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

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

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

Selling To a Resitant End-User

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Sun, Mar 04, 2018 @ 22:03 PM

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Corporate politics can fluster a good sale, especially in the case where an end user is resistant to your products and services even though the person who contacted you says they really need the help. In my last article, I listed the top 7 most common resistance scenarios when selling into a corporate environment in which there are strong political forces, and I addressed specifically #1 below, the Resistant Purchaser. Click here to read that article. Today, let's look at the case where the end-user herself or himself is where the resistance is coming from. The very person that's going to use the product or service doesn't want it. Now what?!

Here is the list again:

Top Seven Most Common Resistance Scenarios in Sale

  1. The Resistant Purchaser
  2. The Resistant End-User
  3. The Resistant Problem Owner
  4. The Resistant Decision Maker
  5. The Resistant Outsider
  6. The Resistant Insider
  7. The Resistant Faction

The scenario goes something like this. Your good-intentioned contact tells you, "Gosh, we really need your service. It's been tough to get the stuff we need when we need it, before the whole things becomes a you know what." And you say, after much conversation, lots of listening, and asking good questions, "And given all that, do you want my help to make all those problems go away the first time, the right way, right now?" And they say, "I'd get started today, but there's one problem. The department boss, who you would be directly helping, hates getting help. Frankly, I think he believes that it's all on him to fix it, and any help from the outside might look bad for him."

Typically, this scenario manifests in the following way. Your contact mentions it to the department boss who either says 'no' right away, or worse, pretends to think it's a good idea so he appears open-minded, only to find holes in it later after you've spent a lot of time working on it for him. So how do you deal with it?

A common approach is to try to work with the resistant end-user to change their mind. However, one must understand the strength of their fear if you are to move them to change. If it's too strong, you won't get anywhere, particularly if they won't have a genuine open dialogue and are not open to change. 

Another approach is to start with your contact saying something like this, "Mr. Primary Contact, given how passionate you are about this issue and given how much you think the company must solve this problem, I'm curious how many others in the organization care about this issue as much as you do." This will start to give you an idea of where the strength in the organization is to get something done. You might then ask, "Have you ever done something like this before, where you see the solution and others don't?" And then follow up with, "How did you get it done that time? Should we cut through roadblocks the same way this time."

When the product is "sold" to one person at the firm, who isn't the end user, and where the end user has said something that sounds a lot like 'no,' then find out where the political leverage is within the company and put it to work. There could be someone or some group that can move Mr. Obstinate where you couldn't. I know I'm going to get emails about how this is stepping on toes, and no one will ever do business with you again and so on. If this is an ongoing account that needs to be managed for the long-term, then yes, tread lightly and focus more on changing the mind of the end-user (or, if appropriate, stop wasting valuable selling time and move on, or get a referral, etc.). 

If this is not an ongoing account, then to worry about stepping on toes is to lose the sale. There are important selling competencies at work in this example including the Hunter Competency and Sales DNA such as Need for Approval. Read about the 21 sales core competencies here. If you piss someone off because you did that, and you do end up losing the sale, you're in the same place you started. If, on the other hand, by taking a risk and telling it like it is at the right time to the right people, in the genuine desire to help your prospect's firm, you will have built trust and credibility because you demonstrated the bravery to risk jeopardizing the sale to do the right thing and you didn't let your own need for approval get in the way.

In short, when the end-user is resistant, if you can find a way to go around them, then go around them. If you can't get permission for that, you have mine.

 

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Photo Credit : Andrew Grossman

 

Topics: sales management effectiveness, overcoming sales resistance



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