Living Sales Excellence - Dennis Connelly's Blog

Commitment and the Data Behind Sales Trainability

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Tue, Aug 14, 2018 @ 08:08 AM

54991635_s_Commitment_081318It's a startling statistic that 37% of salespeople lack the necessary Commitment to their sales success to make significant improvements in response to training. In an article posted a few weeks ago, I discussed the 7 Sales Training Success Factors and how to avoid sales training failure. If you missed it, you may read that article here. After several thousand views and numerous responses, both from comments in social media and personal notes, it's clear you want even more detail on this very important issue. I'll address one of those factors in more depth today and get to the others in future articles. Factor number 3 of the 7 was A Trainable Sales Force. So what makes a salesperson trainable?

The statistic mentioned above is important to know when setting up a sales training program. It was drawn from the vast trove of data collected by Objective Management Group over the past two decades. This specific finding came from sampling 44,000 recent evaluations of currently-employed salespeople. It's showing that almost 4 out of every 10 salespeople have this issue! It might explain what you are seeing at your own company. How many of your salespeople are making steady improvements in their skills and effectiveness? How many are stagnant?

In the context of training, let's take a wider look at the characteristics that play an important role in yielding the most successful outcomes. First, what does it mean to say that someone lacks the "necessary commitment?" Commitment can be defined as the level of discomfort one is willing to endure to achieve what she or he desires. In short, desire is what we want; commitment is what we are willing to do to get it.

Often, managers use a few rules-of-thumb to determine if a salesperson is going to "make it." I usually hear things like, "they gotta love selling,"  or, "they gotta be hungry," or "they gotta know our industry." While these can be useful, the reason some of us use them, and others like them, is because they are relatively easy to determine about a person, without a comprehensive assessment. When we short-cut the selection process like this, we are guilty of what psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls the Availability HeuristicWe are prone to favor readily available information and we have a tendency to over-weigh the implications of a finding we can easily determine. 

Commitment is just one of the 21 sales core competencies that we look at when evaluating salespeople for training or, for that matter, when making a prediction about how successful a sales candidate would be at your company selling your products and services to your customers in your market against your competition. When we connect all of the dots, the picture of the salesperson emerges and that complete picture makes it much easier to predict if they'll be successful. Any one data point is just a dot. Love selling?; dot. Hungry?; dot. Committed?; also a dot. Before I recommend hiring a salesperson, I might look at those first two dots, for example, to help me make a decision but they are not one of the 21 sales core competencies. They are not as important as Commitment - a more important dot.

It turns out, Commitment is one of the most difficult findings to tease out of a candidate. If you ask someone during an interview if they're committed to their success, they'll say "yes." That doesn't help you because who is going to say, "no." Rather, we need to understand that level of discomfort they will endure to be successful in selling (or in their sales managerial role) as they define that success. An evaluation is the simplest, most objective way to find out. A lack of commitment usually leads to the following set of outcomes:

  • Won't do it the right way or won't do it the way you want them to
  • Won't make improvements in their ability to perform in the role
  • Will tend to give in, or give up when the going gets tough

When hiring a candidate or moving someone into a role in which they lack commitment, it eventually leads to regret. If they lack other critical skills required for the role, then the lack of commitment usually results to failure in less than six months. If they have most of the skills they need for the role, a common scenario that understandably presents the greatest challenge for hiring managers who convince themselves that the low-commitment finding is an aberration, what generally happens is the performance over time is lackluster relative to their skills. In this scenario, regret sets in at between 12 and 18 months at the realization that you've lost a year and a half and have to start over.

And what if their Desire for sales success isn't very high? That's another dot that is also very important in the picture that emerges from all those dots as it relates to their trainability. In that same data sample, 13% of sales "current-employees" lacked enough desire for success in sales to justify making the necessary effort to improve, or roughly one in eight. It's an interesting statistic if not quite as alarming as the two out of every five who lack Commitment.

What other factors play a role in determining the trainability of your people? I would want to know if they are sufficiently Motivated. 21% are not. I would want to know if they have a positive Outlook. 36% do not. And I would want to know if they make a lot of Excuses for any lack of results. 60% do that! I would rank them as follows:

Top Five Factors for Salesperson Trainability

  1. Desire for success in sales (without this, one should look for other work)
  2. Commitment to do what it takes to achieve what you desire 
  3. Motivation to put on your game face and make it happen every day
  4. Positive Outlook, unencumbered by circumstances, and "free" to dig into the work
  5. Takes responsibility for outcomes - no excuses

While the percentages of those who don't have each of these characteristics, or necessary grit for selling, is higher than you might expect, remember that each of these factors is a dot. Taken together, generally about 75% of the team is trainable. The impact on revenue from the improvements that those 75% can make in a year usually far outweighs the lack of results that will come from those who are less willing to improve. And when you know who is who, sales leaders can choose to make improvements by looking at three groups that emerge:

  1. The trainable
  2. The less easily trained performers
  3. The less easily trained, or even untrainable non-performers.

For maximum improvement to performance, leaders can train group 1 and choose to replace group 3 with people who are stronger than those in group 1. The group 2 people present a potential dilemma. Generally, it's best to look at both the level of their performance, and the growth requirements and ask yourself if you can afford to let them continue to beat quota quarter after quarter without a year-over-year growth.  

A team with 75% trainable salespeople are commonly able to produce between a 25% and 75% growth on their improvement alone, without even replacing group 3. For sales training to be successful, it helps when the sales force is trainable. Last fall, I evaluated a team that came up short, resulting in a rare recommendation not to spend money training the group. It wasn't going to work. We took a completely different approach that I'll share with you over the phone if you're interested and/or concerned about your team.

For the individual salesperson, commitment is at the heart of their trainability and willingness to make the changes required for their own improvement so they can achieve the success they desire. How committed are you to ensuring your team makes the improvements it needs to meet or exceeds the outputs that you desire for them?

 

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Photo Credit - Copyright : Dmitriy Shironosov   (123RF) 

Topics: commitment to sales success, commitment, effective sales training, sales training, grit, excuse making, sales culture

HR and Sales - Part 3: Top 7 Reasons We Make Sales Hiring Mistakes

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Sun, Mar 02, 2014 @ 11:03 AM

CrashedAirplaneDid you ever wonder why so few sales candidates become top performers, even when they survive the first six months? Take a look at the last five sales people hired at your company. Do you share this common experience - that they have not become top performers - with so many other companies? If you have less than optimal outcomes in your own business in this critical role, take a look at your selection strategy.

If you missed Part 1 in this series on HR and Sales, click here.

If you missed Part 2, click here.

There are many factors that can impact sales recruiting, but let’s take a look at the most common reasons for a failed sales hiring strategy.

 Top-Seven Reasons Why We Make Sales Hiring Mistakes:

  1. Success in another sales job - "they must be good"
  2. Infatuation – “such a great person”
  3. They came highly recommended
  4. Failure to understand the influence of their circumstances (baggage!)
  5. Poor on-boarding process
  6. Desperation to fill a vacancy
  7. Laziness - "let's just get this done"

So what should we do differently? Here’s an idea that will set you on the right course.

Five-Step Sales Recruiting Solution:

  1. Appropriate, repeatable, selection process – See Part 2 of this series.
  2. Objective sales-specific assessment with accurate interpretation
  3. Effective interviewing skills
  4. Supportive sales culture and leadership
  5. Proper on-boarding experience – Read this article from Dave Kurlan

If you missed our recent open webinar on sales leadership, you won’t want to miss Part 2 of the series. You can view Part 1 here and register for Part 2 here.  It will be held on March 12th at 11:00 AM ET.

You may download our White Papers on sales candidate selection by clicking here.

Image credit: csakisti / 123RF Stock Photo

Copyright 2014 Dennis Connelly. All rights reserved.

Topics: sales culture, sales, HR, human resources, hiring, recruiting, assessment, omg, hiring mistakes

Consultative Selling - Lesson from a King's Trusted Advisor

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Wed, Jan 02, 2013 @ 16:01 PM

Geoffrey Rush playing Lionel Logue resized 600

Take a quick look at your sales organization and count the number who are consistently selling consultatively.  If it's less than 100%, then count the salespeople who at least know what the term means.  Of that group, who could tell you with clarity and passion, how it differs from other forms of selling?  For bonus points, who could tell you why consultative selling is a more desirable approach in 2013?  If your company didn’t score high on this test, it might be time to question why some of your sales people consistently miss your targets.

Most believe they're selling the best possible way.  “I’m asking lots of questions,” they might say, adding “I have the solution to their problem, have great relationships and they trust me.”  All that sounds right until you consider that almost any seasoned salesperson can say all of that.

What makes one salesperson so much more effective than another?  It’s not about asking questions; it’s about asking the right questions.  It’s about drilling down to uncover issues which weren’t on the table beforehand.  It’s not about having a solution to their problem; it’s about defining the problem in a new way which plays to your strengths.  It’s not about having great relationships; it’s about standing apart from the competition so much so that you command your customer’s attention.  This is what Dave Kurlan calls “Speed On the Bases” or SOB Quality.  You want to be like the great base-stealer who forces the pitcher to pay more attention to you than the batter.  If consultative selling is the lock, then SOB Quality is its key.

There was a movie not long ago which demonstrated SOB Quality (among many other sales lessons) called The King’s Speech.  In it, Lionel Logue, a commoner from Australia, was the service provider.  The prince, the future King George VI, known as Bertie to his family, was the potential client.  The prince had a speech impediment which others hadn’t been able to correct.  Logue came recommended, but couldn’t prove that he could solve his problem anymore than the knighted doctors who'd previously tried.  Here’s an excerpt from their first encounter, before any agreement is made to contract his services:

Logue:  “Please call me Lionel.”
Bertie:  “I prefer Doctor.”
Logue:  “I prefer Lionel. What’ll I call you?”
Bertie:  “Your Royal Highness. Then Sir after that.”
Logue:  “A bit formal for here. What about your name?”
Bertie:  “Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George”
Logue:  “How about Bertie?”
Bertie:  “Only my family uses that.”
Logue:  “Perfect. In here, it’s better if we’re equals.”
Bertie:  “If we were equal, I wouldn’t be here. I’d be home with my wife and no one would give a damn.” Bertie lights a cigarette.  
Logue:  “Don’t do that.”
Bertie:  With astonished look, “I’m sorry?”
Logue:  “Sucking smoke into your lungs will kill you.”
Bertie:  “My physicians say it relaxes the throat.”
Logue:  “They’re idiots.”
Bertie:  “They’ve all been knighted.”
Logue:  “Makes it official then. My ‘castle,’ my rules. What was your earliest memory?”
Bertie:  “What on earth do you mean.” Now visibly irritated.
Logue:  “First recollection.”
Bertie:  “I’m not here to discuss personal matters.”
Logue:  “Why are you here, then?”

What Lionel Logue goes on to uncover is that the Prince’s stammering problem, regardless of its original cause, might have been compounded by personal issues such as the unkind treatment he had received by members of his family.  Logue’s probing inquiry eventually uncovers that his self-image is more important than the stammering.  In fact, the breakthrough comes when Logue sits in the king’s cathedral throne before the coronation, angering and challenging the king, until he finally yells at Logue, “I have a voice!”  Logue calmly replies, “Yes, you do.” and gets up out of his throne.  The King never questions his credentials again.  Logue has become a trusted advisor.

That’s how a commoner with no credentials, title, formal training nor guarantee of success took the business away from his high-powered competitors who possessed the inside track.  That’s SOB Quality and it’s at the heart of consultative selling.

Do your salespeople push back and uncover the underlying problems?  Do they challenge the decision-maker and ask questions which could cause discomfort or even irritation?  Do they look past the original inquiry, listen intently and ask follow-up questions until something interesting emerges?  Are they always looking to disqualify (“Why are you here, then?”) and letting the prospect sell themselves?  If the answer to any of these questions is ‘No’, could they be trained? What would a sales force evaluation reveal about your company's potential for change and opportunity for massive growth?  Do you have the right people to help you realize your organization's full potential as you envision it?

January is a terrific time to reflect on questions like these.  Rather than wondering whether you can hit your 2013 goals, perhaps you should be looking further and asking which sales force changes you must make in order to achieve sustained, double-digit, year-over-year growth.

Topics: sales competencies, sales force assessment, sales blog, sales culture, sales assessment, Dennis Connelly, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Trusted Advisor

CEO's Want to Grow With the Right Sales People

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Fri, Dec 07, 2012 @ 15:12 PM

South Beach sunshine, sales blog, dennis connellyThe TechServe Alliance 2012 Annual Conference in Miami last month provided a great chance to meet up, share ideas, and forge new partnerships with many tech staffing people.  I can now share some insights which I think will resonate with many of you.  The theme that emerged for me was “growth”.  Firms are hiring.  They’re looking ahead with a positive outlook and their growth goals are audacious enough to make Jim Collins smile.

I must say a quick word to the “Water Coolers”, a music and comedy group, who managed to plant a few jingles in my brain – thanks guys.  We weren’t even in Kansas, yet somehow Nowhere Close to My Quota brought a nervous laugh to the room, as if we were all going back to address exactly that with our staffs.  As a sales growth expert working with Dave Kurlan, I was happy that his keynote address focused on tools which don’t require chasing rainbows.

Aside from the upbeat new growth push by many of our members, it’s not all South Beach sunshine out there.  Ann Swain, CEO of APSCo, an overseas IT-staffing association, pointed out that a survey of over 1,500 CEOs across 33 industries found that the biggest concerns are volatility, uncertainty and complexity.  “We are all operating in a massively interconnected system.”, she said.  In the IT-staffing world, this is both a problem and an opportunity, as I suspect it is in others as well.  Many members are taking advantage of this with new tools that exploit this complex, interconnected web of information.  We saw new products from exhibiting firms which demonstrated that you can make it work to your advantage as well.

In my conversations, I found that staffing company CEOs voiced many common concerns.  There are some helpful archived articles which address many of their questions.  Here are some of the comments which I heard:

  • “I’m not sure we have the right sales people.”
  • “Why is it so hard to find great sales people?”
  • “We’ve got people that have been with us a long time, but I’m not sure they can make the transition to the way we want to grow?”
  • “How can we get immediate impact and drive more revenue?”

Here’s a link to Dave Kurlan speaking about evaluating your sales force.   

Another question I heard from many companies was:

  • “We haven’t had a great track record hiring the right candidates.  What’s a better way?”

Here’s a link to several articles on selection and another to a white paper which Dave Kurlan wrote on selection.  And here’s a helpful article about what it takes to hire great people, from my colleague, Frank Belzer. 

Many people thought that Dave’s talk on assessments was extremely helpful.  Over the years, he’s written articles which identify a particular finding from a real assessment.  Here’s an article which describes a candidate who wasn’t recommended and the result was an email from the candidate which displayed exactly what the evaluation predicted! 

I look forward to seeing you again at the next event.

Topics: sales competencies, sales force assessment, sales blog, sales culture, Dennis Connelly, grow sales



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