Let’s explore one of the Sales Leader / Sales Manager duties, Talent Management, and two of the responsibilities that fall under it, People Development and Talent Selection, and how they relate to expectations. People Development is one of the most effective ways to shape your culture and likely involves the following three elements: education, training, and development. Education communicates what knowledge and skills are important to the entity, as well as why they are important in the context of the sales role; training will teach people how to confidently apply their knowledge and skill as they go about doing their work; while development will enable them to grow and prepare for increased responsibility.
If you would like your sales managers to perform more effectively in their roles they need to be educated on best-practices in sales management including how to select talented salespeople who will perform in your business, how to execute sales process, the anatomy of a sales call, sales coaching, goal setting, communication skills, project management, how to train and develop people, critical thinking skills, finance, leading change and performance management. That is a lot of knowledge to acquire and it takes time and investment to make it happen. It is very possible in today’s business world that the list of sales managers who are proficient in all of these areas is much shorter than the list of those who are not. If sales managers are expected to lead effectively, yet they have not been educated in these areas, is it any wonder why they and their teams fail to reach their potential and meet expectations? Having the right education in place will ensure sales leaders and sales managers learn what is necessary to perform their duties, and helps to set expectations.
Looking at training in this context by focusing on Talent Selection, will paint a picture of how this fits together as it relates to expectations. Selecting the best-fit sales people for your organization is an extremely important factor to executing strategy and meeting performance expectations. If you get this right, it makes life for everyone simpler and enables you to focus on the priorities that will help you grow your business. Training sales managers on how to establish a systematic approach to identifying, attracting, assessing, interviewing and selecting salespeople will provide a significant return on investment. Unfortunately, a systematic approach is not in place in many companies, leaving sales managers untrained and having to figure it out for themselves; and because they are not properly trained on hiring salespeople, the wrong salespeople are selected. The poor fit reps end up in roles for which they are not well suited, resulting in lost revenue and increased:
- Costs associated with recruiting,
- Training expenses,
- Time dedicated to managing people who are not meeting expectations,
- Administrative burdens associated with territory turnover related issues.
By training your sales leader(s) and sales manager(s) on sales talent acquisition, you will influence the shaping of your sales culture, increase your likelihood of achieving your revenue targets, and create an aligned approach that will make your sales function operate more efficiently. Teaching a system will enable you to set expectations, define performance standards, and better position yourself as a leader.
From a development perspective, you can involve high-potential salespeople that you would like to groom in the talent selection process. This can be achieved by having them review and dissect resumes, participating in candidate interviews, and debriefing their thoughts and instincts about each candidate. This is a powerful way to develop people, and all of these tasks will give them increased responsibility and prepare them for a sales management position. Developing them through involvement in the talent selection process engages high-potentials in learning about the very first thing they are likely to do…backfill their role when they are promoted to sales manager. By developing them within the talent selection system, they are more likely to execute the system and succeed when they have to perform on their own.
Clearly defining the duties and tasks of your sales leader's and sales manager’s roles will enable you to more consistently and clearly set expectations about what results need to be achieved and how the work gets done. I’d love to hear your thoughts and the approaches that you have taken so others can benefit from our shared experiences.
(C) Copyright 2013 Kurlan & Associates
In my previous blog post, the topic of setting clear expectations was mentioned and I promised to cover it in greater depth.
Have you ever reported to someone who was not clear about expectations/outcomes? You may have been left guessing what they wanted or expected from you. It’s likely that this little guessing game was not the best use of your time and caused you to waste precious time when you guessed incorrectly and were told, “This isn’t what I wanted.” or “I wish you would do it this way.” How frustrating was that kind of situation? What impact did it have on your relationship and ability to get things accomplished? Al, a dear friend of mine, says, “If you want me to read your mind, you’ll have to think a little bit louder.” Leaders, Al has a point. How clearly and concisely are you communicating expectations to your direct reports, especially your sales leaders and sales managers?
For C-Level executives, sales leaders and sales managers, expectation setting plays an important role in the overall success of an organization. "Why?", you ask. Expectations are one of seven factors that make up job performance. This article will explain how defining duties shapes your ability to set expectations. As an example, let’s consider two different Senior Sales VPs who report to their CEO and are members of the executive committee.
The duties for both positions are:
- Revenue Generation,
- Talent Management,
- Budget Management,
- Strategic Planning,
- Process Improvement, and
- Leverage Technology.
In the examples below, you can see how a duty that is well defined can be used to set expectations…or not.
Example for SVP #1: Revenue Generation is crystal clear.
- Maintain existing net revenue base of $127M, and increase net revenue by 16%, $20.3M, after discounts and rebates by the end of FY2013.
- Sales will be tracked using the company’s reporting system and will be based on invoiced sales.
The expectation is maintaining the base and increasing revenue. The standards by which the SVP will be measured are after discounts and rebates and how the sales will be reported.
Example for SVP #2: Revenue Generatation is vague.
- It reads…Responsible for generating revenue in line with estimates.
That’s it. And the problem here is that it isn’t quantified, time bound, nor is there a standard by which to evaluate the performance, and setting expectations in a vague situation is a challenge. Also, it can change (as 'forecasts' do), so there is a lot of wiggle room for excuse-making, and the level of accountability that will motivate someone to achieve a great performance is missing.
From a CEO’s perspective, which one would you prefer in your SVP’s annual goals and objectives? If you were the SVP, which one would you prefer? It’s likely it would be the one that is clear because it communicates exactly what is expected and to what standard performance will be measured.
Clearly defining expectations about what results need to be achieved makes a difference. I’d love to hear your thoughts and the approaches that you have taken so others can benefit from our shared experiences.
(C) Copyright 2013 Kurlan & Associates
Training sales professionals and the sales manager's role in this step is the topic of my final post in the series about framework for sales leadership execution. Follow these links to read parts 1, 2 and 3.
Bill was a Regional Manager, from my early days in sales, who made a significant impact on my life and career. He took the time to understand what motivated me, was completely engaged during my onboarding and taught me timeless fundamentals about a sales career. When I started, he spent three days with me reviewing accounts, administrative duties, territory management and sales competencies. He connected me with peer mentors from our region, each possessing strengths in areas where I needed to learn and master for success.
He also set clear training and development expectations, ensuring that I knew, 'If it was to be, it was up to me.' In other words, I was responsible and accountable for my development and career.
This was an important lesson for an impressionable, young sales professional. As you can imagine, I made mistakes along the way and Bill helped me learn from them and develop my instincts and judgment, which have served me well ever since. Reflecting back on those mistakes and the coaching that followed, I was always impressed by how well he managed his emotions, demonstrated patience, and used those experiences to help me grow. His message was, 'It's okay to try new things and make mistakes' as long as they help me learn and improve my skills.
The result was that his involvement in my ramp up was instrumental in coaching me to become "Rookie of the Year" amongst a very talented group of seventeen sales professionals, and two years later, to the top 5% of the sales force, my first six-figure income and an amazing award trip to Rome. Having him model the way was powerful and memorable because I took a similar approach upon becoming a sales manager.
After training, Bill followed up and we discussed what I learned and how I would apply it to my role. This important step communicated that he cared and was involved in my training and development. The unspoken message was that he was going to test me upon return in the future and that training mattered. This kind of conversation enabled Bill to assess how well I understood the training content and could apply my learned skills.
The message for sales leaders and managers is that you play a pivotal role in creating your sales culture. Part of that is how well your team is trained and developed. It's not someone else’s responsibility. It is yours. If you're actively engaged in your team’s learning, you'll succeed in creating a learning culture which will improve your team's performance. It’s been said that the only sustainable, competitive advantage is to learn more quickly than your competitors, so that you can earn your customers' respect and business. Are you willing and committed to investing the time up front to help your sales reps gain the confidence and knowledge which they need to succeed in today’s business climate?
As this series wraps up, I hope that you'll find these steps simple and practical and that this framework for execution will help you to streamline communication, get everyone on the same page and enable you to execute with excellence. A final thought...Before the first step make sure you have a clear understanding of the business situation which comes from completing a Needs Analysis. If you need help with this, please contact us.
(C) Copyright 2013 Kurlan & Associates
I wrote two previous articles about a framework for sales leadership execution. The first focused on leadership commitment and the second on setting goals and planning. There are two more topics that I’ll cover in this four-part series. This article focuses on preparing line sales managers to deliver and lead change to their teams. In my experience, the most effective approach involves education, training, expectations and follow-up to ensure that what was agreed upon was executed.
Let's discuss education and training. Suppose you're preparing to launch a strategic account management program, sales effectiveness initiative, or new product introduction. For sales management to have a chance at successful execution and establish your desired culture, it's imperative that your sales managers are well-trained and coached before sales team training. Here are two recipes for disaster:
- When sales managers aren't required to complete the education and training at all, or
- When sales managers aren't required to complete the education and training in advance of their salespeople, despite an expectation that they might reinforce the newly-completed training.
This example is a root cause of failed initiatives because they don't take hold nor become part of a sales culture. If, on the other hand, sales managers are educated and trained prior to the sales teams, they'll have a solid grasp of the information, concepts and processes which they're being asked to establish. This will put them in a solid position to be their teams' leaders and mentors.
In the case of sales effectiveness initiatives, which I have launched for multiple organizations, the sales management team must be completely trained to support and coach to the methodologies and processes which they'll be asked to roll out. They must develop enough mastery in order to describe and demonstrate the processes and methodologies themselves.
Expectations are only one of the seven factors of job performance. I'll write more on this topic in a future post.
The final element of this topic is follow-up which ensures that the training has been delivered, effective and relevant to the role. Sometimes, this is identified on a project plan, but not completed. When there's dedicated follow-up time, it provides an opportunity for leadership to reinforce the topic's importance, discover what went well and lessons learned which can be addressed going forward. It also strengthens and galvanizes your sales leadership team. Following-up facilitates dialogue between leaders, managers and the front line people who actually have to execute.
One of the sales manager's duties is to manage talent which requires them to be effective at team coaching. When you enable them to do this (by providing them with education and training first, followed by "training the trainer"), you'll reinforce this duty and teach them a valuable skill which will improve your sales culture and performance. If you look into the best sports teams, you'll see that they're collectively well-trained and individually committed to mastering their craft so that they can excel and perform at the highest levels. If establishing sales effectiveness is critical to your success, here are resources which you can complete on grading your sales force, grading your sales process and identifying the cost of a bad hire so that you can get a sense of where your sales organization stands today. Armed with this information, you can identify and begin to solve problems which prevent sales forces from performing at a higher level.
(C) Copyright 2013 Kurlan & Associates
In today's article, I'll focus on an important element in getting your organization to reach its potential: Setting Goals and Putting Your Plan in Place.
In my last article, I covered leadership commitment and its importance to the launch success of programs, initiatives and products. Leadership commitment is one framework element which can ensure successful execution. It's also important to identifying problems which are holding back your organization from reaching its potential. The other elements are setting goals / putting your plan in place, preparing line management for implementation, and preparing individuals for implementation.
Leaders can assist their teams by being involved in goal setting. The leaders with whom I've worked have the ability to provide clarity and relevance in this step because they have a unique perspective on the business as an entity. We've heard of SMART goals, yet I often see very capable people who struggle with setting goals. If you're a leader, you're probably good at this; so, help your people. Sometimes it can be a laborious task, but it's a great way to connect with your people and get them focused on the critical actions which will help them succeed.
There are some key questions to ask during the goal-setting process:
- What are you trying to achieve?
- How is it relevant to the bigger picture? How does it link to strategy?
- Who's on your team?
- How will you get there?
- What are the key milestones which you need to have in place so that you know you're on track?
- When are you going to achieve the big goal and the milestones?
An important point to consider when goal-setting is the size of your goals. Big, beefy goals engage your heart and mind. They inspire and motivate you. Mediocre goals have almost no motivational power at all. Sales goals are a great example of this, and it's one of the reasons that I love sales as a profession. There's a clear goal - it’s called your quota. And whether you are a sales leader, sales manager or sales professional, at the end of the year, you've either hit, missed or exceeded your target. It's a tremendously rewarding feeling to overachieve your goals, and it also puts money in your bank account which enables you to live the lifestyle of your choosing.
Effective sales leaders show their people how to break those big goals down into quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily goals, so that people believe that they can be achieved and know how to achieve them. We help companies who want to significantly increase their revenue, but may lack the experience, processes, systems or approaches to scale their operation and we are helping them to achieve their goals.
The next component is to put your plan in place and define the implementation resources. These might be tools like job aids, which will enable people to act. Identify each step and deliverable which must be completed or developed to maximize the probability of success. Identify bottlenecks which could derail or delay a goal's achievement. (Assign this task to a very capable person who has shown skill, commitment, and determination in problem-solving with a track record of success. It can be a stretch assignment for a talented team member who you'd like to mentor and/or develop.) As an example of where a plan can go off track, consider a sales transformation effort in a large organization and the importance of organization-wide communication. Planning and resource development requires that you consistently deliver messages that reinforce to the sales team that supporting the transformation is favorable.
If all elements required for success are integrated into your plan and the enabling tools are defined, then you're on your way to getting the necessary support for transformation.
I’ll leave you with this final saying: Whether you're leading change, considering a sales effectiveness initiative, developing your leaders or trying to get your team to hit their targets, remember that one hour of planning saves you four hours of spinning your wheels on poorly-considered execution. I don’t know about you, but these days I really could use the time.
(C) Copyright 2013 Kurlan & Associates
Well, here I go… my first blog. After a 20+/- year career in sales, marketing, sales operations and training, I decided to take the plunge and partner up with Dave Kurlan. So, what to write about in my first blog article? Since leadership is my favorite topic, that’s where I’ll begin.
During my most recent role, the CEO and his executive team (in particular the global head of sales and marketing) were committed to enabling the sales and marketing team's skills and effectiveness. It made all the difference in the world, to the point where my team decided that we wouldn't embark on a key project or initiative until leadership commitment was in place.
What does leadership commitment look like to me? It can best be described as a willingness to look at the outside opportunities which exist in the market and also under the hood of an organization. This helps in understanding current performance, people, capabilities, and root causes of any problems. Then a commitment must be made to address and improve conditions for success.
Think about new product or service introductions, for example. We hear about the wildly successful launches, such as drug-eluting stents and breakthroughs in imaging technology, biologics, mobile devices, and vehicles. We also know that for every successful launch, there are four that are not.
One way to address this is to work with leaders well in advance of the actual launch of a product, service or program to visualize what success will look like and what it will take to get there. Once there's clarity on the vision, strategy and objectives, a well-defined plan is developed with the leaders so that they're engaged, committed and everyone is on message and the same page. With that commitment in place, the conditions exist to build excitement, prepare and train the organization, as well as validate their selling ability before sales calls (to avoid practicing with their customers).
Leadership commitment is demonstrated through involvement in each step, messages to teams during in-person meetings, written communications, and setting clear expectations of line management.
The last aspect of leadership commitment in this example is reinforcement. All preceding steps could be well executed, but without a commitment to reinforce knowledge, skills and ability, organizations struggle to maximize opportunities. Overlooking this step can signal the loss of momentum and the death of any product launch, program or initiative. The bottom line is that your leadership commitment makes a difference to your staff and customers. Assuming you are a committed leader, are the members of your team just as committed? If some are lacking, and possibly not capable of thriving in today's market, then find out if you have the right people in your sales organization. Let me know how I can help you to answer any of these sales force questions.
(C) Copyright 2013 Kurlan & Associates