Category Archives: Sales Management
Sales leaders are regularly advised to have an open-door policy. An open door lets their sales professionals know they can walk in at any time to ask for help, advice, or updates. There is a lot of value in showing your team you care enough to be available when they need you.
There also is value in knowing when to shut the door.
The 60-40 Rule for Sales Leaders
In my previous posts on sales leadership, Why is sales leadership so tough? And what to do about it and 5 Tips to Help Sales Leaders Develop Top Performers, I discussed how sales leaders need to devote 60% of their time to developing their people.
What about the other 40%? Whether you are a sales manager or senior vice president, you need to spend time reviewing and reflecting on the pipeline, sales numbers, and strategy. If you’re a senior sales leader and have a target of 15% organic growth over the next two years, you need to figure out how to make that happen.
Here’s the rub. You’re busy all the time. You have a lot of plates spinning in the air and nothing can drop.
So here’s the counter-intuitive solution for being the best sales leader you can be. Make time to be reflective about strategy, about performance, about what’s working and what isn’t. If you think shutting your » Continue Reading.
Sales leadership must be one of the toughest jobs in business. Just plug the term into Google, and more than 30 million results come back in about a half-second. You’ll find articles from Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Salesforce.com, and many, many others. They relay advice about the most effective habits of sales leaders, the characteristics of true sales leaders, the difference between sales leadership and sales management, and leadership behaviors that drive sales force improvement.
My advice? Read them. Not all 30 million. And not as a steady diet. But, if you are or aspire to be a sales leader, and you want to continually improve your performance, you should be well read on the topic of sales leadership.
I know firsthand about the trials of being a sales leader because I was one earlier in my career. It is a definite challenge, especially for those leading and managing change initiatives. Time and again, we at Richardson hear feedback like this from our clients:
“The most important lesson learned from this training program is the value of having executive-level support. From the CEO to the COO to the division presidents, [we have] unanimous support and vocal champions for the consultative selling approach.”1
“…the Sales VP championed what was the beginning of [our] Foundational Sales Program, an initiative to gain consistency across all sales teams in language, process, skills, and attainment of the five core competencies the company deemed most important.”2
If you win accounts only to lose them at contract renewal, you are not managing your accounts well, if at all. There are three components of an effective account management strategy:
The creation of a plan The tools to support the plan Execution
Let’s say you have written account management plans for accounts that warrant them and you have the tools to make those plans happen. What’s left? As Nike would say, “Just do it.”
But going out and doing it is where many sales professionals fall short. They’re too busy doing other important things: chasing after new business, prospecting, doing internal reports, or going to meetings.
Executing and Account Management Strategy
I tell sales professionals, “You are the CEO of your own territory.” It is your responsibility to hold your own feet to the fire to make sure you’re doing the right things to maintain and grow your accounts.
It’s more than relationship building; although, that’s a large piece of it. Stepping back, you have to diligently work your plan month by month and year by year. You also have to look at the competition as part of your overall plan. You want to find out how often competitors visit » Continue Reading.
Back in the day, sales organizations would identify the need for training, schedule a learning event, conduct training, and then wonder why nothing changed. The trouble is many companies still do this. The problem then as now is lack of sustainment of learning. And the answer then as now is engaging the sales leader in the transformation process. Sales organizations continually fall short in this area. And if sales leaders are not engaged in the training and in changing behavior in the field, they can either sabotage the training or watch as the learning is quickly forgotten and old ways return.
Most often sales leaders were exemplary sellers who were promoted for their selling skills. If they’re not actively engaged in change—if they don’t see what their people are learning and understand the desired new behaviors and skills—they tend to default to how they did things way back when: “You know, this is not how I learned to do things. I’ve had a lot of success with the old way, and it got me where I am today, so we’re going back to the way that worked for me.”
When that happens, any attempt at transformation is thwarted. So what was the point of the training exercise?
Turning Sales Leaders into Sales Coaches
According to Aberdeen Research, coached teams achieve 15% higher lead conversion rates and 14% shorter sales cycles than teams that are not coached (Aberdeen, 2014) … but we don’t really need research to justify coaching — it’s intuitive to anyone in sales. With almost universal acknowledgement and such obvious benefits, one would think that sales coaching would be a science by now. Unfortunately for our sellers, it is not. The typical sales organization struggles mightily to build a consistent and effective sales coaching program. When coaching fails, we tend to throw frontline sales managers under the bus, but in our experience, the problem is broader and so is the solution. There are three typical reasons for failed sales coaching programs:
Lack of visibility at the top Lack of practical processes and tools in the middle Lack of accountability on the frontlines.
The key to building a successful coaching program is to address all three levels simultaneously.
Signs of a Poor Sales Coaching Program
The tell-tale sign of a poor coaching program is a sales leader who has no idea when, where, or even if coaching is taking place in his/her organization. Visibility is essential to execution, not only because it fosters accountability, but because execution needs direction, and direction is only possible when leaders have insight into the behaviors of their teams. Ultimately, good coaching programs require » Continue Reading.
Modern sales leaders and managers are often faced with the challenge of providing multigenerational sales coaching. Providing sales coaching to millennials might seem like a particularly challenging endeavor – this is because there are many myths about the preferences of the millennial workforce that are not true. Understanding how to connect with your millennial salespeople can help you learn how to coach top performers.
MYTH #1: Millennials do not want to be coached.
Not true. In fact, recent studies show that millennials want coaching at work nearly 50% more often than other employees. Also, they seek feedback more frequently than older generations in the workforce (SuccessFactors, 2015).
MYTH #2: Taking a quantitative approach with your coaching feedback dehumanizes the coaching relationship.
Using a numerical rating scale, either against a standard or against a millennial’s colleagues, helps contextualize feedback and provides an opportunity to monitor progress. It’s likely that higher performers will embrace an internal ranking against their colleagues, while a moderate or lower performer may be better served with a comparison against an external standard. The ranking or comparison is not for punishment, but for growth. It can help you establish a common language and calibrate change consistently. Be mindful of your choice.
Key considerations for Multigenerational Sales Coaching
Consider that connecting with millennial employees frequently resonates with their cadence for information and their digital world. Millennials are accustomed to instant access to » Continue Reading.
The talent pool for sales leadership comes from successful sales professionals. Organizations often reward excellence in selling by promotion into leadership roles. But, what’s missing is the realization that different skill sets are required for selling vs. managing those who sell.
Sale leaders need to build on their understanding of the sales process by adding skills in developmental sales coaching. At Richardson, we define this as an effective and time-efficient incremental coaching process that achieves results and helps make sales professionals responsible for their own development. At its foundation, this involves a shift from being a boss who evaluates performance to becoming a coach who develops team members by empowering their own growth.
What I see most often in new sales leaders is a tendency to be driven solely by metrics. They focus on deliverables from their team: the number of sales calls made, reports filed on time, and sales forecasts. These new leaders have been successful in the field, and they want to continue that success. What they don’t realize is their ability to achieve greater success rests with their capability to effectively manage their team. They need to develop their observation skills to assess how their people are doing and where they might need help. They need to recognize what’s going well, coach to verifiable outcomes, and give constructive feedback to drive success for the individual, the team, and the organization.
Moving from individual contributor to sales » Continue Reading.
Selling is a human activity. So, it makes sense for sales leadership to take a human approach to motivating their sales professionals.
On a business level, this means insuring your people have all the resources that they need to be successful and mitigating any obstacles that stand in the way.
On a personal level, it means taking the time to get inside the head of each member of your sales team to understand what is important to them and why. Do they value challenges? Do they look for recognition? Is being a part of a team important to them?
We are all different, with different strengths, and motivated by different things. The more you, as a sales leader, get to know the individuals on your sales team, the more effective you can be in articulating and driving desired behaviors. Performance for the individual and the team should improve, with your organization — and the customer — benefiting in the process.
Consider this typical leadership scenario: the ride along. Ideally, the ride along presents a mutual learning opportunity in which sales leaders see first-hand how their team members pursue a prospect or interact with a client, and sales professionals gain constructive coaching and feedback from their leaders.
What happens too often, however, is the sales leader reacts instead of responding appropriately: “I can’t believe you said that in the meeting. What were you thinking?” Or, sales leaders will jump straight to » Continue Reading.