Step One – Sales Team Evaluations
The first thing we must do is to obtain a full holistic understanding and clarity on how your sales team works and how effective they are. The very best way to achieve this is to evaluate each team member utilising the sales assessment tool from the Objective Management Group. Sales analysis is not something to be done half-heartedly. Failing to run an adequate analysis could see you implementing solutions that simply don’t work - costing you precious time, energy and resources. Many other aspects of your business depend on getting your sales analysis right. Everything flows on from here - your sales plan, processes, strategic, messaging, training and recruitment - everything! It pays to do your groundwork thoroughly.
Each of your sales team will receive a comprehensive personalised evaluation report. The evaluation examines everything from skills and mindset to the sales process. It details their strengths and weaknesses in sales and provides comprehensive insights into how this affects their individual performance. It helps sales managers and CEOs to clearly identify the weak points in their system without having to guess at it. This allows you to increase sales force performance by identifying competency gaps and required behaviour changes. This enables sales management to effectively leverage the insights through effective coaching and people management.
Step Two – Plan for Success
After completing the sales analysis, you will have a good understanding of what’s working and not working for your sales team and your business at large. It’s now time to strategically focus on the weak points and create a plan to develop these areas and set your growth targets. This is your sales plan – strategy and execution, and it’s a vital roadmap to your goals.
A good sales plan should map where your current revenue is coming from and what future channels to strategically target to reach your growth goals. It’s much harder to reach a goal if you don’t know what it is. Having clear objectives means you and your team can make good strategic decisions that contribute towards your sales growth goals.
Ideal target market
The key component of a sales plan is to strategically identify the ways to reach your goals as fast as possible to maximise your return on time (ROT). The first step to achieving this is to identify your target market. A good place to start is with your current customers. Which ones generate the most profit for the least amount of effort and time? What industries are they in? What type of business are they? Who inside that business do you need to speak to?
Strategic messaging with cut through
With your target market identified, your sales plan should also include the strategic messaging (your positioning statement and unique value proposition) to make customers want to buy from you, rather than your competition. Your strategic messaging needs to be powerful from the start as you’ve only got about 10 seconds to make a strong first impression.
Get everyone involved
Remember, those who plan the fight won’t fight the plan. One of the biggest mistakes we see is sales managers not involving their team. If you bestow a plan on your salespeople without their buy in they will most likely push back saying something like… “that’s unrealistic” or “we can’t get there”. However, if you involve them and facilitate individual plans that cascade upwards to an overarching plan, they’ll buy into it. They’ll take ownership of it and you can hold them accountable because they’ve helped develop it.
Step Three – Best Practice Sales Process
Implementing an effective sales process will lead to phenomenal and consistent results. A lack of process means salespeople constantly wing it, sales cycles linger on for what seems like forever, and sales leaders are left frustrated and unable to manage their teams. All this translates to inconsistent sales results.
The importance of an effective sales process
For growing companies, not having the right sales process can cause a lot of havoc. For fast growth companies it can spell certain doom since there’s no accurate way to predict where their next sale will come from. A solid sales process can fix all that. However, not any old process will do - you need to tailor it to your business and customer. Some of our best breakthroughs with clients have come when they have taken the time and effort to develop and implement a customer focused sales process based on best practice.
Without well-defined stages or milestones, there’s no need for your salespeople to make up a process on the fly. Milestones not only make your salespeople more effective and hold them accountable to completing the right steps, but they also help sales managers to know exactly where sales are in the pipeline, and what needs to happen to progress them into the next phase.
Milestones make it easier for sales managers to coach their salespeople. The visibility a process provides means sales managers can identify the steps their salespeople excel and struggle in. It helps them identify why their salespeople are or aren’t meeting their targets. For example, without a process, all a manager knows is that their rep isn’t meeting their quota. However, with a milestone process in place, a manager might see that their salesperson is doing an excellent job of finding leads, but then fails when it comes to following them up. From there, the manager can take steps to coach their rep in this specific area.
According to the 2017 World-Class Sales Practices Study, 54% of sales organisations do not formally align their sales process or other aspects of how they sell to the specific journey their customers take. To develop an effective sales process, it needs to be fit for purpose, so a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. According to the same study, organisations that align their process to their customer journey report sales quota attainment rates of up to 14% greater than the average. It’s another reason why establishing your ideal target markets is so essential.
Involve your team
A company might have 100 salespeople, but there are not 100 ways to sell a product. There’s one best practice way. Calling upon your top salespeople to help develop the sales process can help you understand what best practice looks like. However, it’s just as important to talk to all your team to get an understanding of what doesn’t work. Moreover, in helping to develop the sales process, they buy into it, are more likely to follow it and, as a result, become more effective. This all leads to consistent results and shorter sales cycles.
Keep it simple
When it comes to sales processes, “keep it simple” applies. People won’t follow a process that has information overload. Short, simple and to the point serves best.
Having a formal documented process is a huge asset to sales managers, particularly when they are coaching and onboarding new staff.
Step Four – KPI’s and Sales Systems to Measure Against
Without a set of sales KPI’s and an effective system to track and monitor them, a sales team is operating without knowing where the goal posts are is a recipe for inconsistent results. The lack of clarity affects all levels of a sales team too. Individuals have no focus, managers can’t see if their team is performing (or not), and leaders lose the ability to forecast accurately.
Review your lagging indicators
Lagging indicators consists of output or outcome metrics, such as month to date revenue, profit, and deals won, labour cost per unit - essentially anything that is a result. While lagging KPI’s are necessary, they have some limitations and only focusing only on lagging indicators is where most companies get it wrong. They are important, but they are historic. You cannot go back and change it - you can only learn from it for next time.
Develop and incorporate your leading indicators
Leading indicators are behavioural measures. Leading indicators can be the number of phone calls, the number of referrals, the number of meetings, the number of proposals presented. They are the things we can influence now to change the outcome. These are what we focus on.
Finding the best sales systems
Businesses can use one or many sales systems to help track and measure KPI’s. However, the biggest error companies make is choosing systems that don’t replicate their sales process. You need to have good systems in place to measure those KPI’s. The most effective are those that allow salespeople, sales managers and CEOs to see deals going through the milestones of their sales process. Having a dashboarded system not only helps you track KPI’s and deals, but helps managers pick up on non-performers. Most of all, it helps business leaders forecast. Without effective systems you can’t see what’s in the pipeline to close in the next week or month. It causes a huge amount of stress.
Step Five – Develop Effective Sales Management
Implementing good leadership and focusing on culture can double your business. Leadership is about people, and management is about tasks. The best managers and leaders are those who excel at both aspects. To quote Peter Drucker… “management is about doing things right, leadership is about doing the right things”. Good sales managers will know how to conduct effective sales meetings and hold people accountable - the practical aspects of running a sales team. They also need to embody leadership qualities, such as listening, not telling, and coaching. This is important to develop a high performing sales team.
A lack of coaching is the number one reason why sales managers and leaders don’t get results - both from themselves and their sales teams. Where most companies, and sales managers, get
it wrong is they simply don’t spend enough time coaching. Ideally 50% of their time should be spent coaching their salespeople. Research from the Objective Management Group (OMG) shows that only 3% of sales managers hit this coaching time quota. A sales manager’s job is to grow people to grow sales. If you’re not growing people, you’re not growing sales and you’ll never reach your growth targets.
Hold your salespeople accountable
Start reviewing your KPI’s at your weekly sales meetings. This is your opportunity to set out what your team’s goals are and what activities to focus on for the week. Meetings should focus on some positive news and reviewing the week that was. This includes inspecting the KPI’s, such as the number of discovery meetings, the number of proposal meetings and deals won. It should also inspect the pipeline of what’s coming up.
Step Six – Recruit the Right People
As a sales manager, hire candidates who are better than the people you had before - it’s one of the fastest ways to grow your sales. The best way to ensure you hire the right people is to use a recruitment strategy that employs science and process for maximum effect.
Identify the profile of salesperson
Get clear on the type of salesperson you are looking for. This will relate back to your sales plan. Having a solid sales plan will mean that when it’s time to recruit, you know exactly what capabilities candidates need to have, as well as the capabilities your team needs to maintain and grow its sales. Also, get clear on the markets they are selling to. Do they call on CEOs, managers, technicians or mums and dads? Are they selling in a competitive market or are you the only game in town? Does your business sell a conceptual service or a product that you can demo? Is it a long, complex process or transactional? Will candidates be expected to sell on value or price? Do you need an account manager, a farmer or a hunter?
Make it a process, not an event
Sales recruitment is not a one-off event as from time to time you will always have to hire new salespeople. Where many sales managers go wrong is not making it an ongoing process. You should be recruiting all the time - that doesn’t mean you have to hire all the time, but you should be always networking, looking for salespeople who will fit into your culture and have the capabilities your business needs. You need to build a solid candidate bench and always be top-grading.
Use a pre-hire assessment
If you want to hire the right salesperson, start with science. It is the key to making good, strategic hiring decisions. Not all salespeople or roles are the same. Science is the first step to assessing whether a candidate suits the type of sales role your company needs. To succeed in sales, candidates need the right mindset & skill set. It’s not always apparent at the first meeting, and a lot of sales managers miss it. That’s where a pre-hire assessment comes in as it removes the guesswork. A pre-hire assessment tests for the essential psychological traits that candidates need if they are to succeed in the new role. The willingness to sell is critical as salespeople with this mindset will do whatever it takes to be successful. If the willingness to sell is missing in your new hire, you’ve got problems. Hire attitude over aptitude. Time and time again, attitude beats aptitude. Hiring someone with the right mindset is key.
Qualify candidates according to sales process and target market
Look for candidates who have experience selling in a similar target market to you, along with those who have used a sales process that matches yours. You’re looking for sales people who can execute on your process, or the part of the process you’re hiring them for. A common mistake sales manager’s make is they see that a candidate was the top rep at Company ABC and hire them for their own business. Only their business uses a different sales methodology and process, so the candidate’s skills aren’t compatible.
Ask behavioural based questions in your interviews to encourage a candidate to demonstrate their experience in using a similar sales process to yours, and how they define success. Questions could include… how did you bring on a new client, what was the most successful client you brought onboard and how did you do it, tell me a time where your sales were in a slump and how did you come out of it, tell me how you dealt with a client that pushed back on something they didn’t want and how did you handle that? Don’t forget to validate what candidates tell you. As the saying goes, salespeople do their best selling at the interview!
Step Seven – Sales Mindset
In sales, it really is mind over matter. No amount of skills training will overcome a poor selling psychology. In fact, we’ve found that 80% per cent of a salesperson’s success comes down to mindset. It’s why hiring people with the right mindset is so critical to developing a high-performance sales team. Can you improve the selling psychology of your salespeople through training? The answer is yes, you can. It’s also the most effective sales training your team can undertake. Our biggest breakthroughs have been training in mindset - it makes salespeople far, far more effective.
The will to sell
Skills, while important, mean nothing if a salesperson lacks the five essential components that fuels a salesperson’s drive to sell. These are:
- Desire - does the salesperson have a strong desire to be successful?
- Commitment - do they have the unconditional commitment to doing everything they can to hit their targets? Are they prepared to do the stuff that will make them successful even if it is scary or uncomfortable? Whether that’s picking up the phone (cold calling), presenting a proposal to a group, or having a conversation with a CEO. A lot of salespeople want to be successful, but they lack that real commitment to do whatever it takes. Salespeople have to be tenacious.
- Responsibility - do your salespeople and sales manager take responsibility for their activities, or do they make excuses? Do they blame external factors on their failure, or do they look internally and ask what they could have done better? Top salespeople and sales managers have a huge amount of self-responsibility, and without the internal conversations they will never get better.
- Outlook - how positive are they? Do they look at a market and see an abundance of opportunities or a scarcity of them? A strong outlook tends to result in more resilient salespeople who can handle rejection.
These “willingness to sell” traits are the foundations of a successful selling mindset. Without them, salespeople are not just ineffective, but virtually untrainable.
There are several psychological barriers that can hold a salesperson back and prevent them from
being effective. While they are common, especially in sales teams that struggle to hit their targets, they can be overcome. These barriers include:
- Need for approval - the need to be liked by others. This weakness gets in the way of asking tough questions to become a trusted advisor and advance a sale. This weakness alone can have a 33% impact on a salesperson’s ability to close a sale.
- Self-limiting beliefs - selling is about belief. Belief in oneself, the product, the company, the value proposition and price point. Without it, self-limiting beliefs can form, such as “this sales process is ineffective” and “I can’t sell on value”. Even if it’s never verbalised, it can have a massive impact on a salesperson’s psyche. It can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. You start to buy into that self-limiting belief, and it then limits the activity you do and how effective you are at it.
- Uncontrolled emotion - salespeople who get emotionally involved tend to act erratic and get flustered easily. Their decisions are not always rational, which can cause them to deviate from your sales process.
- Money weakness - being uncomfortable discussing money, budgets and finance is a major issue for a salesperson. Not only can it prevent them from fully understanding their customer’s needs, but they also tend to discount things and can’t sell on value.
- Buy-cycle weakness - this is the tendency to empathise with people who have a similar buying process to you. If you’re an impulse buyer, you expect others to be as well, which could result being assertive at closing time, and likely to close more and faster deals. Likewise, if you prefer to spend time considering a purchase, you might miss an opportunity to close a sale, as you may think the prospects wants to think it over and comparison shop, resulting in blown out sales cycles and can impact closing by 50%.
We refer to these psychological conditions as the “human handbrake” as we are often not aware of them and they can slow us down. Combine these weaknesses together: the need for approval with a 33% impact on closing, buy-cycle weakness with a 50% impact, self-limiting beliefs, and money weakness, and it really starts to add up. When you look at it this way, it’s easy to see why some salespeople and sales managers are not effective.
Step Eight – Develop Solid Sales Skills
Selling does not rely on luck. Not having the right set of skills and knowledge will hamstring any team. Training salespeople and sales managers to have the necessary skills to perform in their role is vital, but it’s not always easy. Examples of the skills salespeople tend to lack are:
- Consultative selling - it’s the one skill to rule them all. Consultative selling is an extremely effective selling method that encourages prospects to self-close. It’s ideal for salespeople who are not strong at closing or handling objections.
- Good account management - having strong account managers who know the techniques and strategies to upsell and cross-sell to existing clients to increase the amount they purchase is a huge asset to growing companies.
- Negotiation skills - the ability to uphold price and sell on value comes down to a salesperson’s ability to negotiate with clients.
Sales skills training is like sharpening a set of tools: without it, the tools are blunt and they’re more difficult and time consuming to use. However, with the right training, a salesperson can learn to hone their selling tools for better efficiency and cut-through. There’s just one problem. More often than not, sales training doesn’t work. Research shows that 85-90% of sales training has no lasting impact. Moreover, less than half of the companies in Australasia actually have the sales skills they need to grow. Therein lies the crux of the dilemma: how do companies ensure their sales teams can learn and retain the skills they need for growth? It comes down to your approach and strategy.
Identify where your skills gaps are
Use a sales assessment tool to uncover the skills your team has and where they need to improve. It is far easier and cost-effective to analyse your team to understand what skills are missing from the get-go. It removes all guesswork.
Make it relevant to the job and sales process
The training you provide should be based on your sales process. Map out the skills your team has against it. Are there any gaps? Skills training that isn’t related to a salesperson’s industry or role won’t sink in. They need to be the right skills for the right job and the right process.
Train as a team
While individual training is important, don’t forget to train together as a team as well. This ensures everyone is on the same page when it comes to skills, knowledge, process and best practice.
Embed it in your culture
The goal of sales training is to change behaviour, but that takes time. A one-off training event isn’t going to cut it. It’s all very well conducting sales training, but unless you incorporate the learnings into your workplace and encourage your staff to execute on them, nothing will change. A majority of sales teams lack consistent skill-based training. They just wing it. High-performance athletes must continually train to stay competitive and at the top of their sport. It’s the same for sales. This is where coaching from sales managers is vital. With consistent, ongoing coaching, they can help turn learnings into everyday skills that their teams can call upon.
Use blended learning
Not everyone learns the same way, so why provide all training in the same format? Instead, use a variety of formats and mediums to cover all your bases. Most of your training should involve getting your sales team out there in the field, trialling the tactics, making mistakes, learning from their losses and their wins, with their sales managers riding shotgun to observe. You can do this following the 70/20/10 principle. Here’s the breakdown:
10% of training through formal training, such as live workshops.
20% through ongoing coaching
70% through experiential learning on the job.
Train your sales managers
The best player doesn’t always make the best coach. Sales managers also need skills-based raining. The list of skills is quite long, from the ability to run effective meetings to forecasting and planning. However, two essential skills sales managers are often missing are coaching and recruitment. Without these, a sales team’s ability to grow and improve is limited.
Step Nine – Coach for Performance
Coaching keeps sales teams optimised for performance. Their minds are set to win, their skills
honed, and they are focused on executing your sales process - not veering off track. All up, it leads
to strong, consistent sales. The kind that a growing business needs in order to scale. However, to remain successful, sales managers need to spend at least half their time coaching.
There’s just one problem - 97% of sales managers don’t and only 7% have the necessary skills to be an effective coach. Chances are, what coaching you’re doing (if any) is probably ineffective. Now for the good news. Implementing a performance coaching programme for sales teams
can have far-reaching gains for your company.
Performance coaching creates effective people and top performing teams who celebrate success. It’s an important part of creating a winning culture. Some guidelines for implementing a performance coaching programme are:
- Invest the time - sales managers should invest at least half their time coaching. A lack of coaching is the number one reason why sales managers don’t get results - both from themselves and their sales teams.
- Be accountable - sales coaching requires the discipline and routine to consistently hold your salespeople accountable to agreed actions and outcomes. The best way to achieve that is to incorporate a regular coaching session into your sales meetings and one-on-ones.
- Have a growth mindset - when debriefing with your salespeople utilise models such as Win/Learn/Change and GROW to motivate and challenge the constraints of their existing mindsets. This supports positive conversations and helps them to consider new ways of working, and to question their perceptions of what is possible.
- Ask don’t tell - performance coaches take an Ask approach. Instead of telling your salespeople what to do, ask them meaningful questions. This allows the salesperson to go through their own thought process to create their own solutions, which gains their buy in and increases their engagement.
- Be customer centric - your coaching should relate to your own customer centric sales process and the skills it requires, ensuring that your salespeople can execute those skills, and are effective in each part of the process.
- Invest in the right tools and resources - having the right tools and frameworks on hand is a real asset. A good coaching course can provide these including coaching toolkits for sales managers to run effective coaching sessions with their own salespeople.
- Learn from the best - learn from those who have been there and done it. Real world experience far outweighs any theoretical knowledge. It’s very important to query a sales trainer’s credentials and coaching ability.
Engagement Partners and SalesStar have proven success in predicting sales potential and future performance and will deliver results to match.