On holidays, I like to give the people I care about experiences rather than objects. That’s why, this past Christmas, I decided to set up a dog sled adventure for my family. Not only did everyone have a blast, but I also ended up giving myself a fantastic metaphor I can now use to help clients build successful sales teams.
I am in no way a champion dog-sledder, and I don’t plan on racing in the Iditarod anytime soon. We were there for the ride, taking a backseat to the professionals. When I say professionals, I’m not just talking about the human musher who steers the sled. I’m talking about the dogs, too! Sure, I had assumed they were all talented animals, but I had no idea how good they were at their respective jobs.
A Successful Sled Team is Like a Well-Functioning Sales Team
During our journey through the snow, I couldn’t help but make the comparison in my head to a well-functioning sales team. On a successful sled team, dogs of various sizes, strengths, and experience levels are placed according to where they excel. The same should go for a sales team. Everyone has different proficiencies, and when you put them where their talents can shine the most, you can pull through to your destination even over tough wintry terrain.
Lead Dogs Set the Standards
The front line of the team is the lead dogs. They are not always the fastest or the strongest. Instead, they tend to be the most experienced and knowledgeable, having run in multiple positions on the team over the course of their careers. They know the cues, they know where they’re headed, and they know how to demonstrate that expertise to the dogs behind them.
In the same way, your superstar salesperson, the one with the highest numbers, isn’t usually the best choice for a sales manager. You need someone seasoned who knows the path and how to point your people in the right direction.
Point Dogs Are Adaptable
The second line of dogs are the swing dogs, or point dogs, who are essential for swinging and pointing the sled where it needs to go. They follow the lead dogs, tracing their steps and using their agility to keep the sled moving. As the second line of the team, they’re also the next up in line for possible leadership.
You’ve got people primed for sales leadership on your team, too. They’re full of ideas and good at inspiring the rest of the team to move forward. Encourage their growth and celebrate their skills, and they’ll be pivotal for keeping the team on track.
Wheel Dogs Are Powerhouses
Wheel dogs take up the back line. They’re the engines, using their strength and speed to get the sled, and the rest of the team, in motion. Their strength pushes the rest of the dogs to operate at their greatest capacity. High-grossing salespeople make ideal wheel dogs, driving the rest of the group and keeping them on their toes.
Team Dogs Maintain Momentum
Team dogs make up the center of the pack. They follow the first two lines to keep the sled moving, and they let themselves be pushed forward, and faster, by the wheel dogs behind them. Depending on the type of journey the sledders are taking, and depending on the dogs’ energy levels, team dogs can either be switched around on the team, or they can sit the race out.
Of course, the sales team members making up the middle of the pack are essential for the organization's health. They’re there to cooperate, to push themselves and others to do their best together.
Many leaders wish they could clone themselves or their highest-grossing salesperson, copying their successes in every area. That method doesn’t make for an effective sales team. The one thing sled dogs all hold in common is they know their role, and they play it to the best of their ability.
The highest-performing sales teams are made up of people with different skills, tailored to their best use.
The sales organizations I see with the biggest numbers, healthiest cultures, highest retention, and most positive outcomes are built like sled dog teams. Salespeople are allowed to thrive where they have natural talents and interests, whether they’re the ones developing and nurturing relationships with clients or enjoying the thrill of pursuing new business.
Individuals work well independently and as key team members of a high-performing revenue engine. Put them where they belong. They’ll carry you to the finish line every time, and you’ll enjoy the ride a whole lot more.
Learn More About Building a Successful Sales Team
A healthy relationship between sales and marketing is vital to an organization’s success. Dive deep into this effective strategy in a new book called Sales & Marketing Alignment.
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If your sales team is having alignment issues, one of the first places you need to look is at your sales foundations. You can't build a long-lasting house without a solid foundation. The same is true of sales success. You can't generate sustainable growth without first identifying and solidifying your company's sales foundations.
What are Sales Foundations?
Sales Foundations revolve around core elements of your business. What is your company all about? What does it have to offer? How is it different from the competition? For instance, your sales foundations will typically include:
Of course, you don't want to arbitrarily define your sales foundations without any feedback from your key stakeholders. At the same time, you don't want each of your sales reps to guess at what those foundations are, either. Instead, you want everyone to agree on what those foundations actually are, and really buy into them as the starting point for growth.
How Sales Success is Optimized
At this point, you may be wondering: "Why would I really need to define my company's sales foundations? As long as our reps are doing their jobs, does it really matter whether they're onboard or not?"
There's no denying that your team can earn some wins, big and small, without having clearly defined foundations for your sales process. The problem is, without those sales foundations in place, you'll never be able to make those wins systematic. Sales success will be left to chance.
For instance, take a sales rep who closes a huge deal with one of your accounts. You're elated! You want to use the rep's experience as training for the rest of your team. But then you realize: You don't really know why the rep was successful. In fact, the rep can't figure it out, either! Here are just a few of the questions that might come up:
You see, things can get real confusing, real fast when you don't have firmly established sales foundations to lean on. Without defining what made sales success possible, it's difficult to repeat that success.
On the other hand, when you do have those sales foundations in place, then you'll know exactly why your reps are successful - or at least which areas they can improve in. Your well-defined foundations enable you to build a clear framework for your sales process, and make major wins repeatable, instead of one-off occurrences.
Create a Cohesive Identity
Bottom line? When you define your sales foundations, you give your team a cohesive identity that they can tap into for each customer interaction. And when you know exactly who you are and what you have to offer, it's much easier to win over the customers that you want for your business.
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Meetings are just a part of life for most sales managers. They have periodic meetings with senior management. They may occasionally meet with high-value clients. And, of course they hold regular sales meetings with their team.
Anything we do repeatedly eventually becomes a routine, and any routine can deteriorate into a rut. If you're a sales manager who's holding weekly (or perhaps daily) sales meetings, then the last thing you want to do is have those interactions with your team become part of a rut — e.g., time wasters or, even worse, finger-pointing disputes.
With that in mind, here are three keys that will help you keep your sales meetings productive, uplifting, and motivating.
Key #1: Understand Your Team as Individuals
In order to have a productive sales meeting with your team as a whole, it's important to be mindful that each team member is unique. Personality, emotional makeup, communication style, goals, desires, concerns - all these factors differ from person to person. You must understand where each team member is coming from in order to communicate with them effectively.
Think of this as "laying the foundation" for a great sales meeting. Schedule some one-on-one time with each team member throughout the week. Observe how they react to constructive feedback, and any stressful sales calls that may come their way. Note their strengths and growth opportunities.
By building a "mental profile" of each team member ahead of time, you'll be able to generally predict how they'll behave in a meeting. Most importantly, you'll glean ways to help them grow as a sales rep within a group setting.
Key #2: Set Clear Expectations
At the beginning of each sales meeting, it's best to leave nothing to the imagination. Make the format, flow, and purpose of the meeting crystal clear to your team members. For example, everyone should know:
That last point is important. You don't want your meeting to turn into an interrogation session for underperforming sales reps. It's often best to give each sales rep some uninterrupted time to express his or her thoughts. This will enable your team members to be themselves without fear of censure.
Which leads into our third key...
Key #3: Establish a Judgment-Free Zone
Last but not least, you want to make sure that all of your team members view the meeting as a "judgment-free zone." The purpose of a sales meeting should be to exchange ideas and information — never to lecture or criticize team members over performance.
In fact, welcome the uncensored input of each team member. Their insights will help you to continually improve your sales process day after day.
At times, keeping the meeting "judgment-free" may require that you bite your tongue. Even underperforming reps that legitimately need some constructive feedback should be made to feel respected during these meetings (and during future one-on-one sessions).
The old saying "once bitten, twice shy" definitely applies in this case: You don't want to do anything that will scare your reps away from giving their honest, unfiltered opinions in a group setting.
Use Sales Meetings to Boost Productivity
There are challenges when it comes to preparing, coordinating, and leading sales meetings. However, if you implement the three keys discussed above, your team will enjoy productive, and even refreshing meetings.
Use your sales meetings to motivate the team to try new things. Energize them to "get back to the trenches." Ultimately, your entire team's performance will improve, and your business will grow as a result.
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How would you respond if someone asked you: "What's the main job of a sales manager?" Would you talk about pushing your team to meet quotas? Improving productivity metrics? Driving better performance?
Granted, when we're talking about any position in sales we can't discount the importance of the bottom line. But there's a right way and a wrong way to achieve the results you desire. The right way is to bring out the best in your team. That means supporting each individual member, mentoring him or her, and (at the same time) building a certain level of predictability into your forecasting model.
Use KPIs to Build Visibility into Your Sales Funnel
If you really want to drive team performance as a sales manager and motivate your individual employees to give their best work, then creating more visibility into the sales funnel should be one of your top priorities.
The truth is, sales reps thrive within clear boundaries. When you and your team know which Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are most important to sustained, lasting success — and why they're so important — then everyone can work together to meet the same goals. That's one critical way you can support your team.
To paraphrase Tom Petty: You don't want your people to be "out in the great wide open," sales reps without a clue.
So now the question becomes: Which KPIs should you focus on? There are a ton of crucial metrics in the world of sales, but let's narrow our discussion down to three big ones:
Let's take these one at a time, and see why they're so important to individual and team performance.
1. Sales Funnel Populations
It goes without saying that your organization needs to have a sales funnel with clearly defined stages. After all, your "sales pipeline" becomes much more predictable within such a structured framework. If it's predictable, it's measurable. And if it's measurable, it's improvable.
Once you have your sales funnel stages clearly defined (and your sales and marketing departments on the same page), you need to determine three things.
Why are these sales population KPIs so important? For one thing, they're great markers for the overall "health" of your sales funnel. If you see increasing populations, then you can expect revenue growth. If you notice decreasing populations, then you should brace yourself for revenue contraction in the near future.
These metrics also provide actionable insights. For instance, they can help your finance team forecast for future demand. They can shed light on which activities are driving growth, and which ones are ineffective. Moreover, they can provide a wonderful point of reference to which you, as sales manager, can align your teams for more stable, quantifiable growth.
2. Conversion Rates
We're specifically talking about conversion rates between funnel stages here. There are two key elements in play: the amount of time it takes to move leads from one stage to another, and the quantity of leads that make the conversion.
What are good benchmarks for your company? It really depends on your specific business and industry. However, if your percentage of leads moving from the evaluation stage (middle of funnel) to the decision stage (bottom of funnel) is low, or if it's taking those leads a long time to convert, then you'll need to make some adjustments.
Why are these two aspects of your intra-funnel conversion rate so important? Basically, for three reasons.
3. Close Rates
Finally, it's vital to understand your team's average close rate (aka "quote to close ratio," "lead-to-customer conversion rate," etc.) — both as a whole, and for each individual member. Not only does the close rate help to calculate ROI, but it also provides a baseline from which to manage your sales team.
Why are close rates so important for sales managers? Realistically, not everyone on your team is going to be a "sales superstar." But knowing the average close rate for your team can inform your expectations for new team members. In addition, knowing the close rates for individual members can provide a great starting point for your coaching/feedback sessions. This knowledge will also act as an early warning sign if someone needs extra support (for example, if a high performer's rate starts to drop month over month).
Your close rates can help you to inject a heavy dose of predictability and transparency into your sales process. They can help you set lofty but reasonable goals for each sales rep, incentivize improved performance, and forecast growth.
Leveraging KPIs for Sustained Success
There you have it: three important KPIs that every sales manager must use! If you take away one key point from the above information, let it be this:
Use your KPIs to create visibility, predictability, and accountability for your sales team — and yourself.
When your team members have clear, actionable direction and specific goals to shoot for, they'll not only be more productive — they'll be happier at their job. They'll be able to individually improve themselves. At the same time, you'll be in a better position to mentor and support them on a one-on-one basis.
Sales KPIs, when used properly, can be a dashboard for performance, both in terms of revenue and human capital. That's their true power. Don't take it for granted!
Of course, there's a lot more to the world of sales management than the three metrics discussed above. If you'd like to chew on some more practical SMB insights and advice, sign up for our newsletter; contact our team; or check out our website for valuable resources and webinars. We'd be happy to help you grow your business, one KPI at a time.
Do you have a culture of trust within your sales organization? Many companies, and managers within those companies, pride themselves on having an "open door policy." In other words, their employees can come to them at any time with work-related issues, and expect to be heard.
An open door policy is a great thing. And guess what? If your sales team is bringing up issues to you as the sales leader, that means the open door culture you've created is working. Because you've taken the lead in staying open to feedback, your team trusts you. They feel comfortable sharing their ideas, concerns, and issues with you — and hopefully with each other.
But here's the thing. You've got to do more than passively listen to your sales team's feedback. In order to build a trust culture, you have to actively listen. And then you have to act. If you fail to follow through, you may end up doing irreparable damage to your culture of collaboration — and to the trust you've built up with your employees.
Here are three basic steps you can follow to address issues that are important to your sales team in a decisive, empathetic and effective way.
1. Generate a Trust Culture by Creating a Space for Feedback
The best way to get feedback from your team is to ask for it. But it's not enough to simply ask. You have to demonstrate, over a period of time, that you're willing to really hear them out, and not take feedback or criticism personally.
In fact, the feedback you receive by simply asking could change your entire approach to team building, the workplace environment, and even your management style.
It's important to remember that your basic job as a sales manager is to help your team members become the best reps they can be. You're there to support them, mentor them, and even befriend them. When you prove to your team day in and day out that you're interested in them as people, they'll be much more willing to come to you with their issues.
2. Actively Listen to Understand
Once a team member comes to you with an issue he or she is having, it's time to really drill down to the core of the problem. Building a trust culture requires active listening.
We're not just talking about techniques like repeating your team member's statements back to him or her in your own words (although techniques like this are helpful). We're talking about making absolutely sure you understand what the issue is. Why is it affecting your rep? How does it impact your team as a whole?
Then, when you have a firm grasp on the issue, reassure your team member that you know where he or she is coming from. If you've faced a similar challenge in the past, perhaps you could mention that as well. And then it's time to transition to step #3...
3. Outline What You Plan to Do, and Follow Through
"Talk is cheap." "Actions speak louder than words." Pick any cliché you want. They're all true. If you truly want your sales rep to feel valued, highly motivated, and part of a team, then you need to clearly communicate what you're going to do about this issue.
You don't have to give out all the details. Just provide a basic outline of the next steps you plan to take. If at all possible, provide a rough timeline of when he or she can expect a resolution.
Obviously, the more mission-critical the issue is, the faster you should address it. However, don't let "minor issues" fall to the wayside. A minor issue may not be urgent on an organizational level, but it was still important enough to the rep that he or she approached you to talk about it. Not following through will damage the trust culture you've worked hard to build.
If you want your team to stay focused, to feel valued, and to give your company their best, then stick to this three-step process no matter how big or small the issue may be. For more insights on how to be the best sales manager you can be, be sure to sign up for our newsletter, contact us, or explore the valuable resources on our website.
Are you celebrating each sale your team brings in? If not, you're missing an opportunity to motivate your sales team to even greater achievements. In the past, sales managers installed an actual bell in their department. Each time a sale was made made, the manager rang the bell to celebrate and ensure that every team member knew.
Sales people are competitive by nature. Ringing a bell in their honor is a challenge worth striving for. Consider adding a little friendly competition (and motivation) to your team by ringing a bell. Okay, it doesn't need to be an actual bell, but it does need to celebrate the win.
You might consider ringing the bell through a team broadcast email, group text or slack. If you're in an office setting, an actual bell might be appropriate. Whether you opt for a literal or figurative bell, here are five reasons why ringing the bell is essential for your sales team's motivation.
Create a Strong Sales Culture
The culture of an office or department defines the group's goals and priorities. You know your priority is sales, but it's always beneficial to reinforce that in your culture. By celebrating every sale with a ringing of the bell, you put a unique spin on your own sales culture. A stronger sales culture drives your team to make more sales and to become more proactive.
A stronger sales culture can be achieved in a variety of ways, including bonuses, weekly and monthly goals, and supporting and strengthening the sales team. By adding a ringing of the bell, you strengthen the team without spending a lot of money or energy. Even without a monetary bonus attached, people like to be acknowledged for their accomplishments. It inspires both the recognized individual and those around them to work harder. A strong sales culture translates into increased profit and growth.
Drive Individual and Team Performance
It doesn't cost anything to ring the bell for an employee, unless you pay to have a bell installed in your department. Even then, it isn't that much. However, you get so much goodwill in exchange for this small act of recognition. While you might be considering a large and expensive reward system for your sales team, starting with t-shirts and ending with a trip, you can save money and create positive energy and momentum by simply ringing the bell.
You like to be recognized for a job well done and so does your sales team. As you ring the bell and recognize one salesperson, the others will see this recognition and strive harder to earn it for themselves. This small act can help drive the improved performance of your entire staff with very little effort or expense on your part. Isn't that the goal?
Show Your Sales Team that Their Efforts are Valued
Even in small companies, it can be hard for an individual employee or team to know that they are valued and appreciated by those above them. Your sales team works hard, and many of them probably wonder if anyone ever notices. Ringing the bell shows immediately that you and the company value and appreciate their efforts.
While blasting an email, ringing a bell or shouting out on a group text might seem like a small, easy-to-do thing, one of your salespeople might really need to feel appreciated and valued. You want all your sales staff to feel this way because this feeling fuels their abilities to go out and make more sales. People who feel valued are more productive and successful than those who feel marginalized within a company of any size.
Create a Sense of Self-Worth
Yes, everyone would like to believe what others think of them isn't that important, but it's typically not the case. Sales teams flourish under compliments and other recognition of their hard work. This is because it helps create a sense of self-worth. You spend a lot of time at work. In many ways, your job helps define who you are as a person.
When someone recognizes that you're doing a good job and celebrates your successes, it helps to raise your confidence and self-worth. As a team leader or department manager, your opinion matters to your sales team, and a little recognition and bell ringing can be a wonderful and positive thing.
It might seem a little awkward when you first start recognizing every sale. Over time, however, you'll really begin to enjoy celebrating with your sales team. Helping someone else feel better about themselves is a reward that you can enjoy too. You can also watch as that person becomes more confident and productive.
Allow Momentum to Generate More Momentum
When someone makes a sale, it shows that the team has built up some momentum. By ringing the bell, you encourage your sales staff to use its current momentum to create more. You want your team to be similar to a ball rolling down a hill, picking up speed as it goes.
Momentum drives sales and makes your team successful. You don't want to do anything that might halt or slow the momentum. By recognizing and praising success, it encourages your staff to continue working hard for their next sales.
As a manager, you're always looking for ways to motivate your sales force and increase profits. You may need to go old school and begin ringing the bell to motivate your team. Show them they're appreciated, and help build momentum. You can send an email blast or group text so each member of your team knows about a sale and understands that you and the company appreciate their hard work. A little "Woo-Hoo" can go a long way!
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New trends in virtual meetings have given rise to sales tech challenges for many teams. In March 2020, Zoom saw more than 20 million new users download their mobile app. While the Work From Home (WFH) business model has been gaining traction for years, the current socio-political climate radically sped up the advent of technology like video conferencing. At the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, more than 300 million people participate in Zoom meetings every day. Add that to the immense number of people who use rival services such as Google Hangouts/ Meet, and you have a major shift in global business practices.
That level of explosive growth isn't without problems, though. With so many first-time users adopting this new technology, things are bound to go wrong. Tech issues and sales meeting challenges are likely to arise. Here are five sales tech challenges that I see my clients struggle with every week, along with instructions on how to solve them.
1. Attendees Click the Wrong Meeting Link
Google's entire suite of products is built on user experience. They have led the renaissance of easy-to-use applications that integrate seamlessly with one another. For the most part, it makes life much easier for the end user. Sometimes, Google's quality-of-life updates can be intrusive, and create a sales tech challenges.
Businesses hosted through Gmail who choose to integrate with an enterprise platform like Outlook are subject to Google Meet/Hangout links where they might not want them. Google automatically embeds a link to their Meet/Hangout application in email and Google's calendar. Meet was formerly known as Google Hangouts, but over the summer of 2020, Gmail was upgraded to include additional video conferencing functionality, and thus Meet was born.
Because Google automatically injects the embedded link into emails for enterprise users, people who you've invited to your Zoom sales meeting might be confused. Instead of clicking the Zoom link in their email, they click the embedded Meet/Hangout link instead. This link correlates to your Google calendar and is dependent on it. No matter how clear you make it in the body of the email, there will still be clients that click the embedded link anyway. Fortunately there is a fix.
It requires your business's Gmail administrator to adjust a setting in your Google calendar to prevent Google from automatically embedding the link across your G Suite. If your business is smaller in scale and you aren't using an enterprise account, you can turn this feature off yourself by going into your calendar settings and turning off the "Automatically add Google Meet video conferences to events I create" option in your calendar.
2. Zoom Only Allows the Host to Share Their Screen
Being able to share what's on your screen is an important part of a virtual sales meeting. To implement a truly functional WFH model, your video conferencing platform has to foster productivity. By default, Zoom only allows the sales meeting's host to share what's on his/her device screen, however. This information can include:
Fortunately, there is an extremely easy fix to this sales tech challenge, allowing everyone in the meeting to share screen content. To allow multiple users to share the contents of their screen, the meeting host must click the up arrow icon on the right side of the screen. This will open a menu where the host can select the "Multiple participants can share simultaneously," option.
It should be noted that this is a change to the default option, which is set up so that only the host can share. Clicking a simple radio button located below the previous option allows the meeting attendees to share their content as well.
3. Time Zone Confusion Creates Sales Tech Challenges
Large, multinational companies may have sales meetings that involve participants from all over the globe. That means participants operating out of different time zones.
For some users, time zone conversion can be a painful, time-consuming process that involves consulting an outside source and then doing the math manually. For default Google users, it involves setting up a secondary time zone for each invite that has international attendees. That's where plugins come into play.
Plugin calendar apps like Calendly or Acuity integrate easily with your G Suite, and provide valuable time zone information for your sales meetings by default. These extensions allow for easier time zone access, such as rolling over an attendee's name to show information, including time zone.
For example, with Acuity integration, you simply click on the appointment in your Google calendar to see each attendee's time zone. The initial time investment that it takes to set up plugins like these are more than worth it given their overall convenience and effectiveness at solving this sales tech challenge.
4. Solve Tech Issues by Enabling Advanced Functionality Tools
Add-ons like Calendly greatly augment what you're able to do with your video conferencing platform, helping you overcome multiple sales tech challenges at once. The basic version of Calendly includes free meeting scheduling functions, while their premium service allows users to do much more.
Using Calendly's advanced features allows hosts to embed a link right on their website that allows potential clients to set up a meeting without having to go through an additional platform to initiate contact. Calendly also allows you to set up PayPal or Stripe payment options within the video conference itself, allowing for functional, results-driven sales meetings.
Each new meeting type that the host sets up will walk them through a checklist of options for their prospective meeting, allowing them to easily initiate advanced features like these.
5. Make Video Conferencing More Secure
Users worldwide have made a big deal out of the potential security issues inherent to free-to-use platforms like Zoom, and with good reason. Those security threats have introduced a new term into our collective vernacular: Zoombombing.
Sales people deal with sensitive information on a regular basis. The integrity of our customers' information and our internal communications is essential. Video conferencing, however, has become a modern-day necessity. What can users do to overcome this specific sales tech challenge?
While both Google and Zoom have added additional layers of encryption over the last few months, as well as unique meeting invite codes, Zoom users have a frontline defense they can proactively employ. Before starting a meeting, users can log in and access their settings. Under advanced options there is a setting to enable a virtual waiting room. This allows the meeting's host to pre-screen people attempting to join the meeting.
Iron Out the Kinks
As with any new technology, there are millions of unanticipated issues that will inevitably arise. With the WFH business model, sales people worldwide are experiencing a major operational shift that will affect the industry as a whole. Experience is the best teacher available, even as we all try to figure out sales tech challenges together. Fortunately, each of the video conferencing platforms currently on the market are customizable, designed with the end user in mind.
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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.
Do you solution sell? Here's a quick tutorial to help you solution sell more effectively during the entire sales life cycle. In this whiteboard video, Karl Becker introduces a simple, proven construct called Trial Balloons - a construct to test the waters and move up the value-creation ladder in any sales conversation.
When you use Trial Balloons you will sell more effectively and create more value.
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.
Trust is one of the most important attributes of any high-performing sales team. Just ask Jeremy Bloom, a former Olympian and pro football player who is now a tech CEO. He wrote in Entrepreneur, “I’ve been on losing teams and high-performing ones both in the NFL and in the business world, and the common thread of success is trust.”
Trust isn’t quantifiable, and cultivating it takes some work. Many strategies exist to help you create a welcoming company culture and build trust within your sales team. Here are five strategies you can implement starting now.
Build Trust by Fostering Real Connections
Teams that trust each other accomplish great things. Think about any Super Bowl champions. Not only do they work together every day, but they spend time with each other’s families, eat dinner together and celebrate wins (and losses) together. Many remain friends for years, even as they move on to different teams.
Your sales team is no different. The stronger the relationships between your sales team members, the stronger the trust — and the stronger your company.
Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last, reinforces this message: “A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people that trust each other.”
Make it a priority to gather your team for meaningful interactions outside of meetings. Donate to their kids fundraisers. Sponsor an employee in a cause they believe in, or give them a bottle of wine to celebrate their parents’ birthday. Show commitment to both the individual and the team to build authentic trust.
Nix the Judgment
Just as real connections lift a team up, judgment tears it down. This kind of negativity seeps into any team if it’s not addressed.
Rich Karlgaard, author of The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success, says that "mocking irony, snark and cynicism can be compelling, but they’re toxic to your company’s culture."
Don’t let criticism get the best of your team. Instead, address any negative behavior over time. One-on-one meetings work well for individuals. Then, hold team-wide meetings if necessary to solidify the message.
Model the behavior you want to see in your team. Your actions and words serve as a blueprint for your team’s behavior. So, model the behavior you want to see in them. By walking the walk, you’ll create lasting patterns and cement positive team culture that will build trust.
Create a Safe Space Within Your Meetings
If members of your team are afraid to open up or feel they can never perform at high levels, it inhibits them and stifles trust building. They may clam up at meetings or become your echo, rotely agreeing with all of your input. If you really want to know what your team thinks, you need to create a safe space for them to tell you the truth.
Creating a supportive environment is tricky to do. Individual team member's egos, pressure to hit numbers and interpersonal differences are formidable opponents. Building a strong foundation of trust and transparency takes time and hard work.
There’s no magic bullet to make teams feel secure enough in their positions to share what drives them and what stands in their way. However, a good way to start is to model the behavior you want to see in your team. By being accountable to your team and honest about your own missteps, you can inspire the transparency and vulnerability that’s integral to a team that builds trust in each other.
Encourage Positive, Strategic Feedback
Too often, feedback is seen as sharing employee pitfalls. This negative perspective can make employees avoid seeking input on their performance, hide perceived failures and miss their goals.
You can be honest without bringing your team down. Frame missteps, errors and losses in a positive light, as opportunities for learning. This encourages deeper trust and allows your team to grow and evolve.
Further, to break the association between feedback and finger pointing, tie feedback to larger strategic goals. This also strengthens a sense of team responsibility and contextualizes individual challenges within the organization’s greater mission. I discuss more about giving honest feedback in this recent blog.
Let Transparency Lead the Way
If sharing positive feedback or creating a safe space doesn’t come easily for your sales team, it may be because you aren’t modeling true transparency.
Lack of clarity about foundational aspects of your organization — from your vision to what value you provide your customers — can thwart attempts to lead with transparency. You can share your thoughts, personal insights and experiences openly, but if your team isn’t aligned on company culture and sales culture, these attempts are going to fall short.
Ground any efforts for greater transparency in total alignment on your organizational building blocks. Only then can you achieve the openness that naturally builds trust — and a path towards a healthy, aligned company culture that runs toward the same goal.
Adopting the strategies above will help you create a culture that builds trust. By developing real connections, creating safe spaces and developing alignment and transparency, you and your team can reach your goals.
How do you build trust within your team? Leave comments below.
How would your sales team talk to a prospect about your brand? Would they all use the same words to describe it? When they dig into who you are and what you do, do they share a common language?
Check out the video above as Karl Becker from The Carruthers Group describes a simple, but powerful exercise to find out if your sales team aligns around your brand value.
“My sales team doesn’t use our CRM. Why aren’t we closing enough business? I’m not sure my sales team is making the calls they should."
Sound familiar? 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 organization's sales performance is seriously lacking.
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. Ultimately, sales performance will suffer. 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, and your sales performance.
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. However, 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, namely in your sales performance.
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.