What to Do with the Salespeople Who Become Your Biggest Problem

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, May 03, 2019 @ 14:05 PM

problem-child

I coach a lot of sales managers and sales leaders and when I ask them what they want help with today, it's rarely a big opportunity, it's seldom coaching best practices, it's hardly ever targeted metrics for their team, and it's almost unheard of for them to request that I help them improve as sales managers,  Oh no.  They almost always want  help with their biggest problem child.  Every sales team has a maverick - the person that can't be managed, but leads the company in sales.  Over the past 33 years, I've met a lot of mavericks and the best advice I can give a sales manager is to ignore and thank your mavericks but don't let them near the rest of your salespeople!  This article is not about managing your mavericks!

This article is about the ineffective salesperson who is lazy, or has an attitude problem, or is stubborn, or isn't making the calls, or can't close any deals, or has an empty pipeline, or won't adapt to the new way of selling, or can't seem to grasp the importance of getting traction, or claims not to know what's expected in the way of performance.  While you can objectively read the description in the prior sentence and say, "Easy. Terminate and move on," when the sales manager is emotionally involved, they aren't objective, think they can fix this person, and believe that giving up will reflect poorly upon them.

We can spend many hours over many weeks and months working on ways to motivate, change, improve, coach up or fix these salespeople.  The problem is that most of these problem children can't be fixed.  It's not that poor performers in general can't be coached up; it's that poor performers who are problem employees usually can't be fixed.

50% of all salespeople are weak and these salespeople definitely fall into the weak category.  But there's something else that makes them problematic.

I usually take the following steps to make my case to their managers and senior executives:

  • We review the OMG sales evaluation for the problem salesperson - the root cause of most issues can be found right in the summary and usually have little to do with the 10 selling competencies and more to do with the 5 competencies in Will to Sell (grit) and/or the 6 competencies in Sales DNA (strengths or weaknesses that support or sabotage the 10 selling competencies).
  • We develop a plan for the sales manager's next coaching conversation with the problem salesperson.  This is usually one where we attempt to change the offending behavior or move toward replacement
  • We present the plan to the sales manager's VP Sales and/or CEO for buy-in.
  • In most cases, the problem salesperson is managed out, not coached up.

Even though we can manage the problem salesperson out in a fairly short period of time, most sales managers misdirect their energy on their problem salespeople instead of using that same, limited energy to support and coach up their cooperative and more effective salespeople.  MAKE GOOD USE OF YOUR TIME!  DON'T WASTE IT ON PEOPLE YOU WILL END UP TERMINATING AND DON'T FALL INTO THE TRAP OF BELIEVING THAT YOU CAN FIX PEOPLE!

Topics: sales competencies, Dave Kurlan, sales evaluation, sales attitude, OMG evaluation, problem attitude, sales maverick

Sales 102 - The Pitch Deck, the Price Reduction and the Data

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 29, 2016 @ 09:09 AM

Pricing.jpg

Recently I met with a CEO whose salespeople were not closing enough business.  We had just evaluated their sales force and I had the answers as to why their sales were so underwhelming.  Before we could explain what was causing their problem, the CEO said something along the lines of, "We are going to create a new pitch deck and reduce our prices. That will solve the problem!"  

They weren't suggesting a small price change either.  It sounded like an 80% reduction and their reasoning overlapped with one of the contributing issues that we identified.  Their salespeople weren't reaching decision makers which raises more questions.  Why weren't they reaching decision makers and could anything be done about it?  Would lowering their prices solve the problem or did the issue go deeper than that?

It's not terribly unusual when salespeople are unable to reach decision makers but there are always several potential reasons as to why:

  • Tactical - they simply don't know how to get the decision makers engaged in the conversation
  • Conceptual - they don't think they need to
  • Sales DNA - their weaknesses won't allow them to ask to get the decision makers engaged
  • Commitment - they give up when the going becomes too difficult for them
  • Fear - they aren't comfortable speaking or meeting with that level of decision maker

What did the data from the sales force evaluation tell us?

In the case this company, the salespeople didn't believe they needed to reach the decision makers.  As it related to reaching decision makers, their Sales DNA was OK.  Commitment and Fear factors were OK too.  So if they didn't believe they needed to, isn't that lack of direction, inspection and accountability on the part of management?

The other big issue for this sales force was their Sales DNA as it related to money and decision making.  To the salespeople, the amount they were asking for was, "a lot" but the new reduced amount will probably be a lot too.  They also "understood" when their contact stalled to talk with a decision maker who would routinely not be interested in spending that much money.

The Solution

The appropriate solution would be for us to help their salespeople become more effective at getting the decision makers engaged in the conversation and at selling the value of their offering, while helping management coach to those outcomes.  

Lowering the Price

Their reasoning for lowering the price is that the contacts their salespeople are talking with would supposedly have the authority to spend the lesser fee without requiring approval from the decision makers.

Can that work?   

In my experience, if the salespeople don't reach decision makers it won't matter how much they are charging.  They'll continue to hear the same stalls, especially if they continue to begin their first meetings with the pitch deck!  The pitch deck is simply a crutch that turns a potential two-way conversation into a one-way presentation and that makes matters worse instead of better.  If they do convert more often with the lower price, they'll still have to close 5 times as many deals to bring in the same revenue.  So if they are closing 1 of 10 today, and they close 3X more deals but at 1/5 the fee, they will lag 65% behind their previously unacceptable run rate.

On the other hand, if they become effective reaching decision makers, their sales cycle will be significantly shorter, their win rate will improve by 3-5X and at the original fees, their revenue will increase by 3-5X as well.

Hermann Simon wrote the bible on pricing and questions related to how your product or service should be priced can be answered in his book, Confessions of the Pricing Man.

"The question to be answered is, should they do what's easiest and lower the fees, or do what's best for the company and fix the problem?"

It's an obvious choice unless you're the one who has to make the choice, with the future of the company depending on the decision.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Force, Sales DNA, pricing, selling value, OMG evaluation, pitch deck

Can the Lack Commitment to Sales Success Finding be Wrong?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Apr 01, 2015 @ 06:04 AM

commitment2

Have you ever witnessed salespeople who go part of the way, but not all the way to get the business?  They make the call, but don't convert the call?  They hold the first meeting, but walk away without traction?  They add a new opportunity to the pipeline, but don't move it forward?  They do all of the right things, but with the wrong people? They qualify an opportunity, but don't get any further?  They forecast an opportunity as closeable, but it doesn't close?  Those are all examples of salespeople with conditional commitment.  They do what it takes, but only when it's comfortable for them.

Last week, I received an email questioning the Commitment finding in Objective Management Group's (OMG) Sales Management evaluation.  The very same question could have applied equally to the Salesperson evaluation as well and it's certainly not the first time I have heard the question.

I republished the entire thread in sequence so that you could understand the question, the challenge and the response:

"Dave, I need your input on this one. You have shared with us that commitment is the most important finding in the OMG evaluation and I agree with you. However, I often wonder whether the way the evaluation measures a person’s commitment is accurate."
 Whenever someone says they agree and they follow that up with "but" or "however", it's code for not really agreeing.  Continuing, he said:
 
"I recently received the sales force evaluation results for a [we will call the company ABCD]. I was referred to ABCD by a woman named [we will call her Mary]. Mary is a Regional Sales Manager at ABCD and prior to joining them she worked with another client of mine. I had the chance to get to know Mary well. She is a go-getter – very ambitious, impatient and driven. The thing that caused her to seek my help was that she was frustrated by the fact that what she and her peers were doing to win business simply wasn’t working anymore and she believed that there had to be a better way. She works as hard as anyone I know and is always seeking ways to improve."
 
Her results came back with a low commitment score. I downloaded her transcript to see why she scored low on commitment.  It appeared as though her low commitment score stems from how she answered two questions:  The self-rating and the answer to question [##].
 
I have been told by you that her answer on question [##] is a cop-out answer and in many situations it is, but isn’t it possible that someone could provide this answer with a different mindset?
 
Mary is someone who has stuck her neck out with two companies to change the way they sell. Her actions speak louder than her answers to these two questions, and I have a hard time believing that she lacks commitment.
 
I am not attempting to challenge the science of the assessment, I am simply trying to make sure that this answer isn’t being misinterpreted. 
 
By the way, this sales organization has only been in existence for six months. According to the VP of Sales the sales team is not complacent. In his words, they are 'still trying to figure it out.'"
My response follows:
"Charles, my responses are random…
  • When you get to know someone really well, then you may become as blind to their INTERNAL workings as their employers.  Getting to know someone does not provide better insight as to whether or not a finding is accurate.
  • The commitment finding, time and again, has proven to be not only the most important finding, but also incredibly accurate.
  • 8 questions drive the finding on commitment and the self-rating plays no part at all, except as a comparison to how committed she believes she is.
  • Like most people, you may be confusing work ethic – something Mary would score quite high on – with commitment.
  • Mary was given 4 possible answers to question [##].  One of the options was, “Doing whatever it takes (ethically) to succeed” and she consciously chose not to select it.  I'm curious...why would you question the evaluation instead of Mary?  She’s the one who consciously chose a different answer...

Did you ever consider the possibility that in Mary's case she would rather be sales director, sales VP or even a salesperson, and not a regional sales manager?  There are so many reasons why someone could lack commitment, and in this case, commitment to sales management success.

My advice is for you to ask Mary - not me - what she believes could be contributing to this finding…

I also looked at her evaluation findings.  Mary's lack of strengths, skills and sales management capability proves that her commitment is lacking. That stands out more than your observation that her work ethic proves she has strong commitment.  If she was the most committed person ever, and had been for a significant period of time, and had applied the training and coaching that you provided, wouldn’t her evaluation be significantly better than it appears?  As I said, it’s not about work ethic, it’s about a willingness to do what it takes – in this case, change – and she hasn’t.

You should also check out the first 10 articles that appear on this Google Search for commitment in sales."

Charles responded to me said:

"Dave, I appreciate your taking the time to respond to my email. This is the kind of ammunition I need and your points are well taken. I hate to bite the hand that has fed me in this case and I need to formulate a plan to help Mary regain her commitment to do whatever it takes.  The entire sales organization has only been in existence for six months and nobody on the team is performing up to expectations. I would hate to tell them to give up on Mary at this point.  If you have any examples of what you have done with other sales managers or salespeople who originally lacked commitment, to turn them around and push outside their comfort zone, I would love to know what you did. Thanks."

My response:

"You’re welcome Charles.

First, make sure that Mary is in the right role – for her.  Then, as a next step, you can try to get her committed to change.  She may be feeling committed to the company but the commitment we measure is her commitment to achieve her personal goals.  Does she have them?  The findings said no.  Start there.  I hope that helps."

###

If you didn't click the link to the other articles on commitment, do refer to them because they provide excellent perspectives and examples on this topic.

Lack of commitment is the one finding that gets the most push back - initially - because people react so emotionally to it.  "What do you mean I'm not committed to sales?"  "Of course Bill is committed to sales!"

Time tends to help sales leaders better understand the depth of this particular finding after they learn what to look for and listen to.  Then, as they listen to their salespeople in conversations and observe their actions and behaviors they are able to see it.  

Despite the occasional pushback, this finding remains one of the single most important findings we produce.  Why?  The commitment finding is extremely predictive of whether or not salespeople will change, grow, improve performance and reach their fullest potential.

Are all of your salespeople unconditionally committed to their sales success?

A sales force evaluation will uncover that and much, much more.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, complacency, OMG evaluation, commitment to sales success

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight 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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