A lot of salespeople plateau, in terms of results, way before they realize their full potential and this frustrates the heck out of Sales Managers. On most sales teams, 20-30% of the salespeople generate 80% of the results…that’s a stunning reality that generates a lot of missed opportunities and frustrating costs that just don’t return much on the investment. So, what to do about it?
There are essentially seven different options a company or sales manager has to choose from when it comes to moving salespeople to the next level of performance:
- Improve the product, pricing and/or offer
- Adjust compensation and Incentives
- Escalate the fear of consequences
- Goal and motivational coaching
- Increasingly extreme pipeline and territory micro-management
- Improve the formal sales training
- Skills development practice coaching
These are your tools to break comfort zones and increase the pace of improvement. We’ve found, from years of working with our clients, that it takes all 7, but #’s 1, 6 and 7 will have the most serious impact. Incentives often have minimal impact on middle of the pack salespeople and it’s hard to enforce tougher standards on salespeople that are doing alright, but not great. Salespeople become much more profitable when they rise out of the middle and generate top performer results.
What tends to happen with salespeople after they pass through the new hire and onboarding stage is they learn their company and products and begin to repeat a routine on sales calls that they become comfortable with. The last thing anyone wants on a live sales call is an awkward moment caused by trying some new approach that we’re not skillful at, so salespeople settle into interaction and selling habits largely because they’re familiar and comfortable, not because they’re highly effective. And this is the problem.
Some helpful things to keep in mind when it comes to salespeople, change, and resistance:
- Sales, by its nature, is disruptive and invasive as we’re trying repeatedly to get buyers to change their current direction and use us as opposed to what they’re currently using
- Sales requires extreme attitude control because the activities that lead to selling success are typically hard to do
- Sales involves a lot of rejection and facing a never ending stream of “no’s” and this is not easy for a lot of people to take so they seek to minimize it with a lower risk approach to their job
- Most companies have little to no sales skills coaching set up so it’s easy for salespeople to settle into bad habits and kinda bluff their way through their meetings with their sales managers
- Top performers typically have a motivational spark or drive that is hard to find and even harder to sustain. They are demanding to manage as they expect the company to try as hard as they do to serve customers and most companies are not set up for that kind of intense customer focus
- A lot of salespeople are “naturals” when it comes to people skills and communication and, as such, form somewhat lazy habits when it comes to improving because they’re good at improvising and that feels comfortable to them
- In our current era, managers and executives are often consumed with tech and data issues that flood their to do lists and cause them to manage their people more and more from a distance
- Sales training has often become very analytic and planning based which has allowed a lot of salespeople to plateau when it comes to their verbal selling skills. They fall into bad verbal habits and stay there because no one is practicing with them to break those bad habits
- Very few sales executives or managers look at their sales teams the same way that head coaches look at their elite teams and this is a big mistake. Sales teams should be trained and managed much more like professional sports teams with frequent workouts and practice
So, here are the classic mistakes we see over and over with sales organizations that are frustrated their salespeople are not more motivated and creating better results:
- Grossly underestimate how much should be budgeted for sales training.
- Hire people internally to do sales training that are not credible or experienced … under budget for those jobs.
- There is no program in place to teach sales managers how to coach for skills in the field and as such, it doesn’t happen.
- Sales Managers are simply too busy with reporting, tech issues and internal meetings to give salespeople the time and attention they need in order to become top performers.
- The company has no archive or library of top performer recordings when it comes to sales messaging. In fact, many companies are not truly aware of what their own top performer best practices are.
- The sales organization does not have a practice culture or a culture that supports celebration and sharing of success … for whatever reason, this just doesn’t exist.
Great sales organizations turn this around and make these typical weaknesses their strengths. They start by building a true skills development practice culture that finds, shares and trains the team on top performer skills and habits. That’s where you have to start. You build a sales team the same way a coach builds an elite sports team…with goals, intense training, measurement and accountability.
- Do a real sales skills self assessment with salespeople and Sales Managers … you have to do both
- Find out exactly what your top performers and top performers from your competitors and other industries are doing that you need to train your team to do. You can’t create great if you can’t describe it. Top performer best practices are the building blocks you need to build a superior sales team
- Get serious about building a PRACTICE CULTURE into your sales team. It’s practice, the same way that elite athletes improve, that will break middle of pack producers out of their habits of mediocrity.
- Plan an intense sales messaging competency initiative … get everyone to a high level of fluency with the value proposition, competitive advantages and differentiating factors
- Either recruit a fantastic sales training team or form a real, lasting partnership with an outside firm to do this for you, but take sales training seriously and that means putting very competent and skilled sales trainers in front of your salespeople and Sales Managers
These are the basics and they are non-negotiable if you want a world-class sales team. If you’d like, we at the SalesGym can help you get these areas going within your sales organization.
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