Living Sales Excellence - Dennis Connelly's Blog

A Sales Manager Hidden Weakness that Lowers Motivation

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Mon, Sep 10, 2018 @ 17:09 PM

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For sales managers and sales leaders concerned about motivating their people, there is an often-overlooked hidden weakness that could be in their way: their need for approval from their direct reports. This is analogous to a salesperson and their prospect. When a salesperson's success is hindered by their need for approval from their prospects, they won't ask enough questions and won't ask tough questions for fear of offending their prospect. As a result, they don't gain the respect and trust they need to win the business. Rather than seeing the opportunity to add value (their value) by calling attention to an uncomfortable fact or issue, they play it safe making sure they don't provide any reason for the prospect to think less of them. 

The same is true for sales managers and their direct reports. A manager's need for approval from their own people gets in the way of accountability and coaching, which then leads to decreased motivation. The irony is that the reason these managers want their people to like them is often to provide a motivating environment. Unfortunately, it has the opposite effect.  “If I can get them fired up and performing," one might say, "I won’t have to have a hard conversation with them for not performing.” The fear of not being liked by your people thus leads to backing off on accountability.  

Is your leadership in fear of the sales team?  Do you or they believe that upsetting salespeople will put the company in jeopardy?  Are there certain sales staff with whom you walk on eggshells?  Are you in control or are they - who's running the show? Click here to learn more about sales management skill sets, DNA, and hidden challenges. What would you do differently if you had no fear of a negative reaction from your sales team? What would you initiate? What would you change? Who would you change? When would now be a good time?

 

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Topics: sales managerment, Hidden Weaknesses, sales force motivation, sales motivation, sales leadership

The Top 7 Most Common Excuses for Delayed Sales Process Adoption

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Mon, May 14, 2018 @ 23:05 PM

48275588_s_ProcessAdoptionDelays-chalkboardLearning an effective sales process is easy. It usually fits on one sheet of paper, takes about an hour to memorize, and, having just come off of two weeks of travel to four different clients for intensive day-long training sessions, I can confidently share with you that salespeople and managers understand the simplicity and effectiveness of a fundamental sales process right away. There's a collective "a-ha" that occurs in every session at the moment when something that seemed so complicated at first is suddenly understood at its foundation. So why does it take months to impact sales results? I'm glad you asked. Read on to find out.

Think of the complexity of your product offering and how, while there are differences in ability on your team, most of your people can talk about the products and services in great detail. There could be hundreds of items or dozens of service combinations and options, but most seasoned salespeople can rattle them off like they are discussing backyard barbecue tips at a Little League game. With little investigation, one can see that most of your product offerings exceed the complexity of an effective sales process, often by an order of magnitude. So why does it take the team so long to adopt the sales process, use it on every call, and reap the rewards of regularly outselling their competition?

1638064_s_ProcessAdoptionDelaysThere are reasons of course, or if you prefer to use the language of elite salespeople (those possessing selling skill scores in the top 7% of all salespeople), then let's just call them excuses. Here's my list of the 7 excuses I hear the most related to the lack of adoption of sales process:

Top 7 Most Common Excuses for Delayed Sales Process Adoption

  1. Management doesn't insist they use it.
  2. They don't practice it enough to be comfortable using it on an actual call.
  3. They aren't coached specifically to sales process.
  4. They have too many hidden psychological barriers.
  5. Managers can't identify their people's personal obstacles.
  6. Their beliefs don't support acting on key steps in the process.
  7. They don't have the right sales process.

1. Management
If management isn't insisting that salespeople follow sales process, then is it a corporate adoption and buy-in problem, or is it an accountability problem? Accountability runs all the way through the organization. Sometimes there's an expectation that because managers are tasked with achieving the overall outcome of their people, that they will do what it takes, ethically, to accomplish their goals and we don't need to tell them what to do.

This kind of thinking lets leadership off the hook. That would be like managers telling their salespeople to go out and sell "so I'll just leave you alone so you can get on with it." Who will motivate them, who will coach them, and who will hold them accountable to performing the activities that lead to hitting the goals? Sales management isn't the top of the chain of sales hierarchy. The top of the sales food chain is occupied by the party or parties responsible for the outcome of the business: Owner, CEO, Board of Directors. Insistence on something as fundamental as sales process starts there.

When it's important to find out how you are getting the results you are getting and why, it might be time to evaluate the sales organization as a whole. Click here to see if a Sales Force Evaluation makes sense for your team.

2. Practice
Try it out in practice sessions first, using role-play, ideally with a manager or between salespeople and an observant manager helping to facilitate or play one of the roles. You wouldn't change your grip in the middle of a golf tournament. You would try it out on the practice green first. Do the same with sales process. Ask yourself what this call should sound like? Look for places it could get derailed and work through each one. Then be prepared for the call to go nothing like what you planned.

3. Coaching
Think of the greatest player you know in a sport you love to follow. That person has a coach, right? And if that person happens to be the best player in the world in that sport, they still have a coach. From this perspective, it means the coach is, by definition, not as good at the sport as the player, or they would be number one. Yet, the star player wouldn't want to lose them as their coach and they would never stop wanting to be coached. That's how they got where they are. In sales, formal scheduled coaching should happen daily. It's the most important role of the manager. You can read several articles on coaching by selecting from the list found by clicking here.

4. Psychological Barriers
What is blocking a salesperson from saying or doing something that they know they should say or do? The answer is often based on certain barriers that lie within their own head? It might not be a lack of ability or understanding; it might instead result from how they stop themselves due to habit, discomfort, or fear. Thanks to the magic of the OMG sales assessment, we now know that among many, there are six major hidden weaknesses that can cause a barrier to success and lead to slow improvement. They include:

  • Non-supportive Buy Cycle
  • Excessive Need for Approval
  • Getting Too Emotionally Involved
  • Discomfort Talking about Money
  • Non-Supportive Beliefs
  • Difficulty Recovering from Rejection

Rather than explain each one of these in detail, I would direct you to our upcoming one-hour live webinar on this very topic scheduled for June 14th at 11:00 am U.S. Eastern Time. It's free of charge and you can register by clicking here.

5. Identifying Issues
Often, even when salespeople have barriers to their success slowing down their progress, it goes unrecognized, either because the manager isn't looking for it, or the manager has the same issue herself and doesn't recognize the weakness in her people. To find out how your people compare with respect to the 21 Sales Core Competencies measured in the OMG assessment tool, against other salespeople, click here.

6. Beliefs
Beliefs are at the heart of all of our outcomes. Our beliefs, especially the ones about which we feel most certain, determine how we view our potential. Our beliefs about our potential determine the actions we take. And our actions produce the results we get. Each time we get a result, it reinforces our beliefs and the process starts again. I first learned of this cycle of success from neuro-strategist, Steve Linder of Strategic Brain, who had learned it from Anthony Robbins over 20 years prior.

When we come to terms with the fact that our beliefs are the driving force of our personal success machine, it can feel quite energizing. When I conduct Belief-System workshops with clients, we cover over 90 self-limiting beliefs that can impact sales outcomes, drawn from the original work of Dave Kurlan along with others such as Nassim Taleb, Robbins, Linder, Napoleon Hill, Milton Erickson, and repeated personal observations from my work with clients.

Of the over 90 self-limiting beliefs addressed in the workshop, here are seven:

  • My prospects usually buy on price.
  • My prospects don't have the time we really need.
  • My territory is the hardest.
  • My lack of result was due to the competition.
  • My prospects are often unreachable.
  • It takes several meetings to build rapport.
  • I need my prospects to like me.

If you are interested in having your own facilitated Self-Limiting Belief Workshop, click here to book me as a speaker.

7. Wrong Sales Process
The sales process should be a customized, optimized, staged set of steps that naturally describes and directs your actions and conversations with a prospect as you move them from lead to close.  If you are using the wrong sales process or if your sales process is inadequate, what should you do? Click here to take our eye-opening Sales Process Grader to find out.

Summary
To re-cap, all that is required to ensure speedy and effective adoption of your sales process is to address and resolve each of the seven most common excuses listed above. I'm willing to bet you could memorize this list in under five minutes. See how easy that was. And here is your perfect success formula if you are willing to accept it. Create a to-do list to address each of the seven excuses for not getting total early buy-in on your world class sales process. Then do the items on the list!

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Photo Credit - Chalkboard: Denis Ismagilov  (123RF)
Photo Credit - Road Barriers Elena Elisseeva (123RF)

 

Topics: sales process, adjusting the sales process, sales managerment, self-limting beliefs, managerial leadership, excuse making

Rugby and the Executive Role in Sales Manager Accountability

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Mon, Apr 16, 2018 @ 07:04 AM

When a sales manager says, "This guy isn't cutting it, but I can't let him go," it's an "uh-oh" moment, the "a-ha" moment's evil cousin. When she says, "I have him on an improvement program but it's not working," adding, "Every time I give him something to do, he has an excuse for why it can't be done, shouldn't be done, doesn't work in this market, etc." And then she says, "I think he thinks I don't have the authority to do anything about it. I have no leverage." That's when I say, "uh oh, what's behind this?" Having no leverage is like a rugby scrum. No one has any leverage and the line of scrimmage at the center of it barely moves at all. But there's always a way to get the ball out.

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What's going on here? Why did she say, "I can't let him go." The answer, it turns out, is that he's been with the company for 22 years and the CEO says  he stays, period. "We're a family," I heard one CEO say recently. The same CEO complained that the numbers weren't improving as expected. I have seen enough close involvement of CEOs with their sales managers lately that it's worth taking a closer look at what can happen with that approach and offering a way through it that's so simple it will surprise you.

I'm not talking about CEOs who directly manage sales managers and who are therefore coaching them. I'm referring to the examples where higher-level executives and/or CEOs specifically limit the authority needed by managers to perform their required responsibilities. Before I get into what I see is at the core of this issue, let's dispense with some of the other possibilities that could be happening independently of any meddling:

  1. The manager might have a need to be liked by her reps. This is an issue for some managers. It could be the reason why she is still getting resistance from this rep. If she's worried about what he thinks of her, she might be holding back a bit. There might be much she could do to make improvements if she weren't worried about the consequences to their relationship. 
  2. It could be an issue of Shaping the Environment of the team. What is her relationship like with this person? Is there mutual trust and respect? Does he ask her for help? Does she offer it? Does she coach him effectively? Does she hold him accountable? Does she know what motivates him? Has she created an environment for him and the other team members that supports constant improvement and learning and does everyone know where they stand with respect to their goals, behaviors, and activities.
  3. It could be that the CEO believes this rep has a lot of desire for success and that the right management style will bring out the best in him. However, "desire" is often confused with "commitment." In this case, the desire might be there, but perhaps commitment is low. Commitment is defined as the level of discomfort one is willing to endure to reach what they desire. Desire is the height of the bar. Commitment is what you are willing to do, ethically, to get over it. The CEO might not see this and might be stepping in for a personal reason and/or a genuine sense that this person wants to be there and wants to be successful. That's why measuring commitment is so important. People tend not to improve without some degree of change and discomfort.

What is often overlooked as a root cause for lack of results is the way that hierarchies are structured within the organization. With so much time and effort going into ensuring salespeople are properly trained and that managers are coaching and performing other key duties properly, it's frustrating when the organization structure is the block, not the people, nor their ability.

So let's take a page from a master of organizational leadership drawing from a tremendous body of research done in the 50s by Elliott Jaques (pronounced, "Jacks"). Managers will be relieved to see in such starkly obvious terms what they intuitively know. Executives could use this to free their organizations from the shackles of misalignment and organizational blockage. It's a simple way to get ball quickly out the back of the scrum and off to the fly half to make something happen.

Managerial leaders, Jaques writes, must have three critical accountabilities and four critical authorities as follows:

The Three Critical Accountabilities of a Sales Manager

  1. For the output of their salespeople
  2. For maintaining a team of salespeople capable of producing the outputs required (e.g., meeting quota)
  3. For the leadership of that team so that they collaborate with competence and full commitment with them and with each other in pursuing the goals set.

When you hire a manager, this is what you are expecting, particularly if they are not also acting in a sales role. The sales manager role, by definition, demands that these three responsibilities rest on their shoulders. However, these accountabilities are unattainable without the proper authority. So what does that look like?

The Four Critical Authorities of a Sales Manager

  1. Hiring manager - who's going to be on my team
  2. What do I want them to do? What tasks should be assigned so that we attain the required outputs?
  3. Judging their effectiveness and deciding any merit awards as appropriate. This is not a group activity, nor is it something that a CEO or owner should step in and do. It only would undermine the sales manager's authority.
  4. Initiating removal from the his or her team. Not necessarily firing. The CEO can keep their long-time friend at the company, but the sales manager must decide who is on his or her team.  
I have seen situations where the manager has taken a large hit to their compensation due to the organizational inability to exercise this vital authority. Hire the right person and then get out of their way. If you don't like the job they are doing, fix that - develop their skills are move them to a different role. If you believe they are doing a good job in the role, then get out of their way.
 
Let's take a look at rugby again for another management parallel. In the book, Legacy, which was written in part about the All Blacks rugby team in New Zealand, author James Kerr writes, quoting head coach, Graham Henry, "The manager's first responsibility was to find a captain for their team - to pass the ball to them. And the Captain's first responsibility? To pick a team. And the team's responsibility? To turn up for every game on time." Quoting further, Kerr writes, "The leader sets objectives and parameters, then ‘passes the ball’ to the team, handing over responsibility for implementation and detail. Leading by creating leaders."
 
One can see the empowerment inherent in this approach, but make no mistake. There is tremendous responsibility placed on those captains. As a college rugby player, I witnessed something similar (not similar rugby ability). Our team was a club sport and we played several other colleges in our league with similar club status. We had no official coach, so our back captain and scrum captain were the leaders. They had both a responsibility to the team and the authority to decide who played, in what position, and how often. There was an A team and a B team and they chose those players as well.
 
On the surface, it might appear rather egalitarian. We voted them into those positions. But the managing of the team wasn't a flat organization, and necessarily could not have been. We might have elected our leaders, but once on the job, we expected them to perform. They were accountable for the performance of the team. And they had the authority to decide who was in what position and who sat out.
 
Back to our example with the CEO insisting that a rep cannot be let go. Without vested authority, a sales manager cannot do the job she or he believes is necessary to achieve the required outcome. Thus impeded, a good manager feels held back and eventually finds a new job where they will be allowed to succeed. The CEO might be thinking that his or her feelings that we're all a family are useful and meaningful to the organization. That's the "uh-oh" part. The sentiment is nice, but the effect on the organization can be devastating. By denying the the manager the proper vested authority of the position, they cannot reasonably be held accountable for their outcome. As the CEO, I'd be worried about the manager who stays.
 
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For sales managers who are seeking a major advantage over their competitors, check out our sales statistics tool and see how your team compares against your competition in the 21 Sales Core Competencies.
 
 
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Photo Credit:  Alison Bowden

 

Topics: rugby, sales managerment, 21 sales core competencies, all blacks, Sales Accountability, managerial leadership, liberational hierarchy

Sales Accountability Lessons from the Emergency Room

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Mon, Aug 15, 2016 @ 10:08 AM

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I noticed the nurses and doctors rushing past me one afternoon as I lay on a gurney, parked in the hallway of a busy ER. Reasonably sure, by then that my spooky, painful experience was just kidney stones, I turned my focus to all that rushing about.

Over the course of a few minutes, a nurse, then another nurse, then a doctor, and several more, rushed by, all moving quickly to the same place past the central desk and part way down one of the halls. They weren’t running, exactly, but they were moving pretty fast.

Then I overheard one of them yelling over her shoulder, “I’ll look that up in five minutes,” she said, “I have to get to our huddle!” I felt like a kid hearing a siren and waiting to see the fire trucks, only to realize that it’s just the noon alarm in the center of town.

One of the more indispensible tools for the world-class sales manager is the huddle. Yet it is often neglected due to real or imagined time constraints. Why?

For sales managers, the morning huddle is primarily an accountability tool, to help salespeople stay focused on the most important top-line pro-active behaviors that will help lead to the results they want. That might seem like something salespeople wouldn’t love. However, executed properly, by a sales manager that has embraced the huddle, sees the value in it, and wouldn’t live without it, the salespeople in turn, also love it. And here are the top reasons:

Top Three Reasons Why Salespeople Love the Huddle

  1. Gets everyone feeling like they a part of something bigger.
  2. Creates a team spirit.
  3. Leaves them uplifted and energized 

And here are the Top Three Reasons Why Sales Managers Love the Huddle

  1. Creates peer-oriented accountability
  2. Builds bonds and energizes the group
  3. Provides a daily conduit to provide strategy, direction, and clarity to the team

Of course, this assumes it is done right. On the flip side, can you imagine that it doesn't always go this way? It’s probably not hard to believe that there are some real time-wasting huddles out there. Welcome to the land of Dilbert, where the manager drones on and everyone is checking their emails. Okay, when I hear about how much people don’t like it, these are the usual reasons:

Top Three Reasons Why Salespeople Hate the Huddle

  1. Too much criticism or too negative
  2. Always runs long so cannot plan around it
  3. Types of activities reported are inconsistent with stated goals
  4. Boring waste of time

When the Huddle has been commanded from above because of something an executive read about online or learned at a conference, and the manager herself is not bought in, the results are predictable.

For the past 30 years starting with my first introduction to huddles from a coating manufacturer, I have found this tool to be one of the most indispensible for the well rounded sales manager who shapes their environment and gets results; the same kind of manager who has mastered coaching. For more on coaching, read this article. I consistently hear that huddles are the one thing they would never give up. 

If doctors and nurses in a busy emergency room put saving lives on hold to have their daily huddle, we can certainly take 10 minutes a day from our 50-plus-hour weeks to make sure all those hours are used in such a way that success is unavoidable.

Topics: accountability, sales managerment, top sales leadership, Sales Coaching, daily huddle

Sales Candidate Selection and the Product Knowledge Fallacy

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Fri, Oct 16, 2015 @ 14:10 PM

16337353_s_ChicagoMercantileExchangeTradingFloorIn a recent sales management training session, one of the managers spoke up about what he believed were the qualities needed in sales candidates that would perfectly fit his business. “They must have,” he confidently stated, “at least 20 years experience in the industry. They must know the product, know the customers, and be able to price the stuff off the top of their head.” I thought he would add that they must also know how to ride unicorns without holding the reins, but he didn’t. Do you share this view about the requirement of industry experience and product knowledge?

I asked him how long he had been in the business. “Thirty years,” he said. I asked him if he sucked for the first 19. He said “no.”

Dave Kurlan recently wrote a fantastic science-backed series of articles on getting the selection criteria right for sales candidates, showing how to predict with 92% accuracy whether they would be successful. Click here for Part 1 and click here for Part 2 of that series. He even showed how to get at least as good as 83% accuracy predicting the success of recent college grads!

To analyze the “Perfect Fit,” he looked at 26 different criteria related to things like selling skills, beliefs and selling-specific “DNA,” all within a selling context for that business in that selling environment. Guess which one was not on the list. You’re right! It was Industry Experience.

Now having said all that, to reduce, but not eliminate, the pushback to this article, let me be clear. Industry knowledge is important for selling. In fact, you better know it, because your prospect does. This is the internet age, after all, and working within that context is precisely the challenge of this new era for today’s salespeople. If you want to help your prospects, it’s good if you know more than they do. But in this same era, it is not often the case that you know more, and because of that, you need to bring something else to the table. Otherwise, you risk bringing nothing new but your price.

Selling is hard enough on it’s own. In widely-respected business author, Dan Pink’s book, To Sell is Human, Pink shares with the rest of the business community what you and I in sales already know - that sales is a profession. Knowledge about an industry, a product, or a service is just that – knowledge. Selling is a profession that requires skills and abilities that need to be learned, tuned, and practiced. Selling acumen, selling skills, and selling-specific “DNA” is more important to your success than industry experience or product knowledge, even if that experience and knowledge are requirements for your success.

In many areas of life, we see people getting stuck on details that masquerade as the real story. The map, after all, is not the real territory. It’s just someone’s representation of the territory. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who wrote The Black Swan, learned this on the trading floors of Chicago, New York, and London. In his book, Antifragile, he writes of a very successful trader of Green Lumber at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange who genuinely thought the lumber was painted green rather than that it was simply ‘freshly cut,” and this was after years of trading it! And he was darn good at it. That’s one example. Here’s another. The guy in the London Exchange considered to be one of the very best traders of Swiss currency at the time, could barely place Switzerland on a map and didn’t know what languages were most commonly spoken there. It was Taleb who coined the phrase, ‘Green Lumber Fallacy,’ to describe this phenomenon. We could call it the Product Knowledge Fallacy in our world.

Goodness! What’s wrong with these people who don't know what they are trading or who aren't superstar experts in their product? The answer is, nothing. They are excellent at what they do. The problem is with our observers' view of what we think is important. And when we’re immersed in an area of expertise and know all the players and all the nuances about the product, it’s easy to mistake the map for the territory.

Getting back to my recent sales management training session, this one manager, as stated earlier, insisted that any new sales candidates have at least 20 years of experience in working with ‘fluids’ such as hydraulic fluid and motor oil. After a five-minute role-play, with the manager playing the part of the prospect, he, and the others in the room comprising managers and VP’s, with an audible gasp at the conclusion, were disposed of this belief. For a transcript of the role-play, click here.

How often does your company get sales selection right?

  • Does your selection criteria need to change?
  • Do you attract the very best candidates?
  • Is your selection process efficient and effective?
  • Is your compensation aligned with the job description?
  • Will your on-boarding process support retention of the very best?

You don’t always have to know what green lumber means to be successful selling green lumber. Sometimes we miss what is most important because we are fooled either by conventional wisdom or by our own misconceptions. And just because sales candidate selection at your company hasn’t given you satisfactory results, doesn’t mean the selection process cannot be optimized going forward. Try using the same accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment tool that has been voted best Sales and Marketing Assessment Tool four years in a row at the popular sales website, TopSalesWorld.com. Learn more here.

Photo Credit: ©Demetrio Mascarenas/123RF.COM

Topics: sales, sales candidate selection, recruiting, WCSO, roleplay, evaluation, OMG Assessment, sales managerment



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