At SalesGym, we’re always on the lookout for interesting sales executives to interview and tap their thinking on trends, top performers, coaching, and building better sales teams. In a recent interview with Sam Ellsworth, SVP, National Sales at New American Funding, he shared some fascinating thoughts into how sales managers can build better performing sales teams. His insights included:
- Work ethic, time management and focus still matters!
- The importance of the “IT” factor when it comes to successful salespeople
- Practice as a key to how top performers rise to the top
- Two suggestions for sales managers
Early in the interview, Sam shared some time-tested common sense that is easy to overlook in an era when everyone is looking for the next best idea that will generate faster results …
“The fundamentals, basic block and tackle fundamentals of work ethic and structure are being valued less and less every year. There’s this idea that there is an easier solution out there or a quick fix through technology. Everything’s easier in this changing universe of consumer behavior. Where I see top performers succeeding and the greater majority not succeeding or neutral or flatlining is in their ability to plan, to have an objective and know their goals. The organized time blocking isn’t happening and the inability to pay attention due to societal changes is just being thrown at a person every single day. It’s what is creating the inability for someone to close their door and focus, linearly, on a task for 30 minutes or an hour or even just 15 minutes.”
Clearly, one of the most important advantages that top performers have, not only in sales, but pretty much everywhere, is the ability to shut out distractions and focus. Given that salespeople are generally looking at their computers, tablets or phones when not talking to prospects, the internet is pushing distractions at them virtually every minute of every day. The best sales managers realize this and figure out ways to creatively and constantly make salespeople aware that these distractions, though tempting, are killing their results. Here are a few ideas on how to push more focus into the mind of sales teams to squeeze distraction out:
- Put 10-minutes of brainstorming into more of your sales meetings to simply answer the question … what can we do individually to eliminate time wasting distractions and put more intense focus into each day? Take notes, ask everyone to pick one idea and report back on it at a future meeting. Take notes and send out a recap to remind the team of their commitments.
- Make focus more visible! Just as giant corporations are pushing distractions, we need to push focus into the front windshield of every team member. Forward articles about time management, insist that every sales team member have a solid time blocked schedule in place every Monday morning and ask for a paragraph at the end of every week on their progress toward more focus.
- Assign everyone to read one time management book twice a year and ask for summaries of the key points at sales meetings.
- Distractions are never ending and so should your campaign be to push for focus
- Remember, what’s visible gets noticed and what’s measured and reported gets done. Tap into these potent leadership fundamentals
The “IT” factor … hire for it
Much of the success of a sales team is determined by recruiting and hiring. When salespeople are brought in that simply have more potential and drive, then the training and management resources needed to get them going is reduced and their ability to manage themselves toward success is increased. Sam shared with us the importance of what he calls the “IT” factor …
“The “IT” factor is woven into your DNA. You’re born with it or something happens in your formative years where you have that, whether it was a coach, a parent, brother or sister, accountability or pressure, whatever it might have been, whatever your psychological makeup is. The 20 or 10 percent of high achievers or top performers are driven by that “IT” Factor.”
A high percentage of top performers are competitive and understand and accept the reality of sacrifice needed to achieve better results. Many played sports and gave up afternoons and weekends to practice and improve. When you’re interviewing candidates, ask a wide variety of questions to determine if that candidate has truly experienced paying the price to achieve a major goal?
- What they are actively practicing to get better at right now? Ask to explain their practice routine and how they motivate themselves to stay focused?
- What they’ve succeeded at and what kind of effort was needed to get there?
- Explain the three biggest achievements of their life that were a direct consequence of sustained effort and sacrifice?
- Finally, ask them to describe one situation where their lack of effort or sustained practice led to a disappointment they could have overcome?
Top performers practice and hone their skills more than others
The best sales managers create a culture where frequent practice happens every week, all year long. They train their salespeople the way elite sports teams train. Sam explains how practice and training drives top performers,
Top performers are continuously honing their skills so they are more polished. They work on polishing up their connectivity in the early days of the conversation. -Sam Ellsworth, SVP, National Sales at New American Funding Click To Tweet
“Top performers are continuously honing their skills so they are more polished. They work on polishing up their connectivity in the early days of the conversation. Where you see a lot of people that are having a success is that they’re in control of the dialogue and that’s a confidence thing, that’s behavioral. Repeated success builds that confidence. When successful salespeople are talking to consumers, their deliverables are more efficient and there’s purpose and strategy to the solution. That’s where the really good salespeople are excelling and where the average or poor performers are a train wreck.”
Sam suggested we look carefully at how coaches prepare their sports teams for competition for clues into how to build better performing sales teams,
Those that practice, coach, have consistency, and accountability will perform at the highest level and improve and behavior will change.-Sam Ellsworth, SVP, National Sales at New American Funding Click To Tweet
“If you compare sports to sales and your game is on Saturday, then Sunday is film review, Monday is your game plan day, then it’s coaching and practice, practice, practice, review, study, practice. Friday comes along and you do a walk through so you are ultimately prepared for the game. So what we’re really talking about, it’s practice and behavior. We’re talking about consistency. Show up at the same time, meet from X to Z, review, plan, practice. Then it creates a consistent behavior of coaching and strategy and solution and practice with accountability. With sports it’s been ingrained since you were a little kid because that’s what you did. If you play on the team you show up and practice, but in the sales world all that gets thrown out the door. Those that practice, coach, have consistency, and accountability will perform at the highest level and improve and behavior will change.”
Michael Jordan, when asked what it took to get to his amazing skill level, often replied with, “if you want to play like a champion then you have to train and practice like a champion.” That means under pressure repeatedly until you can perform under pressure.
Two suggestions for sales managers
Sam offered some very insightful advice to sales managers and the importance of putting our attention where it really belongs:
- “Many frontline managers are "me" centric where they don't grow and improve the performance of those they serve. They're rarely great coaches and are generally not really effective recruiters. The group overall we really need to improve the performance of is managers in terms of tasking them with coaching accountability.”
- “As a sales leader, you have to know who your more talented individuals are and exploit that talent. You've got to drive and connect with your younger talent. It's critically important that you're cultivating and embracing the younger talent and challenging them. They're thriving for it. They're so hungry for leadership and structure and accountability because I don't think there's a lot of that in society today.” “As a sales leader, you have to know who your more talented individuals are and exploit that talent. You've got to drive and connect with your younger talent. It's critically important that you're cultivating and embracing the younger talent and challenging them. They're thriving for it. They're so hungry for leadership and structure and accountability because I don't think there's a lot of that in society today.”>
So, in summary, push focus into the windshield of your salespeople, interview and hire for the “IT” factor, train your people the way elite sports teams train and learn to be a strong coach.Listening is a dying art form.-Sam Ellsworth, SVP, National Sales at New American Funding Click To Tweet
SalesGym is a research, consulting, and training company that works with and learns from sales teams all over the world and has refined a coaching and training process that trains sales teams the way elite athletes are trained. More insights and articles from us can be found on our RESOURCES PAGE.