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Professional Achievement Group, Inc. | Rockville, MD

Managing Your Sales Team

The performance barriers that have the greatest impact on sales success aren't so obvious.These are hidden weaknesses, and when they are present can neutralize one’s strengths and prevent one from adopting and implementing new strategies and tactics that could make a remarkable difference in their results. So here are five of these major sales related weaknesses.

We have all experienced it. We thought we hired Julia Roberts or Tom Cruise, but they ended up performing more like Ruth Buzzi or Rodney Dangerfield. Most managers and owners have grown to accept this experience as part of recruiting salespeople.

Interviewing sales candidates requires completion of a series of steps, each building on the previous one. That's why a “preparation” step is the most important in the interviewing process. Interviews cannot succeed without a solid foundation.

Just as a salesperson should always be prospecting, a sales manager should continually be recruiting, even when there is no open position. At a trade show, he should be talking to the salespeople at the other booths. He should have a recruiting file and always have a list of possible candidates. He should always be evaluating his sales team - identifying the weakest performer(s) so they can be replaced with stronger people.

Most of the sales managers that I encounter participate in ‘need-based’ recruiting for salespeople. When they lose a strong performer, plan to expand geographically, or wish to take a new product or service to market, this is when they begin the recruiting process.

Hiring superstar sales talent is not as difficult as many managers believe. Perhaps their biggest issue: they think hiring salespeople is the same as hiring for other positions. Wrong! Sales selection requires a completely different process. Here are the ten most common sales force hiring mistakes and how to avoid them.

Building Your Sales Team's Muscle

Bad sales meetings are sources of dread for everyone involved. Most every sales professional has been there when he fought to stay awake, or silently fumed about what else he could be doing. Business owners and managers can readily identify sound reasons for having sales meetings, but they also admit that the meetings sometime fall apart, or they seldom seem to provide significant value.

Competition is the reason your salespeople and many of your company's other employees have work to do. If it weren't for competition, businesses would lack the strongest incentives for change - new products, new processes, new markets, new strategies, etc. Competition also encourages companies to introduce innovations that benefit their customers.

 

Most companies invest a fortune to recruit, maintain, and train a sales team. Unfortunately, many companies fail to get new people up to speed quickly, and fall short in their initial training program. Some business owners and managers use the "hope and pray" method - they "hope and pray" that the new hires do well! Other managers consider training as sending people to product school. In one week they give the salesperson just enough product knowledge so they can arm themselves.

Recently, in an initial session with a new client, I asked the owner, sales manager and sales team to individually outline the steps in their selling system and process. I then asked everyone to compare their steps. By now you can guess the outcome of this simple exercise – there were predictable inconsistencies.

Many managers jump into coaching without a plan – they may not have a clear understanding of where to go, but it is a process. Most managers don't have a coaching plan for each salesperson on their team. Most do reactive coaching – it's happens 'on the fly.' When they see a salesperson in the parking lot, or run into one on the elevator, they may ask, “so what happened in your meeting?”

Building Your Sales Team's Muscle

How often do you conduct performance, or activity, reviews? What are the "Key Performance Indicators" (KPIs), or behavior metrics, that you track? When I begin my work with a sales management executive or business owner, the answers to these crucial questions will identify where and how I can begin to help a manager in holding their sales team accountable.

Memorizing trial closes is easy. Using them is even easier. And any salesperson that uses trial closes knows to expect to objections from the prospect. Fully expecting that objections will arise, the salesperson is poised to swoop down and deal with them. And then try another trial close. Around and around in this cycle of trial close, raised objection, answered objection, and back to trial close.

No matter how much the world of business may change, one factor will never change: Your most valuable sources of information are your customers. They will tell you what you're doing right, what you're doing wrong, and what you need to change immediately to remain competitive. Customer advisory groups may be the best consultants you'll retain. There are some guidelines you can follow to get the most out of the group.

In football, winning tactics usually end up in a team's playbook, which becomes the formal guide to what works and doesn't work. Your Sales Playbook should describe every aspect of selling your services and products. Often, the most obvious benefit of a Sales Playbook is in the “on-boarding” of new salespeople, however the carefully constructed and utilized Sales Playbook can also help your sales team win more often.

When your salespeople do not achieve the desired results, what do you hear? Many salespeople will readily blame competition, management, or other external factors for not achieving a desired outcome. This is then often accepted, and even reinforced, by management. When salespeople make these excuses they sabotage their success as this prevents them from understanding their weaknesses and taking a hard look at what they could have done differently to change their results.

Building Your Sales Team's Muscle

Building Your Sales Team's Muscle

The largest time wasters in any business are those 10 drop-in visits from fellow employees, outside suppliers, and other salespeople. Only about five minutes, at most, of this time is useful for business purposes. The rest is socializing. There is nothing wrong with this. The problem occurs when you have multiple drop-in visits every day.

I often hear managers and business owners proclaim, “I shouldn't have to motivate my salespeople. They have a great compensation plan and a terrific opportunity with my company!” If you manage a sales or business development team, I believe that motivating them is one of YOUR responsibilities. However, doing this effectively is one of the top sales management challenges.

“Sales templating” is a management technique that can help you develop a consistent sales process regardless of the background of your individual salespeople. What is sales templating? It is the process by which you document the steps of the ideal typical sale. Sales templating allows you to capture the best practices and nuances of each of your salespeople to create a model sales process that all of them can follow.

If your salespeople are making a presentation to a group, I believe they must conduct a dry run or practice of the presentation ahead of time. A dry run is a more elaborate version of the planning meeting held by a selling team. In addition to the members of the selling team, you (the sales manager) and other salespeople should attend the dry run to act as a coach and audience.

As a manager you can be in many different types of relationships with each person on your team. The roles that determine relationships are Supervisor, Coach, Trainer, and Mentor. Each has a distinct purpose, but some managers get confused on the purpose of each role. Some are supervising when they think they are training, and some train instead of actually coaching.

Understanding this major weakness requires a tremendous amount of open-mindedness from managers and salespeople. "Buy Cycle" refers to the process by which your salespeople make purchases for themselves. Extensive research conducted by Objective Management Group, a leader in sales development research and sales force evaluations, reveals that there is close to a 100% mirror-image correlation between the way salespeople buy and the way they sell.