Living Sales Excellence - Dennis Connelly's Blog

Of Polar Vortices and Training Sales Managers First

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Sun, Feb 10, 2019 @ 21:02 PM

31760261_s_frozenman

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. 

 

--

If you would benefit from attending or sending someone to our renowned sales-coaching-centric upcoming Sales Leadership Intensive, click here for more details.

Book Dennis Connelly to speak at your event.

Photo Credit: Copyright alphaspirit  (123RF)

 

 

 

 

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

Sales Training Success Dependence on Trainable Sales Managers

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Mon, Jan 07, 2019 @ 16:01 PM

22728302_s_UntrainedDogsIt's a new year. "Don't train your sales force!" As strange as that sounds, it might surprise you how often this was my recommendation to business leaders looking for help last year for their sales organizations. But please don't misunderstand. Unless your sales force has a full pipeline, accurate forecasts, high closing ratios, improving margins, consistent revenue growth, and meets budget every quarter, they might need training. But that doesn't mean you should get them trained. For sales training to be effective, the conditions must support it, or it isn't worth the investment. Without knowing the underlying causes, the training could be indiscriminate and ineffective. 

Recently, I posted an article listing the 7 Success Factors that support sales training. If interested, read it here. Today, we'll address number 4, below: Trainable and coachable sales managers. After all, why should it matter? If the manager is on her game, knows how to sell, and operates autonomously, is it really necessary that she be coachable and trainable, too? C'mon! Here's why.

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 Coaching Sales Managers (This article)
  5.  (Article published 1/7/19)
  6. Training the managers before training salespeople (Coming soon)
  7. Salesperson training with sufficient time scale (Article published 9/23/18)
  8. Sales leadership accountability (Coming soon)

Number 4 is that sales managers themselves must be trainable and coachable. Mining the data from 1.8 million assessments of both salespeople and sales managers evaluated by Objective Management Group, we know that 22% of managers are uncoachable and 28% are untrainable. That means that almost one in four won't be able to make the changes necessary to improve their skills 

Among many of the conditions or environment that support training success are the willingness and ability of sales management to support and reinforce the training to ensure that it sticks and that the team improves. It isn't always simply a matter of needing to make improvements, but rather it's having an organization structured and ready to capitalize on those improvements. 

Most managers are interested in developing their skills further in important sales management areas such as motivation, coaching, recruiting, and holding people accountable. Understanding the common areas where sales management gets in their own way is a good start to mastering number 4, above, and clearing the way to effective sales training.

How sales management gets in the way:

  1. Not coachable - think they know it all, and won't listen to advice
  2. Not trainable - apathetic - do not desire success enough to work to improve
  3. Not skilled - want to succeed but don't know how
  4. Not committed - won't exceed their comfort zone to do what it takes to succeed
  5. Non-supportive beliefs - this covers a wide variety of beliefs but any belief that doesn't support either sales success or managerial impact on sales success would be in their way
  6. Too busy selling - Some sales managers are really glorified salespeople with a large book of business. Don't expect real sales management from this group.
  7. Non-Existent - What sales management? Do we need that? Haha. Sometimes, it's the CEO in an "acting" role. 

Sales management is a full-time job. Sales managers must desire success in the role and be committed to doing what it takes to be effective in the role. If they are not coachable or if they are not trainable, or both, they will not be able to improve and will have a difficult time cultivating an environment that supports learning and improvement among their team.

Because there is often confusion with two important terms above, I have illustrated the difference between Untrainable and Uncoachable using pictures:

Screenshot 2019-01-06 20.39.45

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Untrainable people lack the desire to succeed. They won't try to improve. Uncoachable people might or might not be trainable - they are independent. The uncoachable cannot imagine that you or anyone else could help them perform better. They already know everything. If they are right and they do know everything, that's great until you try to implement a change. If they don't already know everything but think they do, or if they are no longer interested in improving in their role, welcome to a world of frustration for company leaders. And for goodness sake, don't train the sales team. Yet.

--

If you would like to know how your managers measure up in these important areas, click here.

--

Book Dennis Connelly to speak at your event.

 Top Photo: Copyright : Eric Isselee

Topics: top sales management articles, Shaping the Environment, managerial leadership, coaching culture, sales training failure

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.

 

--

Book Dennis Connelly to speak at your event.

Photo Credit: alphaspirit (123RF)

Topics: sales management effectiveness, steps in a sales process, coaching culture, sales training failure, formal sales process

Top Seven Reasons for Sales Hiring Failure

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Mon, Oct 22, 2018 @ 20:10 PM

85165311_s_MagnetAttractingPeopleDid you ever wonder why so few sales candidates who performed well at other companies, fail to become top performers at yours? Somewhat unique to the sales role, most other non-executive positions can be quantified sufficiently to make a prediction with some degree of confidence that the candidate will or will not perform in the role. They've done it before, for example. Or they can demonstrate their skills. Or their resume clearly shows that they have the exact experience required for the role. Sales, however, is another matter.

If the candidate's resume indicates that they sold over $50 million in business last year, it doesn't mean they can sell anything for you. I evaluated a sales team for a food manufacturer and most of the 75-member team sold between $500,000 and $2 million per year in business for the firm. However, one salesperson sold over $65 million. "That guy is our best salesperson," they confidently touted. His evaluation, however, put him somewhere near the bottom of the pack, so I asked what he did to sell that much business.

Superman, we'll call him, it turns out had one customer, a single retail chain. He never prospected, which was a good thing because, given his skill level, it would have given him ulcers. The customer, it turns out, was originally brought in by the company CEO and a couple of executives, well before Superman was hired. Since he didn't sell that deal, and he didn't prospect, and never closed a single new customer in his entire company tenure, he really never sold anything. It might seem obvious reading this, but to that organization, they had always assumed he could sell. He couldn't. The truth was he didn't need to. But rest assured his resume is going to say that he sold $65 million in sales last year. Woe to the hiring manager, looking for a hunter, who feels lucky when that resume comes across their desk.

Failure to account for why a sales candidate succeeds or fails leaves a company doomed to repeat the experience of the previous employer. Here are the major reasons given for why hiring managers might believe a candidate can do the job they need them to do:

 Top Seven Reasons for Sales Hiring Failure

  1. Assuming that prior sales success means predictable success at your company
  2. Personality similar to what you believe such a salesperson should have
  3. They come highly recommended
  4. Incompatibility with your selling environment
  5. Poor on-boarding process
  6. Impatience
  7. Lack of overall recruiting process

So what's a more effective sales recruiting strategy? Read the following list of the top five strategies for sales recruiting success and see how closely it aligns with your current methodology.

Top Five Most-Effective Sales Recruiting Strategies

  1. Repeatable recruiting process that helps you find, attract, select, hire, and onboard the best candidates
  2. Objective sales-specific assessment
  3. Effective interviewing skills
  4. Supportive sales culture and leadership
  5. Proper on-boarding experience – Read this article from Dave Kurlan

How does your recruiting process compare with this list? How well do your skill sets support the best sales recruiting outcome? If you are not getting your desired outcome, start by reading one or more of our white papers on sales selection, found by clicking here.

 

--

Book Dennis Connelly to speak at your event.

Photo Credit: Copyright, alphaspirit  (123RF)

Topics: sales selection, best salespeople, sales training failure, sales recruiting failure

How an Evaluation Avoids Sales Training Failure

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Mon, Oct 08, 2018 @ 18:10 PM

69481636_s_Pre-Evaluating-MakeRightChoiceSix months ago, a large agency asked me to deliver a sales training program for their business development team. After listening, I recommended a detour that led to something rather unexpected. The business development/sales team at this company was a dedicated sales group with the goal of setting up new business that would supplement the business that was generated by repeat clients, by agent networks, and by inbound marketing programs. The company didn't believe the sales team was gaining much traction, resulting in wasted resources, particularly their marketing spend. So what was going on?

Why weren't they making enough connections with their leads? And when they did make a connection, why weren't they converting the lead into a conversation? Why weren't they gaining traction? What was wrong and how did it happen?

In July, I published a blog article that addressed the 7 Sales Training Success Factors and how to avoid sales training failure. If you missed it, read it here. By reader demand, I am doing a deeper dive into each of the seven factors. Tackling them in no particular order, I addressed Factor 3 in this article regarding the Trainability of Salespeople and the important role of Commitment. Factor 6 was explored in this article on Salesperson Training with Sufficient Time Scale which focused on the Learning Journey of salespeople and included some interesting research about memory. Today, we'll talk about Factor 1, and how and why pre-evaluating avoids sales training failure.

Getting back to our agency example, why was the dedicated sales team unable to reach prospects and set up the necessary conversations with their experts? Could it be an on-boarding problem? Could it be a training problem? Could it be a problem with recruiting and selection? Could it be messaging? Could it be sales process? Could it be coaching? Could it be accountability? Could it be motivation? Could it be their sales DNA or the presence of hidden weaknesses or what you might call, "head trash?" Could it be that this particular group just didn't have the selling skills? Or perhaps, could the company's expectations be unrealistic?

Looking at this another way, what if they had the right people, with the right skills, and the right DNA, but weren't on-boarding, coaching, nor motivating them adequately? What would standard sales training accomplish? How should the solution be designed to target the existing problems and build on their strengths? Might we focus more on management training in this case? 

What if they were on-boarding right, aligned in their messaging, had a motivated team, coached them properly and held them accountable, but were doing all this with sales people who weren't in the right role? In other words, management gets it, but they're spinning their wheels with the wrong people. Might we focus on structure, human resources (HR), and recruiting training?

What if management was doing all the right things, and HR was doing the right things, and the right candidates were selected, but they were failing anyway? Might we look at systems and processes, skills training, and overcoming hidden weaknesses?

So the problem in this agency could be summarized as stemming from one or more of these three major categories:

  1. Management
  2. Recruiting/HR
  3. Salespeople

And we could dig considerable deeper into each of these. For example, if we're talking about salespeople, in which of the 21 sales core competencies are they deficient? For an even deeper dive into understanding salespeople and the 21 sales core competencies, read Dave Kurlan's excellent article on that here. When we understand why they aren't getting the desired results, a training program can be designed and executed that will have sufficient impact. Without that foreknowledge, a sales training program that's broad enough might help, but it might not work, and we might not know why.

What was the problem with the agency I mentioned? We took a valuable stutter-step and evaluated the business development team first, and what we found surprised all of us. The team members, across the board, were missing enough crucial elements among the 21 sales core competencies that sales training would have been a waste of resources. They didn't desire enough success in selling or they lacked commitment to making the improvements to achieve whatever success they desired, or they weren't motivated enough, or their outlook was poor. In short, they were missing too many of the crucial elements that compose what many might simply call "grit." 

So I recommended against training the salespeople. Usually a pre-evaluation tells me what to train. In this case, it told me not to train. Instead, we worked on putting people in the "right seats," as Jim Collins put it in his oft-quoted book, Good to Great. Training was refocused to help HR and sales management. The sales team wasn't ready. 

What's the takeaway? One of the reasons sales training fails is because it either isn't appropriate for the team or wasn't designed to address the specific issues, competencies, and reasons related to the lack of results. Interestingly, this isn't the most important factor of the 7 Sales Training Success Factors as revealed in this article, but you can probably see why it's the most important first step.

 

--

Book Dennis Connelly to speak at your event.

Watch Dave Kurlan speak about the value of a Sales Force Evaluation:

evals

Photo Credit - Copyright: Elnur Amikishiyev (123RF) 

 

 

Topics: sales force evaluation, sales training, sales management, recruiting salespeople, coaching salespeople, Jim Collins, sales training failure



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