At SalesGym, we’re always on the lookout for sales executives that have interesting and timeless insights into top performers, coaching, and building better sales teams. In a recent interview with Dustin Ellis, VP Sales at Flight Centre Travel Group – Canada, he shared what he’s observed over the years about top performing salespeople and how to increase the success rate with newly hired sales team members.
- Characteristics Of Top Performers
- Out Of The Friend Zone And Into The End Zone!
- Insights Into Training New Salespeople
Early in the interview, Dustin said something that set the tone for the rest of our conversation,
“Great salespeople are highly effective at asking strategic questions and listening. They truly want to understand so they can determine whether there is an opportunity to assist. The best is also the best because they don’t waste either party’s time if there is no opportunity.”
We’ve noticed that top performers are just as eager to push the low opportunity prospects out of their follow-up folders as they are to move the sales process forward with the high potential prospects. It’s often a pipeline saturated with lots of “maybes” that are just wasting the salesperson’s time and that’s something top performers are often on guard about. The key is to spend minimal time with low capacity opportunities.
Characteristics Of Top Performers
There’s no getting around the inescapable reality that 90% of the top performers in sales have more self-motivation than the rest as Dustin explains,Top performers have unwavering drive. They are strategic, resourceful and fearless in their efforts to build and present the winning case. - Dustin Ellis, VP Sales at Flight Centre Travel Group - Canada Click To Tweet
We’ve found, at SalesGym when training sales teams, it’s essential to train the sales team to understand their competitive advantages and differentiating factors so well that they can then tailor them into the conversation in a way that is more insightful and relevant to the decision maker. Dustin has noticed something similar,
“The most successful Business Development Managers use their knowledge and skill to confidently trigger the sales process by providing complementary value, insight or by challenging the status quo to spark continued interest. With most products and services being considered commodities, they understand the importance of immediately differentiating themselves as the expert to establish a higher level of trust vs their competitors. Top performers are confident and error on the side of confidence versus arrogance.”
Another big advantage top performers have is they learn how to focus in on what matters most to the decision maker as Dustin points out,
“Top performers do their research in advance, so they arrive prepared with a thorough understanding of the outcomes that align, with the greatest meaning, to the specific personas, businesses and industries they are approaching.”
Dustin also notes:
“Pending the complexity of the opportunity, sophisticated sales people build inclusive COI “cost of inaction” cases prior to presenting ROI cases to amplify the need for all stakeholders to change. They understand the importance of using the customers’ data to eliminate uncertainties when demonstrating the collective ROI. They tell high impact emotive stories about similar customers they’ve successfully assisted to persuasively paint a visual of the before and after landscape. While there are many other steps throughout the process they understand that presenting the product should be one of the final steps. Long story short, they understand and operate knowing the selling process itself carries greater weight in the decision-making process, than the product itself.”
Out Of The Friend Zone And Into The End Zone!
Although selling is largely about building rapport and trusting relationships, it’s interesting that relationships can get in the way of doing more business as Dustin points out,
“Less effective salespeople, predominantly relationship-based sellers, can be so empathetic they get stuck in the “friend zone” whereas top performers have the ability to transition from that same level of empathy into solutions that will address and overcome challenges. They remain focused and balanced in their approach to win the business. We refer to it as “Get out of the friend zone and into the end zone.”
Dustin points out that one of the most important purposes of a good sales process is not about your top performers utilizing it to win business but also about enabling the effectiveness of training and coaching opportunities for those who are new and struggling …
“We occasionally see challenges with top performers who are naturally successful, and it often is hard for them to explain in detail why. By adding structure to our sales process, we can deconstruct and be more specific with where and how things need to be adjusted. The structure acts as a foundation so there is consistency for not just one coach, but for all.”
Often, what salespeople need to be reminded of is to simply get into action … pick up the phone … schedule some meetings … start interacting with decision makers and influencers with a higher pace, as Dustin explains,One of the worst bad habits salespeople get into is paralysis by analysis. Be prepared, but pick up the phone and do the activities. - Dustin Ellis, VP Sales at Flight Centre Travel Group - Canada Click To Tweet
Insights Into Training New Salespeople
Dustin and his team have spent considerable time thinking through the initial training process and has identified key elements that are helping his organization generate better results:
- Pre-Boarding: The quickest way to get them sprinting out of the gates is to activate their learning before they even show up on day one. Knowing that a majority of our “newies” come with limited corporate sales experience, minimal to nil travel management industry knowledge and that we don’t provide lead lists, we have our National Sales Trainer reach out immediately after they sign their employee contract to walk them through our “Pre-Boarding” module.
- Ownership: By providing them with this type of support even before they start is that they gratefully arrive 3 steps ahead of the game. They understand what the basics of what our ideal client is, how and what we do to find them and what is expected when they start. A key part of that expectation is to arrive with a self-generated lead list. This process also aligns with one of our company philosophies, “Ownership”. The feedback we continuously get is that they feel empowered and even more excited to start.
- On-boarding: The “On-boarding” process, which includes many other steps, then has them arriving armed with a hundred leads which expedites the CRM training as they’re able to focus on washing leads within the tool vs spending time trying to find them. We believe that when you can exercise supported repetition, skill and knowledge retention increases significantly. While leaders walk them through this process, it also provides opportunity to coach on why certain leads are quality and why others are not. Immediate feedback generally sparks immediate growth. Favorable outcomes are also sparked by conducting this exercise in the first few days as they often are left with a few quality leads that form the basis of their first call list.
- Boot Camp: After an estimated 6 weeks of settling in with ongoing training, the “newies” are enrolled in our “Launch” program which is basically our five-day boot camp. We’ve found that retention levels are higher when we provide time for them to learn a little more about the company, the industry, their teammates, the OBWs “one best ways” and the varying support departments. It also allows them time to apply some of their on-board learnings and attend vital joint meetings with their leaders. Prior to attending, they work with their Team Leaders to create a product presentation of their choice. The purpose of this is to upskill on a product and to practice presenting when they arrive.
- Drive Engagement: We keep the classes limited to 4 or 5 to maximize engagement with the National Sales Trainer. We walk through effective lead sourcing, cold calling, the consultative sales process with SPIN selling techniques and product lines. Throughout the day we workshop and roll play to drive engagement and mitigate long periods of lecture.
- Daily Application: Every morning they begin their day with call blitzes so they can apply their learnings and stay on top of their follow up. The final days are spent applying what they learned through role play scenarios. We rotate in other Sr Sales Leaders to partake in roll plays and assist with coaching, so they are exposed to varied feedback and narratives in the roll plays.
- Feedback & Repetition: We use a coaching model to hear their thoughts on what they did well, what was tricky and what they would’ve done different. Leadership then provides specific feedback on how to tweak things and they try again. Roll play repetition with consistent feedback to apply and practice is key to them establishing confidence and finding early success.
- Record Role Plays: Following our boot camp, we have our salespeople video their best role plays. They end up doing dozens of roleplays trying to get it nailed down and we’ve seen huge improvement. We use these videos to not just coach the BDMs but to then coach the Sales leaders as well on how they grade them.
- Honest Scoring: Our best leaders know that if we want our frontline salespeople to improve they must be honest and disciplined with why, how, what and when they coach them. If they are lenient and grade them at 87%, then there is less incentive for them to improve versus if they provide an honest score of 67%. By positioning the specific feedback honestly, the gap for improvement is exposed and it actually motivates them to try and improve quicker and more effectively.
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.
Get expert sales knowledge with our FREE newsletter
Sign up for our monthly newsletter to access top sales training techniques.