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Posts Tagged ‘selling’

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 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.

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