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Sales training

Originally contributed as a guest blog on SellingPower.com

By Mike Esterday

If you’re like most sales leaders, you’re constantly hunting for the “secret sauce” of sales success. You’re convinced that, once found, that secret sauce will put your organization over the top – and into the rarefied group of consistently top-performing companies.

Look no further. Chances are good that you already have all the ingredients you need. You’ve just added them to the sauce in the wrong proportions.

We recently conducted a research study in partnership with the Sales Management Association to find out what top-performing companies focus on that’s different from the others. The answers were revealing and, in some cases, surprising.

We surveyed leaders at more than 200 sales organizations. We asked them to rate how a salesperson’s achievement drive – that is, their attitudes, beliefs, and passions – affects their performance. Likewise, we asked the same of them about how a salesperson’s product knowledge and selling skills affect performance.

Here’s what may surprise you: More than 80 percent of the respondents rated achievement drive as being of equal or greater value than product knowledge and selling skills in terms of positively impacting sales performance. However, only a quarter of the respondents said they were very effective in delivering sales training that focuses around achievement drive.

That is a tremendous gap between importance and effectiveness on what is potentially the most important driver of sales success.

Here’s the kicker: Those who said they were effective at focusing sales training on achievement drive reported 20 percent stronger results than everyone else.

What about you? Does your sales training emphasize achievement drive and ignite motivation?

What’s Causing the Gap?

If so many executives recognize the value of achievement drive, then why don’t more companies address it in training?

Well, ostensibly, it’s just plain easier to provide salespeople with product information and techniques on what to say and when – and then manage numbers and activities.

But relative ease is only part of the story. In fact, there are plenty of ways leaders rationalize focusing on skill and product training – even when they agree that attitudes and achievement drive play a bigger role in performance.

Based on our study, here are the top four reasons sales leaders ignore attitude and achievement drive in sales training:

  1. Skills and product training are just easier to deliver and measure.
  2. We expect people to have this already when they’re hired.
  3. The subject matter is too personal for corporate training or coaching.
  4. We’ve never done this type of development in our organization.

This isn’t to say that training on product knowledge and selling skills isn’t important. But it will only take your team (and your organization) so far.

When training goes beyond product knowledge and techniques – when it gets to the motivating attitudes that increase achievement drive – that’s where your competitive edge lies.

Top Performers Focus on These Three Critical Conversations

So, what advice can we take away from the lessons of the top-performing companies in our study?

We learned there are three critical conversations every salesperson must focus on for the organization to consistently realize its growth goals:

  1. The conversation I have with my customers – How will I interact in ways that are seen as valuable by customers? This is where training around selling skills/methodology, account strategy, and product knowledge falls.
  2. The conversation I have with myself – Those moments of reflection, inner belief, and personal values are sometimes seen as “intangibles,” but the impact on performance is quite real. This is where training focused around achievement drive comes into play.
  3. The conversation I have with my coach – One of the key determining factors for growth is coaching. However, when and if sales coaching actually happens, it’s nearly always focused on how to improve the first conversation – a salesperson’s ability to interact effectively with the customer. It rarely addresses the other critical conversation, the one that salespeople are having all the time – with themselves.

This holistic approach to development requires ongoing commitment from the top and alignment throughout the organization. But, as our research shows, it can be the turbocharger for your success.

When you think about it, it’s not all that surprising. After all, who among us hasn’t felt the undeniable power of self-belief and self-drive? And who wouldn’t want to work for a company that is committed to developing people in a way that unleashes their inner drive and potential? And, just as important, who wouldn’t want to do business with a company that values each salesperson as a whole person – not just a selling machine?

Take a closer look at your sales training approach. Are you missing any of the key conversations that could be the “secret sauce” of your sales success?

 

Re-blogged from Integrity Solutions.

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There isn’t a sales person alive today who doesn’t know that they shouldn’t be selling product, but instead should be selling to help meet the needs of their customers.  The problem is that, despite this, customers are still reporting a very low level of value from time spent with sales people. Why the disconnect?

As customers, we’ve all been on the receiving end of one or more of the common selling strategies. Here are a few you’ve probably seen:

  • A product focus is when salespeople spend most of their time showing and talking about their product or service, its features, advantages and benefits. Objective: Help people understand their product or service so that they’ll want to buy it.
  • A transaction focus is used by salespeople whose main goal is to “get people to the yes”-in other words, to agree to buy whatever they’re selling. Objective: Make the sale, whatever it takes.
  • A customer-needs focus is when salespeople go through a discovery process to determine if customers have needs, wants, problems or objectives they want filled, satisfied or solved. Objective: Establish a need before initiating any selling activity.

Thinking back to your experiences as a customer, how did you feel in these different scenarios? Were you bored? On the defensive? Did you learn something about your needs or discover a pressing challenge that you hadn’t even realized existed before? Or did you just want to get off the phone or run for the nearest exit as fast as you could?

With both product- and transaction-focused selling approaches, the salesperson is essentially trying to convince you that this product or this “deal” is so great that you simply must have it. Their success comes down to how effective they are at persuading you to believe their position.

In fact, many salespeople will say they take a customer-needs-focused approach, but their actions say otherwise. You can tell because they’re still falling back on this idea that they need to sway you or influence you to do something (the implication being that it’s something you don’t really want to do). No wonder customers often feel like they need to push back in these situations. It’s basically a battle of wills, one that’s being fought on a simmering ground of doubt and distrust.

With a true customer-needs approach, on the other hand, the salesperson is focused on helping you get a clearer picture of your own situation so that, together, you can identify what the requirements are and how they can best be satisfied. Their success comes down to how effective they are at bringing your true needs to the surface and the overall value they deliver in filling those needs.

Instead of trying to convince you to buy something, these salespeople spend most of their time finding out if you have needs that they can address. No solutions are even offered until your wants or needs have been admitted.

Here’s the kicker: Our research shows that when people sell this way, they can experience a 15 to 30 percent increase in their sales.

To understand why, we have to look at what we know about the art of persuasion: The more we attempt to persuade people, the more they tend to resist us. But the more we attempt to understand them and create value for them, the more they tend to persuade themselves.

What is your focus?

If you’re in sales, one easy way to identify your own central sales focus is to think about how you spend your time when talking to customers.

Do you spend most of your time in the first half of your contact talking about your product or service? Or do you spend most of your time asking questions that focus on the customer’s needs?

In the interview stage of an effective customer-needs-focused selling process, you should be spending at least 80% of the time listening. And when you do talk, it should be mostly in the form of questions and paraphrasing back to customers what they tell you to make sure you understand them. You explore, ask questions and get feedback, and you make no attempt to sell anything until the customer:

  1. admits needs, wants, problems or objectives they want filled, satisfied or solved.
  2. agrees that not only do they have needs but that they are open to solutions.
  3. agrees to talk to you about a solution.
  4. confirms that they can make purchase decisions.

Generally, if they don’t agree to all four of these steps, you probably don’t have a good prospect. Or they aren’t the real decision makers. Or they don’t have a compelling reason to take action. Or they aren’t favorably disposed to buying from you.

Take a closer look at your own approach to make sure you’re truly focused on creating value for your customers rather than wearing them down to buy from you. One of the most important questions you can start with is this:

In your typical selling situations, who does most of the talking?

If it’s you, chances are, your focus is more product-oriented or transactional, and it’s likely keeping you from reaching your full sales potential.

Re-blogged from Integrity Solutions.

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You hire two people with the same qualifications and skills. One succeeds; the other fails miserably.

Why?

Part one of Optimizing Performance for Strong Results, a two-part podcast interview with Integrity Solutions’ Mike Esterday, takes an in-depth look at this phenomenon and explores specific strategies you can take to unleash a stronger drive to achieve within your entire workforce.

As Mike explains, rapid change-in politics, government and businesses across every industry-along with increased competition, pricing pressures and product parity have raised the stakes on performance. At the same time, many managers are struggling with how to coach, recruit and work with the growing population of Millennials in the workforce. As a whole, this group has a stronger desire to find purpose in their work, and if they don’t find it, they’re willing to leave. And that means retention has become a pressing concern as well.

The good news is, the issues are connected: If we can light that fire within our people, they’ll not only be more likely to succeed, they’ll be more likely to stay.

Why So Many Training Strategies Miss the Mark

How many people have plateaued in your organization? How many do you believe can move off that plateau and perform at a higher level?

In the podcast, Mike shares that when he asks that second question, the answer he typically gets is about half. But what many managers don’t realize is that lack of belief in their people has a direct and negative impact. People pick up on it, and so they perform to the level that they think their managers expect of them.

“All growth, whether personal or corporate, begins with expanding mental paradigms,” Mike says.

Most people perform at the level they believe they should be performing at, he explains. In other words, our actions, behaviors and even our abilities are bounded by our comfort zones. To improve performance then, training and coaching need to focus on stretching that “area of the possible.”

But most don’t, at least not effectively. Mike explains the simple reason why:

“That soft stuff is hard! It’s a lot easier to teach people product specs, selling techniques, managing numbers and activities. It’s tougher to get at attitudes, beliefs and achievement drive.”

But those factors are the “turbo chargers” for most people’s success.

The other key? A learning process that gets people to learn and practice skills long enough that they become part of their natural behavior.

The Importance of Purpose

Purpose is also a major factor in growing performance, Mike says. Organizations that focus on purpose tend to light that internal fire more. In the podcast, he explores three components to this focus:

  • Purpose of the organization: Communicating clearly why we’re in business
  • Purpose of the job or team: Lighting the “personal why” by clarifying the purpose of the individual’s or team’s role and how it links to the organization’s purpose
  • How that purpose creates value for the customer: Understanding the impact on the customer

This last point is critical. Customers can tell what our intentions are when we interact with them. Are your employees thinking, “How can I get this transaction done?” or “How can I fulfill their needs?”

When people shift their view from believing the purpose of their job is to sell products to believing the purpose of their job is to improve lives, they’ll release more achievement drive, and that will increase the activities they need to do to succeed.

And that, Mike says, is how you create meaningful work.

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Re-blogged from Integrity Solutions.

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“Baseball is 90% mental. The other half is physical.” -Yogi Berra

I love that quote. It fits so well into the world of sales, where salespeople are regularly expected to give more than 100%. And while it’s certainly true that half of sales success can be attributed to skills, it’s also true that there is a strong mental component to being “at the top of your game.” In both professions, coaches have to focus on more than just the player’s tactical skills. They need to focus on the whole person: body and mind.

What good coaching looks like?

At CSO insights, we define coaching as “a process which uses structured conversations to help salespeople develop their performance in the short and long term.” I like that definition for several reasons:

  • It focuses on the dialogue that needs to happen between salesperson and manager. Coaching is not about performing the role for the salesperson—a trap many first-time sales managers fall into. Coaching is not about telling what to do. Instead, it’s about asking the right questions to help the salesperson develop adaptive selling skills that allow them to reach ever-higher levels of performance and self-sufficiency in a dynamic selling environment.
  • These conversations are structured, following a proven approach for improving performance in sales and service roles, tailored along the entire customer’s journey. They are not drive-by criticisms that leave the struggling person more demoralized than motivated. Nor are they “atta-boy” comments about good performance that do nothing to turn around problem areas.
  • The focus is on both the short- and long-term performance goals. Coaching that focuses only on the short term will never create sustainable performance improvements.

Our work also emphasizes the need for front-line managers to focus both on managing the activities and coaching the related behaviors that lead to results and can be managed directly. That last component is vitally important. Many new managers make the mistake of focusing on end results, e.g., quota attainment, but not enough on how to get there. In their defense, it’s often not their fault. This is the way they were managed, and they are just modeling the non-coaching behavior of their previous bosses.

The problem is that you can’t really “manage” a quota or revenue. You can only manage the activities and the related behaviors—pre-call prep, adherence to proven sales methodologies, tailoring the value messages, collaborative selling techniques, etc.—that lead to this desired outcome.

The conference on the mound

Baseball isn’t nearly as popular in Europe as it is in the U.S., but given how much traveling I do in America, I’ve watched a game or two. I can’t say that I’ve grasped all the nuances yet, but one aspect of the game fascinates me: the conference on the mound. To me, this is coaching put to the test.

This conference seems to happen most often when a pitcher is struggling. The coach, followed by the catcher, trots out to the mound for a short, private confab with the pitcher. I’m not sure what gets said, but I doubt the coach is instructing the pitcher on the finer points of throwing a curve ball. The time for that has passed. Nor do I think the coach is threatening the pitcher: Strike this guy out or you’re finished! That would hardly be helpful in an already stressful setting.

More than likely, the coach is sharing some perspective on the game that the pitcher doesn’t see because he’s under so much mental stress. It also seems likely that he’s offering a few words of encouragement, maybe even asking the pitcher how he’s feeling, e.g., How’s your shoulder holding out? He wants to make sure the pitcher still feels confident in his ability to perform. It’s the ultimate moment of truth for coaching because there isn’t much time for the discussion, and everyone, including the coach, is under pressure.

Sound familiar?

A typical sales or service coaching session is no less pressure-filled for all involved. And the same strategies that work so well on the mound apply here, too. That’s why Integrity Solutions’ laser-like focus on the mental side of the frontline manager’s coaching responsibilities is so important—and so effective. Their % drivers of high achievment sets a pitch-perfect tone for a productive coaching session by encouraging the coach to create a supportive environment focused on how the person can succeed rather than dwelling on what’s going wrong. Not only does this approach help the person improve their performance, it helps keep their attitude positive and their head in the game.

No matter who the players are, that’s a winning formula.

Tamara-Blue-5-213x220Guest blog contribution
By Tamara Schenk
Research Director, CSO Insights

Reblogged from Integrity Solutions.

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Millennials Concept With Workstation

As more Millennials enter the sales profession, they are pushing their organizations to shift their learning strategies and approaches. They have strong expectations and they’ve made them clear:

Use the latest technology platforms for learning, provide me with just-in-time feedback, make the learning instantly accessible and available at my pace, and give me more opportunities to learn in a collaborative environment.

Oh, and I don’t just want to pick up some knowledge; I want to learn for personal enrichment and professional fulfillment as well.

This is something Kevin King, Integrity Solutions’ VP of Healthcare, has seen more and more in his work with pharmaceutical and medical device companies, where it’s common to recruit younger, inexperienced sales representatives, many of whom are in their first jobs out of college.

But of course, this isn’t restricted to a single industry. Millennials as a group have grown up with technology, and they expect learning to be fun, engaging, social and at their fingertips, when and where they want it. They are not only more comfortable with technology platforms; they’re fascinated by them—and demand them. It’s requiring many L&D professionals to get outside their own comfort zones to strategize new approaches and rethink their delivery methods.

As all-consuming as technology seems, though, it’s still a tool. The broader question we should be thinking about first is, how can we help Millennials grow and fulfill their potential while also ensuring they have the mindset, motivation and drive to achieve critical business and revenue objectives?

What We Can Learn From Millennials

In a recent podcast interview, Kevin shared some of his insights related to managing, developing and retaining younger associates. While acknowledging that continuous learning has always been essential for getting sustained results from sales training, he emphasizes that the Millennial desire for ongoing education and learning is upping the ante.

And that’s a good thing. We know the old performance management systems don’t work. It’s past time for a new approach.

Here’s the good news about understanding what Millennials are looking for. Those expectations can provide a solid jumping-off point to help you structure a more effective long-term performance and talent management strategy.

Here are a few of the expectations Kevin outlines in the podcast:

  • Put personal development front and center.
  • Provide supportive feedback early and often.
  • Operate with honesty, integrity and respect.
  • Align coaching with broader purpose, meaning and inspiration.
  • Follow up frequently to counter today’s endless distractions.
  • Provide opportunities to collaborate and shine as team players.
  • Offer rewarding work experiences.
  • Value work/life balance.

If you’re looking for how to adapt to the reality that “companies need to stop managing performance and start actually developing it,” this is a pretty good list to get you started.

Are Your Sales Managers Ready?

This isn’t just about your sales representatives; this is equally about your sales managers.

Millennials are looking for trust, engagement and alignment to the work, and that starts with the manager. To meet the changing needs of both the workforce and the business, the command-and-control model of management has to give way to a more collaborative, participative coaching approach and focus. As Kevin puts it, today’s sales leaders must come to the workplace with an open mind and flexible leadership style.

Many managers view these changes with skepticism or even exasperation. It sounds like more work in an era where everyone is already feeling overloaded and dealing with pressure from all sides. But this is a small upfront investment that can deliver huge gains over the long term.

And in fact, communication can be as simple as a quick e-mail response, a text or a one-minute conversation. Millennials expect immediate gratification, and “in-the-moment” feedback is often the best way to provide coaching. The task for L&D and sales executives: ensuring your sales managers have both the skills and the coaching mindset to deliver on this new requirement—and then holding them accountable to new expectations.

The bottom line is that regular, effective coaching—the kind that is connected with the salesperson’s values and interests and focuses on expanding that individual’s personal belief boundaries—will keep Millennials engaged in their work and driven to achieve more. And that means fewer headaches for your managers.

Re- Blogged From:-

Integrity Solutions

Source:- http://www.integritysolutions.com/sales-performance/managing-developing-millennial-salesforce

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