Living Sales Excellence - Dennis Connelly's Blog

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)

To be fair, I haven't heard about exactly that scenario where leadership skips the strategy retreat, annual conference, transformational event, etc., except one old story about Ben and Jerry (the ice cream company founders) showing up when such an event was well along and well after participants had experienced important and deeply-moving events together. Having missed it in real time, the founders drummed up their usual round of stories and legends, not getting it, and completely deflating the mood. I forget where I read that but I'm pretty sure it was from Tom Peters, who wrote the In Search of Excellence series of business books in the 1980s.

Companies thrive or die 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



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