by Tony Cole, he describes how certain weaknesses in your sales team can lead to dissent and chaos. For instance, prioritizing your own agenda and being a bad team player can impact the team’s overall success. To remedy this, leaders should act as mentors to improve and change their attitudes. Maryville University explains how a degree in organizational leadership can help you introduce positive change through superior employee training and collaboration.

Being a strong leader and mentor will help your team follow your lead when it comes to driving sales productivity. With that in mind, here are some ways in which developing a mentorship program can greatly benefit your organization.

Identifying strengths matters

If you don’t know where your team members excel, you’re not working with them to achieve their true potential. It may seem basic, but conducting personality tests conducive to learning your salespeople’s unique strengths can give you key insights moving forward.  For instance, if a particular salesperson excels in nurturing and providing for others, you can put them in a role as an onboarding companion for hiring better salespeople. 

In addition, you can find ways to help them use their empathy to work with clients.  Ensuring that everyone feels appreciated and valued will help your employees feel like they are a key member of the team. In the long run, they’ll be more willing to step up and take on greater responsibilities to help increase sales within your organization.

Why empathy matters

Because selling is a numbers-oriented business, sales leaders might put pressure on specific goals and money milestones within the organization. On the other hand, Kevin Kruse describes why successful sales leaders need to show that they care. He explains that apart from dealing with the tasks at hand, you should also take the time to get to know and interact with your team members.

Address them by name, greet them every morning, learn about their families, and ask about life outside of work. Sometimes, outside life gets in the way and affects productivity, but if you’re understanding and approachable, you can help your team members get over these road bumps more quickly.

Why feedback and recognition matter

Without assessing your team’s progress and providing regular opportunities for candid feedback, improvement will be a slow process. An Entrepreneur article on the art of mentorship explains that one-on-one time between a mentee and a mentor is crucial to adjust targets and modify goals if necessary.

Creating a well-designed plan involves identifying the issues at hand, setting realistic sales goals, and providing actionable steps to meet them. Growth can be a challenging process, but by giving recognition and praise where it’s due, you’ll keep your mentees motivated and energized to meet and exceed expectations.

Ultimately, mentorship programs not only steer team members to success, but sales mentors are also rewarded with the fulfilling experience of seeing their mentees succeed. In fact, a 2018 research study on Business News Daily found that 76% of respondents considered mentors important to their success. If you don’t already have one, it’s better late than never to start implementing a mentoring approach within your sales organizations.

Topics: Sales Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Skills, increase sales

Why Increasing Sales Leads to Personal Freedoms

Posted by Walt Gerano on Fri, Feb 21, 2020

Achieving the work-life balance sales professionals all hear and dream about starts with having a personal vision and a set of non-negotiable goals.

In this article, we will discuss the 4 must-do sales activities and the characteristics that all successful salespeople share when striving for the freedom of success. 

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Today, I'd like to commemorate the victory and personal freedoms that comes from success in sales.

There are two freedoms that successful people enjoy: the freedom of time and the freedom of choice. You see, when you are always playing from behind, you never feel like you can take time off or treat yourself to that vacation you've been wanting to take.

Successful people aren’t successful by chance or luck. They all have (at least) four things in common.

  1. They all have a vision of where they want to go, starting with the end in mind.
  2. They have a mission. Or, the “how you will achieve your vision” 
  3. Goals become the mile markers that let you know when you’ve “left the road”.
  4. And they have a “WHY”

So, decide what freedoms you want. Determine what those freedoms require. Build your plan to get there.

  • It all starts with your success formula, the behaviors you must execute day in and day out to accomplish your goals.
  • Track your behaviors weekly and be accountable to someone other than yourself (we’re too good at explaining to ourselves why we didn’t do something).
  • Know your SMART numbers- what are the key metrics that really drive your business and learn from them!
  • Build your Unique Sales Approach (USA) that is compelling to the people in your sandbox, or those that fit your profile.

Finally, don’t do all of this and stick it in the drawer. You should review your vision, mission and goals annually and your Successful Formula and SMART numbers quarterly.

Now go out and sell something and celebrate the freedom of success.

Topics: Sales Management Training, increase sales, hire better salespeople, consultative selling, sales effectiveness training, banking sales training, consultative sales coaching, corporate sales training, online sales training, hire better people, train the trainer, online sales management training, sales training workshops, sales training seminars, sales training programs, sales candidate assessment

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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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