If your company is focused on business-to-business (B2B) sales of products or services, then making sure your sales force is effectively delivering new top line sales is likely your principal focus. B2B sales is considerably more complex and difficult than consumer sales of course, requiring higher levels of competency in sales and marketing overall.
In this first section we’ll explore the first of seven areas of sales performance that seem to be the most troublesome. This is where we are asked most often to provide sales coaching and other types of sales consulting support and advice for clients.
1. Recruiting Great Sales Talent
Many organizations are running along in second gear, unable to gain the level of market traction available to them. Most CEO’s, sales and business development executives realize that there are usually several causes for this, not just one. In an earlier post we described ten key imperatives for CEOs in search of sales excellence. Here we will focus on recruiting a great sales force.
For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll assume that your organization’s market alignment and competitive differentiation are adequate and your “revenue mechanism” or blend of sales and marketing resources is fairly well optimized.
I’ll introduce a number of questions that should help you think through how well you organization is doing, and I’ll also provide you with some guideposts to help you consider whether you should keep your company-owned sales force, outsource your sales force altogether, or bring in sales consultants or utilize sales coaching; determine what are the best profiles of the sales people for your organization; recruiting the best people against those profiles and the constraints of your culture and budget; and recruiting (or outsourcing) your sales force in such a way that your new team members will be more easy to retain.
So let’s first look at pain points and then how your organization recruits.
Sales Problems and Symptoms
Sales-related problems or pain points such as poor top-line revenue production, low close rates, high customer turnover, and other forms of poor sales performance, point to breakdowns in one or more organizational processes that may or may not have to do with sales directly. But if they do, several processes and activities may be involved.
As a sales consulting and coaching firm, identifying the process behind the pain is half the battle. Having done this, it becomes much easier to identify the root causes and provide appropriate sales advice that will be impactful, enabling the CEO or sales and business development executives to take the necessary steps to achieve the desired improvement. Of all these, sales talent, or the lack thereof, seems to be the most common culprit, especially with smaller businesses.
To their credit, one of the most difficult areas for recruiters and HR professionals is recruiting sales professionals and inside sales talent. In addition to being very difficult, the HR folks and recruiters have a whirlwind of political agendas and opinions to deal with. Everyone seems to think they know who might make a good sales professional, including a host of folks who may have never sold anything at all.
Whether you are considering a company-owned sales force or an outsourced professional sales force, invest a few moments reviewing the following questions that relate to the process of identifying and recruiting inside and outside sales professionals.
- Does your sales force represent a competitive advantage for your company? If yes, keep it in-house and invest more on sales coaching and sales consulting. If not, and you feel it can never be so due to cultural issues for example, consider hiring an outsourced sales professional or outsourcing firm that can deliver an exceptional sales force that can present a competitive advantage to the market.
- Secondly, is there alignment of recruitment practices with company operating objectives, e.g., relevancy of individual performance management measures to organizational performance? Simply said, “Are we measuring and recruiting against the things that predict success?
- Do my organization’s recruiting resources have a clear understanding of the company’s strategic plan, go-to-market strategy, value propositions and positioning against competitors?
- Are they able to communicate this effectively, thereby supporting and strengthening the company brand in recruitment advertising and conversations with candidates?
- Do we understand the most critical team competencies required to be successful in the existing and proposed selling environments?
- Have we studied the existing sales organization structure, sales strategy and individual team members? Do we understand fully both a) how best to team resources (especially in multidisciplinary environments such as B2B sales and services) and b) what are the various combinations of characteristics, skills, attitudes and aptitudes that successful inside and field sales professionals possess?
- Do we know how best to team individual contributors so as to complement varying skill sets and achieve optimal performance overall?
- Whether in a teamed selling environment or as individual contributors, do we have and really understand the math on an individual inside or outside sales force member , i.e., can we recognize who in our organization is truly performing vs. those who have inherited existing business or are making the effort but cannot execute the behaviors that will result in sales an enhanced margins?
- Have we introduced and installed the assessment tools set to ensure personality, experience, skills, and aptitude are in alignment with our model?
- Finally, is our compensation planning process reflective of the most valued outcomes contained within the strategic plan and reasonable given the tactical sales plan and individual goals?
Most people have difficulty with these issues both due to the inherent complexity, as well as the political and budgetary constraints they face.
2. Resource Optimization
This component centers around whether your blend of “go-to-market” resources (or what Sales OverDrive partners call “Revenue Mechanism”) is optimal for your company.
Blending Resources for Optimal Results
So for the purpose of this discussion, let’s assume that you have a terrific sales and marketing strategy, great coaching and mentoring from a world class sales leader or a great sales consulting firm providing sales tips and ongoing coaching. Lets also assume that you’ve hired a terrific team of company-owned or outsourced sales professionals. Finally, let’s assume again that your revenue strategy is aligned with the market and with your organization’s unique competencies, products and services.
However, for some reason your sales team is still performing under your expectations. New, top-line revenue growth is slow, and wins are difficult to repeat. When we coach in this area, we typically introduce a number of questions that evoke a wide variety of responses, each of which point to one or more symptoms.
Therefore, as in the first article on recruiting, I’ll provide you with some guidelines, questions and things to consider as you look closely at whether your sales and marketing functions are resourced properly and whether that blend of activities and resources is yielding 1) the greatest possible sales growth 2) at the greatest speed 3) at the highest margins 4) with the most desirable customers and highest possible ROI while 5) enhancing your brand.
A Word of Caution
Please take special note: If you are outsourcing sales, it would be very wise to take a close look at resource modeling being used by the sales outsourcing firm.
Many of the sales outsourcing firms that have come into the field since the mid-90’s are actually “body shops” and several of the largest players have been owned by recruiting firms.
The term “body shop” means that their underlying economic model, and margins are based on the number of people earning a “mark-up” on your account. So often these firms forget or have no ability to do the smart thinking up front but rather use the “hammer” assertion that their people are “great people” and can sell anything for you. They normally give only lip service to the “scalpel” of careful thinking. So if you see this in an outsourcing firm you are considering, don’t walk! RUN as fast as you can to a firm like Sales OverDrive.
So why do you want a firm like Sales OverDrive? First of all, Sales OverDrive is a professional services firm focused on helping clients drive profitable sales growth at the lowest cost regardless of the blend of resources (Revenue Mechanism) with no economic bias or dogma. It is for this reason and not by chance that we are the oldest and most successful B2B sales consultancy and outsourcing firm in the United States, having served successfully more than 750 clients of all sizes, never having borrowed, taken on an investor or posted a loss quarter. If you outsource, use a firm like ours.
One thing we’ve seen consistently over the last sixteen years is that sales and marketing problems point to one or more process(s) that may or may not have to do with sales directly. As a sales outsourcing firm and sales consultancy, if we can identify the process behind the pain point, it becomes much easier to identify the root cause and take the necessary steps to achieve the improvement that’s desired.
Today, consider again a number of questions. These questions all relate to the overriding question of whether your investments in sales and marketing are as effective as they should be and if they are providing as high a return as possible. Whether your sales and marketing talent is company owned or outsourced, invest some time carefully considering the following questions and you should have a much better idea as to whether your Revenue Mechanism is optimal. For many somewhat larger companies, let me suggest that you consider doing some financial modeling as well. As always, our staff can assist you with all of these questions and issues.
1. Do I know all of the areas in which we are making investments in sales and marketing?
2. Do I have any statistics on the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and public relations efforts?
3. Has the effectiveness of my direct sales force been measured from a return on investment standpoint?
4. Which of the sales and marketing investments has the greatest leveraging effect on top line revenue generation and which are focused principally on existing customers?
5. Is there good logic behind the notion of dividing the efforts between new customer creation and growing revenue with existing customers?
6. Is it possible for me to match the numbers with the resources and determine which are yielding the highest return?
7. Were I to start over today, where are the areas in which I would make sales and marketing investments to achieve the greatest possible revenue impact?
8. With the pressure on my revenue and margins, should I focus my resources more on the near term, or establish a blend of resources that will deliver both now and over the longer term?
9. Have I considered other types of resources that I’m not employing now? Am I utilizing my sales and business development resources as effectively as I could, or should I add lead generation or other things that would accelerate sales growth (Key Accelerators ™)?
10. Are my lead generation investments keeping my sales personnel busy with customers?
1. Does my resource model for sales and marketing generally reflect what my competitors are doing?
2. Is there something about the way my competitors are going to market that gives them the advantage?
3. How does my sales and marketing engine compare structurally with those of my most successful competitors?
4. Do I have any key accelerators that will put me ahead of the pack?
5. Do I have the right resources through which my company is communicating the right message to the right prospects at the right time?
6. Do the competencies of my sales and marketing staff match or exceed those of the most successful competitor?
7. Am I leading in the race for market share?
In all likelihood, some or many of these questions have incomplete answers or none at all. Please don’t be discouraged. Determining the most efficient and potent use of available financial resources for capturing the greatest possible total revenue can be overwhelming at first. The good news is that it is not that difficult to optimize your go to market mechanism through the use of some deliberate analysis and deployment of relatively simple methodologies.
4. Performance Roadmaps
In this fourth section we’ll look at a generalized “Performance or Success Roadmap” for achieving extraordinary success as a CEO, Sales Leader, Sales Coach, Sales Consultant, or anyone with the daunting task of coaching sales professionals in achieving sales performance.
First, I think it will be helpful to draw a distinction between a Success Roadmap (also often referred to as Performance System) and a sales and marketing process. A Success Roadmap is that system of beliefs, goals and objectives, processes, skills and motivation that make individual and company performance possible. Our job as sales coaches at Sales Overdrive is to assist client companies in assembling all of the necessary resources, processes and talent, and then to coach and mentor individuals, teams and organizations toward achieving the company’s objectives. Effective sales and marketing processes are vitally important, but remain parts of a larger system. So when we discuss Success Roadmaps, it will be with this broader view in mind.
The Performance Roadmap for Sales
Any effective Performance Roadmap will include the following elements:
1. Essential Assets
- Growth Strategy
- Sales Processes & Systems
- Personal Competencies
- Management Practices
- Skills Development
2. Goals and Objectives
3. Core Values and Guiding Principles
4. Reward Systems
Essential Assets consist of all those things against which a sales coach can reasonably be expected to measure and benchmark the skills and effectiveness of individual contributors and that of the organization overall as it pertains to competing in the marketplace. Essential Assets is a large topic that warrants a deep dive. We will devote the last three articles in this series to this area.
Goals and Objectives are common to all organizations. Alignment between individual, team and enterprise goals is essential in order to understand behaviors, measure performance and provide appropriate coaching. Setting and/or validating the appropriateness of company and sales team goals and objectives is a key function for sales coaches, sales and marketing leaders and CEOs.
Core Values and Guiding Principles come to life when communicated across the organization, written and rewritten, and lived out in the language and behavior of the team, especially the sales and marketing team.
But Core Values differ from Guiding Principles. Core Values are those vital few values that all members of the organization are expected to use, live by and demonstrate on a daily basis while executing their work responsibilities. Core Values are the essential and enduring tenets of an organization. Every Sales Coach must live and breathe the Core Values in their all the roles we discussed last week, but especially in their roles as Champion, Mentor and Evangelist.
Guiding Principles, on the other hand are the fundamental beliefs that guide the operation of a sales team or specific program, such as a Tier I pursuit team. As an example, the Core Values developed for a Sales Organization we served recently included these:
Open, Honest Communication – Speaking with one another openly and directly, bringing the hallway conversations into the meeting rooms. Listening intently and encouraging different ideas and opinions.
Teamwork and Collaboration – Working together, with the Company as the priority; even if this means supporting something you might want to do differently. Basing all decisions on what is best for the Company. Making sure that the Company, not the individual, has the biggest ego.
Involving Everyone – Seeking the best information from all sources while supporting decisions made by those closest to the situation. Each person who uses his or her voice to better the Company will be rewarded. Everyone must believe his or her voice will make a difference.
“Boundarylessness” – Sharing knowledge and relationships in a fresh, open environment. Taking the time to share your knowledge with others. Accepting great ideas regardless of their source.
Leaders Who Serve – Leading is not about power or control, but is measured by the success of those on the team being led. Leaders don’t get on the backs of their people – they get behind and push. Leadership is a privilege and a responsibility.
Personal Accountability – Set clear, aggressive goals and deliver on your commitments. Every person keeps his or her word by doing what is promised including showing up for meetings on time. Surely these Core Values would exemplify not only a great sales organization, but the senior sales coach as well.
As you can see, Guiding Principles are the fundamental beliefs that guide the daily operation of a sales team or specific program. They are the standards for behaviors that are more specific and aligned with a particular campaign, sales program or team of sales professionals all pushing to achieve common goals.
The following are the key Guiding Principles we co-developed with a professional services client recently:
Understanding Our Market
- Continuously analyze the marketplace, forecasting future trends and service needs for purposes of investment decisions.
- Know our competition and the relationships they maintain within our existing clients and target clients.
Capturing and Servicing Opportunities
- Protect and nurture existing client relationships, continuously measuring client satisfaction.
- Actively pursue relationships that create profitable business opportunities for us and for our clients.
- Dominate the Dallas/Fort Worth market as the premier professional services organization.
- Develop new practice areas based on anticipated demand, risk profile, and potential profitability.
- Optimize the pricing of our services based on the market’s perception of value.
- Continuously improve the following elements as the foundation of our competitive advantage: relationship management; technical skills and industry knowledge; and technology.
Minding Our Business
- Working as one SBU, meet or exceed profitability expectations of the Firm.
- Proactively manage business risk factors in relation to expected rewards.
- Continuously improve our service delivery system, focusing on the effectiveness and efficiency of both the practice organization and its supporting infrastructure.
Developing Our Resources
- Directly link the office’s strategic goals with performance and contribution goals for individual partners and managers.
- Create an environment that allows each partner and employee to reach their full professional and personal potential, capitalizing on their diversity.
- Support our partners and employees as they expand and enhance their skill bases to ensure success in a rapidly changing business environment.
So as you can see, how your organization defines its core values and guiding principles has a huge impact on the unity, focus and direction of an organization. It also provide a great platform for coaching in some of the areas that are not purely “by the numbers”. I encourage every CEO, Sales Leader and Sales Coach to look at their organization’s core values and guiding principles very carefully to see if they 1) are appropriate for the enterprise in today’s environment, 2) if they align with organizational goals and objectives, and 3) if they can be leveraged for enhanced communication, greater organizational focus and the development of a common language around sales and, finally 4) if they can be used as an effective framework in mentoring your people.
Often referred to as a component of a sales process, Reward Systems are broken out here as a separate element of the Performance Roadmap. I’ve done this due to the opportunity it can provide both for sales coaching, and for its potential impact on organizational success. The best compensation and reward plans are tightly aligned with the business and sales strategy. The worst are causes of dissatisfaction and attrition. Your compensation plan needs to reward (or at least support) the application of your go-to-market strategy and sales process as well as performance against you revenue and/or customer goals.
Too often, compensation plans focus exclusively on the metrics surrounding outcomes such as proposals issued, proposals converted, quarterly closings and the like. While these are important, doesn’t it make more sense in every sales coaching session to look behind the numbers and closely examine the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and the root behaviors that are the most predictive of success or failure?
Please note that I’m pretty fanatical about the importance of coaching around KPIs and the larger topic of “Predictive Behaviors”. The reason I believe this area should be treated separately from sales process and other Assets is that it’s such an important area is missed so often by so many very smart people.
Frankly, I believe this is one of the most glaring misses for Sales Coaches and it is often missing entirely in compensation plans. Oh, someone in you company’s HR department noticed that rewarding around Predictive Behavior is difficult to measure and somewhat risky to do? So we should dismiss achieving sales excellence and wining the market because it’s very difficult? Of course not!
So let me share just four of twelve KPI’s that seem much more predictive of success than the number of calls we might make per week, for example. These four favorites of mine are adaptability, ability to create value applications in real time, emotional awareness and the ability to create trust. But someone said you can’t teach or coach around these? Yes you can indeed. Most of these can be measured and I can share our tools with you on this as well.
5. Essential Assets for Sales Leaders – Growth Strategy
As discussed, effective Performance Roadmaps will include at least the following elements we refer to as Essential Assets:
- Growth Strategy
- Sales Processes & Systems
- Personal Competencies
- Management Practices
- Skills Development
Today let’s look briefly at how organizations in differing competitive positions will tend to deploy one or more of four essential growth strategies when it comes to dealing with competitive pressures.
Then everything else aside for the moment, let’s look at how an organization’s sales process will (or may need to) differ or flex as a function of the industries being pursued.
Then we’ll look at one of the most powerful Key Sales Accelerators: Appointment Setters and Lead Generation/Qualification and its potential impact on sales velocity, relationship enhancement and sales growth.
Growth Strategy and Competitive Posture
There are any number of commonly-used approaches to the market which fall into the general category of Growth Strategy. Please note that in this article we are discussing growth strategy only in terms of sales-related activities. While your Company’s Growth Strategy will have many components, it will likely have more to do with your company’s competitive position in the market place than anything else.
If your company is one of the recognized leaders in your industry, your strategy may be to “Defend” that leadership position. This is often accomplished by Exposing the Competition, contrasting their weaknesses with your strengths.
On the other hand, if you are not one of the leading competitors but you do have what you believe is be a significant advantage, your organizational strategy might be “Direct” or what some refer to as a “Frontal” strategy. Attacking the competition at the weakest points where you have an advantage is central to this approach.
Companies that are at par or weaker than most of their rivals will often adopt a “Flanking” strategy by either pursuing those opportunities less hotly contested, or by leveraging one or more “Key Accelerators” to create a game-changing advantage such as relationship superiority over their competitors. This is a very common and effective strategy in the services sector where most providers appear undifferentiated.
Finally, those companies that are unable or unwilling to commit resources will commonly use a “Guerilla” strategy, seizing and attempting to capitalize on any opportunity regardless of the source, employing a variety of tactics that might seem illogical or inconsistent to an outside observer.
Industry Driven Process Variations
So let’s imagine that your company sells in the B2B arena and pursuing prospects in the following Industries:
Think for a moment with me about 1) the two or three most important elements to your process when investing time and resources into pursuing companies in these industries, and 2) how will that impact your approach as you pursue them.
So let’s decide what our process for Technology companies will be. Since this industry is vast and tremendously varied, I’m guessing that the majority of us would think that qualifying targets would be essential, followed by identifying needs that your capabilities will address (qualifying again), and understanding and influencing decision makers at multiple levels to adopt (close on) your solution or product.
Services companies have a tendency to be more relational in their buying behavior. So we can be expected to understand the company culture and their decision makers thoroughly, to exhibit superior relational skills, and to identify and co-develop solutions to problems and opportunities that may or may not be active. For these companies, identifying, co-developing a solution and closing, or “Adopting” our solution is more of a continuous process for service companies, so building trusting relationships very quickly is key. There is a Key Accelerator for this we can discuss at a later time.
Medical company decision makers, on the other hand, are less relational and more skeptical in general. Positioning you organization as a thought leader or one that has a successful track record serving medical companies very much like them is especially important. Identifying problems, co-developing solutions and providing subject matter experts will also be important. So qualifying these prospects and the opportunities that may exist will usually require a significantly higher level of research and qualification prior to committing resources to a given pursuit in this industry.
For selling to Manufacturers, your sales process will involve qualifying of both target companies and opportunities within them, understanding the decision making process, building relationships, and co-developing solutions that can be adopted. Here also, positioning and relationships at various levels and departments in the organization will be key.
While the terminology for any given process stage may not differ from industry to industry, CEO’s, Sales Leaders must ensure that there is flexibility in the way the process is utilized as various prospects are pursued.
Key Sales Accelerators
Like nitro methane in the fuel of a race car, certain “Key Accelerators” can make your sales engine run much faster than would be possible otherwise. A Key Accelerator is a specific technique, process or resource that carries a low cost (or none) compared to its impact, is fast and can be deployed to accelerate sales overall, create relational superiority, produce a game-changing advantage or deflect the advances of a competitor from your high priority prospects and key customers.
While there are several I’ll be discussing here in the coming weeks, the one that we see having the most profound and immediate impact on sales for clients in every industry and size company is the effective use of Lead Generation by trained Appointment Setters.
As we think about our process and our prospects in general, it’s quite evident that enormous efforts must be committed to enable your sales executives to prosecute a successful campaign or pursuit. As we were reminded, Appointment Setters, Lead Generators and Sales Support Personnel in general are essential.
Properly trained and managed, Appointment Setters can:
1. target prospects/opportunities best aligned with your offerings and eliminate knockout prospects
2. connect with prospects and initiate productive business conversations
3. qualify prospects’ key agendas and opportunities against your core competencies
4. map the political and decision making landscape at various levels and departments
5. uncover active and latent needs
6. initiate and build on relationships with a variety of prospect stakeholders
7. identify problems and opportunities
8. enhance your brand and increase mindshare while advancing relationships
9. test for and ensure customer satisfaction, and
10. conserve your time by putting your best team in front of the right people at the right moment armed with the right information
Impact of Lead Generation
If you are a CEO or sales leader and you do not have an effective team of Appointment Setters and Lead Generators, you need to get them in place as soon as possible. Sales Overdive executives consider this function to be so important that our clients almost invariably install this function.
We find that for every Appointment Setter or Lead Generator we deploy:
1. the number of prospect decision makers contacted each day increases at least ten fold
2. the ROI for each sales executive supported increases by at least five times
3. productive sales executive hours increase from a maximum or 1.5 hours to 5.5 hours per day
4. the typical sales cycle is shortened at least 30% and normally more than 60%
5. deals in the funnel increases five fold and revenue is at least doubled per sales executive
Why Aren’t Appointment Setters More Utilized?
So why is it that Appointment Setters are not more universally utilized? I believe it is because many have either had a poor experience or know someone who did. As a Sales Leader or Sales Coach it might be a bit risky to recommend that a robust Appointment Setting and Sales Support function be established, but is it not more risky for the company you serve to fall behind its competitors? The key is to outsource the activity to the right firm. This mitigates the risk and eliminates the long term commitment to people and other capital expenses.
But please note that of the 400+ companies we have surveyed offering this service here, in Canada, Mexico, Latin America, the Middle East, Europe, India and Asia, there is only one firm other than Sales Overdrive I would recommend to you without hesitation.
It’s possible to create a sustainable advantage for almost any company even with a relatively small budget for sales. In fact, some of our greatest success stories come from “commodity providers” like staffing, accounting and logistics companies which had no clear differentiation and no compelling value proposition. Their one advantage was the sales superiority that our firm was able to provide.
Next we’ll take a look at two other Assets and another Key Accelerator.
6. Essential Assets for Sales Leaders – Personal Competencies
You may recall that in weeks past, we mentioned that Performance Roadmap for Sales Coaches will necessarily include the following Essential Assets:
- Growth Strategy
- Sales Processes & Systems
- Personal Competencies
- Management Practices
- Skills Development
In just about every B2B sales environment that utilizes sales staff or has a direct sales function, certain competencies are a must. Depending on how difficult, competitive or complex the sales strategy, the requirement for various types of knowledge required will also vary. Here, however, we will just touch on the essential competencies.
A good Sales team will have a command over the subject matter which is the focus of the industry. For example, you would not expect an agribusiness sales executive with no knowledge of technology to do well without substantial sales and industry training in the telecommunications field.
Sales training generally is required for all sales people on the product or service itself, the industry and the market the company serves, the competitive environment, the universe of potential targets and clients, as well as any other “must know” topics such as relevant technology, supply chain dynamics, and the like.
Essential Selling Attributes
Let me preface what I am about to say with this: I love sales people and will move Heaven and Earth to help them. But CEOs should immediately terminate a Sales Leader or Sales Coach who gives any sales person a pass on using the CRM or any other technical aspects of selling because they are “just not very technical” or “too busy”. There will always be “great sales people” who just refuse to grow up and get with the program. These are what we call “Volunteers” (and I don’t mean Jefferson Airplane for all you other Retro’s out there). Volunteers should also be terminated with haste regardless of their book of business. But don’t worry! When you really dig into what they have been doing, you will find more fumbled and lost opportunities, untapped client opportunities, screwed up relationships and just plain pipeline BS under the rug of that Volunteer than you would have imagined.
And as the CEO you want to have some connection with your clients and prospects, correct? Your whole organization – not only the sales person – should know your clients and prospects intimately. CEO, you should OWN the relationships. So just how does this happen if every salient bit of information about the prospect organization, its people, the decision-making landscape and key agendas, etc., are not codified? So if you fear the loss of a particular sales person, ask yourself if the reason isn’t all about who owns the relationship. If it’s the sales person an no one else, you know what to do.
In fact, this lack of multiple layers of relationships between your company and your client and prospect organizations is the worst characteristic and greatest structural flaw of the “commission only” and “independent rep” models. Oh, but with commission only sales people you only pay for the business booked? Think again!! Think lost opportunities, stolen or abandoned relationships and clients at much greater risk.
Technical skills goes beyond putting the minimum information in SalesForce. It’s professional writing (yes that means the CEO DOES NOT HAVE TO PROOF everything that goes out the door). To me that’s just of arrogance and should not be tolerated. Everything should be “customer ready” which is to say PERFECT. I can’t tell you how many times we have won work over competitors because we cared enough to get every dot and tittle correct. My advice? Take no prisoners on technology, desktop and CRM skills and especially writing.
Great Sales Teams will have terrific verbal skills, being adaptive, always listening and endowed with a quick wit to tie stakeholder agendas to your offering, able to sell through objections and to earn trust. In fact, the smartest people you have should comprise your sales force. Yes, the smartest people you have should be your sales people. There is a very high correlation between IQ and sales aptitude. More on this at another time.
Effective sales people must be organized and capable of managing a number of tasks around prioritized objectives as well as understand and manage the agendas, fears and objectives of multiple stakeholders from a variety of disciplines at once, able to create value applications on the fly for each stakeholder while not tripping over other agendas and sacred cows.
Finally, whether you have an internal team or you are outsourcing your sales force, a high level of
selling skills is a must. Though I’ve already covered some of the more important attributes in the paragraphs above, basic sales blocking and tackling, key account targeting, opportunity management and the like will be key to any effective sales organization.
A good deal of sales training and coaching will always be needed. But make sure that it is face-to-face field and conference call coaching, not didactic “one size fits” all training and coaching because that kind of training is generally good for one thing – selling books and CDs. If you are the CEO, Sales Leader or Sales Coach, make it a point to be in the field with your team at least several times a month.
7. Sales Team Assimilation
In this final section, we took a look at Recruiting as a Key Accelerator and some often overlooked Recruiting criteria and prioritizing the selection criteria in a somewhat different fashion than you might have seen in the past.
This post adds some new elements to prior articles on the subject of Managing Sales Professionals once they have been recruited and brought on to the sales team. While volumes have been written on this topic, I’d like to speak specifically to Company Culture and three of the most common things we see holding back the performance of otherwise great sales professionals and great organizations.
Cultural Impediments to Successful Sales Recruitments
Many of the companies that outsource to Sales OverDrive are led by smart management teams that recognize cultural impediments to fast and effective sales management that are deeply ingrained in their company culture. One common example is “Decision Constipation”, the inability to make decisions affecting sales people fast enough to give them a fighting chance.
Boil the Ocean Syndrome
Another example is what I like to call the “Boil the Ocean Syndrome”, which can be summarized in this statement “We know what we want to do but we want to be sure that it’s (Exactly) right”. This tendency has several root causes including the fear of reliving a poor decision made in the past. Anyone who has lived in this type of environment knows how frustrating it can be.
So let me offer a word of encouragement to anyone who recognizes one or both of these behaviors. It’s an imperfect world with imperfect information and imperfect people. Less than perfect decisions will be made, so don’t beat yourself up. Give it your best shot and just get moving! And be sure to give your sales team the freedom to make decisions they need to make. Nothing will happen until the sales team has a clear direction, support and freedom to get into the race and make mistakes.
The ability to make fast decisions and mid-course corrections as they become apparent is mandatory in this hyper competitive world. The inability to make decisions quickly without consternation represents a serious competitive disadvantage.
NEgative Perception by By Non-Sales Staff
A third and equally problematic problem is a resentment or disdain for sales held by some non-sales staff members, upset with the sales team or even with the fact that their organization had to stoop to “sales tactics”. This and other destructive behaviors slow not only the sales team, making it difficult to recruit and retain talented sales professionals, but negatively affect other areas of the company as well.
If the sales function and the individual sales people are not fully resourced (supported), empowered and respected by the organization and, of course its leadership, it’s a good bet that customer service, IT and product development are also suffering.
In conclusion, cultures that make decisions fast, support and respect their sales teams well, and commercialize and bring to market new go-to-market ideas and approaches will be much more likely to compete effectively. They will also be the organizations that are best able to attract and retain the most talented sales people.
Personally, I believe it’s better to be 80% (forget trying to be perfect) and get 100% on task with the business of doing sales. Adjustments can always be made. The main thing is to get activity levels up as fast and as high as possible.
Outsourcing sales to Sales OverDrive is a great way to get careful but rapid decision making on track, to recruit, mobilize and train the most talented individuals, drive sales activity and win the race for new customers and market share.