Did you know it takes an average of 18 calls before a salesperson connects with their lead? Multiply that by every lead in the salesperson's funnel, and that's a gigantic amount of time spent chasing down sales. Yet, there's often a perception among company leadership that salespeople have it easy. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If your company doesn't properly value or take the time to understand its sales team, it can affect every facet of your business. Fostering a sales-positive culture helps you obtain long-term success.
The Benefit of a Sales-Positive Culture
Success begins with understanding, and understanding comes from the top down. Your company's leadership must set an example by demonstrating respect, appreciation and insight as to how their sales reps operate.
It's easy to see how misconceptions are born. For those who've never been a salesperson, speaking to clients seems like a soft skill, chatting and schmoozing followed by a lot of downtime. In reality, the sales rep spends only about 30% of their time talking directly with clients. The rest of that time is spent on administrative tasks like scheduling, paperwork and training.
Still, the misconception persists: that no one really understands what sales does, that sales seems easy, and that if the company needs more revenue, sales just needs to sell better or call more people to increase it. Unless your leadership takes measures to stop the anti-sales attitude from taking root, your company's morale and profitability could be in serious trouble.
10 Things Leadership Needs to Know About Its Sales People
It's a more effective strategy to build a bridge than it is a fence. Keeping your company's individual departments synchronized boosts morale and overall prosperity. After years of interacting with professional salespeople, these are the most essential things every salesperson wishes their CEO knew about them.
Your sales department is the driving force behind your revenue and prosperity, but they're often misunderstood by fellow employees and company leadership. It's important to view your sales team as essential and look for ways to enfranchise them. It's always better to build a bridge than it is a fence.
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An experienced, well-equipped and determined sales team can lead any business to success. The problem many companies face is that they have poor sales team performance.
In many cases, it doesn't have to do with experience or determination. The reason lies in the lack of understanding, empowerment and engagement.
Today, 75% of companies say that closing more deals is their top priority. If you are among them, showing trust and giving the necessary tools to your team can give your business a giant push forward. Consider these five ways to improve sales team performance.
1. Learn More About Your Sales Team
Being a sales rep isn't a profession. It's a calling. To be successful, these experts need to feel the buyers' pain points and offer suitable solutions, while guiding them down the sales funnel. All that requires determination, passion and hard work.
Unfortunately, many business owners don't understand the variety of challenges these sales professionals face. From that comes a lack of respect and encouragement, resulting in poor sales team performance. That's one of the reasons for a high sales rep turnover rate, compared to other industries (35% vs 13%).
If you feel unhappy with your team's sales performance, start by learning more about your team. As you work on your involvement, you can uncover various factors to help improve the team's performance.
2. Increase Sales Performance by Encourage Strengths
All sales reps have certain professional strengths and weaknesses. When you want an employee to increase sales performance, focusing attention on their weaknesses is counterproductive.
According to Gallup, building on employee's strengths is much more effective than trying to improve on their weaknesses. It's up to the employer to create a work environment to cultivate the sales rep's strengths.
A supervisor's understanding of his/her reps' strengths has an impressive effect on the company's bottom line because managers play a crucial role in maximizing employee output. You can empower the sales rep to discover and develop their strengths. Once you do that, adjust their role to exploit these strengths fully.
3. Support Teamwork
To boost sales team performance, sales reps need to come together as a united group. This could be problematic for experts, who are used to working alone. As you get to know each team member's strengths and weaknesses, you can figure out the best way to bring these people together.
4. Ask For Feedback...And Listen To It
The best way to discover a problem in the workplace is to ask. If your team isn't performing as well as you expect, ask your sales rep why they think it's happening.
The information you can acquire simply by asking could change your entire approach to team building, workplace environment and much more.
Don't hesitate to ask your sales team for ideas. They may already know how to solve the problem. Listening to your employees and trusting their professional opinion could help you achieve many business goals in addition to improving sales team performance.
5. Promote Engagement And Involvement
One of the top reasons why employees are unhappy with their work is the lack of meaning. When sales reps don't see a meaning in what they do, their performance suffers.
Employee disengagement costs the U.S. more than $550 billion a year in lost productivity. Even when scaled down to one company, the losses could be devastating. To increase engagement, employees should be invested in the company's mission, vision, value and goals.
It's up to the leader to show the sales team why its work is highly meaningful to the company. You should help sales reps understand that the work they do contributes to the company's success directly.
Start Improving Sales Team Performance Today
The success of your sales team doesn't just depend on its professionalism and experience. A big part stems from your attitude.
By getting to know your team better, encouraging its strengths, improving the workplace environment and promoting engagement, you can improve the sales team's performance tremendously. Work with your sales team as much as you can. Such an effort can bring an impressive ROI.
For more information about improving your sales team performance and other important tips, please sign up for our weekly newsletter.
What Is Your Client Really Buying From You? How to Create a Winning Value Statement - with Examples & Templates
You know that a strong value statement is crucial effective sales management, and ultimately for your company to thrive. It’s that power statement — those magic words — that tell your client that you understand their problem and have the perfect solution at the ready.
Though value statements are often brief, the process of getting to those precise, honed words can be anything but. So, here are some hacks and examples to help you write your own winning value statement.
Questions to Answer with Your Team
Before you put word one down on the page, you want to make sure you have these five questions answered with your team:
Putting it all Together: Examples + Templates
Now that you have all the elements, you want to put them together in a way that’s attractive, easy to process and memorable. Here are some hacks for doing just that.
Write one powerful sentence.
The most straightforward way to build your value statement is to connect your client and their challenge to your services and benefits in one, clear sentence. In Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers, Geoff Moore suggests using the following template to do just that:
Compare your service to something your client already knows.If you can find a way to compare your service to another well-known product in another industry, you’ve found a shortcut to conveying your value proposition. By relying on your audience’s knowledge of the familiar product, you can quickly say a lot about what you offer.
Focus on who and how you help.Steven Blank’s suggestion for cutting through the noise is to frame your value proposition in a way people will easily understand. He suggests focusing on who and how you can help.
Nail your elevator pitch.Building off of Dave McClure’s How to Pitch a VC presentation, which encourages businesses to focus on short, simple, memorable keywords or phrases, use this simple template to define the elevator-pitch version of your value proposition.
Challenge yourself to be brief.Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write an entire story using no more than six words. Since then, many writers have similarly tried to pack an entire story into as few words as possible. Can you convey the value you provide in six words or less?
Want more templates? Check out our Value Messaging Worksheet.
Looking for more on how to grow faster? Check out 10 Sales Tactics CEAVCO Audio Visual Used to Generate $2 Million in New Revenue.
Ever wonder what your prospect’s real challenges are, or what they are really looking to solve? What’s on the surface is not always the full story. By creating a 360-degree view of their challenges you can be more competitive and solution sell even more effectively. In this Whiteboard Video we share a framework we teach our clients to get to the real challenges quickly and brainstorm effective solutions as a team.
Want more tools to support your own ideation process? Download the Ideation Worksheet and use it to implement the process with your team.
Many sales leaders looking for ways to reach their revenue goals faster will say something like:
We need a team that closes more sales.
We need more leads in our sales funnel.
We need to convert more leads into customers.
We need to run better ads.
This way of thinking is a trap.
It’s an easy one to fall into. You look at your team, your funnel, or your outreach and see that they aren’t working the way you’d like. You immediately want to fix them.
But, as long as you’re working to solve your sales organization’s systemic problems by focusing on symptoms instead of the underlying problem, your company will remain stuck.
Imagine you’re building a house. Your screwdrivers and nails keep rolling off your work table. You discover your floor is uneven. You have several options to fix this issue. 1) You can put your tools in a container that stays put on the table; 2) You can prop up your table legs with a book to counterbalance a slant; or 3) Instead of creating a makeshift solution, repair the very foundation of your house, so that the floor is level.
Similarly, to fix your sales funnel, you need to repair your foundation. Here are some questions to ask yourself and your team to begin this inspection.
If you put the time and energy into thoughtfully answering these seven questions, you won’t just temporarily repair your sales funnel — you’ll create an adaptable sales organization that will engage your audience, build crucial relationships and boost your revenue.
Ready to get started on creating a high-performing sales engine that drives scalable, stable and predictable revenue growth? Check out our article on defining your value, or take the sales engine diagnostic.
Good advice isn’t designed to make you feel better. It’s designed to make you better, says author, entrepreneur, marketer, and public speaker Seth Godin. If you’re reading this, it means you want to learn how to make your own sales team better.
Maybe you want to see your team embrace a stronger sense of camaraderie. Or perhaps you want your salespeople to set realistic goals quarter after quarter — and reach them. Sometimes you may need to address negative behavior head on.
Most managers and CEOs don’t enjoy giving feedback. But when you ground feedback in strategic understanding, root it in constructive honesty, and use it to promote individual and collective growth, feedback creates a profound moment of vulnerability between you and your team. This can be a catalyst to elevate your team from good to great.
Here’s how to do it.
Focus on your organization first.
Giving feedback to individual employees without first taking deep stock of organizational health is like having your doctor only examine your liver during your annual check-up. You’ll get a really great picture into one small aspect of your health. But that information will be partial at best and deadly at worst without a clear understanding of the bigger picture.
In the same way, all of the following advice will fall flat — or worse, give a false sense of progress — if your feedback strategy isn’t grounded in a deep understanding of your organizational strengths and challenges.
Tailor feedback to the individual.
Feedback isn’t one-size-fits-all. One employee may need you to include a lot of actionable ways they can improve while another may work better if you let them work out solutions on their own. Some may prefer a lot of praise and recognition before any feedback while others may need problem-solving conversations to be as to-the-point as possible.
Before you start revamping your feedback strategy, explore what kind of feedback is best for each team member. Consider implementing personality or strengths assessments. Pay attention to what feedback strategies yield the best results for each of your employees. And, as you read the rest of this article, reflect on how each of the suggestions may be implemented differently to best serve each of your team members.
Lead with questions.
Think about the different meanings of feedback. When there’s something wrong with the way a sound system is set up, everyone within earshot may hear the telltale whine of feedback. And often, it takes someone with a view of the entire system to locate the reason for the offending noise.
In the same way, your employees will likely know something needs to be improved. They can hear the urgent sound, like an alarm, telling them that things aren’t operating smoothly. But, they need your system-wide view to help them locate the problem and fix it. And just as a sound engineer may need to examine an individual amp or microphone, you need to ask an employee the right questions to fix the problem.
When you begin a feedback session, start with curiosity. Find out your sales team’s or salesperson’s thoughts, then explore the overlap between their challenges and the feedback you’re providing.
Be honest, but not too honest.
When a leader isn’t honest with their team, it’s also pretty obvious. It may manifest as passive aggressive comments that avoid naming necessary changes. Or, a leader may scapegoat all problems on an individual instead of looking at ways to make systemic change.
It’s important to be honest with your team — it shows vulnerability and breeds trust. But being honest doesn’t mean being harsh or shutting down conversations. You want your team to grow, and judgment and negativity won’t get them there.
Out of anger, you may feel like telling Dan, a new sales team member, that he ruined a potential client relationship for good by not being prepared for his presentation. Even if it’s true, that feedback won’t inspire him to make changes. Most likely, it will make him feel unproductive.
Instead, shape your feedback using the previous items on this least. Consider if there are any organizational issues that may have made it difficult for Dan to do his best. Explore what kind of feedback will be most meaningful to Dan. And ask him for his thoughts and rationale on the presentation and see how you can become better aligned in the future.
Focus on forgiveness.
Even though you know intellectually that erring is human, when the health of your business is on the line, it’s hard not to expect perfection. Holding a grudge because of a mistake a team member makes, though, can breed a negativity that infects the team. Not truly forgiving an employee leaves them vulnerable to future punishment — something that doesn’t inspire a team to improve — to get that much closer to perfect.
Instead of dwelling on mistakes, you get the divine role of forgiving. Make it part of the feedback process. Kim Cameron, from the University of Michigan, notes that a culture of forgiveness in organizations leads to increased employee productivity and less voluntary turnover — and a company culture that breeds trust.
When a team leader doesn’t look at how they can improve themselves, it makes it difficult for team members to follow suit. If you aren’t honest about your own performance, it causes blind spots that don’t allow you to lead your team effectively. And when those blind spots are around leadership and the behavior you model for your team, the problems you’re hiding from can spread quickly.
So as you’re doling out feedback, don’t forget about yourself. Ultimately, it’s your job to drive company growth, and asking for feedback yourself makes you a more effective leader.
In the Dan example, you could end with a question: “Do you have any feedback for me as a leader? Is there anything I can do to help you be more prepared in the future?”
Make it a habit to ask your sales team for advice on how you can be a better leader for them. Listen to their ideas and take action on them. When your sales team sees you consistently improving and making an effort to grow with them, it sets a foundation for a team that trusts one another.
If you want your team to grow, start with giving individualized feedback. While it’s not always enjoyable to deal with a team that isn’t performing, addressing what needs to change is the first step in creating the success you want to see.
How do you create the most effective feedback for your team? Let us know in the comments below.
One of the most powerful ways to gain clarity into your strengths and to grow faster is to define how you create value for your clients.
Check out the video above as Karl Becker from The Carruthers Group describes the importance of aligning your sales organization around your defined value.
In a prior article, we covered 7 symptoms of a poorly performing sales organization. If any of those symptoms sound familiar, you might think that all you need to do to turn your sales engine around is to hire a new VP of sales. But that may not help. If fact, it could make things worse.
Here are 5 reasons why hiring a new VP won’t fix your sales funnel — and what you should do instead.
Your problems are deeper than a single person
A VP of sales can be great at managing a team and terrific at sales. But, no matter how great, they can’t transform an organization all on their own. Just as the best driver in the world can’t drive a car without wheels, the best hire can’t lead a team without a foundation.
Don’t expect your VP of sales to perform miracles on your organization. Instead, focus on the deeper changes necessary to achieve your desired results. Think about what issues led you to want to hire someone new in the first place and work backward from there.
Your problems are broader than a single person
A sales executive didn’t get there by chance: they are fantastic communicators and know how to orchestrate a team with many moving parts. But just as a single person doesn’t cause organizational problems, a single person can’t solve all of them either.
Take a look at your VP job description. Is it realistic for one person? Or does it reflect the responsibilities of an entire department? If it’s the latter, you’re probably going to be disappointed.
Before publishing that job description, think carefully about what you’re asking your sales VP to do. Can a single person really manage the sales team, rebrand your company, run tradeshows once a month, and still regularly close $200,000 accounts? Probably not.
Your culture needs to change
Motivating employees to meet their sales goals is a strong skill of a sales executive — and it’s probably one of the reasons you want to hire someone new. But hiring someone new doesn’t automatically change an existing organizational culture.
For example, does your company parking lot empty out by 4 pm every day? This may be a sign your culture needs to change, not your VP of sales. If your team doesn’t show up every day ready to hit the ground running, you have a deeper problem that needs to be solved before you simply increase sales. Bringing in a new VP may help this issue, but now you’re looking to the new hire to be a culture expert in addition to a sales leader.
Your processes need to change
What the previous items on this list show is that if your internal processes don’t work, adding a new sales VP — no matter how skilled they are — won’t solve the problem.
So, it’s time to turn your attention to your processes, starting with the most important one.
How’s your team’s communication? Is everyone aligned or are you operating in silos? Does everyone agree on your core values and follow a clearly defined process for moving prospects down the sales funnel?
Organizational communication breakdowns are a red flag something isn’t right. While a VP of sales no doubt is a great communicator, they aren’t the magic bullet. Instead, sit down and identify any common communication breakdowns within your organization. By addressing these problems first, you can ensure that everyone is moving forward in the same direction…before you drop big bucks on a new executive hire.
It’s a quick fix that won’t bring lasting improvement
Quick fixes are always tempting. They’re also not long-term solutions.
Hiring a new VP without fixing the existing problems in your sales organization may produce an immediate positive effect. But, pretty soon, everyone will fall back into their usual — dysfunctional — routines. That means 6 months down the road, you’ll find yourself in the same place you are now…and likely starting to think about replacing your VP once again.
Only when you have a strong understanding of the holes in your sales process can you add a VP of sales with confidence — and actually see some tangible changes.
Strategically hiring a new VP of sales within an already high-functioning sales organization is a great idea. It means your engine is running smoothly and you’re ready to take your company to the next level.
But, for all the reasons outlined above, hiring a new VP as a way to fix something that’s already broken in your organization probably won’t deliver the results you want — despite how talented that new hire may be.
If you’re thinking about hiring a new VP of sales, but aren’t sure it’s the right step, we can help. Take the sales engine diagnostic or find out more about sale organization consulting.
Do you ever find yourself saying, “My sales team doesn’t use our CRM,” “Why aren’t we closing enough business?” or “I’m not sure my sales team is making the calls they should”?
If you’re nodding your head “yes,” you likely know something’s wrong. You may find that no matter what you do, you still don’t see strong, predictable growth. Your sales organization just isn’t performing.
A high-performing sales team is a lot like a car engine. There are many moving parts, and they must all be working perfectly to ensure a smooth ride. If your car is making strange noises or leaking oil, you need to roll up your sleeves and look under the hood.
So, how do you look under the hood of your sales engine to figure out what’s going on? Here are seven symptoms of a poorly performing sales organization — and how you can address them.
Your leadership team doesn’t see eye to eye on core values
If your wheels are misaligned, your car will pull to one side. Similarly, if your leadership team isn’t aligned on core values, the company will focus on the wrong things. You could easily end up with different departments pulling in different directions. This creates conflict that makes it hard for anyone — including the sales team — to do their job.
Sit down with your leadership team. Hash out your company values and decide the direction you’re going. Get aligned, and then move forward together.
Your messaging is unclear
If you have the first symptom on this list, you very likely also suffer from this one. As a test, ask three people in your organization exactly what it is that you do and who you do it for. If you get three different answers, your messaging is unclear.
Unclear messaging makes life difficult for the sales team. If they don’t know the values, how do they know how to convey that story to leads? Short answer: They don’t.
Spend some time defining your audience and clarifying your message. Who exactly are the people you help and how do you best help them? What story do you want your salespeople to tell? If this is all new to you, consider hiring a consultant to help.
Your sales organization isn’t measuring goals
If you don’t measure goals, you can’t track success or identify areas for improvement. You won’t know what works and what doesn’t, and your sales team won’t have any way to judge their own performance.
Determine what goals matter most to you. Is it generating leads, increasing number of sales calls, boosting your MRR? Whatever your goals are, measure them on a regular basis to make sure that when the end of the quarter comes, your sales team is on track.
You don’t have a repeatable sales process
Do you know the exact path by which your leads become customers? Or is it all just chaos? If your sales process isn’t repeatable and scalable, or, even worse, not defined at all, you’ll never achieve steady revenue.
Analyze the different ways your leads become customers. Nail down the processes that are most likely to generate sales, and then make sure these processes are used across your organization.
Your hiring process isn’t strategic
Take a look at your job board. Are you trying to hire someone for responsibilities across sales, marketing, events, and accounts? If so, this is a job description for a department, not a single person, and it’s a big indicator of a weak sales engine.
Before posting another job that will be impossible to fill, think carefully about exactly what your needs are. A more strategic approach to hiring will vastly improve your outcomes.
Your sales team is a revolving door
Another consequence of non-strategic hiring is a sales team with high turnover. If what’s broken is the system, firing a salesperson and replacing them with someone new won’t fix it. That’s like changing the oil without ever replacing the oil filter. You’ll still have a dirty engine.
Look instead at the foundation of your sales organization. Examine the entire system, from values and goal setting to your sales funnel. Yes, sometimes employees need to move on. But more often than not what needs changing is the foundation — not the people.
You focus too much on quick fixes
Addressing the problems above takes work. And you might find yourself drawn to quick fixes instead, like taking another sales training or trying a new marketing fad. You think: “If I change this one thing and get one ‘right’ client, I’ll open the floodgates to revenue.”
These things may work in the short term, but there’s no silver bullet for lasting change. Rather than settling for a one-hit wonder, buckle down and do the work. Your efforts will pay off mightily in the end.
These symptoms are very common in organizations. And they all signify underlying problems.
The good news is that every one of them is solvable. By defining your value, clarifying your message, and developing a repeatable process, you can turn a poorly performing sales organization into a high-performing one.
Learn how The Carruthers Group can help you get your company on the right track through Sales Engine Workshops, Sales Organization Consulting, and Sales Engine Programs.
Improving Sales Performance Growth Case Study: How CEAVCO overhauled their messaging, aligned their sales organization, and boosted revenue with The Carruthers Group
When Matt Emerson inherited the leadership of CEAVCO Audio Visual from his father, he knew he was at the helm of a company that had a solid reputation. CEAVCO had been providing innovative audio, visual, and creative services for events for more than 50 years. And they had a stellar retention rate — a cache of dedicated clients that partnered with them year after year. So, why weren’t they closing new deals?
Well, a lot can change in 50 years, especially in an industry that thrives on the cutting edge. CEAVCO had built its business renting A/V equipment and had moved into curating live events. As event planners more and more sought creative partners, CEAVCO began to search for ways to differentiate themselves in the event space.
Emerson needed to help his team adapt to this growing market. But their sales processes, their messaging, and their proposal strategy were all rooted in old school tactics. Embedded in the way things had been done for decades and focused on daily business needs, it was a challenge for Emerson to step back and see just how to find a new path.
So, CEAVCO partnered with The Carruthers Group, a consulting firm dedicated to helping businesses expand revenue through intentional sales design. With The Carruthers Group, CEAVCO was able to modernize its sales processes, align on value and messaging, and grow revenue by $2 million. In fact, CEAVCO has seen 20% revenue growth in the first half of 2017 alone.
Want to know how they did it? Here are 10 actionable tips from the Carruthers & CEAVCO playbook.
I’m Karl Becker and I help individuals and organizations improve how they sell. My focus is on clear, concise, actionable solutions.
In short, I'll show you how to increase performance and generate more revenue.
This blog shares approaches, tools, and ideas that I have seen create success.
If you’re interested in discussing anything, please reach out.