ACTG Sales Management Blog

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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 Effective Sales Management Steps to Take NOW

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Dec 14, 2016

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Sales management, sales leadership and sales presidency require special diligence this time of year. Actions taken now will assure successful sales results in the coming year. In order to transition smoothly, here are 7 sales management steps that should be completed before the end of the year.  

By now, you should have:

  1. Evaluated the individuals on your team for the year. Unless you have anomalies at the end of the year, your team’s individual outcomes and results are pretty much set.
  2. (Based on the evaluation) Begun to have meetings with all your people. The meetings are similar to performance reviews, but they’re not the corporate type of review that gets put in the HR file.  These reviews put your team members in 1 of four groups. You then have a discussion about what group they are in.
    1. Met or exceeded sales goal and sales activity requirements group
    2. Met or exceeded sales goal but currently not at sales activity targets group
    3. Met or exceeded sales activity targets but failed  to hit sales targets (below 100% is failing)
    4. Has not met sales or sales activity targets

(If you would like information on what the conversation should sound like for people in each of these groups, call me or text me at 513-226-3913.  If I don’t answer, just leave a message with your name, mobile number and email requesting, “Where’s Walter?” information.  You can also email me at tony@anthonycoletraining.com.)

  1. Reviewed performance, actual effort and execution effectiveness results against targets for the year.
  2. Assessed where the choke points are for people on the team who are not succeeding. To do this, you look at the conversion ratios in your sales success formula that was built last year and reviewed every quarter.  (Don’t have a success formula?  Click here –> Success formula download)
  3. Revised the success formula for 2017 based on each person’s commitment to performance via the “extraordinary discussion”. (Haven’t had that discussion? Ask Jeni at Jeni@anthonycoletraining.com to send you that information.)
  4. Conducted an offsite where your salespeople identify personal goals, translate the personal goals into a personal income requirement and translate that into a work plan that you will follow up with every quarter. (Yes, we have information on what that offsite should look like.  Even though it’s late to be doing that now, conducting the session in January would be better than not conducting one at all.  Let us know if we can help: 513-791-3458)
  5. Talked to your HR department about additional FTEs for the coming year to grow your sales team and replace the people that are not performing. Think about this: Suppose you had to hire better salespeople (3) but can only grow your sales team by 2 – who would you let go?

These 7 things are the minimum functions for sales management at this time of year.  Failure to execute on these 7 steps will pretty much guarantee that your next 12 months will look like the past 12 months:

  • Only a few people will meet or exceed the goal
  • Most of the people will miss the goal by at least 10% and some as much as 20%
  • The bottom 33% of your sales force will represent less than 5% of your new business revenue
  • Salespeople that fail will continue to make excuses
  • The salespeople that had a “one-off” great year will coast in the next year and live off the laurels of this year.
  • Your top performers will continue to be frustrated by lack of attention, support and recognition for their outstanding contributions.

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Topics: success formula, managing sales teams, effective sales management

28 Sales Traits to Identify When Hiring Better Salespeople

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Dec 08, 2016

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

Chicken Little and The Impact of Dol (pt.1)

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Dec 02, 2016

chickens.jpgAs the story goes, Chicken Little gets hit on the head and declares the sky is falling.

Last spring, the Department of Labor passed new fiduciary regulations on the financial advisory business, and since then, there have been an untold number of articles written about the impact on advisors, the industry and consumers.  Several of these have stated that:

  • Trillions of dollars will saved in investor commissions because advisors will soon be held to a much stricter fiduciary standard that affects transactional incentives.
  • Advisors will lose ½ of their revenue because what was a solid investment recommendation and seen as ‘suitable’ will soon be considered conflicted advice because it paid them commission.
  • The industry is in turmoil as it attempts to figure out how to meet DoL regs, hold on to high-performing advisors and effectively make-up the assumed lost revenue.

The sky is falling?!?

I read Bank Investment Consultant at least 3 times a week.  The publication and its editors/authors do a great job of keeping people connected to the industry in the loop on the latest changes, trends and thought leadership.  Lee Conrad, Editor of Bank Investment Consultant, recently wrote an article titled:  Bank Advisers:  Prepare to Cut Your Book by Half

Here are a couple of excerpts from the article:

The fiduciary rule will require most bank advisors to trim their books of business to a much more manageable level. How much is really a guessing game at this point. But, for many advisors, especially those who have focused on transactional business, it will be significant.

This was just one of the discussions from our last Industry Leadership Forum in Denver. We hold these meetings in conjunction with Stathis Partners as small, invitation-only gatherings for industry execs to discuss the top issues on their radar screens.

So, how many clients can an advisor reasonably manage when they are acting in a fiduciary capacity? The numbers bandied about in our meeting were in the low hundreds: about 200 give or take.

***

REALITY CHECK
How many clients do advisors really have? Consider some research we did earlier this year for our annual Top Program Managers ranking. In addition to asking each nominee how many advisors they had on their teams, we also asked how many households their teams served. We've never used those results until now, but the average was 750 client households per advisor. The median was a bit lower--about 550--but many of the individual programs had well over 1,000 clients per advisor.

***

TEE-UP THE CROSS SELL
Here's one more assumption, on my part, that I feel pretty good about: Advisors don't want to lose too much of their pay. If they generated, say $200,000 in annual production in 2016 and next year they find themselves with a book of business that's been cut by half, the natural move for them will be to get more profit from each client. (Just how to segment a book was another discussion at our forum, which we'll write about in a future installment.)

So, here is the first thing you should keep in mind about Dol and its impact:

It’s easy to get caught in the DoL quicksand.  Two friends of mine who also happen to be well -respected people in the industry, Michael Graham from Midwest Securities Trading Company and Kevin Mummau from CUSO, are not panicking.  Actually, we all seem to agree that this is a great opportunity for advisors:

  • The money hasn’t gone anywhere.
  • Advisors that aren’t very good at really advising clients and struggle with “fiduciary” standards will leave the business.
  • The solutions to the “problems of revenue loss” already exist: financial planning and risk management products.

So, is the sky really falling? We will answer that question in our next post!

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Topics: managing sales teams, DoL regulations, managing advisors

Habits of Highly Successful Sales Managers

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Nov 02, 2016

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The sales management activities that we are performing today are creating the results we are achieving today.  What activities are you doing now that are creating your current unsatisfactory results?  It is up to us as sales leaders to set higher standards for sales behaviors and hold people accountable so that we get better results.

It is a given that successful sales management requires contributions on many levels:  skill, time, effort, effective execution and systems and processes to support coaching, performance management and recruiting.

To help understand what makes a successful sales manager, it is helpful to review the Habits of Highly Successful Salespeople. I recently asked the participants of a workshop to identify and share those habits that they believed contributed to the success of their best salespeople.  Below are some of the common habits identified:

  • Develops great relationships
  • Networks regularly
  • Good time management
  • Gets to decision makers
  • Is selective in prospecting
  • Provides exceptional customer service

Then I asked them to talk about the flip-side of the list – those habits that inhibited or hurt a salesperson’s ability to close more business.  Below are some of the habits they identified:

  • Sells on price
  • Inconsistent prospecting
  • Procrastinates
  • Presents to the wrong people
  • Sells to anyone that fogs a mirror
  • Poor prioritization
  • Is too comfortable

How about you and your habits?  What are those habits that you can point to that you KNOW have a positive impact on your team’s sales behaviors and results?  Here are some that I observe and hear about:

  • Coaches: in-the-moment to get a deal closed
  • Reports sales results
  • Makes joint calls
  • Sets goals
  • Conducts regular sales meetings
  • Reviews and reports pipeline

This is a good list and with some additions, it can become a great list when we identify the skills of a great Coach, one of the most critical roles of an effective sales leader.  To examine what else you might want to consider, take a look at the following list of elements necessary for successful coaching:

  • Debriefs sales calls effectively
  • Asks quality questions
  • Controls emotions
  • Allows salespeople to fail
  • Implements and manages the execution of a consistent sales process
  • Motivates when coaching based on individual/personal goals
  • Coaches to improve skill and change behavior
  • Gets sales people to follow through on commitments

It’s not enough to just have the skill.  In order for managers to be successful at having a sales team built for growth, the manager must be in the habit of using those skills.

Being an extraordinary sales manager is grueling and time-consuming.  It requires attention to detail, the ability to have tough conversations with those who are not meeting their numbers, the desire and commitment to grow yourself and your salespeople, consistent activity and patience.  Like the coach of a winning team or conductor of an extraordinary symphony, you have the ability to positively affect the success and the lives of your salespeople and company. 

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Topics: sales management, managing sales teams, sales habits, highly successful salespeople

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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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