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Two More Critical Steps to Sales Management Mastery

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Sun, Jun 02, 2019 @ 14:06 PM

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I recently published an article about 5 Critical Steps to Sales Management Mastery. It was not originally intended to be a complete list but rather the top five steps to take and skills to learn to raise your own bar and truly master the role. Absent from the list were many well-known mechanical, tactical, and even strategic components of sales management. As for critical steps, at the core, make sure it's the right role for you, that you model and learn from the success of others, that you understand people's motivations, you create an environment that ensures success and that you build a culture of constant improvement through coaching. 

After publishing the article, sales expert and international thought leader, Dave Kurlan, rightly pointed out that leveraging technology and holding people accountable belonged on the list. He's right. So here they are, below. And if you want to read about all seven, click here to see the whole article, now with the two additional components added, 6 and 7.

7 Critical Components to Sales Management Mastery

1 Model Success
2 Choose the Right Role 
3 Know What Motivates
4 Make Coaching Your Most Important Skill
5 Create an Environment that Supports Success

6 Leverage Technology

There are numerous tools available to managers to help them do their jobs and to help their people do theirs. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems work when everyone uses it and keeps it 100% up to date. If less than 100%, the information reported from the data is almost useless. Managers that report 100% compliance also report that it is one of the most useful technology tools in the kit. Another is their pipeline tool.

Let's make an important distinction. CRM is not Pipeline and most CRM tools talk the pipeline talk without walking the walk. CRM focuses on customers whereas Pipeline focuses on opportunities. If you're visual, imagine the two dimensions of customers and activities. That's CRM. Now add a third dimension of opportunities and you have Pipeline.

Client after client ask me how they can turn their CRM tool into a pipeline tool. In Salesforce, for example, thanks to integration with Membrain and other pipeline tools, that's possible. If you don't want to spend money on both, err on the side of pipeline because it's more helpful to salespeople. Many companies use industry-specific CRM tools. E.g., Media companies, or heavy equipment sales, etc. They don't always have the luxury of tossing out a sub-par CRM tool because it is interwoven into many other parts of the business. In that case, either we are able to rig up a Pipeline tool within the structure of their CRM or we set up a separate Pipeline tool. Thanks to the integration tool, Zapier, sometimes we can even save the step of double entering customers.

Another effective tool for managers is the use of video for asynchronous communication. A video challenge can be sent to a rep who then responds with a video of their own. The manager asks a question such as, "Describe product x in detail," or, "Open a conversation with a positioning statement," and the rep responds so the manager can critique and provide feedback. Refract is an example of this kind of technology.

7 Hold People Accountable

Sales Managers often look at sales revenues as a primary data point for management. As we know, however, sales is a trailing indicator. To improve forecasting, we look ahead by examining activities and behaviors that are likely to lead to more sales. If we focus on behavior that is within the control of the salesperson, we can bring more accountability to our leadership. 

Here's my Thursday-Afternoon Test: Imagine that you are meeting with your team Friday morning and you want them each to report on what they accomplished yesterday. What expectation could you set for team members such that it has the power to change their behavior on Thursday afternoon? That's the test.

Here's an example: You want them to sell more and you have a three-month sales cycle and an average monthly sales number of $100,000 per month per rep. (Let's keep it simple.) You give them the metric of selling $25,000 per week and reporting to you Friday morning. Does it pass the Thursday-Afternoon Test? Let's see. It's Thursday at 3:00 pm and they've only sold $15,000 so far this week, and many of the deals were started two to four months ago. Can they make up the difference in a couple of hours? Probably not, so are not likely to change whatever it was they were doing on Thursday afternoon. They usually can't magically make $10,000 in revenue appear just by working harder for a few hours. That's not to say it isn't possibly, just that it isn't likely to change behavior.

They do, however, have control over many other activities. For example, making calls, following-up, setting up a new meeting, identifying a potential referral source, etc. These kinds of activities have two important features. 1. They are leading indicators. Doing more of them leads to more sales later. 2. They are within the control of the salesperson. Using our example of a Friday morning meeting, let's say we ask our team members to set up six new meetings per week and report on their progress during the meeting. Does it pass the Thursday-Afternoon Test? Let's see. It's Thursday at 3:00 pm and they've set up five meetings. What will they do? Mostly likely, they will get on the phone for next few hours and get that last meeting set up so they can report accomplishing the goal at the meeting the following morning. It passes.

Creating accountability starts with setting expectations that are within the control of the team member. What is doable? What is reachable, within the time frame? How is being reported? Is there a peer component (the morning meeting; a daily huddle; a group chat or email, etc.)? And are their consequences for not meeting metrics goals, activity goals, and behavior goals? And how do those consequences change for one or two violations versus a pattern of missed metrics? 

When the goal is sales related or any other trailing indicator, the assumption that poor performance is due to a lack of ability, drive, commitment, or concern can only be established with an appropriate amount of time. Maybe they are doing the right things well, but sales didn't reflect that this month. When the goal is activity-based, doing it or not doing it is a choice, and therefore an easier place from which to hold people accountable.

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Here are some additional resources you might find helpful:

White Paper: The Modern Science of Sales Force Excellence 
White Paper: The Science of Sales Effectiveness 
Register to use candidate assessments (sales and sales management)

 

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Topics: Sales Accountability, sales CRM, technology in sales, sales management role, sales and sales management tips

7 Key Components of Effective Sales Coaching to Accelerate Performance

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Mon, Apr 29, 2019 @ 17:04 PM

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For those of you who regularly read my articles, you already know that I spend a considerable percentage of my time training sales leaders how to coach. When managers and leaders are first introduced to coaching, they usually believe they are already doing it. They are coaching in some manner all day, blocking and tackling, giving advice, and keeping deals moving along. Including those components isn't wrong but gives the definition wide latitude and limits the great potential of excellent coaching.

To violently twist the words of the James Bond character Vesper Lynd, speaking to Bond in Casino Royale, "There is coaching and coaching, this is the latter. And if you want your people to make constant incremental improvements to their skills, I'll need you performing at your best."  I told you it was twisted. It turns out coaching is a term that describes a wide variety of activities and it's important to make the distinction up front to help leaders bring about the changes they envision for their team much faster and in a way that makes improvements stick. 

Coaching can be all those things mentioned above, and it can be on-demand, in the moment, or solving an immediate problem. But there's a certain kind of coaching that, when adopted as defined, dramatically changes the outcomes. First, ask the following questions about coaching.

7 Questions to Evaluate Your Coaching Process

  1. Will it help my rep improve?
  2. Does it identify a competency or selling DNA for their specific situation?
  3. Is there a lesson learned or takeaway that could be written down?
  4. Does anyone review and critique my coaching?
  5. Am I following a coaching process?
  6. Is my coaching tied to a sales process?
  7. Are my reps getting demonstrably better?

What about before you hire them? Is there anything you can look for in the candidate, the existence of which promotes the kind of coaching environment you are building? After all, there are coaches and coachees. You're hiring the latter. When selecting new salespeople, there are important characteristics possessed by some candidates that will contribute to your environment of constant learning and incremental improvements. 

5 Critical Candidate Attributes Required for Coaching

  1. Is the candidate coachable?
  2. Do they make excuses or do they take responsibility for their outcomes?
  3. Do they come to work every day ready to perform at their best?
  4. How much discomfort will they endure to become better?
  5. Do they have the minimum required selling skills, DNA, and will-to-sell to be recommended for consideration for the position?

The first four candidate attributes above are also components of the sales DNA for that individual. While sales DNA is different than sales skills, many believe it's more difficult to modify DNA than to learn a specific skill. That used to be the case, but now you can simply use the Sales DNA Modifier, which is available as an online subscription for just $119/year and comes with a money-back guarantee.  Check it out here. Companies invest tens and hundreds of thousands to teach their people selling skills. But even after they learn the skills, it's their DNA that prevents them from using them. At $119 for a one-year subscription, there isn't a more cost-effective method for improving your team than this.

And finally, while there are many types of coaching, we want to know the components of good sales coaching that contribute most to the primary outcome of creating an environment of constant improvement? For this, we need something more formal. 

7 Key Components of Effective Sales Coaching

  1. Regular scheduled time, on the calendar
  2. One-on-one (usually) but sometimes in groups
  3. Appropriate length of time for the type of business, usually 30 minutes
  4. Answers key questions that allow anyone to understand the outcome of the coaching session
  5. Always one opportunity is discussed. It's not a sales meeting, nor a pipeline review.
  6. Effective use of role playing
  7. Written lessons learned

Sales management best practices now require managers to spend close to 50% of their time coaching. If they "can't," reassess your priorities. There are few things more important for a manager than ensuring that their team produces the outputs for which the manager is held responsible. My dad used to spray Gumout into the carburetor of small engines that wouldn't start. It's a combustion accelerant and it always worked. Coaching, in turn, is the accelerant to fire up your sales team to reach heights you once only imagined.

If you want to improve your sales leadership skills and learn how elite sales managers coach, motivate, and hold their people accountable, come to our highly-acclaimed two-day Sales Leadership Intensive coming up June 4th and 5th. Group size is limited to ensure optimal participation and learning. There are still some seats available. Click here to learn more about the event.

 

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Photo Credit: Le Moal Olivier  (123RF.com) 

 

Topics: sales management best practices, Sales Coaching, sales leadership intensive, coaching culture, culture of constant improvement, Sales DNA Modifier

Top 10 Must-Haves to Avoid Salesperson On-Boarding Failure

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Sun, Mar 17, 2019 @ 22:03 PM

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Having just returned from training over 60 sales leaders this past week in Central America, one of the subjects covered was recruiting and specifically how important on-boarding is to the success of new hires. Working with leaders (CEOs, General Managers, VPs, and other heads) from all seven Central American countries, there was consensus that one of the most important missing components to their current recruiting process was on-boarding and that they were struggling as a result. In fact, none of the executives thought that they had an adequate process to get new hires up to speed to collaborate with their managers and with each other with competence and full commitment. What they wanted was a plan that avoided unnecessary failures due to on-boarding mistakes. I will share with you now the key elements of that plan.

Part of the problem these executives face, and perhaps this sounds familiar, is that their managers tend to hire people when they are down a person, meaning that there is a territory left wide open and they need someone fast. They don't have personnel to cover the area in a manner consistent with the expected level of service and they are anxious to get someone in there right away to do the job and cover the void. In an emergency hiring situation, the manager is too stretched and justifiably too busy managing to sell the territory on an interim basis. If they try to cover it, often there are negative consequences in all the territories, not just the one they are covering.

When they finally hire someone, it's trial by fire. "Get out there and sell something." The managers are too busy to bring the new person up to speed and the salesperson is too busy putting out fires and coping with urgent time requests to stop and learn what they need to know about the company much less work on their selling skills. So they do the best they can. Those with a solid ability to learn quickly, or who have what we call a high Figure It Out Factor (FIOF) hang on with a tight enough grip to get through the first 6 months and those that don't, don't make it. This approach has problems, of course, as follows:

Top 5 Consequences of Poor Salesperson On-Boarding

  1. New hires who need more time to learn the products and processes don't last.
  2. Customers are underserved
  3. New hires don't feel supported
  4. Puts pressure on veteran salespeople to cover for mistakes and weaknesses
  5. Devalues the sales organization

A well executed on-boarding program ensures that the market is covered with competent, trained salespeople. The primary strategy is to recruit ahead of your needs. Maintain a people pipeline. Always be recruiting. When you need someone fast, you already have candidates. Once the company embraces this strategy, recruiting becomes an expected competency of all sales managers. Yes, HR plays a significant role, but sales managers must interview and make the final call on sales candidates. This means the organization, in cooperation with HR, must be able to do the following:

Top 7 Recruiting Capabilities

  1. Write a killer ad that attracts the best candidates
  2. Assess candidates prior to meeting them (except when searching for candidates who aren't looking)
  3. Use a candidate assessment tool that draws conclusions only within the context of sales (such as OMG)
  4. Screen candidates in under five minutes
  5. Conduct first interviews in less than 45 minutes that tell you everything you need to know
  6. Offer candidates the position in such a way that they take it
  7. Provide a comprehensive and complete plan for the first 90 days of on-boarding

On-boarding is complete when the following statements are true about new hires.

Top 10 On-Boarding Must-Have Outcomes

  1. New hires are able to have an intelligent conversation with a prospect
  2. They understand the full spectrum of product and service offerings
  3. They know how products and services are delivered (and made, if applicable)
  4. They know why people buy from them
  5. They can differentiate themselves from the competition
  6. They understand their value proposition
  7. They can start a conversation properly with any prospect
  8. They can position the products and services on the basis of the value proposition
  9. They can lead a sales discussion toward finding a compelling reason to buy from them
  10. The follow a formal, structured, staged, milestone-centric sales process

The first 90 days of any on-boarding program are the most critical. The overall length of on-boarding depends on the complexity of the sale and how quickly (FIOF) the salesperson ramps up. If we master the 7 recruiting capabilities and the 10 on-boarding must haves described above, we never worry about scrambling to fill a void. We stay ahead of our hiring needs so we can bring people into the company the right way. As a result, whether you're from Central America, northern Europe or the mountains of Tennessee, your new hires value the job, appreciate the company, and are inspired to be their best.

 

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Photo Credit: Roman Samborskyi (123 RF)

 

Topics: sales recruiting, executive sales management, sales leadership effectiveness, sales management effectiveness, on boarding, sales recruiting failure, sales environment, onboarding, Central America, El Salvador

Turn Your Sales Results Up to 11

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Sun, Feb 24, 2019 @ 15:02 PM

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Sales managers have two choices. It's still the first quarter of the year and you can improve your success and go flying past your targets in this very year by choosing one of them. The first option is as follows: 

  1. Convince your team to reach out to more people than they did last year
  2. Make incremental improvements to your skills as a manager
  3. Tell your people to reach out to customers who haven't done business with you in over a year
  4. Spend more time with your people understanding their needs and motivations
  5. Reduce time-wasting activities
  6. Read two sales management blog articles per week (make sure this is one of them!)
  7. Look for ways to help each of your people improve skills and remove success barriers
  8. Create a no-excuse culture of responsibility
  9. Reexamine why do what you do and re-associate to it to motivate yourself
  10. Develop your coaching skills 
  11. Work on holding your people accountable
  12. Make recruiting a core competency and upgrade the bottom of your team

If you do all that, you will have a better year than last year. You'll be turning your amp all the way up to 10, the highest number on the dial.

But you have another choice, don't you? Buy a new amp that goes to 11. Get excited to have the best year of your entire career. Choose to be legendary. Make your number one goal to be the very best. The best manager. The best coach. The best motivator. The one boss that everyone mentions during an interview that had the most influence on their career and their success. The most outstanding sales manager you can be - just that much better than great.

Turn your game all the way up to 11. Commit to a year of making your own improvement in your role a top priority so your team will get the most from you, perform at their best, and sail past their numbers like it was easy, almost as if they had been sandbagging. Decide once and for all that you going to stop dabbling, stop trying, and stop merely thinking about getting the training you deserve and coming to the renowned Kurlan Sales Leadership Intensive on March 19th and 20th, and actually do it!

Because you got this far in article, by clicking here you will receive $100 discount to secure your place in our limited capacity training center for two very intense days that will elevate your sales management game permanently - all the way to 11.

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Photo Credit: Really? This article is in no way affiliated with the exceedingly funny movie, This is Spinal Tap. While I can't imagine the owners of the film would willingly promote an actual sales blog, unless it was a mock blog that maybe they wrote and that I would happily read, I'm sure they wouldn't pass up the chance to have one more voice proliferating the enormously important phrase they have added to our pop cultural lexicon. I know I'm taking a risk using their movie image, but sometimes you have to go outside of your comfort zone. That's what I'm asking you to do. See you on the 19th, if it hasn't already sold out.

 

Topics: sales leadership training, sales leadership effectiveness, sales management role, growth mindset, sell more, new year's resolution, sales environment, massive improvement

Of Polar Vortices and Training Sales Managers First

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Sun, Feb 10, 2019 @ 21:02 PM

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What if the whole company went to a transformational conference except for the executive team? How likely would any of the actions, strategies, and ideas generated at that conference gain traction? I was in western Canada at a conference in the early part of last week, way up into cold country, in what at that moment was the very heart of the Polar Vortex, about which news anchors everywhere breathlessly warned us. While trying to thaw out my semi-frozen brain, I got to thinking about that. What would happen?

The conference I attended was at a client who was taking the opposite approach. Their executive team was all-hands-on-deck leading by example, exposing their vulnerabilities, and welcoming the team to take risks and solve problems together. They illustrated the point using well-curated examples from the movie, Apollo 13. I got to thinking about the alternative approach because I have seen it before in sales organizations. A failure to engage at the highest levels of the company creates a toxic force working against the progress most companies desperately seek.

This article is another installment in the series, The 7 Sales Training Success Factors and How to Avert Failure. Read the original article by clicking here. Today, we'll address number 5, below: Training the Managers Before Training Salespeople. 

7 Sales Training Success Factors

  1. Pre-evaluate the sales team, systems, and processes (Article published 10/8/18)
  2. Formal, staged, milestone-centric sales process (Article published 11/4/18)
  3. Trainable sales team (Article published 8/14/18)
  4. Trainable and coachable sales managers (Article published 1/7/19)
  5. Training the managers before training salespeople (This article)
  6. Salesperson training with sufficient time scale (Article published 9/23/18)
  7. Sales leadership accountability (Coming soon)

Companies thrive or dive on the strength of their sales organizations, whose ability to fill capacities and grow revenues makes it arguably the most important function in the business. (But don't argue it with me because I'll just block my ears and hum the theme song from Sesame Street till you go away.) Even for its high relative importance, however, sales remains a mysterious profession about which the rest of the company is happy to simply complain or celebrate as circumstance commands. Even sales management, it seems, can sometimes let salespeople do their thing as they watch with awe or frustration from the bleachers.

I stepped off the plane in Canada last week directly into the gasping, lung-shocking air temperature of minus 30 degrees F, which lived up to the hype from all those news anchors. That kind of cold was a first for me. When I saw one person smoking a cigarette without gloves on, I had new respect for the hardiness of the Canadians in this deeply-entrenched hockey town hundreds of miles north of the border. I noticed no one complaining about the temperature like they do in my hometown of Boston, because really? "Who's the new guy?"

So leaders must be involved, and deeply so. It might seem obvious to most readers that for a sales training program to be successful, one must train the managers first. However, too many sales training programs do not even include the managers. The thinking goes like this: "Our salespeople are not filling their pipelines, the sales cycle is too long, and forecasting is woefully inaccurate. So let's get them trained up." A sales training program ensues and the managers assume that since it's really just for the sales team, they don't need to participate.

The results of this hands-off approach to sales training are predictable and can be summarized as follows:

  1. Sales training lacks continuity. Managers aren't picking up where sales training leaves off.
  2. Sales and sales management are not aligned. Salespeople learn methodologies not supported by managers who continue to coach to their own process. Instead of coaching up, they are coaching sideways. The salespeople will eventually forget what they learned in an environment where the core concepts are not supported.
  3. Sales managers lack the knowledge of key skills and can neither coach nor support what they aren't directly learning along side the sales reps.

This is precisely how the cynical "flavor-of-the-month" label gets slapped on the latest program. In the absence of management support and follow-through, the salespeople fall back on what's comfortable without consequence. If managers only want an increase in sales, for example, and send their people off to sales training, they won't get their outcomes. The impact of the training will dissipate and will eventually be forgotten, creating more cynicism and reinforcement of non-supportive beliefs about training.

Sales managers who engage personally in the training and see it as a useful tool, will create lasting benefits for their sales organization. They will:

  1. Improve their coaching by using a consistent and proven set of processes and methodologies
  2. Support a culture of constant improvement that includes management
  3. Reinforce the training material by using the tools and strategies in the context of real-life examples 
  4. Stay aligned with corporate goals and leading by example 
  5. Demonstrate the importance of the material to improve buy-in

The key element in all this is not what the managers know, but when they know it. When managers are trained on the sales improvement processes and methodologies before the sales people, there are few more critical benefits:

  1. When salespeople push-back, they find a consistent message throughout leadership, already in place.
  2. Managers have a chance, before sales training occurs, to add nuance and tighten the message to improve buy-in.
  3. Managers' confidence in the material improves. The salespeople see that, which further reinforces buy-in.
  4. Salesperson training gets off to a fast start because leadership becomes part of the training and coaching team.
  5. Sales training typically dissipates or accelerates on the backs of the managers. Getting their buy-in first, therefore, is critical.

After canceled flights and unexpected overnights, I arrived in Alabama later that same week for a meeting with a different client. I stepped off the plane into the calm soothing warmth of 77 degrees F, "improving" the temperature by over a hundred degrees from two-days earlier, and remembered once again why I respect and admire the Canadians, but don't live there. 

 

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Photo Credit: Copyright alphaspirit  (123RF)

 

 

 

 

Topics: effective sales training, sales management effectiveness, sales training failure, sales environment

7 Critical Steps to Sales Management Mastery

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Mon, Jan 28, 2019 @ 21:01 PM

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Updated May 15, 2019

We like to say that in sales management, you have two choices. You can develop your leadership skills to catapult your professional success and that of your teams or you can continue to perform at status quo. Today, a company needs every possible efficiency, effort and effectiveness from its sales management and salespeople to get ahead and emerge at the forefront of industry. Those companies that innovate are growing, filling pipelines, closing more business sooner, forecasting accurately, and meeting their targets. And then there's everybody else.

 

What does it take to get there? For sales managers specifically, how would you have to "show up" as a leader of your team to make consistent improvements that lead to sales management mastery? What changes would you need to make? What beliefs about yourself and your team would you have to embrace? These questions apply to executive leadership roles as well. But let's take a look at the top five steps to sales management mastery from which to choose at least one new skill on which you can work, or encourage your managers to work, to help you or them become even better in the role on the journey to mastery.

Five Critical Steps to Sales Management Mastery

1 Model Success

If you didn't know about the invention of the wheel, given enough time, you might figure it out and learn how to move things around more easily. Pushing large rectangular stones is too tiring. However, if you started with a wheel early in your career, how far ahead of the pack would you be today? People who try to figure out sales management by trial and error might eventually figure it out. To save yourself years, however, find someone who is already there and do what they are doing. Find a friend, mentor, or coach who has already demonstrated success. Everybody else is blowing smoke.

2 Choose the Right Role 

Find a managerial role in which you will be able to think and lead at one level above your team members. You should know their job well and understand their strengths and weaknesses so that you are able to challenge them just enough to stretch them without breaking them. If, on the other hand, you are operating from a similar level of thinking, it's easy to fall into the twin traps of either micro-managing them or doing it for them. Neither works well. They won't learn, you'll be overloaded, and it will be hard to meet your goals, let alone leverage your time. Make sure the role and corresponding level of managerial responsibility is right for you.

After publishing this article and asking for comments, author, sales executive, and former colleague Frank Belzer added that one's passion for helping others and passion for the company and products makes a huge difference in your success. He made the great point that "if you don't have that gene, then change roles." 

3 Know What Motivates

Motivating your people starts with knowing what already motivates them. Use language consistent with their goals and motivational triggers. Do they love to win or hate to lose? Do they like recognition or are they more self-satisfied? Do they like close management or do they prefer to manage themselves? Do they like extrinsic rewards like money and recognition, or intrinsic rewards like a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment? The language you use will reinforce one or the other of these choices. 

Equally important is motivating yourself. Coupled with that motivation is your desire for success in the role and your commitment to doing what it takes, ethically, to succeed. Is your own "grit" for the role strong enough to drive not only your own success, but the success of those whom you manage? How you feel about your job, the company, the people and the products, and how well all of that aligns with your identity is hard to miss for anyone who interacts with you.

4 Make Coaching Your Most Important Skill

Coaching is not mentoring. Coaching is not a pipeline review. Coaching is not just about answering questions when team members ask them, though all of that is useful. It's not the blocking and tackling part of the job. Coaching is not even training and it's not about theory. Coaching is an opportunity-specific deconstruction of a sales call (either before or after it happens) for the express purpose of improving effectiveness. Coaching is about practicing selling skills in the safety and comfort of an internal meeting. It's about following process, trying out language, and practicing how it should sound. It's about role playing. It's about conditioning the mind to respond unconsciously in selling conversations. I know not everyone is comfortable with role playing but it is the single most important tool in a coaches toolbox. Managers who coach their team members on a set and consistent schedule create a culture of constant improvement that simply cannot lose.

5 Create an Environment that Supports Success

Winning sports teams in almost all cases have a positive atmosphere. Team members trust each other, respect each other, and help each other. They believe in their coach and she believes in them. When any of that erodes, so does performance. On the evening of the big national championship win, you never hear this from the winners, "I don't know how we won with all the excuse-making, finger-pointing, name-calling, and discontent on this team." It usually sounds more like, "These guys/gals are my family. We have each other's backs. There's an intuitive sense on the field of what's needed when and where and it seems there's always someone there to make it happen when it counts. Even off the field, we just like hanging out together. This whole year was so much fun and the coach made us all feel like we could do anything!"

In this article I posted several weeks ago, there were a few statistics revealed that should frighten any manager:

"Forbes recently published data from a number of sources. For example, A Harvard Business Review study revealed that 58% of people say they trust strangers more than their own boss. 79% of people who quit their jobs cite "lack of appreciation" as the primary reason. The Conference Board reported that 53% of Americans are currently unhappy at work."

Many managers are missing the chance to channel energy in the right direction. Teams with a poor environment lose. They don't meet their numbers. They make excuses and point fingers. In the worst situations, performers leave and non-performers are stuck. Look at your team, person by person, and make a list of any areas in which the relationship is not supporting a positive and healthy environment. Seriously, make a list. You can do it on one sheet of paper and it will take a half hour. Do it now. I'll wait. Then, decide how you will address each deficient area with each person one by one until there are none left. Do this and I promise you that because of the cascade of all the activities, attitudes, and behaviors the exercise will trigger, you will hit your numbers. 

6 Leverage Technology

There are numerous tools available to managers to help them do their jobs and to help their people do theirs. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems work when everyone uses it and keeps it 100% up to date. If less than 100%, the information reported from the data is almost useless. Managers that report 100% compliance also report that it is one of the most useful technology tools in the kit. Another is their pipeline tool.

Let's make an important distinction. CRM is not Pipeline and most CRM tools talk the pipeline talk without walking the walk. CRM focuses on customers whereas Pipeline focuses on opportunities. If you're visual, imagine the two dimensions of customers and activities. That's CRM. Now add a third dimension of opportunities and you have Pipeline.

Client after client ask me how they can turn their CRM tool into a pipeline tool. In Salesforce, for example, thanks to integration with Membrain and other pipeline tools, that's possible. If you don't want to spend money on both, err on the side of pipeline because it's more helpful to salespeople. Many companies use industry-specific CRM tools. E.g., Media companies, or heavy equipment sales, etc. They don't always have the luxury of tossing out a sub-par CRM tool because it is interwoven into many other parts of the business. In that case, either we are able to rig up a Pipeline tool within the structure of their CRM or we set up a separate Pipeline tool. Thanks to the integration tool, Zapier, sometimes we can even save the step of double entering customers.

Another effective tool for managers is the use of video for asynchronous communication. A video challenge can be sent to a rep who then responds with a video of their own. The manager asks a question such as, "Describe product x in detail," or, "Open a conversation with a positioning statement," and the rep responds so the manager can critique and provide feedback. Refract is an example of this kind of technology.

7 Hold People Accountable

 

Sales Managers often look at sales revenues as a primary data point for management. As we know, however, sales is a trailing indicator. To improve forecasting, we look ahead by examining activities and behaviors that are likely to lead to more sales. If we focus on behavior that is within the control of the salesperson, we can bring more accountability to our leadership. 

Here's my Thursday-Afternoon Test: Imagine that you are meeting with your team Friday morning and you want them each to report on what they accomplished yesterday. What expectation could you set for team members such that it has the power to change their behavior on Thursday afternoon? That's the test.

Here's an example: You want them to sell more and you have a three-month sales cycle and an average monthly sales number of $100,000 per month per rep. (Let's keep it simple.) You give them the metric of selling $25,000 per week and reporting to you Friday morning. Does it pass the Thursday-Afternoon Test? Let's see. It's Thursday at 3:00 pm and they've only sold $15,000 so far this week, and many of the deals were started two to four months ago. Can they make up the difference in a couple of hours? Probably not, so are not likely to change whatever it was they were doing on Thursday afternoon. They usually can't magically make $10,000 in revenue appear just by working harder for a few hours. That's not to say it isn't possibly, just that it isn't likely to change behavior.

They do, however, have control over many other activities. For example, making calls, following-up, setting up a new meeting, identifying a potential referral source, etc. These kinds of activities have two important features. 1. They are leading indicators. Doing more of them leads to more sales later. 2. They are within the control of the salesperson. Using our example of a Friday morning meeting, let's say we ask our team members to set up six new meetings per week and report on their progress during the meeting. Does it pass the Thursday-Afternoon Test? Let's see. It's Thursday at 3:00 pm and they've set up five meetings. What will they do? Mostly likely, they will get on the phone for next few hours and get that last meeting set up so they can report accomplishing the goal at the meeting the following morning. It passes.

Creating accountability starts with setting expectations that are within the control of the team member. What is doable? What is reachable, within the time frame? How is being reported? Is there a peer component (the morning meeting; a daily huddle; a group chat or email, etc.)? And are their consequences for not meeting metrics goals, activity goals, and behavior goals? And how do those consequences change for one or two violations versus a pattern of missed metrics? 

When the goal is sales related or any other trailing indicator, the assumption that poor performance is due to a lack of ability, drive, commitment, or concern can only be established with an appropriate amount of time. Maybe they are doing the right things well, but sales didn't reflect that this month. When the goal is activity-based, doing it or not doing it is more of a choice, and therefore easier from which to hold people accountable.

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Becoming proficient with all 7 Critical Steps above will ensure mastery of the sales management role. There are many other strategic and tactical skills, of course, that help define sales managerial success. Territory management, compensation, and sales team structure are a few of them. The elite sales leaders that I help in the course of my daily coaching and training practice understand the basics of the role, but spend much of their learning time mastering these 7 components. Which one are you willing to work on next?

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Photo Credit:  Jakub Jirsak  (123 RF)

 

 

Topics: best sales leadership training, effective sales coaching, sales management seminar, sales environment

Sales Training Success Dependence on Trainable Sales Managers

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Mon, Jan 07, 2019 @ 16:01 PM

22728302_s_UntrainedDogsIt's a new year. "Don't train your sales force!" As strange as that sounds, it might surprise you how often this was my recommendation to business leaders looking for help last year for their sales organizations. But please don't misunderstand. Unless your sales force has a full pipeline, accurate forecasts, high closing ratios, improving margins, consistent revenue growth, and meets budget every quarter, they might need training. But that doesn't mean you should get them trained. For sales training to be effective, the conditions must support it, or it isn't worth the investment. Without knowing the underlying causes, the training could be indiscriminate and ineffective. 

Recently, I posted an article listing the 7 Success Factors that support sales training. If interested, read it here. Today, we'll address number 4, below: Trainable and coachable sales managers. After all, why should it matter? If the manager is on her game, knows how to sell, and operates autonomously, is it really necessary that she be coachable and trainable, too? C'mon! Here's why.

7 Sales Training Success Factors

  1. Pre-evaluate the sales team, systems, and processes (Article published 10/8/18)
  2. Formal, staged, milestone-centric sales process (Article published 11/4/18)
  3. Trainable sales team (Article published 8/14/18)
  4. Trainable and Coachable Sales Managers (This article)
  5.  (Article published 1/7/19)
  6. Training the managers before training salespeople (Coming soon)
  7. Salesperson training with sufficient time scale (Article published 9/23/18)
  8. Sales leadership accountability (Coming soon)

Number 4 is that sales managers themselves must be trainable and coachable. Mining the data from 1.8 million assessments of both salespeople and sales managers evaluated by Objective Management Group, we know that 22% of managers are uncoachable and 28% are untrainable. That means that almost one in four won't be able to make the changes necessary to improve their skills 

Among many of the conditions or environment that support training success are the willingness and ability of sales management to support and reinforce the training to ensure that it sticks and that the team improves. It isn't always simply a matter of needing to make improvements, but rather it's having an organization structured and ready to capitalize on those improvements. 

Most managers are interested in developing their skills further in important sales management areas such as motivation, coaching, recruiting, and holding people accountable. Understanding the common areas where sales management gets in their own way is a good start to mastering number 4, above, and clearing the way to effective sales training.

How sales management gets in the way:

  1. Not coachable - think they know it all, and won't listen to advice
  2. Not trainable - apathetic - do not desire success enough to work to improve
  3. Not skilled - want to succeed but don't know how
  4. Not committed - won't exceed their comfort zone to do what it takes to succeed
  5. Non-supportive beliefs - this covers a wide variety of beliefs but any belief that doesn't support either sales success or managerial impact on sales success would be in their way
  6. Too busy selling - Some sales managers are really glorified salespeople with a large book of business. Don't expect real sales management from this group.
  7. Non-Existent - What sales management? Do we need that? Haha. Sometimes, it's the CEO in an "acting" role. 

Sales management is a full-time job. Sales managers must desire success in the role and be committed to doing what it takes to be effective in the role. If they are not coachable or if they are not trainable, or both, they will not be able to improve and will have a difficult time cultivating an environment that supports learning and improvement among their team.

Because there is often confusion with two important terms above, I have illustrated the difference between Untrainable and Uncoachable using pictures:

Screenshot 2019-01-06 20.39.45

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Untrainable people lack the desire to succeed. They won't try to improve. Uncoachable people might or might not be trainable - they are independent. The uncoachable cannot imagine that you or anyone else could help them perform better. They already know everything. If they are right and they do know everything, that's great until you try to implement a change. If they don't already know everything but think they do, or if they are no longer interested in improving in their role, welcome to a world of frustration for company leaders. And for goodness sake, don't train the sales team. Yet.

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If you would like to know how your managers measure up in these important areas, click here.

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 Top Photo: Copyright : Eric Isselee

Topics: top sales management articles, Shaping the Environment, managerial leadership, coaching culture, sales training failure

Five Steps to Frictionless Feedback

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Tue, Dec 04, 2018 @ 11:12 AM

63645866_s_FrictionlessFeedbackSix years ago, I wrote an article on how to give feedback. It was narrowly focused on how the brain processes criticism. As an executive coach, I'm frequently asked for the best way to give constructive feedback and I'm still stunned at how many people try to insert negative comments into a "sandwich" with two positive-sounding bread slices on either side. Even though we have all been on the receiving end of such a tactic and therefore probably know it doesn't feel good and isn't motivating, many of us still do it and wonder why we get friction and resistance to our generous offers of help.

After reading the research from many world-class business thinkers, extensive personal training in neuro-strategies, and 30 years leading several companies, I'd have to be in a deep sleep not to pick up a few tips on human behavior. If your role includes helping people change their behavior and you want to be more effective and encounter less friction, I hope you find some useful distinctions here.

As I was pulling my notes together for this article, I came across Forbes.com contributor, Dede Henley's warm-off-the-press article on this very topic as it applies to millennials. No matter how old the subject, there is always room for fresh perspective. Millennials' nearly continuous social interaction puts them in a different category than earlier generations. They have developed and evolved certain norms of interaction that are foreign to non-digital natives. As leaders adapt to the unique managerial challenges that many (though certainly not all) in this younger group present, the lessons learned will bring them more success with other generations as well. What works for millennials will work for others, but the reverse is not necessarily true, as any frustrated boomer knows.

I revised the original article to keep up with new research, to add fresh experience, and most importantly to share the topic with a wider audience than my necessarily finite list of clients. I hope you find it useful. Please send me your feedback, which I will graciously accept whether you do so in a manner consistent with the use of the tools presented here or not!

Giving Feedback

What if you ordered a baloney sandwich and just as you were being served, both slices of bread were swiped away leaving only the inside part?  You might feel annoyed and hungry for something better than just a pile of baloney.  When coaching your staff, feedback is an important tool. However, many often use the same idea as the sandwich. They give criticism but sandwich it between two pieces of positive encouragement, thinking that approach will somehow soften the blow of the criticism. It's sometimes referred to as the "criticism sandwich!"

Research has shown that this approach is surprisingly ineffective for several reasons. Nobody remembers anything you said before the criticism and no one believes your positive comments that follow the negative ones. That leaves them with only a stack of baloney and a bad taste in their mouth.

This practice was studied by Clifford Nass and described in his book, The Man Who Lied to His Computer.  The brain goes into full alert when hearing negative criticism and enters a state called “retroactive interference” which results in nearly total memory loss of anything said prior to hearing the criticism. It might take minutes, hours or even a couple days for the memory to disappear, but your brain simply forgets the words of praise that precede criticism. If asked later if there was any positive feedback in the discussion, one simply can’t remember. 

But another interesting phenomenon occurs when giving criticism. In that same heightened alert state, one also experiences a new sense of awareness that Nass calls “proactive enhancement.”  You’ve got their attention, so now they are ready to listen and absorb whatever you say next. This is where managers miss an opportunity.  Most managers provide what they regard as a soft landing by giving positive-sounding generalities when the person they are coaching is open to hearing real and specific reinforcement. In our heightened state of awareness, it's hard not to notice the useless generalities as mere padding. Thus in our effort to be positive, we simply annoy. Haven't we always known that the two pieces of bread are nutritionally deficient? Turns out they don't work in conversation either.

Henley's article talks about feedback in relation to millennials. They don't like the typical workplace feedback because it doesn't align with social media norms. When they post a picture of their lunch, for example, feedback is immediate and positive. "Delish! Salivating for pomegranates! Where are you?," they write.  Compare that with, "I'm not getting the output from you that I was hoping for, Stanley." They will tune you out because in their view, you don't get it and you don't understand them. Managers, of course, are responsible for the output of their teams, so it's important that they "get it" if they want to have an impact. 

Perhaps the millennials are onto something important about the human brain. Reading about the research on criticism above, one can't help but notice that our reactions are more intense than we might have expected. Our brain literally sheds information it only recently processed, and then it goes into a heightened state. Those are big shifts.

Our brains treat feedback as a threat. Threats put us into a state of fight or flight, or what Daniel Goleman calls an "amygdala hijack" in his book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. The amygdala is that small part of the brain just above the spinal cord, often called the "lizard brain," that takes over in stressful situations, pushing aside the involvement of your conscious mind. "Back off, I've got this," it says, adding, "You're too slow for this, and we're in trouble here."

Yes, the conscious mind is too slow, which would take a whole book to explain and thankfully, Daniel Kahneman already wrote it, Thinking Fast and Slow. When you ask the hero why she dove into shark-infested waters to save the drowning man, she says, "I don't know. I didn't have time to think. I just did it." Exactly. If we are meeting with a person whom we are trying to help, knowing what we now know, who would invite that person's amygdala to the conversation? How do we keep the conversation thoughtful and genuinely helpful, without inspiring an attack of mental re-wiring and selective amnesia.

Clearly, we need to improve on the sandwich-lizard-brain-retroactive-interference-help-me-skipper model we've been using for years, right?  When coaching your sales force, the goal is improving sales effectiveness with honest, useful feedback. Criticism is important if you want to improve a specific behavior, but effectiveness is a function of intent and delivery.

Positive comments are still an important way to encourage the behaviors that are already working. Let's talk about how to express what you need to change in a way that will be heard, and not just by millennials, but by anyone. When you want to see positive behavior changes, master the following five steps and instead of charging into a wall of resistance, you'll be basking in the glory of frictionless feedback:

The Five Steps to Frictionless Feedback

1. Provide Coaching, Not Feedback

The problem with feedback lies in its context. Hey, can I give you some feedback? See how that feels? For some, it brings pangs to the stomach, even when they are just words on this page that couldn't possibly pertain to you. Feedback has a corrective connotation and is often associated with the dreaded annual review. Reviews seldom improve results and usually only serve to provide cover for postponed drama. 

Coaching, on the other hand, is more of a process that by it's nature is collaborative, mutual, and centered on continuous improvement. And for all of millennials dread of feedback, they love the idea of always improving. Coaching, done well, is set up as a process; it's a regular and expected part of the relationship. The purpose is understood. There's always a lesson or takeaway. It gives one a sense that the manager is investing in their success. One of the most informative articles on coaching salespeople that I have read comes from my colleague and world-leading sales master and Hall-of-Famer, Dave Kurlan. Sales managers who want to get this right could become absorbed for days in the information and corresponding links found in his article.

When changing a behavior is important, shifting away from providing feedback and moving toward an environment of coaching will get better results, especially if the intent is a positive and nurturing environment rather than just getting results. Consider adding these components to your coaching when you notice a behavior that needs to change:

2. Set the Tone

Your tone provides the signal for how you feel about someone. In Dede Henley's article mentioned earlier, she writes that it's helpful to ask permission. I learned from neuro-strategist, Steve Linder, several years ago to say, "Do I have permission to coach?" Henley suggests saying, "I have a perspective I would like to share. Would you be willing to hear it?" I like that, too. What's important is that you are priming them to listen and making them a collaborator in the process.

My colleague and leading sales expert, Chris Mott, in this article, provides excellent advice on how to frame the discussion for minimal pushback. He makes the excellent point that setting up the relationship at the outset to include regular feedback minimizes resistance later. When it's time to provide feedback, first ask permission, then tell a story. He writes: “I was hoping we could take advantage of our agreement to openly discuss areas for improvement. Do you mind if I share something with you?” Then tell a story they can relate to without making them the protagonist: “I know we have been under a lot of pressure lately. My experience is when I react to the pressure, I lose sight of the big picture. This can make me less aware of how others perceive me even when I’m trying to do the right thing.”

3. Clear Intention

It's critical that they understand your intent. Have you noticed that it often doesn't matter if the evidence you shared with someone is irrefutable, or that what someone said made tons of sense, because your conversational "adversary" seems only to care about the source. "Who said we all want to feel good about ourselves? Oh that guy from the TV show? I don't trust anything he says!" Knowing the source of the information becomes a shortcut to understanding the intent, and the intent determines whether the information will be absorbed and used to change our thinking or our behavior. Intent makes it easier to attach meaning to what you are saying; we don't know how to feel about something until we assign a meaning to it.

If you do not already have a coaching channel established that's an expected part of your relationship (see Chris Mott's article), make sure they know why you are asking to coach. "I'd like to help because I want to see you become wildly successful." This works because it presupposes two things: A) they can become wildly successful, and B) you believe they can, so your criticism can be seen in that context. In sales management, coaching is where today's top managers spend half of their time. If this channel of communication isn't well established with all of your people, it's much more challenging to get the results you seek.

4. Stick to Behaviors

Is the person the problem or is it just their behaviors? If we stick to the behaviors, then it's not about who they are anymore. We also have to be careful not to generalize or distort. "You always do that," appears to address a behavior but it is dispiriting because if gives them no credit for the times that they haven't "done that," and doesn't acknowledge that you are even aware of those times.

When we stick to specific instances of specific behaviors in which they have control, it helps us put the problem in the proper context not only for them, but for ourselves. We can still be grateful for this person and for who they are, while remaining firm that the behavior needs to change as it relates to the task. Be very specific. "I noticed you didn't push back when your prospect said he wanted to think it over. Understanding why they want to think it over might tell us what we missed in our discussion." This counts for positive comments as well. "I love how you asked her questions based on what she just said instead of from some pre-determined list. That really made her feel heard." 

5. Make It Actionable

Coaching works better when it includes the recipe for improvement. Always provide actionable steps alongside the coaching so that they understand how to do it even better the next time. An ideal coaching session always ends with their lesson learned or top takeaway.

One of the most useful coaching tools is role playing. In a sales environment, one of the action steps usually includes having a conversation that covers a specific topic, or readdresses an area that might have been missed the first time around. Describing the topic is helpful to a point. Role playing it embeds it in our heads. One can hear what it will sound like coming from them and give them practice so that the real conversation isn't the first time they are saying.

Not role playing is like getting a piano lesson where the teacher hands you the music and describes the score to you without letting you play it for them. Imagine a rock band performance where the first time you played the piece was at the concert. What might the band leader say afterward, "I don't get it. We went over what this piece should sound like many times. Remember when I said to play softer in the eighth measure. Jeez you guys!" Role playing isn't always comfortable at first, but managers who lead the way into their own discomfort set an example for their people who are committed to improving.

What's important is that the person you are helping has a clear idea of what to do differently. Your action plan should include steps they can perform applying behaviors in which they have control. 

Eliminating feedback friction and resistance starts with a mindset and it takes practice. Set up the relationship from the outset to move toward a coaching culture. If the relationship is several years old, frame it as a reset and ask for their help so you can move toward increasing their skills and your own, and eliminate weaknesses, non-supportive beliefs and other head trash so they can achieve their goals more quickly.

I hope you found these tools helpful in the context of your leadership role and especially helpful for anyone with direct reports. Unless you have perfect self-winding people who exceed quota every quarter without any input from you, then you have faced the challenges described above, whether they were millennials or any other category you care to describe. Have you made coaching a part of your culture? Do your people regularly come to you for help?  Do you personally seek advice and feedback in your own organization? When it’s time to serve feedback to your staff, are you a critic or a coach? What steps do you take to make sure your people are served with a balanced and useful diet of advice and coaching or are they often left with a pile of baloney? (No offense to baloney lovers.)

 

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Dennis Connelly is Senior Sales Strategist at Kurlan & Associates and 30-year owner and co-founder of multiple businesses in manufacturing, chemical technology, building materials, importing, and contracting. He now helps executives in dozens of industries from media to technology, from manufacturing to professional services, to remove obstacles to growth and unleash massive hidden sales potential.

Book Dennis Connelly to speak at your event.

Photo Credit: Copyright Denis Ismagilov (123RF)

Topics: Feedback, coaching salespeople, sales and sales management tips, coaching culture, frictionless feedback, growth mindset, intention

Don't Buy the Exit Interview Crap - How Sales Managers Win with Environment

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Mon, Nov 19, 2018 @ 17:11 PM

21131228_s_awesomeworkenvironmentIt's not often you see a disconnect between belief and reality this large, but a PwC exit survey concluded that managers believe that employees leave the company 89% of the time because they want more money and 11% of the time for other reasons. The same survey revealed that almost the reverse is true for the employee; 12% of time it's for money and 88% of the time it's for other reasons.

Unfortunately, managers either get their information from the exit interview, or make up a story, being careful not to blame themselves. After all, who wants to say to their employer, whom they will be listing on their resume, "My manager just didn't get me and failed to recognize my real contributions and nurture my soul. I simply wasn't flourishing under their tutelage." They're not saying that, and not just because they can't pronounce tutelage. No, they often say, "I found a great opportunity for higher pay." Simple. Innocuous. Is it hard to imagine that most managers are unaware of those "other reasons?" Is it difficult to believe that most managers are not aware of the factors that shape how and why an employee wants to be on their team and follow their leadership, or why they want to get off their team and follow someone else?

Forbes recently published data from a number of sources. For example, A Harvard Business Review study revealed that 58% of people say they trust strangers more than their own boss. 79% of people who quit their jobs cite "lack of appreciation" as the primary reason. The Conference Board reported that 53% of Americans are currently unhappy at work

CareerBuilder revealed in their recent study that 58% of managers received all of zero management training. And what are the odds that the other 42% who received training got the right training in the right areas along with requisite coaching and regular training reinforcement? Fat chance.

We know from our work with clients that the best sales managers pay a lot of attention to shaping their environment relative to the specific and tangible functions to which they are accountable. They do not necessarily put more time into their environment than the other important functions of the job, but they are always aware of it and always working on it along with the other more tangible elements of the job.

Sales managers who want to perform among the best, achieve or exceed the outputs expected of them, and do it by building a culture of constant improvement. As a result, their people are always growing in their professional skills, have more autonomy to perform, and if done with sincerity and care, feel more aligned with a shared purpose consistent with the values of the organization.

Indeed, these are the three universal motivators described in Dan Pink's famous book, Drive. People need a certain level of autonomy or freedom to perform their job as they see fit, he wrote. They also need opportunities for personal and professional growth, and they need a sense of purpose or how they are making a difference. Money is not on this list because once you achieve the minimum level of income you require to meet basic living expenses, for most of us, it ceases to be the primary motivator. 

Here is a list of the primary sales managerial functions. Today, the first two on the list should take well over half of a manager's time. 

Primary Sales Managerial Functions

  1. Coaching
  2. Motivating
  3. Recruiting
  4. Holding People Accountable
  5. Territory Management/Sales planning
  6. Systems and Processes
  7. Strategy (often VP level)

Knowing this list, and even knowing how to execute each of the items on it is not enough to be successful. It is nearly impossible to be an effective coach, to motivate your people, and to hold them accountable in a toxic work environment. Therefore, we would add the following managerial function as arguably the most important area of expertise of a manager committed to achieving her or his required outputs.

     8. Shaping the Environment

During the summers of my college years, I managed a house painting franchise to pay for school. Management training was intensive, over several weekends. We lived in dormitories or hotel rooms with other managers during the training period. The company did their own research and learned that the number one stress of workers on the job sites and their number one impediment to job performance was their manager. The impact of the manager was a critical success factor, but not in the obvious way. What a great lesson to learn as a sophomore in college. Thirty years later, Dave Kurlan wrote this article pointing out Robert Hogan's research showing that 75% of the workforce feel that their bosses are the most stressful part of their jobs. 

So what was true about how people respond to managers 30 years ago is still true today. The environment matters. Since people really work for their boss as a matter of course, more than they work for the company, how important might it be to take a look at your relationships with subordinates and work to improve them? Wouldn't it be more motivating if your people trusted and respected you? Wouldn't it be easier to hold your people accountable if they thought you had good intentions and took the time to understand their world? Wouldn't it be easier to coach them if they thought you believed in their professional growth, not just the results you are reporting to your superiors?

Managers who shape their environment work on the quality of the relationship they have with each of their people. Using that strength as a starting point, they work on building trust and respect so they can offer help in many other areas important to the required skills and to professional growth generally. They gain mutual appreciation because they actively work on what that environment looks, sounds, and feels like.

Last year, CNBC contributor Suzy Welch asked Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots, about his team environment, "Talk about how you think about what the right relationship is with your subordinates," she challenged him. Belichick's response? "Coach all of the players the same. I like and respect all of the players. I give everybody what they earn." Audible groaning from my non-New England clients aside (yes, I can feel the scorn - I'm talking to you, Helmrath!), there is much to learn about leadership from this talented winner.

From our own research, clients who were trained on how to shape their environment and then took the step of putting it into practice met their sales goals for the year. In fact 100% of respondents who did so met their goals. 0% of respondents who did not shape their environment met their goals. Most of them improved, but hitting their targets was correlated with shaping the environment one to one. To succeed in sales management, one must master the majority of the skill sets. However, shaping the environment must be in that majority. 

Two to three times per year, we host a Sales Leadership Intensive in our training center near Boston, limited to 30 sales managers and executives. Email me if you're interested in attending, dconnelly@kurlanassociates.com. The next one will be held March 19th and 20th. While there is a heavy emphasis on coaching mastery in this intense fast-paced two-day program, one of the more important areas on which we work together is a mini-workshop on Shaping the Environment. We know that getting this right makes getting the rest of it right a whole lot easier.

Given the high cost of undesirable turnover, can you imagine how much better your team would perform if they trusted you more than strangers, their primary stress wasn't caused by you, they were actually happy at work, and in the rare cases where they left, it was for the right reasons? How close are you to that now, and what would it take to get the rest of the way?

 

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Photo Credit: yanlev (123RF)

Word Credit: "Tutelage," used in that exact context by M&A expert, Sean Slade, 20 years ago - a rare exception that proves the rule.

Topics: dan pink, bill belichick, sales leadership intensive, sales leader, Shaping the Environment, sales and sales management tips, coaching culture

Avoid Sales Training Failure By Using a Formal Sales Process

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Sun, Nov 04, 2018 @ 21:11 PM

37863058_s_LackOFSalesProcessIt's an interesting statistic that 68% of the companies surveyed claimed to have a formal sales process. Yet, when tested, only 9% of salespeople actually follow one. See the research in the White Paper written on Sales Force Excellence by Dave Kurlan. This important research shows that of the companies that saw "significant sales increases" due to the adoption of a formal sales process, 73% of them had evaluated their teams. Based on my experience with sales teams across dozens of industries, the importance of an evaluation cannot be underestimated in the context of sales process because it uncovers the difference between the claims and the reality. Let's look at how sales process, used correctly, ensures you beat your goals.

In an article posted in July, I discussed the 7 Sales Training Success Factors to help you avoid sales training failure. If you missed it, read it here. Readers asked for an expanded description of these factors which can now be found in the links below for the specific factors that have become articles of their own. As a reminder, the 7 Success Factors that avoid sales training failure are listed again here:

Top 7 Sales Training Success Factors

  1. Pre-evaluate the sales team, systems, and processes (Article posted 10/8/2018)
  2. Formal, staged, milestone-centric sales process (This article)
  3. Trainable sales team (Article posted 8/14/18)
  4. Trainable and coachable sales managers (Coming soon)
  5. Training the managers before training salespeople (Coming soon)
  6. Salesperson training with sufficient time scale (Article posted 9/23/18)
  7. Sales leadership accountability (Coming soon)

We know that that lack of a formal written sales process most often prevents sales teams from meeting company goals. When the problem is corrected, sales increase. In fact, 75% of companies reported an increase in sales as a result of adoption of a formal sales process. An effective sales process must have the following attributes:

  1. Written
  2. Customized
  3. Fundamental
  4. Staged
  5. Milestone-centric
  6. Complete
  7. Easy to follow

Now wouldn't this be a good time to describe what such a sales process looks like? Yes it would, but I don't need to do that because Dave Kurlan already wrote a book about it. Buy it here. Or listen to it here. And if you're thinking it's unfair to direct you to an entire book to find the answer, this article provides a handy short cut. 

Once your sales process is ready, the next step is to make sure leadership does the following:

  1. Get everybody using it
  2. Track it with a pipeline tool
  3. Train the sales team on how to use it
  4. Coach the salespeople so they are always improving

The sales process serves these three key functions:

  1. Guides the salesperson on how to take an opportunity from lead to close
  2. Sets the agenda for training
  3. Provides a coaching tool to help managers improve their people

The biggest challenge for managers is not the evaluation, not the creation of the sales process, not the lack of skills on their team, not all the sales DNA getting in their way, and not their own lack of coaching skills. No, the biggest challenge to managers will come from the resistance they face from salespeople who don't want to change and who cause others to doubt that anything good will come from it, creating a negative atmosphere that stifles progress. Overcome that, and you'll be part of the 9% who both have and follow a sales process so you can also be one of the growing number of companies, that might include your competition, that see growth directly attributable to their effective adoption of a formal, customized, staged, milestone-centric sales process.

 

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Photo Credit: alphaspirit (123RF)

Topics: sales management effectiveness, steps in a sales process, coaching culture, sales training failure, formal sales process



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