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Posts Tagged ‘sales’

Salvaging The Sales Team

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

It is a question that has becoming more and more prevalent for business owners and sales managers, “Why isn’t my sales team performing like it used to?” Fingers get pointed here and there, people mutter about competition and the economy, but you start to suspect that the real truth is that some of the players on your team aren’t the performers that you thought they were. When the economy is strong or when a business has found a new and productive niche, it is easy for a sales team to hide its weaknesses. The opportunities are so plentiful that there is more order-taking going on than actual selling, and it is very difficult to distinguish who on your team is effectively applying and cultivating true selling skills and who is coasting on “low hanging fruit” that virtually anyone could close. Or consider the salesperson fortunate to have a plum territory that always yields enough results to meet quota., but might be an even richer vein to mine in the hands of a more capable individual – but who would know? And let’s face it, during the good times we don’t usual care to scrutinize these things so closely – we need bodies in suits out there closing the deals and if the numbers are there who cares how you get them?

And then, along comes a recession. In the last few years more businesses are seeing their sales teams underperform against expectations – realizing that their ranks are cluttered with order-takers who can’t find or close the deal in a tough economy. It starts to become clearer who is still able to bring in the bacon, but it can still be hard to tell who among the underperformers is truly a dud, and who can be salvaged.

When the economy sours a lot of the easy deals go away: the call-ins, the referral business, etc. Businesses see the fall-off in closure rates and some react by investing in expensive training and hiring motivational speakers to whip up the team’s enthusiasm, or take the “Glengarry Glenn Ross” approach to brow beat the sales team into better performance. However, these efforts can be wasted if invested in the wrong people: Anyone, practically, can take an order that has been called-in, but when those easy orders stop coming a real salesperson must have the skills and attitude to go out and prospect for new opportunities, listen to customers needs, develop the relationships, establish trust, qualify the opportunities and understand & execute the closing process. Knowing how to read the buyer and having the nimbleness to adjust accordingly become imperative.

So, if your sales are down is it just because the market is down or is it also due to the fact that your sales team isn’t as good as you thought it was? According to Herb Greenberg, Harold Weinstein and Patrick Sweeney of Caliper, “55% of the people earning their living in sales should be doing something else.” This startling conclusion was reached while researching for their book How to Hire and Develop Your Next Top Performer: The Five Qualities That Make Salespeople Great. The team reached this alarming statistic by comparing actual sales performance data with the results of hundreds of thousands of assessments.

How does your staff compare? Any behavioral style can be successful at selling if they have the right knowledge and attitude: they need the knowledge to know how to demonstrate, prospect, qualify, listen, read the buyers, etc., and the need the attitude to adjust their communication style to the needs of the situation. Without the right attitude the knowledge is wasted, without the knowledge the salesperson is underequipped to do the job. This is where advanced objective assessment tools can be so helpful. Sales-specific tools quantify the salesperson’s knowledge in key selling skills and give objective insights into the individual’s attitudes. These tools are capable of not only identifying areas for improvement, but can also direct you to resources that are applicable to the specific problem areas found. This makes it easy for the manager to supply the salesperson with the means of improvement. If they want to get better at their job they now have the tools to do so.

Salavageability of the underperforming salesperson is ultimately determined by the attitude of the salesperson – willingness to learn and focused effort to apply new skills can turn around performance issues and strengthen weaknesses, but as they say “you can lead a horse to water…” If you supply prescribed information to target knowledge improvement and training that is customized to the individual and that underperforming individual refuses to take advantage of those resources then, well, the decision becomes very easy: dump ‘em. Sinking resources into an individual without the attitude for improvement is wasted money and keeping a low, unsalvageable performer in a spot that could be occupied by a strong performer has a high opportunity cost. On the other hand, if the salesperson in question takes to the study and starts applying the new knowledge, the decision is again easy, in fact it may simply be self-correcting as the poor performer with the right attitude continues to attend to the identified weaknesses with the targeted resources for study and improvement. As skills and confidence grow, so will performance.

From a team development perspective the sales-potential assessment allows coaching and training expenditures to shift from broad-based generalized approaches to hyper-targeted surgical strikes on an individual’s problem areas – the one’s an individual is most likely to be motivated to work on since the training is highly applicable and the improvements are likely to come far quicker, than in a generalized “ground up” approach.

In tough economic times it is more important than ever before to separate the wheat from the chaff on your sales team. Objective assessment of skills and attitudes can help you prune the weakest links and salvage those with the attitude, if not yet all the skills, for sales success.

Only 37% of Sales Professionals are Consistently Effective

Monday, September 19th, 2011

In a slide show recently published by the Harvard Business Review, researchers Lynette Ryals and Iain Davies present some fascinating and eye-opening findings regarding sales effectiveness. Their study based on observation of 800 sales professionals in actual live sales meetings led them to conclude that only 37% of sales professionals were consistently effective in achieving results.

Their findings categorized the study group into eight classifications of behavior patterns: Socializers, Aggressors, Narrators, Focusers, Storytellers, Consultants, Closers, Experts. According to the study only the last three, Experts, Closers and Consultants, were able to deliver consistent results. Together these three groups comprised just 37% of the sample.

Also of interest were some data points that debunked some “common knowledge” assumptions about what makes a good salesperson. Conventional wisdom and sales folklore point to the socializing sales professional and the hard-driving aggressor as the desirable sales personalities, yet in this study these two groups were the bottom performers. The aggressors could occasionally have a big win, but their performance on average was poor, while the socializers would get caught up in the small talk and not keep the sales pitch in focus.

The authors noted that “a disproportionate amount of training is allocated to presentation and rapport skills, as well as the actual sales pitch” and therefore these skills had become commodified across the field.

We, at Data Dome agree that much of the focus of sales training tends to overlook behavioral issues and instead focus on closing skills and process methodologies. However, as this Harvard study indicates, behaviors are more indicative of sales performance. Hiring salespeople is often an error prone process filled with subjective decisions that can bring disappointing results – just ask the sales managers who hired the Aggressors and Socializers in the study. This is one of the reasons why we encourage the use of behavioral and motivator focused tools to identify candidates with high sales potential. Objective assessments eliminate much of the guesswork whether they’re used as a selection aid during the hiring process or as a development aid to diagnose specific behavior and motivator weaknesses that may lower an individual’s sales success potential. These tools can also be valuable in recommending targeted training for awareness and improvement in these areas.

Sales and DISC Behavior – It’s Easy to Sell to People Like You

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

(but not necessarily easy to manage them)

As discussed in our previous articles, “Sales Hiring Mistakes” and “Sales: What Makes a Great Salesperson (for You)?“, businesses that can sell well tend to do well – so it is not surprising that there is a lot of interest in making the sales process more predictable. Yet try as they might, salespeople and sales managers are often puzzled as to why some deals seem to go like clockwork while others feel like endless uphill struggles. They blame the market, they blame the people, they look to the 80/20 rule and see that 20% of the people bring in 80% of the profit, but can’t determine how to reliably duplicate the effective ones.

Communication is often the cause at the root of sales successes and failures. The fact is it is generally easier to sell to someone who shares the same communication preferences, that has a similar behavioral style, as you do. Comfortable communication is an important factor in establishing the trust and credibility needed to create a sale. By default we all tend to approach sales communication from the old golden rule “treat others as you would like to be treated,” however that old expression overlooks the idea that “others” may not want to be treated, in behavior or communication, in the way that makes you yourself feel the most comfortable.

DISC opens the door for us to understand that the behaviors or communication modes that feel natural to one person may cause stress to another. With this insight we can amend the golden rule to say “treat others as they wish to be treated” and use this idea to build a better foundation for sales success. Teaching salespeople to recognize their own behavioral styles and those of the clients they interact with gives them the opportunity to adapt to a mode of communication better suited to the client’s need. As the salesperson’s skill in recognizing and adapting to the styles of others increases so will their ability to build trust and credibility in relationships that were previously difficult and puzzling. Although the salesperson’s natural behavioral style will remain their same they will learn when and how to adapt for better results.

Recognizing that people have different natural behavioral styles also helps us understand a mistake that is unfortunately quite commonly made by businesses: they take their best performing salesperson and promote him or her to sales manager. Consider that the track record of the person in question indicates that the behaviors demanded to be a top sales performer are well-aligned with their natural behavioral style. Does a sales manager perform the same behaviors? What would indicate that the roles are interchangeable? As an analogy would a pro football team promote someone to quarterback because they were a great receiver? Not likely – the skills, the reflexes, the behaviors wouldn’t fit.

Let’s examine a scenario from a DISC perspective to further illustrate the point. At Company X the top performing sales people tend to be people skilled at keeping people happy and emotionally vested while driving for quick decisions and buy-in that keep the process moving forward rather than slipping into stasis. Meanwhile the successful sales manager at Company X must assert authority and accountability to the team, following a strictly defined process to assure fairness in hiring, firing, and compensation systems while also tracking the endlessly detailed expense reimbursement process. In the language of DISC that successful sales person is exhibiting high I (Influence) and high D (Dominance) behaviors while the sales manager’s role requires a low I and a high C (Compliance) – essentially opposite attributes. An individual might be able to adjust temporarily to fit the requirements, but quickly the stress and energy drain of maintaining that adjustment so strongly away from the individual’s natural behavioral preferences will cause the situation to either erode or explode. Reverting to natural behaviors the ex-salesperson now manager in question starts to try to make the salespeople she is responsible for as happy as she liked to make the customers she used to interact with, she grows restless handling the details and uncomfortable enforcing the policy and procedures because her C isn’t naturally high. Simply put, the former star receiver ends up being a lousy quarterback through no fault of her own.

At Data Dome we specialize in using the science of DISC behavioral analysis to unlock the keys to better performance, improved team dynamics and creating the best fits for your organization to thrive. Contact us to find out more about training and tools that can improve sales performance while helping you understand the success criteria for different roles in your organization.

Sales Hiring Mistakes – Experience isn’t Everything

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

If there is one truth in business it is that you won’t stay in business if you don’t make sales. Every single day businesses struggle to unlock better sales performance and hire the best salespeople, but unfortunately all that training and screening doesn’t always get you the results you want. Why? To understand this let’s explore some common sales hiring mistakes:

Mistake #1 Over-valuing sales experience.
We love to see the president’s club mentioned on the resume, but it is dangerous to assume that past sales success will mean that the candidate will know how to sell your line of products or services. Simply looking at the sales performance numbers won’t tell you about the type of customers that salesperson was successful with nor the sophistication/complexity of the product or service sold. Looking at numbers without context won’t help you find a candidate with the right behavioral match and communication style required for successful sales at your company.

Mistake #2 Not hiring inexperienced people.
There are no statistics that show past sales success alone to be predictive of future success. A sales “newbie” is likely to be more receptive to the training you provide, with less need to unlearn approaches that may have worked while at a different employer, but are no longer applicable due to the changed circumstances. Hire for behavior and attitude first, aptitude second and experience last.

Mistake #3 Hiring based on old criteria.
Even when sales are faltering many companies will continue to hire salespeople based on the same old criteria typically established during a more successful “heyday” period in their past. The business landscape is always shifting making it necessary to adapt hiring criteria to those changing circumstances. Why would you bring in new people selected with the same criteria as your current team when that team is now underperforming? Hire for the future not to recapture a past that no longer exists.

Mistake #4 Hiring all the same type of people (just like you).
This isn’t just true in sales, it is a common problem in all areas of business. We fill teams with people like ourselves because they make us feel comfortable, but the real world is full of people with diverse communication styles and a range of behavior profiles. Salespeople tend to perform better when their behavioral style is similar to the prospective customer’s, but unless all your customers happen to fit the same profile, you’ll be missing out on your team’s overall sales potential.

Mistake #5 “Bumping” a top salesperson to sales manager
We’ll be expanding on this mistake in a future article, however, it is not uncommon for organizations to either take one of the best salespeople they already have or bring in someone with a great selling track-record and “bump them up” to the role of sales manager. Unfortunately this is all too often a mistake because many of the behaviors, reflexes and attitudes that work so well for the sales process are not necessarily desirable as a manager. Similarly, managing sales people requires behaviors that are not necessary for success in selling. Although every scenario is different, one common example is simply taking someone who is happy having independence, self-direction, mobility and a high degree of interpersonal interaction in their sales role and suddenly putting them in a position that requires spending the majority of time confined to a desk filling out reports and prepping for internal meetings. It is an abrupt behavioral shift and one that will be difficult to sustain.

Awareness of these common mistakes can help you build a more effective sales hiring process. We can help you learn to identify the behavioral and attitudinal criteria that are better predictors of sales success. We also offer behavioral based sales training that can teach your new hires and your “old guard” how to recognize communication preferences and adapt their own behaviors to build trust faster, lower resistance, and close more deals.

Improving sales performance requires educating your salespeople and improving their ability to recognize and adapt to behavioral and communication styles that may not match their own. At Data Dome we specialize in using the science of behavioral analysis to unlock the keys to better performance, improved team dynamics and creating the best fits for your organization to thrive. Contact Data Dome for more information on developing hiring strategies and for training that opens the DISC Doorway to Better Sales Performance.

Holiday Gift Shopping? Browse the Data Dome Bookstore!

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Are you ready for gift-giving Dominance?
Got someone on your list you want to Influence?
Do you possess the Steadiness of a seasoned holiday shopper?
Is Conscientiousness the key to picking the perfect gift?

Give the gift that can really make a difference!

We are pleased to announce the return of the Data Dome Development Bookstore – a selection of suggested readings targeted to specific development and self-improvement goals.

Got a friend with low energy? We can suggest a book for that!

Is your sibling too assertive? The right reading may be just the ticket!

Are you trying to find the perfect gift for someone low on optimism, high on the need to be liked, or maybe lacking in self-reliance? Wouldn’t you like to know the books a good coach would recommend for each of these situations?

And don’t forget about your own New Year’s resolutions… Some smart reading could put you on a productive path to reaching your goals!

We have recommendations in forty targeted categories of development: Learn the right books to help tackle the “too highs” and the “too lows”.

For books for everything from building assertiveness to learning patience, visit Recommended Reading for Coaching and Personal Development and give the gift that shows you care.

And don’t forget the sales pros on your list! Visit Reading for Sales Professionals and browse our recommendations for strategic and behavioral development made specifically with the salesperson in mind.

Top 1% Makes the Difference

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Your blood pressure is up and profits are down. Don’t your managers and salespeople get it? Are you the only one who sees the big picture?

The problem might be that you need to better understand your top performers so that you can use your entire team more effectively.

“You don’t compete with products alone anymore, but how well you use your people”, a manager tells Daniel Goleman in Working with Emotional Intelligence. Higher profits and higher revenues will depend on a new kind and level of productivity.

How important is it to understand what top performers have that average and low performers don’t?

For front line jobs, those in the top 1 percent produced three times more output than those in the bottom 1 percent.

For jobs such as professional salespeople, account managers, and executives, those in the top 1 percent produced 127 percent more than the average performer.

Successful Selling is More than Personality

Friday, September 18th, 2009

They can talk…but can they sell?

Many more can talk than can sell. Did you ever hire someone because they sounded so great – presented so well – you thought they could do anything? But six months later, you’re tired of hearing how great they sound, you just want some results?

Why? What went wrong? To answer completely, there are two areas that need to be addressed:

  • Behavioral Style
  • Knowledge of Selling

Behavioral style refers to the behavioral elements of selling a particular product for a particular company to a particular client base. These elements include:

  • aggressiveness
  • cold-call reluctance
  • extroversion
  • multi-tasking
  • rules compliance
  • natural enthusiasm
  • self starting tendencies
  • servicing
  • paperwork
  • tendency to detail
  • product information
  • customer relations
  • consistency
  • follow-up and follow-through
  • tendency to listen.

It takes a very different style to sell computer parts directly to computer engineers than it does to sell computers to the general public. Similarly, to close the sale to a low-key, easy-going, family-oriented type
buyer requires considerably different style than closing the same merchandise to a fast-talking, hurried, bottom-line oriented buyer.

By analyzing what you’re selling, who you are selling for, and who you are selling to, a company today can articulate the customized behaviors optimum for their situation. Salespeople can then be hired whose natural behaviors are ideally what you are looking for. Those salespeople who are not exactly ‘natural’ in these behaviors will nevertheless benefit tremendously from understanding just what behaviors are best to role-play, or emulate, to excel for your company.

Knowledge of Selling is totally different than one’s behavioral selling style. You may have the right personality style – the right mix of extroversion, aggressiveness, empathy, etc. – but do you know what to do and say in the selling cycle: when to ask for the close, when to remain silent, what strategy to use, and when to use it.

Most sales training programs, in effect, give technical training, but very little in the art of selling. Likewise, the tools for measuring these Sales Skills are different. What are the best things to do and when?

These elements include how to:

  • Prospect
  • Qualify
  • Probe
  • Impress
  • Demonstrate
  • Influence
  • Close

Make Adjustments: To communicate more effectively with a customer, you may be required to adjust your natural behavioral style. These adjustments may cause stress or require additional energy. “Pumping up” to get more motivated and enthusiastic than one normally feels requires focus and energy.

On the other hand, stress occurs when the results-driven aggressive salesperson has to slow down, listen more and show patience to slower-reacting people. That is why sales knowledge – knowing exactly what to do – is extremely helpful to minimize the extra stress or energy required to adjust behavioral style. Advantages include shortening the sales cycle, reducing stress and closing sales more often!

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