You have amazing customer service. You have an attractive web presence and it’s on the front page of all the top search engines. You have a compelling value proposition. Your products and services are considered cutting edge. You are the competition. That well-oiled machine you lead didn’t evolve by happenstance. So why do your sales people seem separated from your other employees?
If your sales team isn’t hitting its targets, its potential, and its objectives and isn’t sticking its chest out with pride, it’s because your sales culture wasn’t built correctly. Correctly building a great sales culture is a process, not an event. It is a long-term investment with a mind blowing ROI.
Want me to read this to you?
It’s seems peculiar to me that companies try to grow sales, by exerting pressure on what they perceive are their haughty sales people, reminding them of how far behind they are of hitting their ever growing quotas. Too many times, albeit well intended, leadership concurs that increasing the bonus structure will be the carrot that fuels the drive to gain the results desired. However, the only find that paying more to salespeople does not make them any better at selling, it breeds complacency.
Organizations reinvest a large portion of revenue into refining their offerings and increasing their marketing, in hope of increasing sales and gaining market share. This rarely hurts but it too often disguises the underlying problem. It’s been reported by many pundits that over 70% of an organizations training time, time spent teaching their sales force, is on product knowledge versus actually selling. The rub comes from the fact that today, more and more buyers know more about the company’s products and services than the salesperson anyway, thanks to the internet. This leaves the salesperson without their customary leverage.
To get on your way to building a great sales environment, you need to learn what we’ve been teaching for years.
Here are the nine key elements to crafting an amazing sales ethos:
- Listen & Observe. Get out with your salespeople, yes you and not their managers, and let them show you over a period of several months why they aren’t producing. Be supportive, don’t be critical, and follow their “I’m from Missouri so show-me” style of educating their critics. Use a disinterested third party for this event and they will come away with an earful of invaluable insight.
- Numbers never lie. Everybody has a system for monitoring activity that produces results. This data needs to be analyzed and linked not just to the sales department, but to the peripheral departments that impact their ability to develop new business. Take every number and ask all the three-year-old why questions you can stomach until all those finger pointing departments heads start to spew answers.
- What to say. Nearly all salespeople complain about scripts because they don’t like to be told what to say. Yet, sales people don’t like cold-calling because they aren’t sure what to say. Having a polished approach and being technically proficient is the edge of a pro. If you don’t have a standardized presentation, for every single objection and every single variable, stop everything you are doing and get them made – and not without the direction of your best salespeople! Having a sales force without this is like a business without a plan; it lacks structure, guidance and is unpredictable.
- Activity drives results. The top 20% produce 80% of the sales because they generally out work and out think the rest. The salesperson, who qualifies the most prospects, in the least amount of time, has the best results. This is by far the largest factor in how many sales they get, and has very little to do with who buys and who doesn’t. Push for activity to increase and the results will follow. Once you get consistent activity, and then polish the technique. Coaching technique without the activity will yield a negative ROI. Support that technique with the latest tools that actually help them sell, versus tools they know feed their managers judgmental eye.
- Pull weeds before they spread seeds. Anybody who has had a dandelion problem knows this basic fact. It’s also true with salespeople. Your managers know in their gut in less than six weeks if the new hire will make it or are their top time waster. Nothing spreads through a sales team like a bad attitude when your team senses the weed killer is too watered down to protect their rapid growth from wilting. Cut your marginal performers quickly, knowing you will have cut a future star now and then, because the majority are thistles spreading to your entire team.
- Dance to Three Dog Night. Always, praise in public and criticize in private. Always, create incentives that drive activity. Yes, year-end and even quarter-end kickers need to be tied to production, short-term incentives will spike activity. Your top 20% are just very different people! You’ll be amazed at what a salesperson will go through to gain recognition and a free dinner for two. Celebrate, celebrate and dance to the music!
- They won’t drink the Kool-Aid. Your sales people have to feel like they practically own the place. They have to believe in what they are selling is truly superior and beneficial to their customer. They feel like they are putting their good name on the line. They should be the highest income earners in your firm. They are the only face most of your customers ever see or hear from and their image is your image. They receive more advice on how to do their job, from people within your organization, who can’t and won’t do what they do, than any other responsible position within your entity. Rejection is constant in what they do for you. Give them your vision. Make certain they know how critical they are to your vision. If they believe in your vision, if they know what they pitch can change lives, if they know the big picture doesn’t exist without them – they will love being where they are! Feed their minds, love their work, fuel their activity and get out of their way.
- Practice doing the splits. You better be your sales team’s most ardent admirer and most persistent and consistent cheerleader. You must have the internal belief, in a very real manner, that what they do is honorable and that they are deemed professionals within your entire company. If there is anyone who thinks or shows signs of feeling otherwise – just have them do their job – seriously!
- They worship a different God. The great salespeople have a list of people they consider sales gurus. You may worship Jack Welsh, Kenneth Frazier or Marissa Mayer but your top sales people worship the thoughts and teachings of Jill Konrath, Jeffrey Gitomer, Christine Kelly and Brian Tracy and they think your pundits, wouldn’t be who they are, without their top sales leaders. Don’t limit them to your internal methods. Feed their minds from the outside in and watch your customer love how in-tuned you are to how they love to buy! Sales people are your consultants with a direct impact on your cash flow. Bring them their idol to worship live and relish how they tell everyone how awesome it is to work for you.
I’ve serviced, managed, mentored and led sales teams. Now I help overwhelmed small business owners understand the psychology behind the sales process. One of the common issues I help overcome, is the misunderstanding of the type of person who loves being at the front of the sales process, those knee deep in generating revenue and often the first and only person your customer knows. In short, while attempting to instill a culture that gives you the ROI you expect, you first need to understand before being understood. Your sales staff is different than anyone else. They want to control their income themselves – at least the great ones do. They have to have a thick skin. Support their differences and celebrate how unique they are, just like the role they play.
Thomas von Ahn | Chief Elephant Slayer | Viral Solutions LLC