At SalesGym, we interview dozens of leading sales executives every year to find out new thinking and trends on top performers, coaching and building better sales teams. In a recent interview with Paul Hundhammer – SVP Sales with Carhartt, Inc., he shared some powerful insights into the motivational and skillset elements that he has observed with top performers.
Sales Leaders tend to agree…
When asked what it is that separates top performers from the rest of the pack, in interview after interview, what we hear most often are 4 key areas:
- They’re more motivated and have more drive to succeed
- They have a personality that’s likable and trustworthy
- They connect with customers, understand their needs and solve their problems with the right solution
- They manage their time and focus on priorities that matter most
When asked what he notices most about top performers, Paul told us…
The skillset of our best people is great drive. They wake up and they are committed to getting something done every day... they are motivated. -Paul Hundhammer - SVP Sales with Carhartt Click To Tweet
“The skillset of our best people is great drive. They wake up and they are committed to getting something done every day… they are motivated.” Paul continued with some insight into how these more driven salespeople put that motivation into practice… “The best salespeople have an interest in the entire business, from the time that they set up the meeting to the moment they sell the product. They help the buyer write the order, they make sure the order is produced and ships, and then they follow up and they replenish that product all season long. That’s your best salesperson. The other salesperson is the one that just sets the meeting up, sells, waits for it to ship, and then prepares to sell the next season and they just hope that somehow it sells and the buyer will replenish the product. That is a far less successful salesperson.”
Can motivation & drive be developed?
What we’ve found, in working with thousands of salespeople over the last 30 years, is that the culture of the organization has an enormous impact on the motivation and drive of the sales team. Consider the remarkable burst of energy a favorite song can have on us while driving or how certain architectural spaces can make us feel more energized and awake. This same effect of energy, excitement and motivation happens when sales leaders create the right culture. Just as a new coach can bring a whole new motivational spark to a sports team and motivate players to much higher levels of performance, so can the right approach by sales leaders.
5 Keys to a more Motivational Sales Culture
- Flood the team with positive examples of excellence … record how your best people communicate with customers and share these examples repeatedly
- Focus on building a dynamic practice culture … nothing breaks bad habits like practice and bad habits kill a sales culture
- Notice and recognize progress and sparks of excellence … remember that we get more of what we recognize and celebrate
- Set team goals and make them obnoxiously visible … raw motivation needs to be transformed into focused action towards goals and a mission
- Sales managers with low energy have a hard time transferring positive energy to the team … think of managers as batteries that help recharge and inspire
Better questions are the trademark of top performers…
Most sales leaders we talk to agree that salespeople tend to talk to much and miss asking the right questions at the right time to generate more selling opportunities. Paul explains a pattern many salespeople get into…
“There’s a lot of really important questions that need to be asked that don’t necessarily get asked by so many salespeople. Salespeople tend to rely on a relationship with the buyer and will just show product and wait for the buyer to write the order. There’s more training necessary for our salespeople to ask questions to dig out more information from buyers and divisionals and vice presidents.”
We’ve found that when salespeople have a strong verbal command of their competitive advantages and differentiating factors and can communicate them in a concise way, then they can learn to relax, listen and ask better questions. The trap many salespeople get into is talking too much and using closed-ended questions that generate short responses and create awkward silence the salesperson fills with more talking and less listening.
Steps to better questioning skills
- Identify your competitive advantages and differentiating factors and create a short headline for each one. Teach the sales team to communicate each one in 45 seconds or less
- Create a master list of at least 10 fantastic open-ended questions that apply to a wide variety of selling situations
- Practice communicating the competitive advantages and differentiating factors with a great open ended-question at the end
- Create realistic, relatively easy practice simulations that allow salespeople to practice these skills in the flow of sales conversation
- Help everyone on the sales team learn to start each sales interaction with a listening-oriented agenda
For professional athletes, practice was something that was non-negotiable and was not just important, it was a necessity in order to perform.” — Paul Hundhammer
Listening needs to lead to insights…
The best salespeople use insights to help the buyer rethink their decision making criteria and this gives them a big advantage. Great questions and listening opens the door, but insights that take the buyer’s understanding of what they truly need to a higher level is what leads to bigger sales. Paul points out the importance of insights…
We need to train salespeople to help tailor the business model of their prospects and bring insights to help them reach their goals. -Paul Hundhammer - SVP Sales with Carhartt Click To Tweet
“We continue to try to train people to sell more in terms of asking more questions, understand exactly what their contact is responsible for, understand exactly what measurements and goals are being set against their business so they can get a sense of how they will have to perform. We need to train salespeople to help tailor the business model of their prospects and bring insights to help them reach their goals.”
It’s not that difficult to train salespeople to bring potent insights into the conversation, just as it’s not that difficult to train a runner to develop more stamina. It takes repeated practice. Here’s a simple exercise that will help train salespeople on this critical insights delivery skill:
- Step One: Record an effective audio example of good questions and listening that simulates the situation of a typical customer. The example needs to have a salesperson and a customer that is cooperative and reveals a lot of good helpful information in their answers.
- Step Two: Play the example to a salesperson you decide to work with, stop the recording after all the questions have been asked and answered, then have the salesperson briefly summarize what they’ve learned from listening as if they were summarizing it right to that customer.
- Step Three: Give the salesperson ten minutes to think of three helpful insights (not products) that can help this customer think in a new way that will have a positive impact on their business. Then, ask the salesperson to verbally deliver those insights as if talking to the customer.
- Step Four: Give feedback and suggestions on even better insights that might have a better impact and then practice again until the summary + insights sound better.
Paul reminds us how important it is to focus on the prospect’s goals…
“You’ve got to find a way to make the prospect feel like you’re supporting their goals, and then you get 10 times the return. Companies don’t need a training manual because that doesn’t work. What they need is about 1 or 2 pages of what’s important information and then have scenarios where each one of their people, starting with the managers, role-play and are giving and receiving feedback. Do this until they are confident and can transfer that skill and confidence to their direct reports who will role-play with their direct reports and so on until the sales reps are strong enough to communicate and only then are they allowed to go into the marketplace and talk to a customer.”
The 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.