How to Put Defined Sales Processes in Place and Even Have Your Salespeople Love You For It

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It’s a fact: well-defined sales processes lead to more productive sales performance. In a study conducted by CSO Insights, this fact was validated—companies with defined sales processes won 53% of their forecasted deals vs. 43% with ad hoc processes. This essentially means that a defined sales process yields 23% more output from sales. The numbers for % reps making quota, and % companies making plan also tell a similar story (see graph below).

CSO Insights Sales Performance Optimization Report

2011 Sales Performance Optimization Report, CSO Insights, www.csoinsights.com

From nearly every vantage point, the research confirms that better sales processes equal better sales performance. Reason to say yes to formalizing your sales processes? We think so!

Cracking the Sales Management Code

The information above was taken directly from Cracking the Sales Management Code, by Jason Jordan. If you haven’t read it, I suggest that you pick it up—it’s a favorite in our office. The basic takeaway is that you can’t manage organizational outcomes—quota attainment, revenue—which is traditionally where a lot of sales organizations focus.

Instead, your focus— especially if you’re a sales manager—should be on proactively managing reps’ activities by establishing deliberate, standardized meetings/activities with formal agendas, inputs, and outputs. Managed well, improvements in these activities will impact measurable objectives and ultimately improve outcomes.

Putting an actionable plan in place

I want to highlight how we were able to bring a formal, defined process to a typical sales meeting: The Forecast Review. Often, the urgency of the forecast beats the importance of rep development.  But it’s a false dilemma.  There are ways to improve both at the same time.

We’ve spent the last six months listening to hundreds of manager-seller interactions— forecasts, 1-on-1s, opportunity reviews, account management meetings, and pre-call planning sessions.  The bad news is that the general quality of these meetings are substandard.  The good news is that with some simple modifications they can be improved dramatically — leading to accurate forecasts, improved quota attainment, empowered salespeople, and ultimately improved sales performance.

If your forecast review meeting is not on a formal cadence with a formal approach and a formal agenda then you’re a hack…well, not really.  Don’t worry, you’re not alone and it’s easy to fix. Here are six adjustments that will rock your forecast review meetings:

  1. Standardize the agenda, purpose and approach
  2. Model good and bad meetings
  3. Ask versus tell
  4. Make requests, promises and agreements
  5. Transfer meeting ownership to the salesperson
  6. Inspect what you expect

Download this guide for more detail on how to implement this proven structure and customize for your environment.  And if you’d like to continue this effort to improve other processes, you can download the entire set of Sales Manager Guides including:

  • Retain and Grow Key Accounts
  • Build and Execute a Territory Action Plan
  • Qualify and Execute Multi-Stage Sales Cycles
  • Produce an Accurate and Reliable Forecast

I hope you find these guides helpful in putting more formalized sales activities in your organization. We’re sure that you will see improvements in your team’s sales performance as a result of implementing a formal approach, cadence, and agenda. And since your reps will ultimately see an improvement in their performance, I’m pretty sure they’ll love you for it.

Want To Know What Makes A Good Sales Manager? Ask Google

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Google observed and analyzed 10,000 manager interactions and found out what makes a good sales manager.

Google is the gold standard when it comes to using data-driven insights to make decisions. Constantly on the lookout for ways to optimize their business based on data, Google executives wanted to find out if there was a way that they could effectively engineer the perfect manager.

Google, like many companies, traditionally hired and promoted based on technical talent. But what did their research show? Of the top eight characteristics that make a good manager, technical expertise comes in last. What mattered more?

    1. Be a good coach
    2. Empower your team and don’t micromanage
    3. Express interest in employee’s success and well-being
    4. Be productive and results-oriented
    5. Be a good communicator and listen to your team
    6. Help your employees with career development
    7. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team
    8. Have key technical skills, so you can help advise the team

Great Coaching Skills Make a Good Sales Manager

What really struck me about this is that the number one, most important skill that makes a good sales manager is to be a good coach. This is precisely the challenge that we’ve been solving for our clients here at CommericalTribe. We all know from experience that it’s not enough to just send your salespeople to training and then throw them at a list of prospects and hope for the best. Sales teams benefit most when someone takes the time to observe what they do, assess their performance, and then provide constructive feedback on what they did well and where there are opportunities for improvement.

In short, sales teams benefit most from having a great coach. Tweet: Sales teams benefit most from having a great coach. https://ctt.ec/Nh7ZU+ #SalesManagerDevelopment #SalesGoals

Our research shows that very few sales managers are very good at this. Why? Many companies don’t invest more than cursory training for our sales managers to develop their management and coaching skills. Without this investment in the development of frontline sales managers, your sales team is far less likely to hit their goals.

How often do you discuss how to be an effective coach with your sales managers? And how well do they understand how being a good coach fits into their daily interactions?

What Does it Take to Be A Good Coach?what makes a good sales manager-nature or nurturewhat makes a good sales manager-nature or nurturewhat makes a good sales manager-nature or nurture

Being a good coach is all about getting people to perform at their best.

John Wooden, one of the most respected coaches in sports history who led the UCLA basketball team to win ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period, said: “In the end, it’s about the teaching, and what I always loved about coaching was the practices.”

Great coaches don’t focus on the personal glory of the game and the fame of the win. They measure their own success by how much their team is able to achieve. This mindset doesn’t always come naturally to highly successful reps that have been promoted into management.

Sales leaders who want sales managers who are great coaches can start by specifically looking for characteristics that create good coaches in the recruiting process. When IBM goes into colleges to recruit, they look at the students with undergraduate degrees in areas such as psychology, counseling, and teaching. They find the ones that had even just a small amount of business acumen and point them toward career tracks in sales management.

IBM has been doing this for a long time, because they understood early on that good sales managers are good coaches. And good coaches guide people. Students who were interested in these types of degrees, IBM discovered, were usually inherently interested in guiding people and already exhibited the coaching characteristics that make a good sales manager.

Making A Good Sales Manager: Is It Nature Or Nurture?

what makes a good sales manager-sales team successTalent is something that people are born with, skill is something that is earned. Tweet: Talent is something that people are born with, skill is earned. https://ctt.ec/9adMR+ #SalesSkills #SalesManagerDevelopment

Some people are born with the characteristics that can make a great coach. But many, many others need to develop it.

Jack Welch, the celebrated growth CEO of GE, was not always the great leader we think of today. Early on in his career at GE, he was described in a memo from the head of HR as “arrogant, couldn’t take criticism, and depended too much on his talent instead of hard work and his knowledgeable staff” (Mindset, pg. 127). To his credit, Welch had the good sense to recognize this as a growth opportunity and worked tirelessly throughout his career to become a better coach and the leader we know and recognize today.

Developing great coaching skills requires commitment, work, and practice. If you want to develop your sales managers into coaches, you must first take the time to coach them and invest in tools to help them scale their coaching across their entire team.

You don’t need to have a team of statisticians on staff to understand what makes a good sales manager for your organization. You and your management team do; however, need to be able to observe and assess sales manager and seller interactions, to provide coaching. This observe, assess, and coach methodology is how sales teams continually improve in becoming better managers and closing more deals.

what makes a good sales manager guide

5 Steps to an Actionable Sales Manager Coaching Methodology

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Our C.O.A.C.H. Sales Manager Coaching Methodology integrates actionable sales coaching into your day.

Recent research has proven that the number one skill that separates average managers from highly effective ones is coaching. While the leadership and management world at large has known this for quite some time, sales management specifically has largely been left out of this important development trend.

Because, as a sales manager, you operate in a fundamentally different environment from your management peers, you continue to lack serious coaching and development training in the context required to be successful. What you need is an actionable sales manager coaching methodology that works within the context of your daily life.

Our C.O.A.C.H. method is a sales manager coaching methodology with a simple, yet actionable structure that provides flexibility for the realities of the fluctuating sales environment. It employs five simple practices that sales managers can easily integrate into their daily workflow: Commit, Observe, Assess, Communicate, and Habituate.

1. Commit to Coaching Opportunities

The job of the sales manager is inherently one of the most difficult jobs in the organization. Amid the chaos of your daily life, you’re now being asked to shift your thinking—shift the dynamics of the interactions you have with your salespeople—in a fundamental way by incorporating coaching. This is not something that comes naturally for many people, but it is a critical skill that can be developed with practice and commitment.

Committing to developing your own coaching skills includes actively seeking out coaching opportunities in every interaction you have with your team. You already have frequently scheduled meetings for pipeline and opportunity overviews, forecast reviews, activity management, etc. Within all of these interactions, coaching opportunities present themselves.

2. Observe Seller Behavior & Interactions

You can’t coach what you don’t observe. By observing seller behavior in their daily interactions with leads and clients, you are able to pick up on those cues that tell you where actionable coaching opportunities lie.

Sales managers often observe the interactions their reps have with clients and prospects during the onboarding phase. It’s less common to consistently observe more experienced seller interactions. This leaves a gap in your ability to continue to grow your sellers’ professional careers.

Observation isn’t just about watching for mistakes. It’s more about understanding the interactions that are happening every day between individuals on your team and your market. It allows you to collect insights into what is working well, what isn’t working well, as well as market trends that might affect your organization. This is information you can use to improve your team as a whole in addition to assessing and coaching individual sellers.

3. Assess Seller Performance

sales manager coaching methodology - assessMake an assessment of the seller’s performance you’ve observed. Did they start with an agenda? Did they keep control of the conversation? Did they build rapport? Did they establish next steps? These are the very basics of every effective sales call that you should be looking for in seller interactions. There may be additional assessment criteria for your sales process as well.

Take a moment to determine what the most critical elements of a sales call at each step of your sales process is and map them out in a spreadsheet. Then, assess each seller interaction on a scale from Not Present (red) to Excellent (green). We call this an assessment map, which we work with our clients to create to standardize manager and seller assessments and provide a clear visual path to which elements need the most improvement and which are “gold standard”.

Your assessment maps will help you determine specifically what areas individual sellers need coaching and development work in so you can focus your time with that person on exactly what they need to be successful.

4. Communicate Through Asking Questions & Active Listening

Using your assessments, you are able to identify exactly who needs what training, empowering you to activate as an effective sales coach.

In the communication practice of an effective sales manager coaching methodology, the seller does most of the talking. Your role is to ask deliberate questions and actively listen to the responses. If you are talking more than your sales rep, you’re not doing it right.

As part of CommercialTribe’s sales team development solution, we observe and assess thousands of manager-rep and rep-customer interactions for our clients. This service provides sales leaders and managers with unbiased reports that identify skills gaps and highlight “gold standard” performance. I was recently assessing a sales manager and seller interaction that illustrates our C.O.A.C.H. sale manager coaching methodology quite well. The sales rep was relatively new to the company and was working with a mentor who had taken him under her wing. The manager had observed a meeting that the sales rep and his mentor had with an opportunity recently.

Like many manager-seller interactions I’ve observed, the meeting began with inspection: what activities had the seller completed since they last met, what was his pipeline looking like, etc. Then, the manager shifted into a mentorship role, providing the seller with specific advice for some objections and issues he was facing.

Then, the manager did something that I rarely see during the first assessment. He asked the sales rep about the meeting he’d observed. While the meeting went well and they were able to close the deal, the manager noticed that the rep had let his mentor do all of the talking. He asked, “Why did you let Karen do all the talking with your contact?”

The rep replied, “Well, Karen knows the product better than I do. I didn’t want to step on her toes or say the wrong thing.”

This moment would have been lost (and often is) on someone who had not committed himself to seeking out coaching opportunities. But it was a great catch. The sales manager uncovered a development gap that otherwise could have gone unnoticed to create a great disservice for the sales rep in the long run.

Communication also includes establishing engagement through agreement. It’s not enough to simply tell a sales rep what their goal is. You must establish an agreement for next steps before ending the meeting.

The sales manager in our story could have said, “I want you to take the next sales call without Karen present.” and moved on. Instead, he asked, “What can you do to make sure you’re comfortable with the information to take the lead on your next sales call?”

The seller responded, “I can practice the pitch and do a roleplay with Terry to practice objection handling.”

“That sounds like a great plan. How many times will you practice the pitch before scheduling the roleplay?”

“At least three times.”

“Good. And when will you have this completed by?”

“By the end of the week.”

“That sounds great. Is there anything you need from me to help you?”

sales manager coaching methodologyCoaching interactions take patience and practice to navigate successfully. However, the end result of consistently conducting meetings with your sales team in this way will produce far greater long-term results than taking the “easy” way by telling. The next time the seller in our story feels uncomfortable with messaging, will he wait until his manager asks him about it? Or will he take the steps he knows are necessary to make him successful?

5. Make Coaching a Habit

This last step in our C.O.A.C.H. methodology is critical for two reasons. First, developing a coaching habit will help you stay focused on becoming a great coach even during times of high production and stress. Second, it helps coaching become more effective as both you and your reps will grow more comfortable with the methodology and expectations, and will interact more thoughtfully.

Two keys to creating a coaching habit are to keep a consistent schedule of meetings that follow a fixed agenda and set expectations with your reps up-front.

You know you need to develop your coaching skills to grow in your own career as a sales manager, as well as to improve the performance of your team. The problem is that you are, understandably, overwhelmed and under-developed. While this has historically been caused by the chaos traditional in the sales environment, the reality is that you have to take charge of your own growth mindset to succeed. Use this simple sales manager coaching methodology to develop your sales coaching habit and create long-term, sustained revenue growth.

sales manager coaching methodology - learn more

25% of Your Qualified Opportunities are Wasted by Poor Sales Calls

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Activate Your Sales Managers To Start Converting More Qualified Opportunities Into Revenue.

Tweet this: Qualified opportunities are the lifeblood of your company’s existence.

The dirty secret of most sales organizations is that many qualified opportunities are wasted by sales organizations that are relying on ad hoc management processes. Sales leaders in these organizations are living on a hope and a prayer that their team can close enough deals to keep business leadership from giving them the boot.

Increase Sales Productivity up to 23%

Research by CSO Insights has shown that by managing your team to a process can improve their productivity by a whopping 23%. Developing your front line managers to activate them as growth coaches for sales reps is key to executing this process management.

The dirty secret of most sales organizations is that many qualified opportunities are wasted by sales organizations that are relying on ad hoc management processes.

Start With Your Sales Process

It sounds obvious, but it’s striking how many sales managers don’t do the basics. The first step is to define your sales process, and then the hard part: make sure you and your managers are managing to it.

I’m mostly indifferent to what sales process and tools you use—each company and sales organization need to use what works best for them. I am not; however, indifferent to whether or not you use a sales process at all. Defining a sales process, or methodology, is critical to the success of your sales team’s ability to maximize pipeline opportunities. Without one, your organization will flounder and miss goals.

Without a management plan, your front line managers don’t have the tools they need to help their teams guide qualified opportunities through the sales pipeline to close.

While most companies and sales leaders know this by now, many fail to take the next step and formalize a management plan around their sales process. Without a management plan, your front line managers don’t have the tools they need to help their teams guide qualified opportunities through the sales pipeline to close.

Your Reps are Likely Bumbling at least 25% of Their Qualified Opportunities
Tweet: Your Reps are Bumbling at least 25% of Their Qualified Opportunities https://ctt.ec/ZjJwb+

All sales processes experience the most acute loss of qualified opportunities at the top the funnel. Conversion rates are much higher in the latter stages of the sales funnel. So, ask yourself, what would a 5% improvement in your conversion rate at the top of your funnel mean for your overall result? It would be pretty impactful, wouldn’t it?

In our experience observing and assessing thousands of sales calls for our clients, we’ve found that at least 25% of sales reps’ interactions with prospects and clients are what we would score as red. That means that even the reps that you have invested heavily in training for are not properly applying the characteristics of what makes a successful call.

That’s 125 opportunities every week that you would have been better off not calling at all.

If you have 100 reps on your sales team and each of them are doing just one discovery call per day, that means your team is collectively throwing away 25 qualified opportunities every day. That’s 125 opportunities every week that you would have been better off not calling at all.

And these calls are going to continue every day, week in and week out, month after month. Until you find yourself at the end of the quarter trying to shake down your managers to eek out those last few deals to meet your objective before the clock stops. And then you have to start all over again in the new quarter.

Said differently, you would be better off if 25% of your sales reps just stayed home and didn’t make a single call. Because they are literally just throwing away qualified opportunities before that opportunity has a chance to really learn about the value of your solution due to ineffective discovery calls. If we can simply improve your discovery call conversion rate by 5%, and maintain your lower pipeline conversions, the revenue impact will be impossible to ignore! So, how can you do that?

Click Here To Download Our Free Opportunity Managment Guide >>

Activate Your Sales Managers to Drive Qualified Opportunity Conversion

stop wasting qualified opportunities CT graphicYour front line sales managers are the key to impacting this target.

For decades, companies have focused on skills training for business development and sales reps to improve sales team performance. We like to send them off to sales training where they’ll learn the proper skills they need to develop their individual territories and close deals. Investing in our market-facing reps to teach them better sales skills, conventional wisdom says, will impact revenue attainment from the bottom up.

This conventional wisdom has ignored the sales manager’s role in coaching and developing desired behaviors in sales reps over the long-term to ensure they are applying the skills they’ve been taught.

Your front line manager is so key to the success of your sales organization, and yet they’re simply thrown into the deep end without receiving guidance on how to manage their team.

How much training and development have your sales managers received? How often do you take the time to coach and develop your management team?

Further, do they have the tools that allow them to observe their sales reps’ behavior during the discovery call? Do they have the means and mechanisms to consistently assess their reps when they do observe them? And do they have the skills and the tools they need to become coaches that can develop and grow a high-performing sales team?

Your front line sales managers’ job is untenable. They have been recently promoted from account executive to management. They have had little or no formal training and suddenly find themselves managing 11 direct reports. This team likely includes two open head counts, three new hires, one low-performer, three mid-performers, and two high-performers—one of whom is threatening to quit. They have to report their 90-day forecast. They have pricing, product, messaging, Salesforce, their managers… The list goes on.

Your front line manager is so key to the success of your sales organization, and yet they’re simply thrown into the deep end without receiving guidance on how to manage their team.

If you want to narrow the performance variance you’re seeing in your qualified opportunities conversions, you will have the most success in doing so by activating your front line managers as coaches and multipliers. And you will want to get them to first focus on coaching and developing their under and mid-level performers.

Improve Under-Performing Sales Rep Behaviors

You know as well as I do that no two sales reps are created equal. The performance variance is fairly easy to calculate, yet difficult to narrow. But if you’re looking at improving conversion rates at the top of your funnel, from discovery call to proposal, for example, under-performing reps are going to be the lowest hanging fruit.

This is because under and mid-performing sales reps are the most likely to be wasting qualified opportunities at the top of your funnel. Your high-performing reps are already moving at least close to an optimized number of leads through this stage, so the improvement increment there will be minimal.

Activating your front line managers to improve under performers does not need to be complicated or time-consuming.

Activating your front line managers to improve underperformers does not need to be complicated or time-consuming. Once they know how to do it—and have the formal tools and/or processes in place to enable them—much can be accomplished within their normal, everyday workflow. They are likely already getting face-time with their reps on a daily, or at least weekly, basis. They simply need to add an observational element to see what their lower-performing sales reps are doing versus high-performers, and then include feedback and coaching during those scheduled interactions.

Let’s take another look at the discovery call. Your high performers are likely exhibiting behaviors that we would rate as good or excellent in most, if not all, of these characteristics of an effective discovery call.

  1. Start with an introduction and set a clear agenda.
  2. Share a compelling, provocative, and insight-led company story
  3. Identify a key issue or pain point personalized for the person on the other line
  4. Provide a relevant solution to the issue or pain.
  5. Qualify and close for next steps

Your low performers, on the other hand, either lack the knowledge that these are the key steps to converting their qualified opportunities or they lack the ability to apply this knowledge.

In either case, their behaviors need to be developed and coached through consistent, committed observation, assessment, and coaching to move them up to higher levels of performance. Your front line managers can effectively do this if they have a formal management plan, and the training and tools to execute it, they need to be successful.

Is your sales team simply throwing away hundreds of qualified leads every month? You have the power stop the waste by defining your sales process and formalizing how your sales managers are expected to manage to it. Your front line sales managers are the catalyst to moving your under-performing reps to improve their behaviors and conversions at the top of the pipeline, where the majority of your qualified opportunities are churning. If you can train and develop them into effective coaches, their impact will be multiplied throughout the sales organization to improve goal attainment.

 

FREE OPPORTUNITY MANAGEMENT GUIDE Click Here To Download 

A Common Sense Guide to Recording Sales Calls

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With this common sense approach, recording sales calls doesn’t have to be a legal drama.

When recording sales calls, it is always a good idea to tell the person on the other line that the call is being recorded. This is not just for legal reasons, it’s also about building (or maintaining) trust and rapport. If you start your call by first informing and then asking politely if you can record a call, you are legal in all US states.

This process is as simple as saying: “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today, Christine. I would like to record our call today so I can focus on our conversation rather than taking notes during it. Is that OK with you?”

Don’t worry about people abandoning a phone call just because you’re recording it. Call recording is a common occurrence these days, particularly in sales and customer service interactions. People have come to expect it. Your odds of getting struck by lightning are better than the person on the other line saying no (a little bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point).

Alternatives to Recording Sales Calls

If your organization has a policy against recorded calls, or if many of your sales interactions take place in person, there are common sense alternatives. One tried-and-true approach is a joint call with manager and rep. Their presence on a call should still be announced, but this allows coaching to occur without recording the call.

You can also practice sales calls, to be submitted and reviewed by management prior to making live client or prospecting calls. Common practice interactions include practicing voicemails, first pitches, walking through a demo, and roleplaying with a colleague. Practicing sales interactions improves seller performance without throwing leads away.

Recording Sales Calls – The Fine Print

Recording Sales Calls in the U.S.

recording sales calls - sales repsBefore we get into the legalities of sales call recording, let me be up-front in telling you that I am not a lawyer and you should by no means consider this legal advice. Please consult your own general counsel if you have specific questions or concerns regarding recording sales calls.

California has the most stringent regulations regarding recording sales calls (real shocker there). Ever litigious, California courts have ruled over several call recording cases brought forward by its citizens over the years. The California Supreme Court has even gone so far as to rule (more than once) that a company that is not located in the state of California but is speaking with a California resident, must comply with California call recording law. In effect, making California law the law of the land, unless you don’t intend to do business in California.

This ties back to the first section of this blog. If you simply inform all participants that the call is being recorded as previously described, you are on the right side of the law in all 50 states without needing to worry about the specifics of each state. Most webinar and conference providers automatically inform participants that a call is being recorded when they join. This is something that you will want to check on with your service provider. Even when you have an automatic announcement in place, it’s still a good idea to reinforce the message at the beginning of the call. Again, your main goal is to avoid the potential “yuck” feeling your prospects or clients might get by just being upfront with them.

Luckily, things only get easier from there. Simply put, U.S. federal law permits the recording of telephone calls and in-person conversations with the consent of at least one party. Technically speaking, this means that if you are party to the sales call and you consent to you recording the call, you’re not going to be raided by the FBI or the NSA.

Legal complications do enter the picture when you start looking at state call recording laws. Believe it or not, 38 states and the District of Columbia have all adopted the federal “one-party” requirement (that is a lot higher than I was expecting). The rest require varying degrees of what is called “two-party” consent but what actually means “all-party” consent. In other words, all parties involved in the sales call or in-person conversation need to consent to the conversation being recorded.

Click here for a full list of laws governing recording sales calls by state.

Recording International Sales Calls

As you might imagine, laws governing call recording vary widely from one country to another. Generally speaking, if you’re making sales calls into Canada and/or Europe you need to make sure you are getting consent from all parties involved in the conversation being recorded.

My 2nd best advice in this matter (again, 1st best advice is given in the first section of this blog!) is to simply do a Google search for the country you are calling to educate yourself and make sure you are finding information that has been updated recently, as laws do change.

The legality of recording sales calls comes up fairly often when we’re talking with clients and contacts here at CommercialTribe. The answer does not need to be as complicated as one might think. There is no law that flatly prohibits recording inbound and outbound interactions with your clients or potential clients. The complexities are in who needs to be involved in consenting to the recording.

In any case, it is simply best practice to be open about the fact that you are recording the call and gain the other party’s consent in the first place. This will not only protect you from potential legal repercussions but will also ensure you are not doing anything that will harm the relationship you are building with the other party.

Download Our Free Common Sense Sales Recording Scripts >>

How To Develop Your Sales Team Like You’re Saving For Retirement

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Develop your sales team by borrowing these two powerful tactics from retirement saving.

Previously, we explored why sales team development is a critical variable in your future success—much like saving for retirement. We discussed the cognitive biases working against sales managers in developing their teams and how to think about that investment the same way we are taught to plan for retirement. But thinking is not doing. So, in this blog, we are going to show you how you can develop your sales team by applying retirement savings tactics.

Isolating the problem is the first step to solving it. But let’s not be naïve and suggest that self-awareness by itself is enough. Developing your sales team on an ongoing basis in the current operationally-driven sales environment is a tough problem for several reasons:

  1. Finding the time to focus on coaching competes with your core operational responsibilities.
  2. Good coaching requires knowing what to coach on, and that requires regular observation of your people and a keen ability to diagnose problems.
  3. Even if you could get past the first two, the pressure to deliver sales right now can be overwhelming.

To counteract these challenges, let’s apply a couple tactics that work for retirement planning to developing your sales team.

Develop your sales team using “automatic investment”

In the financial world, the automatic investment plan allows you to put aside a set amount of money each month. This tactic is proven to significantly increase retirement savings and keep participants on-track toward their retirement goal.The concept can work in the same way for developing your sales team.

Start by identifying a development area that you would like to see your sales team improve on within the next quarter. For example, you might say, “This quarter we’re going to focus on the discovery call. Next quarter it will be delivering an accurate, on-time forecast.” The key principle here is to focus each quarter on getting better at one thing.

Once you have a development area identified, run the development loop.

Step 1: Baseline
Use the first 30 days of the development loop to observe your sales team’s behavior in the specific development area you are focusing on to get a baseline for your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Resist the temptation to try and fix problems as you see them. Just focus on understanding the current state.

Step 2: Group & Coach
Once you have a feel for where your team’s skill levels are currently, take the next 30 days to group and coach. Based on your assessment, how can you most efficiently allocate your time and energy toward developing your sales team to have maximum impact? This will take some practice, but getting good at it will save you a lot of time.

Step 3: Progression
During the final 30 days of the development loop, look for progression. Can you see evidence that your team is improving? Celebrate progress on the skill the same way you would celebrate hitting quota and you will be on your way toward creating an environment for your people to get better.

Make this simple process automatic by running it quarterly and scheduling regular time on the calendar. For example, you will need to agree on the development focus each quarter, schedule dedicated time for observation and assessment, and share the baseline and progression results with the team. I also generally recommend taking one quarter off as needed, which should correspond with your “busy season”.

Develop your sales team using a “manager match” program

One of the tried and true tactics to get people to contribute to their 401K is a company match. This is where an employer typically matches up to 50% of employee contributions for the first 6% of salary that an employee contributes.

develop your sales team ecosystemWhether you are a secondline or frontline manager, you can pitch your own “manager match” program down or up. Here’s how it works:

Frontline managers agree to make an automatic development investment in improving their sales reps prospect-facing interactions. In return, the secondline manager will match that investment with an automatic development investment in their frontline managers’ team-facing interactions, thus the concept of a “manager match”.

For prospect-facing interactions, look at common interactions within your sales process like the discovery call, a solutions demo or delivering a proposal. For manager-team interactions, look at recurring meetings like a forecast review, deal review or quarterly business review. Note that these interactions may go by different names, such as one-on-one or team meeting, which is actually part of the problem. By clarifying the agenda and driving formality into these interactions, the team will become more effective. Standardizing what an effective prospect-facing or team-facing interaction looks like will raise the bar for your entire team and is one of the few levers a manager actually has to drive performance.

 

To run the manager matching plan over a year, alternate between one quarter focused on interactions led by the seller and the next for interactions led by the manager. If you are a secondline manager who wants your frontline managers to develop their sellers, what better way than to create your own automatic investment in your management team? All parties have equal skin in the game, creating a healthy environment for sales team development.

Both of these tactics that we’ve borrowed from retirement planning are powerful tools for developing your sales team. However, what I’ve profiled will simply be too much to process for many sales managers. The weight of trying to make the number, day in and day out, will continue to weigh them down. But if you are the type of manager who is passionate about sales team development and is looking to buck the status quo, these battle-tested tactics will help you put a system in place that allows you to not only build an environment for sales team development but also creates a long-term sustainable revenue generating machine. Talk about standing out from the crowd.

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Your Demo May Stink if it’s Only Focused on You

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How a Leading Fortune 500 Company Successfully Shifted their Demo Focus

There is a legend in the sales world about four finalists in an RFP process that were invited to give a two-hour demo of their solution. Each company’s sales representative was given the same basic agenda —you have two hours, show us these 10 things.

Sellers from companies A, B, and C — all dressed to the nines — showed up and did what they were told. They each presented two-hour demos that highlighted each and every feature.

Then in walked the Seller from Company D. Seller D approached the conference table and offered the buyer not one, but two options for the demo. Option 1 was the same two-hour demo that Sellers A, B, and C presented, but Option 2 was a 20-minute version that only touched on the features that specifically addressed their pain points. Which do you think the buyer chose? Yeah, Option 2. Do you think Seller D won the deal? Of course they did!

Differentiation is Key

So what is it about differentiation that is so essential not only in the sales process, but even more importantly at the demo phase? The enemy of differentiation is “sameness.” The human brain craves contrast, and sameness will cripple the buyer into a state of no decision.

While the greatest sellers and sales engineers understand its impact, the element of differentiation is still absent from many demos. While it sounds simple, too many demos are the same old show up and throw up feature dump that we all dread.

“Companies that tie the demo back to specific pain points and articulate the value of the solution, are 35% more likely to be selected as the preferred vendor of choice.”

Sales Benchmark Index captured this perfectly, “Companies that tie back the demo to specific pain points and articulate the value of the solution, are 35% more likely to be selected as the preferred vendor of choice.”

How a Leading Fortune 500 Company Successfully Shifted their Demo Focus

There is something in our DNA that makes it difficult to shift the focus of our demos from us and to the buyer. World class sales organizations understand this challenge and are taking proactive steps to equip their sellers and sales engineers with a safe environment to practice and develop their skills.

One organization demonstrating this approach is is a leading financial management company. A division within this organization partnered with CommercialTribe to improve a specific sales stage where they noticed a drop in conversion rates. This particular sales stage involved a solution demo.

As a way to level-set the effectiveness of their consultants and measure progress, the Sales VP and team utilized CommercialTribe’s Seller Development Coaching Guide (sample below) to assess the team’s recorded demos against the key components of an effective and impactful demo. Having this visibility into exactly where the skill gaps were, the team was then able to develop targeted activities to improve skills and behaviors.

Over the course of three activities in the CommercialTribe platform, the consultants were able to practice, and receive coaching on:

  1. Effective agenda setting — Focus on audience and pain points
  2. Demo orientation — Position solutions that solve the customer’s specific challenges
  3. Solution differentiation — Create distinction by leading to unique strengths
  4. Connecting the dots — Help the customer see themselves using the solution

As a result of these activities, the Sales VP saw 57% of his team members grow in overall effectiveness.

The Sales VP saw 57% of his team members grow in overall effectiveness.

“Before Commercial Tribe, we focused on telling our buyers about the solution and what it does. Now, as a result of our practice initiative, we are back to what matters most—what it means and why our customers buy.” – Sales VP

When you think about how much is riding on each and every demo, the revenue lift in effective execution, and the time it takes to develop a seller or sales engineer, this investment in a development loop involving observation, assessment, practice and guided coaching following a framework like the Seller Development Coaching Guide, will yield dividends in a condensed timeframe. The proof is in the results!

Download our Sample Seller Development Coaching Guide and see how these guided coaching paths can not only improve and develop your reps, but also activate your frontline managers to be better coaches.

 

How to Build a Manager Effectiveness Program (and Why it Matters)

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Original Webinar Date: June 7, 2017

Watch Webinar

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While traditionally sales enablement organizations have focused on developing the Seller, few have an answer for how to best enable the Manager.

Consider this from CSO Insights: Organizations that invest in manager effectiveness programs achieve 107% revenue attainment versus 88% for those that don’t. That’s a top-line difference of $1.4M for the average 6-person team carrying $1M in quota per rep. It’s also the difference between making and missing the number.

So what is a sales manager effectiveness program? Watch this webinar and hear what we’ve learned from the in-person Manager Effectiveness Workshops we’ve held with senior sales and enablement leaders across the country. We’ll dive into the two key pillars identified as crucial to manager effectiveness:

  • Move management processes from ad-hoc to formal
  • Develop front line managers as coaches

And explore the specific processes identified as making the biggest top-line difference.

Why Sales Team Development Is Exactly Like Saving For Your Retirement

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If long-term, sustained sales growth is part of your goal, you need to get serious about sales team development—before it’s too late.

Do you often wonder why you should be saving for retirement? Probably not. But how often do you wonder if you should be investing in your sales team’s development? Here are two commonly cited statistics that are meant to scare you:

What do these two statistics have in common? I will argue that the root cause is actually the exact same problem. Let me explain.

If you think retirement planning is your parent’s problem, I’ve got news for you. According to a recent study, nearly half of millennials have no retirement savings. The younger generation doesn’t see retirement as a priority, thinking first about student loans and financing the present instead. Getting people to save for retirement is an age-old problem, primarily because of “longevity disconnect bias”. People have a really hard time imagining what the future will be like, so they tend to ignore or de-prioritize it.

If you are a sales manager, you are faced with this same bias every day. Tell me if this sounds familiar:

You manage a sales team and your primary objective is to get your team to quota each month, every quarter. In the short-term, that naturally means inserting yourself into deals that are closest to closing, personally carrying any deal you need to, and riding your stars to try and make the number. In the short-run, that may indeed be the best plan to reach your goal.

But what sacrifices are you making when you prioritize short-term goals for long-term sales team development?

You are putting minimal attention on cultivating your early-stage pipeline for future quarters, you are creating dependencies within your team by trying to personally make up for deficiencies, and developing new sales stars gets lost in the chaos.

This pattern of putting short-term interests ahead of long-term sales team development may work for some time…but the music always stops. It’s the equivalent of waking up at 65 and realizing you have nothing saved, so you better keep working because retirement ain’t gonna happen anytime soon.

Make sales team development your priority

One of the investment products that may make sense for retirement is an annuity. An annuity is basically an insurance contract in which you pay a financial institution a lump sum or series of payments to be invested. Your long-term investment ultimately provides you with a guaranteed regular income in the future.

To get past “longevity disconnect bias” think in these terms when it comes to your sales team development. Ask yourself: “Are each of my salespeople paying me today?”

If not, what investments do you need to develop a future revenue stream? Delivering on your quota becomes more sustainable when you have more sellers on your team who are paying you.

Imagine your future self. How does it feel to have an entire team of sellers paying you?

Sellers do come and go, so it’s true that unlike annuities, they won’t be paying you forever. But there is actually another form of payment that—to some sales managers—is just as important. It is your reputation as a coach and your own development as a sales leader. When you commit to your sales team’s development, you become recognized as a multiplier of talent. You become someone that top talent wants to work for, and someone that people in your organization want to work with.

Continuing to look into the future, imagine what this would mean for your career. Sustainable, recurring “income” takes away the stress of just getting by day-to-day. And it allows you to strategically focus on the real challenges confronting you and your team in delivering sales objectives.

This future you’re imagining is not for everyone. Despite society’s best efforts, some of us are simply not going to save for retirement. Sales managers who recognize the long-term benefits of sales team development and are passionate about making it a priority are far more successful in generating revenue. If you are one of those rare sales managers who believe that the development of your team may be the single most important variable in your future success, you may be interested in learning about a proven sales team development framework, which we recently presented during BrightTalk’s Sales Training & Leadership Summit.

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Why You Need A Sales Manager Effectiveness Program

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Develop your sales manager effectiveness program to improve efficiency and increase revenue.

You have a lot on your plate when you think about your enablement priorities for this year. Sales enablement teams are being tasked with a broad range of services and responsibilities, yet continue to have to negotiate for the resources they need to accomplish key priorities.

Most enablement teams continue to focus their efforts to improve sales efficiency, increase revenue, and improve forecasting on training and developing their sellers. But what if I were to tell you there was a better, more cost-effective, and more efficient way? I’m talking about establishing a formal sales manager effectiveness program.

Why You Need A Sales Manager Effectiveness Program

sales manager effectiveness program-collaborationA strong management team provides the foundation for improving your sales team’s win rate, engagement, and retention. Sales managers who have been trained to effectively coach and develop their reps, as well as manage their productivity, are most effective at attaining revenue goals, improving sales team productivity, and retaining talented, driven salespeople.

The profitability implications for your organization should not be overlooked nor underestimated. And yet, few enablement organizations currently offer any training for sales managers at all. How could this be!?

Learn How To Establish Your Sales Manager Effectiveness Program with On-Demand Training Video & Downloadable Guides >>

How To Create A Sales Manager Effectiveness Program

I believe the core of the answer to this question is that it is a huge undertaking for enablement teams that are already overwhelmed and understaffed. The underlying reasons for this is two-fold. First, there is a lack of clarity around how to create and implement a successful sales manager effectiveness program. Second, there is a lack of commitment to training and developing sales managers.

Sales and enablement teams need to be able to commit and agree to long-term development disciplines and goals to make the program successful. This commitment requires a desire to improve, a dedication to a learning & development culture, and the ability to build collaborative relationships between the enablement and sales functions. Unfortunately, I can not help you with this reason for not developing a sales manager effectiveness program. It’s akin to helping an addict kick their habit—you can’t help them until they are willing to help themselves.

But I can help you with the first reason. Since I know that implementing a formal sales manager effectiveness program can result in a huge win for your sales enablement team, not to mention have a significant financial impact on the overall performance of your company.

That is why I want to show you how to do it. Register now to watch our How To Establish a Sales Manager Effectiveness Program recording, presented as part of BrightTalk’s Sales Training & Leadership Summit. During this training session, I provide the roadmap to building your own successful sales manager effectiveness program.

http://commercialtribe.com/webinar-build-a-manager-effectiveness-program/