Living Sales Excellence - Dennis Connelly's Blog

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?

 

--

Book Dennis Connelly to speak at your event.

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

Most Overlooked Reason for Sales Training Failure

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Mon, Jul 23, 2018 @ 08:07 AM

70287211_s_OverlookedFactorIt's a common exchange but a recent conversation with a new client about sales training sounded like this, "Look, people here have a bad taste about sales training," he said. "It doesn't stick," he continued. "I know it could make a big difference, but we need a program that fits our business and that the sales team will embrace." Then he asked, "How do we get past flavor-of-the-month and get our people to want to improve so we can grow our business intentionally?"

Setting aside, for a moment, all of the details of the prescribed action plan for them, there are seven key factors to a successful sales training outcome that I shared with my client and I'll share with you now. It's in rough sequence to how you might think about rolling it out. Then I'll tell you which single factor gets overlooked the most but plays an outsized role in the success or failure of the program. Amazingly, it gets missed most of the time.

For sales training to be super effective, failure to account for these Top Seven Sales Training Factors will make success more elusive. Addressing them properly, by contrast, will guarantee success! 

Top 7 Sales Training Success Factors

  1. Pre-evaluate the sales team, systems, and processes
  2. Formal, staged, milestone-centric sales process
  3. Trainable sales team
  4. Trainable and coachable sales managers
  5. Training the managers before training salespeople
  6. Salesperson training with sufficient time scale
  7. Sales leadership accountability

Here's a short explanation of why each of these factors matters:

1. Pre-evaluate the Sales Team, Systems, and Processes
In a well-received and timely white paper on Sales Force Excellence, Dave Kurlan's research showed 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. A sales force evaluation should answer these four fundamental questions:

  • Can we be better?
  • How much better can we be?
  • What will it take to be better?
  • How long will it take?

Companies must find out why pipelines aren't full, why sales cycles are too long, and why closing ratios are low. What skills are they missing? What are the hidden weaknesses preventing salespeople from executing those skills that they do have? And how is management impacting their success?

An evaluation is interesting by itself, and is most useful when combined with the actions taken based on the findings. If you want to explore this idea for your team, click here.

2. Formal, Staged, Milestone-Centric Sales Process
It'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 a sales process. Further, and this data is available in the same white paper mentioned earlier, 75% of companies reported an increase in sales as a result of adoption of a formal sales process. The sales process becomes both the basis of training and the backbone of ongoing coaching.

3. Trainable Sales Team
To be trainable, there must be a sufficient number of factors that support training. Often, people use the word "grit" to describe someone who has what it takes to succeed, but regardless of what you call it, these factors must be related to sales as distinct from other roles or social contexts. These would include desire, commitment, outlook, motivation, and a willingness to toss aside any excuses for their outcomes. There is a range of trainability, as you might imagine. The more trainable the person, the less time it will take to ramp them up to a high achiever. Here's a fun and informative tool that lets you explore the 21 sales core competencies and provides a way for you to compare industry averages with your team.

4. Trainable and Coachable Sales Managers
Many sales managers are former successful salespeople who were promoted precisely for their selling skills. The assumption is that they will have no trouble explaining to others how to be successful, just like them. And while that's helpful, it doesn't correlate to their ability to recruit and ensure they are hiring the right people, to coach their team, to motivate them, or to hold them accountable. These abilities require different skill sets than selling. For managers to improve, therefore, they also must be trainable as described above so that they will learn the skills that the best managers use to create the most successful teams.

In addition, if they are not already "killing it," then they must also be coachable. If you happen to have (or are one yourself) a super-genius who needs no help from anyone, ever, and has a high-performing team who exceed their numbers every quarter, then don't worry about whether your manager is coachable. If not, then this could be a reason why training fails. Beware the manager who knows-it-all already, and even more so, beware the manager who is in the role for herself or himself, as they will be unable to foster an environment of constant improvement. Assuming the other factors are in place, managers who relish the improvements of others will help your sales training program succeed.

5. Training the Managers Before Training Salespeople
Before training the salespeople, and this is critical, it is important to train the managers first. When the salespeople start scratching their head, we don't want them to turn toward their manager and find them looking just as perplexed. It doesn't instill confidence and leads to a "Here we go again," mantra. For sales training to be successful, everywhere the salesperson turns within the company, they should find supportive language and attitudes related to the training. When asked, "why are we doing this?," the sales manager should not say, "I don't know. Let's see where this goes." Rather, they should say, "I've looked at this and I believe we're all going to get a lot out of it. I'd liked to see all of us get even better and hopefully watch our incomes improve."

6. Salesperson Training with Sufficient Time Scale
Everyone has heard of, or experienced the one-and-done training course, long on entertainment and short on staying power. "We laughed, we cried, no one remembers a thing." While day-long kickoffs are often required to introduce the material, the most important factor in retention is the amount of time spent reinforcing the material and allowing for practice, correction, and follow-up. For sales training to be successful, the concepts should be simple and easy to follow, and doled out in bite-sized steps that people can go try in the field and experience their own success with it. The steps should build on each other so the logic is obvious as the sales process unfolds and becomes ingrained in our everyday sales conversations.

7. Sales Leadership Accountability
Though the titles given to the role are wide ranging, there is usually of head of sales at the company. It's commonly understood that this person with their "head of sales" title is in charge of the entire sales organization. But that would be wrong. The chief executive of the company is in charge of sales. If you own a company, or are a shareholder in the company, are you going to listen to a CEO who blames the lack of sales results on the Sales VP? It turns out, that CEO (or equivalent) has the most important role to play in a successful sales training outcome. It doesn't have to be a time-consuming role, though it is necessarily the most important. 

The primary role of the CEO in the context of the sales organization is that she or he holds the sales leader accountable for the output of the entire team and for maintaining a team of people capable of producing that output. The corporate leader's insistence on sales improvements ensures that sales leadership follows through on initiatives like sales and sales management training and coaching.

My favorite example of how this works is from a client in the broadcast media business. The CEO wanted to position the company both for growth and for eventual ownership exit. It was clear that the entire team had to improve, quickly. The path forward included embracing a common sales process across the organization and training the managers how to coach to it. And it included training the general managers on how to read the reports and advise the sales managers.

To be successful throughout an organization spread across the entire country, the general managers had to be unified in their approach and ensure that sales managers developed enough coaching skills to make real improvements. I asked the CEO, "Are you ready to roll up your sleeves, read the reports yourself, and insist on consistency through the sales organization." He said, "yes," and he meant it. For an entire year, he read the reports and commented back to the general managers. His comments often got back to managers and even individual reps. Everyone knew he was reading the reports, so no sales manager could get away with taking a half-hearted approach. It worked. In an age of declining "old media," within a year, the company grew and was successfully sold.

Sales Leadership Accountability may be the last item on the list of the Top 7 Factors to avoid sales training failure and ensure success. Yet it is by far the most overlooked factor due to a common failure to see the role of the executive team and indeed the role of the chief executive as crucial roles within the sales organization. Getting this right almost guarantees success, however. When the entire organization knows that the exits are blocked when it comes to the sales training program, they embrace it. Once leadership proves it's for real and here to stay, the team has no choice but to make it work. What are you willing to do to provide that much clarity to your team so your investment in training pays off for everyone?

 

--

Book Dennis Connelly to speak at your event.

Photo Credit - Copyright:  Aleksandr Khakimullin  (123RF) 

 

 

Topics: coaching culture, sales data, grit, 21 sales core competencies, sales and sales management tips, Patrick Lencioni, sales leader, accountability, Sales Accountability



Subscribe to Email Updates

Scan the QR Code with your smartphone for immediate access to Dennis Connelly.

Dennis Connelly LinkedIn

Follow Me

Connect

Or Ask for Help 

               Email Me

Sales Leadership Intensive 

http://www.kurlanassociates.com/sales-leadership-event/

Most Popular Posts