Should Special Effects Determine If You Have the Right Salespeople?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Feb 17, 2010 @ 22:02 PM

When we evaluate a sales force, one of the answers we usually provide is whether or not a company has the right salespeople.  Right for what?

  • Roles - most often this involves looking at the people who are currently expected to hunt, farm, or manage accounts
  • Capabilities - Are they A players, B's, C's or worse?
  • Potential - Can they be developed, and if so, how much better can they become, and what will it take to get them there?
  • Strategies - Can they execute your strategies for going forward?

Before those questions can be answered though, there are some variables that must be clarified:

  • Sustainability - is the business sustainable at the current revenue run-rate?  If it can't, the first variable is urgency and a very limited time line for improvement. (Thanks to Chris Mott - The Sales Expediter for this angle)
  • Scalability - has the business reached a point where the business or unit must scale or return profits immediately?  If it has, then there is urgency to have a core foundation of solid salespeople in place before expansion begins.
  • Sales Management - is sales management capable of supporting a sales training & development initiative today? Capable means that existing sales management can coach to and hold salespeople accountable to the new sales process, measurables, strategies and tactics. In most companies, sales management needs a head start to develop those capabilities.
  • Practicality - who are the trainable salespeople that will also be able to respond to training in the given time frame, and with the existing sales management?  When there is urgency, the time frame is short and only some of the trainable salespeople can be developed that quickly.  With less urgency, sales management's capabilities and the current limitations of the trainable salespeople are not factors and long-term development can be pursued.  
  • Sales Cycle - The longer your sales cycle, the longer it will take to generate results from any initiative.

Many data points must be analyzed in order to answer questions like these.  We use science to get to the bottom of this issue, but it boggles my mind that so many executives simply sit behind their desk and and answer these questions without anything other than observations and recent sales history.  There's a big problem with that:  observation and sales history are not relevant sources of data. 

Sales history is not even a measure of past performance and can't be used to predict future performance.  We see examples of this on every sales force we evaluate. The salespeople with the most revenue are simply beneficiaries of either the best territory, an A-list of accounts, or a single unrepeatable large account that a sales manager helped them close.

Observation is nothing more than anecdotal special effects.  You know how you can use the computer to color a photo and add effects?  Well, our like or dislike, hopes, pride and ego color our opinions of our salespeople.

So if you have to make important business decisions about your company's ability to grow, which should you rely on?  Consistent, accurate, data-driven recommendations or special effects?

(c) Copyright 2010 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, Sales Force, Jim Collins, right salespeople right seats

Jim Collins Fortune Interview Translated for the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Mar 01, 2009 @ 23:03 PM

Jim Collins was interviewed in the February 2 issue of Fortune

He was asked this question:  "Right now, it seems as if people are panicking - or are paralyzed about decisions."

He responded with, "Almost across the board, people are worrying.  As a rock climber, the one thing you learn is that those who panic, die on the mountain.  you don't just sit on the mountain.  You either go up or go down, but don't just sit and wait to get clobbered.  if you go down and survive, you can come back another day.  You have to ask the question, what can we do not just to survive but to turn this into a defining point in history?"

So, if you must do something, as opposed to nothing, what can you do? You can only cut so many costs.  You can only sit back and wait for so long.  You can only hope so much.  At some point, you must do something about the one thing you can control - your sales force - the single connecting point between you and your revenue.  Although you don't want to increase spending right now, spending money on the group of people that actually have the ability to reverse declining revenue is not only responsible, it is necessary!

If faced with a legal crisis, CEO's don't "do what they can"; they call their attorneys.  When faced with a tax or accounting crises, CEO's don't do what they can, they call their accountants.  If faced with damage to their property, CEO's don't do what they can, they call their insurance agents. 

You are faced with an economic crisis.  Don't do what you can. Do what you must.  Call your Sales Development Expert!  There are so many ways to reverse declining revenues, to help your sales force succeed in these difficult times, to change your approach, to get more of a smaller pie. Just don't believe that you know what all of those methods are or that you know how to get your salespeople to change.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Salesforce, increase sales, Jim Collins

Right Sales People in the Right Roles and the Right Seats

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Jan 11, 2009 @ 22:01 PM

I was on site at a client's last week to kick-off their training.  At the end of the kick-off I asked each salesperson for their three biggest lessons learned.  One salesperson had difficulty coming up with anything of substance.  It turned out that he was new to sales and when we assessed him two months earlier, our assessment indicated that he was not trainable.  The client wanted him in the program anyway because he had a hunch it would work out.  "Not trainable" manifests in different ways but usually has the same outcome - salespeople don't improve.

There were a number of other salespeople who weren't included in the program because the assessment indicated they weren't trainable either.  After the kick-off the client revealed that those salespeople were, as I predicted to him, relieved not to be included except for one who did want to take part.  The one?  The assessment indicated that this particular salesperson is trainable but the client did not want to include him.

Trainable salespeople behave differently than salespeople who are not trainable.  This provides a nice little glimpse into how they are different.  You can develop trainable salespeople but it's very difficult to develop those who aren't.  Trainable salespeople usually offer very little resistance to training and coaching efforts, while those who aren't trainable either don't care enough to participate, or they offer so much resistance that they ruin it for everyone.

By now you've read Jim Collins' book Good to Great.  The concept everyone takes away from the book is having the right people in the right seats.  With our assessment we not only have the ability to put the right salespeople in the right roles, but to put the right ones in the right training seats too.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales competencies, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales training, Sales Coaching, improve sales, sales evaluation, Good to Great, Jim Collins, sales profile

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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