Improve Your Sales Performance with These Team-Building Activities

By Luke Talbot-Male

Common practices and sales pitches nowadays are becoming ineffective because consumers have been overexposed to them over the years.

To help the company achieve their sales goals, revising sales strategies sounds like a great plan – but doing so will be more effective if you have a strong sales team behind it. The team-building buzz is now targeting businesses and companies that aim to improve sales performance and hit their revenue targets.

Why Strengthen the Sales Team?

Functional teams achieve their goals because they are able to communicate well and make collective decisions. Evaluating your sales team in terms of its skills in communication, listening, creativity, decision making, and teamwork will help you find the areas you need to work on. And implementing these “new” sales strategies – and how high your sales can reach using them – depends on your team’s skills. So it will be best if they are geared up for the battle ahead.

Trust and Interdependence

Every team needs to establish trust and task interdependence to improve the quality of its output. Accomplishing sales goals is also dependent on your sales team’s cohesiveness. When the team is working closely together, the variable of having to completely trust each other always comes into the picture. A simple team-building activity that will help you enhance your team’s interdependence and trust is the game called the “mine field.”

You will need to do this activity in a wide indoor or outdoor space with materials like chairs, boxes, or cones as obstacle. Build a maze where a blindfolded person can pass through from start to finish – but strategically create “mines” using the obstacles you have gathered. Divide the team into pairs; one person will be blindfolded and will pass through the minefield while following his teammate’s verbal instructions.

The Good Old Role Plays

There’s nothing old with “experiencing” how to do the different scenarios when pitching sales to your customers. This team-building activity will help you raise sales performance by improving your sales team’s customer relations skills and creative thinking.

Divide your team into groups that will act as customers and salespeople. The salespeople team should be able to brainstorm the best sales pitch they can come up with for the product while the customers team will need to make the act as realistic as possible by asking questions most customers ask. Role playing this act will help you identify the reasons potential customers do not buy your products – and how your sales team can overcome those reasons.

Know Your Team Better

There might be instances where some of your sales team are assigned through various regions and cities and might not have even interacted with each other in person. One of the best “get to know you” games we use for team activities is based on the American television game show To Tell the Truth. We ask all members of the team to state two truths and make up one lie about themselves – and the other members have to guess which one is the lie. Unlike the old-fashioned way of introducing yourself to the team, this game will help you build rapport with your colleagues in a more fun and creative way. Knowing the people you’re working with will help establish great working relationships.

Problem Solving

Your sales team will face a lot of problems that will require them to devise new ideas that are outside of the box. Organizing team events that will require problem-solving skills will help your team enhance their cognitive abilities. Team activities like the ones described above are just some of the team events your team can try to develop their problem-solving skills.

If you want your sales team to experience these super team building events and other team building Melbourne activities, visit our Website today!

Today’s post is by Luke Talbot-Male, founder and managing director of Beyond the Boardroom Australia. Luke has a 20 years’ worth of experience working in Australia’s adventure tourism industry. As the owner of Beyond the Boardroom, he understands the importance of a functional team and his leadership style follows the same principles that are used in every Beyond the Boardroom activity.

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Sales Leadership in The Age of Anxiety

By Adrian Davis

Sales leaders are conducting business in a unique environment of rapid change and immense risk. We face complex national and international challenges.

Predictability provides peace of mind, whereas uncertainty creates anxiety – and ours is an uncertain age. The Information Age is behind us. We are now in The Age of Anxiety.

We are the most educated and well-informed people in the history of mankind. Yet, in some ways, it feels as if sales leadership is being asked to solve insurmountable problems based on events over which they have little control.

What are the top challenges facing sales leadership today? Here are three to consider.

1. Employee Engagement

As our world continues to change, your customers will face more complex problems. You need engaged employees to bring their best thinking to client problems. Otherwise, the spark of creativity will seep out of your business, you won’t be able to inspire your clients, and your business will decline.

Your salespeople are dealing with more stress in their lives than previous generations. This mounting stress is leading to unprecedented levels of depression.

Everyone is trying to find ways to cope. Use of antidepressant medication and alcohol is increasing, and many are turning to extreme forms of entertainment.

Employees struggle to balance their work and personal priorities. People shut down when they feel overwhelmed, and depression is one of the ways that happens. Employers must now also take part in their struggle. That’s why one of our clients specializes in helping large corporations spot depression in employees. Sales leaders must now take an interest in this balancing act.

Another of our clients has an incredible, high-performance work culture. What is different about their high-performance culture is how much they care for each other. They have built a culture that is productive and supportive – and that support extends beyond the work environment. They have developed personal friendships. People feel needed and appreciated. They derive great satisfaction from their work.

Employee engagement will continue to be a key challenge in our changing world. How are you doing connecting your employees to the core purpose of your business?

2. Customer Loyalty

Getting attention is hard enough. Once you’ve gotten it, keeping it is even harder. As your clients’ world changes, their priorities change. As their world and priorities change, they face increasing anxiety – and doing business with you may no longer be one of their top priorities. Commoditizing your services may give them a sense of control and security. Finding a cheaper alternative may give them a false sense of accomplishment. This is especially true if your employees have not been as engaged as they once were.

You must earn your customers’ loyalty. That means your loyalty to your customers has to come before their loyalty to you. Win-win means you win after your customers win – not before. The more successful you can make your customers, the better customers they will be. Take the risk with your right-fit customers. Invest in them. Help them address their current priorities. Grow your business by helping them grow their business.

Remaining relevant to your customers will be one of the greatest challenges your business will face in a rapidly changing world.

3. Effective Leadership

In the simple world of the Industrial Age, leadership was about command and control. We broke work down into discrete units and we employed arms and legs to perform the work.

As the world has grown in complexity, we have realized we need people’s heads and hearts as well. We needed to put the discrete work units back together. We now ask our employees to own their work and we gave them the autonomy to make appropriate decisions. As the pace of change accelerates, we need employees who care about their work. We are now asking employees to bring their heart to work – and not just their arms, legs, and mind. We need arms, legs, head, and heart – we need entire human beings to show up.

We humans are complex creatures, aren’t we? Managing complex people in a complex, fast-changing world requires a different leadership style. The command-and-control style of the Industrial Age no longer works. People check out when they feel exploited or undervalued. Command and control ignores the internal lives of employees. It used to be about getting the job done. Period. Today, it’s about outcomes and results. You need people who commit to outcomes. People who commit to outcomes need a leader they can respect. You need to be humble but decisive. You need to be calm, cool, and collected as you navigate your company in a sea of anxiety. Your people need to see your heart. You need to be transparent and humble but not soft or weak.

Your leadership needs to extend out to your clients and suppliers. Personal development must be a key priority for you. As the pace of change and increasing complexity heats up, character flaws will show up. When character flaws show up in leaders, followers can be unforgiving. You must commit to personal growth in The Age of Anxiety. As those who depend on you see you grow, they will also grow.

Three Key Sales Leadership Challenges

Our key challenges are:

  1. Keeping our employees engaged
  2. Keeping our clients loyal
  3. Providing leadership

If you’d like to explore a program to address these challenges with your team, reach out to me for a complimentary consultation.

Adrian Davis is president of Whetstone, Inc, where he has worked with organizations such as Johnson & Johnson, KPMG, Motorola, PwC, Phonak, Aviva, and DuPont. His highly talented team has developed a reputation for leading organizations to innovative and practical solutions that enhance customer value and dramatically increase sales. Adrian is the author of Human to Human Selling: How to Sell Real and Lasting Value in an Increasingly Digital and Fast-Paced World, a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), a certified professional in Business Process Management (P.BPM) and a certified Competitive Intelligence Professional (CIP).

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Teaching Sales Warriors New Tips: How to Train Seasoned Salespeople

By Shari Levitin

Many salespeople speak about sales through the language of warfare. To them, the idea of a warrior suggests power and conquest. They skirmish with customers, fight for leads, and talk about losing the battle but winning the war. They forget that what makes a warrior isn’t a weapon or a uniform, but sacrifice and doggedness. Great salespeople – like great soldiers – learn how to deliberate, practice, drill, and rehearse.

But let’s face it, most salespeople don’t wake up in the morning eager to train any more than your prospects line up to purchase your product. So how do you energize sales reps to fight for the skills they need to win more deals?

According to new research in the Harvard Business Review, titled “The Internet Makes You Think You’re Smarter than You Are,” Yale doctoral candidate Matthew Fisher and his colleagues concluded people are more confident that they’ve learned information by simply having access to that information.

This got me thinking. Do salespeople assume they know how to build trust – or move a customer through the pipeline – simply because they bought the book or signed up for the online course? Fisher’s research indicates an answer in the affirmative. Even more compelling is this: Just because you can find the information and understand it doesn’t mean you can apply it.

So how can you encourage your sales and marketing teams to open the books and courses at their disposal and apply the material inside? Employ these five methods.

  1. Reward a Growth Mindset. Too many sales contests reward the top 20 percent, leaving the remaining reps discouraged. The solution? Offer incentives for learning and sales activities rather than simply sales outcomes. Create rewards and recognition for books read, leads generated, and courses taken.

  2. Create Team-Based Contests. This will bolster bonds and increase creativity. Focus either on sales performance or mastery of learning objectives. At one of our Train the Trainer events, 10 teams of five demonstrated their understanding of the buying process by creating skits and clay models – and even performing rap songs! Of course, everyone won.

  3. Present Learning in Small Chunks, Not in Large Assignments. The average attention span of people today has plummeted from 12 seconds to eight seconds. They say goldfish have a longer attention span than people! If you don’t believe me, go to the nearest pet store and have a staring contest with a goldfish. If you’re like most people, my money’s on the fish. Short, poppy pieces of wisdom will inspire and entertain. They’ll offer instant solutions to common problems – resulting in a series of small wins.

  4. Make Training Interactive. A few years ago, I sat with a group of senior leaders who weren’t meeting their quotas. They were struggling to get salespeople to prospect correctly and to isolate objections. “The salespeople just don’t listen,” they complained. “We tell them over and over again what to do and it goes in one ear and out the other.” Their complaint revealed the underlying problem: them!

    According to Adult Learning Theory, people retain:

    * 10 percent of what they only hear.
    * 50 percent of what they see and hear.
    * 90 percent of what they see and do.

    Your reps learn by seeing and doing. Simply telling your reps what to do – rather than engaging them in role-plays, exercises, and interactive games – will cause frustration and result in low performance.

    People don’t want to listen to the conversation; they want to be part of the conversation.

  5. Become a Master at Giving Feedback. No one likes being told what they did wrong. Before ever giving negative feedback, though, tell your reps what they did right. By hearing the good stuff first, their brains will be more receptive to the areas where they need to improve. In fact, a Harvard Business Review study confirms that individuals who receive at least a 6-to-1 ratio of positive-to-negative advice significantly outperform those who are more often criticized.

Apply these simple tips and you’ll not only lead your war horses to water, but you’ll also help them to think.

Shari Levitin is the author of Heart and Sell: 10 Universal Truths Every Salesperson Needs to Know. She is the founder of The Levitin Group, a global company operating in more than 40 countries to passionately inspire transformative change.

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How to Find Your Sales Presentation Persona

By Scott Schwertly 

I have been studying the public speaking styles of famous politicians and business leaders for over a decade. I have studied magnetic ones. I have studied terrible ones. But I have never seen someone as intriguing as the 16th President of the United States.

His mannerisms have been noted as awkward yet warm; his voice unpleasant yet profound; his thoughts clear yet argumentative; and his appearance as ungainly yet cool. Either way, he made a lasting impact on American politics and the world.

So how did he accomplish such an amazing feat? It all boils down to his presentation persona.

I’ll explain. For quite some time, my team and I have been working on a proprietary presentation assessment tool called Badge. Bottom line, one can take the Badge assessment and, within minutes, discover which one of 16 profiles fits them best. Without giving away all of our secret sauce, it examines every presenter in four major areas.

Here’s a breakdown of each those modules:

Module 1: Exploration – An Introduction
This quadrant captures everything about how one approaches the task of presentation preparation. It unpacks the level of seriousness with which an individual plans, researches, and organizes his or her thoughts.

Why It Matters
Exploration matters because it examines whether a speaker has researched and rehearsed, has the right message, and cares about the look and feel of his or her slides. In other words, it measures if the presenter is prepared to share a powerful narrative.

Module 2: Sharing – An Introduction
This quadrant measures one’s ability to share and deliver a compelling message. It covers charisma, confidence, humor, authenticity, and much more. It explores just how natural or awkward a person is in front of a room.

Why It Matters
It’s the presenter on stage. Is he or she confident? Conversational? Charismatic? Comfortable? All these elements matter when an individual is in front of a room.

Module 3: Response – An Introduction
Do people like or dislike the presenter once the presentation is over? This is what the Response quadrant attempts to discover. It unpacks just how well a person’s message is received and retained by the audience.

Why It Matters
Response is all about whether a speaker has a servant’s heart. Caring about the audience matters – and this quadrant will extract that reality.

Module 4: Durability – An Introduction
This quadrant is all about lifetime value. Does the content stand the test of time? Speeches that would score well here include Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” or Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor address to the nation. Why? They continue to stand the test of time.

Why It Matters
Every great presentation or speech inspires, motivates, and even changes the world. Durability matters if a presenter wants to make a broad impact on the world and those around them.

How Does Lincoln Stack Up?

So how does Lincoln fit within these four main modules?

He was a Scholar – a presenter who is an always-curious learner informed by his own wisdom.

This implies that Lincoln scored high in Exploration and Durability and mid-low in Sharing and Response.

Exploration: Lincoln was known for the clearness of his logic.  Every word was always carefully chosen. If you revisit the Gettysburg Address, you will find that, in 273 words, he changed the world utilizing groundbreaking concepts like “A government of the people, by the people, for the people” or his mention of ideologies like “equality.”

Sharing: President Lincoln was a tall man, standing at six feet four inches, with long arms and legs. His feet and hands were also large. As an end result, he always looked a bit awkward in front of a room. He also was considered a sad man with an intellectual face; in turn, not giving him amazing scores in the Sharing category.

Response: When we look back to the 1860s, we look at a man who made a radical difference on America and the world. However, he was not adored by every single citizen. As the leader of the Union during the Civil War, his words didn’t always resonate with the masses –  including the Confederate south.

Durability: President Lincoln was a revolutionary. Plain and simple. His words and speeches changed our nation and the world forever. His speeches, letters, and proclamations challenged the status quo and pushed the American people past their comfort zones.

Abraham Lincoln was a powerful and thoughtful orator, which made him an incredible scholar. But what about you? You can find out your own presentation persona right now.

Here’s how:

  1. Go to ethos3.com/badge
  2. Take the Badge assessment (it only takes 10-12 minutes)
  3. Pick up a copy of What’s Your Presentation Persona? to learn about your profile

It’s that easy. Once you discover your profile, come back here and let me know how you scored. I would love to discuss.

Scott Schwertly is the founder and CEO of Ethos3 and the creator of Badge, a proprietary presentation assessment tool that helps presenters discover and maximize their presentation style. He is also the author of two books: What’s Your Presentation Persona? and How to Be a Presentation God. If Scott is not working with his team building presentations or co-hosting his Presentation Scientists podcast, you will find him in the pool, on the bike, or on a long run since he is a 2x Ironman, 7x marathoner, and competitive triathlete.

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Advice for a Sales Leader: How to Gain Control of Your Sales Pipeline and Forecast

By Sherri Sklar

Recently I received the following email from a VP of Sales, asking for advice about his sales pipeline and sales forecast.

Dear Sherri,

I’m a Sales VP, it’s mid-March, and I’m sweating the end of quarter. Truth is, we don’t have enough good opportunities in our pipeline. I can only rely on 20 percent of what has been inputted into the CRM. Either reps are sandbagging or putting in fluff just to have something there. How can I get control of this situation so I’m not left to figure out where things stand so close to the end of the quarter?

Sincerely,

“Sweating the Numbers”

In my reply, I assured this VP there are a number of things sales leaders can do to turn a situation like this around. Even starting with just a few of the actions below can make a huge difference in a single quarter, while also setting you up for sustainable growth.

  1. Face the truth. When I was training for a triathlon, my coach used to say, “Face the truth,” so we knew where I was in terms of strength, endurance, stamina, and speed. You need to use the same “face the truth” type of information to determine where each deal truly is in the pipeline. You need factual evidence of where the opportunity is in the buyer’s process. Look at your reps’ letters of understanding, emails, and social interaction with the client, and ask yourself if your rep truly set all the right elements in motion for this to be categorized as an opportunity ready to close by the end of the quarter.Key information you need to look at includes: what is the buyer’s critical business issue keeping him or her up at night? What’s causing that issue? Who else is impacted and how? And is your rep calling on the right person? Other telltale signs will also tell you where this opportunity stands, such as, are they still demoing the product? Are they still meeting with other members of the buying committee? If the answers are yes, you’re looking at an earlier stage opportunity, not late-stage ready for closing.By getting a good grip on answers to these questions, you’ll know where the opportunity actually stands and if it’s fluff or real. Don’t just rely on your CRM system. You need to roll up your sleeves and have these concrete conversations to truly get the real picture. You’ll get a much more realistic view of the pipeline and be able to produce a solid forecast.
  2. Get the real deals across the finish line. Once you’ve figured out what’s fluff and what’s real, you want to clear the pathways and make it easy for every deal that’s real to close. There are many things your reps will need. For instance, you can help your reps foster an even stronger relationship between your company and the client by developing meaningful dialogue with C-level executives from both companies. You can create account-based cross-functional SWAT teams to triage issues and ensure the most creative solutions emerge that will gain rapid agreement with other key managers in your company who are stakeholders in this deal.Where you need to, you can run pass interference for your reps to speed up any problematic legal issues or T’s and C’s. All these things can make an enormous difference in being able to close a deal faster and solidify the relationship for long-term success.
  3. Accelerate sales with process. Simply put, you’re going to need a good systematic approach to deliver reliable, predictable numbers so this does not happen every quarter. You may hate the word “process,” but – call it what you will – the fastest and most dependable way to deliver an outstanding performance is to give your team a common language and a set of consistent, repeatable actions that work. It has been proven over and over that implementing some kind of method and process not only helps every rep grow into a better rep; it helps them make quota – and organizations as a whole perform a whole lot better. Putting in a process helps you avoid people “winging it” and gets people doing the right things at the right time so there are no surprises in the pipeline or forecast. Reps won’t be sandbagging or creating fluff anymore, because your clearly defined and articulated process will expose it right away. You will accelerate sales and, as a result, the performance of the entire team will improve.

Reps can be like kids. They’ll tell you they hate structure, but secretly – or maybe subconsciously – they crave it. They need your leadership, your guidance, and your process to review their opportunities in a way that gives you the accurate information you need to accurately predict the numbers. Only then will you not be sweating the numbers.

Want more predictability in hitting your numbers? Download GrowthTera’s free checklist for Sales Leaders and get control of your numbers.  Or, contact Sherri at:  212/500-2161 x 700 or sherri@growthtera.com.

Sherri Sklar is CEO of GrowthTera, a consulting firm that helps organizations elevate their performance to accelerate growth. For more than 20 years, she has helped companies deliver triple-digit growth, orchestrate liquidity exits, and emerge as market leaders in their field. She has trained, coached, and helped companies expand deal size, shorten sales cycles, build a robust pipeline, and convert stalled opportunities into multimillion dollar closed deals. Sherri received a BA from Tulane University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

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The Only Power Source that Really Matters in Your Company

By Jim Cathcart

In a speech years ago to the executive team of Wal-Mart at their Bentonville, AR, headquarters – after meeting Sam Walton himself in the hallway – I explored the concept of where power comes from in an organization.

The traditional view has always been that power “comes from the top” and flows downward through the organization. We use organization charts with boxes to indicate the players, with lines to show reporting roles between them.

The boss or owner is always at the top and the hourly workers are at the bottom in a wide row. It’s a pyramid. The problem with this structure is that it isn’t true to life. That is not how good organizations get results.

In truth the only power that really matters is the power of customers. As a company, we are working to find what the customer will value – and design and deliver it in a way they’ll be eager to pay for. We want the customer’s allegiance and enthusiastic loyalty. They give that both through money (revenue) and through support (testimonials, referrals, and feedback).

When I received my orientation to Wal-Mart prior to my speech, I discovered that they operate quite differently from most organizations. No wonder they are one of the world’s most successful! They refer to their coworkers as “associates” instead of employees, superiors, subordinates, or bosses. The store managers don’t have traditional offices because they are expected to spend most of their time walking around and actively engaging with others. They see their stores as outlets designed for the convenience of their customers and they negotiate the lowest possible prices from their suppliers. They were the originators of “greeters” at the front door and many other friend-building innovations in retailing.

Pyramid-shaped org charts don’t describe Wal-Mart. And, in actuality, neither does that structure describe any customer-facing organization. The owner or CEO, in truth, is at the bottom of a pyramid – with all of the weight of the organization on his or her shoulders. The people who touch the customers most are at the top, like the ice cream in a cone. But there’s another element that doesn’t show in this symbol: the resource network – the suppliers and industry colleagues.

A much better symbol, as I told the execs that day, is a tree. Trees have two systems: one seen and one hidden from view. The seen system is made up of the trunk, branches, and leaves reaching toward the sky (opportunity). The unseen system is made up of the root system and taproot reaching down for the resources and nutrients in the soil.

The branches represent the growth system of your organization: sales, marketing, customer service, product development, etc. The roots represent your strength system: suppliers, distributors, research, finance, engineering, quality control, etc.

If the strength system is weak, you might outgrow your ability to deliver or sustain growth; and, if the growth system is weak, you could die from lack of sales. Seeing ourselves in this way within the company gives us a much better sense of our responsibility to each other and to our marketplace. The purpose of selling is to make life better for people at a profit so it also makes life better for us.

Years later I encountered then-president of Wal-Mart, David Glass, at a banking conference where we were both speaking. He told me, “We are still using many of your ideas from that day.” Cool.

Jim Cathcart, CSP, CPAE is the original author of Relationship Selling and one of the world’s leading professional speakers. Jim is a regular contributor to Selling Power and a certified Peak Performance Mindset Trainer. Contact Jim at Cathcart.com.

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How to Become a Great Sales Coach

By Kevin F. Davis

I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes the difference between sales managers who fail their teams, those who do a competent job, and those who excel.

One of the factors that has the biggest impact on a manager’s success is how effective he or she is as a coach. Research has shown that effective coaching is part quantity and part quality. Doing more coaching means controlling your time and priorities – a topic I won’t go into for the purposes of this article. Better coaching is a matter of focusing on actions you can take that will do the most to help your reps improve in the long run, not just win one deal. Here are three tips to get you started down that path.

Tip #1: Don’t try to coach based on a scorecard. I’m an avid golfer and, like everyone, keep track of each game on a scorecard. Suppose you were a golf pro and I handed you the scorecard from my most recent round and asked you how I could get better. You couldn’t really help me because the scorecard tells you only the aftermath of what I did when I was golfing  – it doesn’t tell you where I made good and bad swings or what decisions I made. Any feedback you gave me would be based only on the results I got, and it couldn’t be specific enough to be helpful. All you could say is something like “try harder” or “don’t make a bogey on hole 5.”

If you really wanted to help me improve, you’d have to observe my game and come up with strategies to help me learn what I was doing wrong and what I could do better.

Reviewing your reps’ sales results once a month or every quarter works the same way. You can’t help your reps improve if all you do is examine their results  – their “scorecard” – after the fact. You have to start looking closely at what they’re doing upstream. Talk to your reps during the early stages of working a sales opportunity, and observe their call preparation and interactions with customers. When you ask questions that challenge them on what they know and don’t know about their customers’ needs, you provide more specific and helpful coaching that they’ll be very motivated to implement.

Tip #2: Focus more on identifying deficiencies of skill and will. Back in 2014 and 2015, the Sales Management Association did some research on how often sales managers discussed 13 specific topics when coaching their salespeople. The kicker is that they also studied the connection between how often each topic was discussed and revenue growth in the organization.

By a big margin, the topic that had the biggest positive influence on revenue growth was “identifying skill deficiencies.” Now, can you guess how often that topic was discussed in coaching conversations? It ranked 12th out of the 13 topics. That means talking with reps about their skill deficiencies happened far less often than discussions about things like “advancing a sales opportunity” and “crafting proposals” – and even the 11th-ranked item, “instruction on administrative processes.”

In my mind, if you are not having regular conversations with your reps around their skill deficiencies, then you’re not really coaching. At least you’re not providing the kind of coaching that will have the biggest impact on your team’s results and your company’s revenue. To help your reps be more successful, you have to make the time to identify each rep’s skill and will shortfalls. And you have to coach them on how to improve in those specific areas.

Tip #3: Take your sales coaching to your reps. There’s a well-known principle in the field of psychology called “the self-serving bias.” It’s the tendency for a person to take credit for their successes but blame external factors for failures. You see it when, for example, sales reps who have a great month attribute their success to their strong work ethic and top-notch skills. But, when that same rep has a bad month, they blame external factors such as lousy leads from marketing. Sound familiar? I fell into that trap at one point of my sales career, and think most salespeople do the same.

Here’s the thing: people with a self-serving bias think they’re doing better than they really are. They are blind to their own mistakes. So they will NOT come to you to ask for coaching. And that means they’re losing deals they should win – and they may not know why.

The best way to combat self-serving bias is to be a strategic sales coach! Take coaching to your salespeople. Don’t sit back and wait for them to ask you for coaching.

A sales manager may well be the most talented sales professional on the team, but what matters now is whether they can transfer that greatness into the hearts and minds of your team members. Great sales coaches focus their attention on the input side of the sales performance equation – the behaviors and activities – not just the results. Great sales coaches make “identifying skill deficiencies” in a sales rep a key objective during every coaching conversation. And great sales coaches are proactive – they don’t sit back and wait to be asked for coaching. They take coaching to their people. Follow these guidelines and you’ll be on your way to building a championship team.

Kevin F. Davis is the founder and president of TopLine Leadership, which has provided sales and sales management training to leading corporations around the globe. One client put more than 3,000 sales managers through Kevin’s two-day workshop. He’s the author of three books, including The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness (March 2017).

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Five Traits of Sales Leaders Who Always Beat Their Number

By Tom Stanfill

My transition to sales manager was fairly typical. I was promoted from a role where I had excelled (selling) to a role where I was completely incompetent. In those early years of managing a team, I was more of an interactive kiosk than a leader. “If you have questions, I have answers. Be safe out there.”

Because I was struggling to lead my team, I started seeking advice from the top performers. Since then I have observed and worked with hundreds if not thousands of sales managers. And, because the frontline sales manager plays such a vital role in driving revenue, determining culture, and rep engagement, my thirst to understand the secret sauce of the best of the best has never been quenched.

So here’s what I’ve learned from the sales leaders who consistently kill their number.

They Remove the Mystery

Earlier in my career, I worked with an exceptionally gifted sales leader. He built a fledgling sales force of 20 into a multibillion-dollar sales organization. In the early years, I asked him why his team consistently outsold everyone else. He explained a simple philosophy: failure isn’t an option. Success is predictable if you do what’s required. He told every recruit success is just a choice. “I will tell you what is required to succeed, and – if you are willing to follow the plan – you will succeed. There is one requirement: willingness. The key that opens the door to a coaching session is desire. So, if you’re in, I’m in. If you need additional training at 6:30 a.m., I’ll be there.”  

He removed the mystery and distilled success down to a formula. If reps weren’t willing to participate, that would be their choice. He would help them find another job that was right for them. But, if they were willing to do what was required to succeed, he would gladly walk that path with them.

They Wear a Different Hat

For most, “sales manager” is an accurate label, but it doesn’t describe the high performers. The best sales managers spend far more time developing their people by coaching than focusing on the metrics by managing.

The best sales managers understand that selling requires skills – and developing those skills doesn’t happen when talking about the numbers. An athlete doesn’t get better by focusing on the scoreboard. Yes, knowing how you are performing in relation to your goal is important, but knowing the problem doesn’t improve execution, just desire.

Alternatively, mediocre leaders typically believe that coaching isn’t worth the effort – or they are just too short sighted. Much like planting a peach seed and, after two weeks, saying, “Where’s the tree? I knew it – peaches come from stores.” Top-tier leaders know that coaching will yield quality results with time.  

They Simplify

Selling boils down to a handful of abilities, much like golf. In golf, driving the ball, hitting long irons, chipping, and putting are four elements required to succeed. You don’t have to know anything about the game to tell if the ball lands in the fairway, hits the green, or falls in the cup. The core elements of selling (e.g., discovery) should be measured the same way. High-performing sales leaders don’t argue about stance, swing, and the hundreds of behaviors that result in success; they first focus on where the ball lands. This approach ensures the student and teacher are aligned on what must happen to achieve the best result. Once the team member understands how poor “putting” is effecting overall results, they embrace the need to examine how they are “putting” and work on the specific skills required to improve.   

They Are Strategic

Who owns the number? Who owns the plan to hit the number? Successful leaders invest in reps who have a goal and a plan to meet it. They know that all effort is wasted until the rep is striving for something. Because, when people have a desire to achieve, they will have a desire to change.

Leaders simply don’t have the time to invest in reps who aren’t willing to change. They learned a long time ago that you can’t force someone to learn a new skill. “If you don’t want to improve your game, I’m not going to the driving range and wasting time while you pretend to practice. When you really want to get better, call me.” This approach ensures the responsibility to improve lands squarely on the rep’s shoulders.

They See People

There is a South African Zulu greeting that starts with Sikhona, “I am here to be seen.” The other person responds by saying, Sawubona – “I see you.”

We all want to be seen. We all want to be uniquely valued. We may not articulate that, but it’s true.

The best leaders see each team member – not as a number but as an individual. They believe the relationship isn’t dependent on performance. Poor performance may affect the team member’s role or job, but not the relationship.  

The best leaders know how their reps take their coffee, how they learn, and what they are passionate about – not as some technique to leverage performance, but because they genuinely care. They are Other-Centered® leaders.  

Somewhere in life, they learned a simple truth: if you are for them, they will follow you.   

Tom Stanfill is co-founder and CEO of ASLAN Training & Development. Tom has more than 20 years of experience consulting and developing training programs for the sales organizations for some of the largest and most respected companies in the world.

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The Truth about (Inside) Sales Call Coaching

By Lauren Bailey

Lately I’m hearing a lot about the magical abilities of call coaching for inside sales reps. It can spike revenue! Cure attrition and training retention! And, naturally, the whole leaping buildings thing.

Here’s the truth of the matter. GOOD call coaching can leap a good half building. BAD coaching – and seriously, most of it is bad – can dig holes in the pavement of your morale.

Let’s look at the numbers:

  • Companies without a formal program (most of us) leave call coaching up to the managers and have quota attainment just north of 50 percent – basically average. (CSO Insights, 2016).
  • A formal, well-integrated coaching program can lead to a 10-60 percent increase in quota attainment (CSO Insights, 2016). Quite a swing in the results there.
  • Other sources reported a 7 percent uplift in sales numbers from top-end coaching (Sales Executive Council, 2016).

OK, we go conservative and aim for a 10 percent uplift with coaching. Still tempting, right? And it’s in sales managers’ job descriptions anyway. Let’s put some focus on call coaching and take our 10 points!

(I’m beginning to get the hype.)

Here’s the “but” you’re waiting for:

  1. The 7 percent uplift from SEC comes at the price of three hours per rep per month. That’s 36 hours per month for a 12-person team – or basically 25 percent of the manager’s time. I’ve never seen a team pull this off for longer than two months. Ever.
  2. SEC also reported that coaching was the #1 WORST sales management skill – trailing just behind innovation in performance management and executive decision making (and aren’t those VP skills?)
  3. Sales managers report nearly double the coaching time their reps report. (Bridge Group, 2016). So, when they think they’re out coaching, their reps don’t. Ouch. Yeah, that’s a skill gap.

There are two major flaws in the coaching-as-a-silver-bullet thing:

  1. Sales managers just don’t have the time.
  2. Some sales managers are just not good at it.

I understand why some sales managers are really terrible at it. These are the folks who think, “It’s just SO much faster to tell salespeople what I want! PLEASE shut up and let me get this off my chest and we can get on with our day! Love you lots, but don’t have time for your story here!”

I’m telling you, you have sales managers who think that way! There’s a simple reason for this. More than half of our managers have come up from within, right? Meaning, not long ago, they were competitive, deal-hungry, fast paced, W-obsessed reps. So impatience with other people’s inability is a surprise to you? Thought not.  We’ve all tried that “promote my top rep strategy” – and watched most of them burn.

Back to pitfall 1: Managers don’t have the time.

Frontline sales managers are probably in the busiest position in sales. They juggle 12-15 reps; thousands of buying, escalating, might-leave-us accounts; more performance issues than any other sales channel; lots manual report generation; and a carnival of hiring responsibilities.

So they TRY – the kind of all-in, “We will not be defeated!” try. We are a people who overcome. Who win! We put it on our calendars, tell our teams about our commitment, and then sales happen.

Meetings are skipped.

Sinkhole.

Why?

Because sales reps are needy creatures. The best are some of the highest-maintenance little rock stars I’ve ever met. They have a constant hunger to be pet. To be appreciated. To be admired. Believe me, they notice when we skip a meeting.

And the research supports it too! Our Gen Y population is twice as motivated by time with management as they are by autonomy. Boomers were 3x in the reverse. (The Bridge Group, 2016). The tide has turned, folks. Our workforce demands this dedication to give face time and our jobs haven’t shifted to allow it.

So, naturally, we see the stats shift to exit data. The American Association of Inside Sales Managers and Aberdeen both report “a lack of development” as a top challenge and a top reason for attrition since 2014. They’re starving for training and coaching and attention. We’ve made the sales management job too busy to give it to them.

Frankly, this isn’t necessarily horrible news! Because, unless we’ve trained managers how to be good coaches, most of the call coaching happening out there truly stinks. Like painful bad.

Is no call coaching better than bad call coaching?

Yes.

It’s sad, but true. When we promote top reps, they don’t come with an “off” button for competitive drive. They spend most of the call coaching meeting trying not to physically grab the headset away from the rep and take over the call! (You’ve probably seen a few do just that, right?) Most think that sending an instant message with what to say to a prospect during a sales call IS call coaching. Ouch.

The vast majority of others spend most of the coaching meeting sounding a lot like, “Be like me.” They will regale reps with stories of how they rocked the headset, and many will actually write full scripts for your salespeople.

How’s that morale looking now?

(Inside) sales is a confidence sport. We need swagger people. We need a team chanting our name when we step up to the cold call. We don’t need a manager who clearly doesn’t believe in us.

And now let’s talk about all those studies on employee engagement. The need to connect with others, feel appreciated, and like our boss. Bad coaching interactions press every one of these buttons in a negative way.

And, even with training, we have to remember we’re trying to influence a very difficult and often unnatural skill set. One book on coaching will not transform a hunting predator into a nurturing den mother.

The bottom line on call coaching? It has potential. But only if we do it right. As leaders, let’s focus on two ways to make this work:

  1. Find three things to lift from your manager’s plates – I’ll vote for some dashboard reporting instead of manual number gathering and a dedicated recruiter who reports to sales (if you don’t mind the input).
  2. Second, get your managers some call coaching training – and maybe even their own coach.

Lauren Bailey is a 20-year veteran of inside sales and president of award-winning training and consulting company Factor 8. Voted “Top 25 Most Influential” people in inside sales, she and her firm are 100 percent dedicated to working with professional B2B inside sales teams.

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Are You Ready for These Shocking Changes in the Sales Profession?

By Adrian Davis

Are you facing increasing sales targets and increasing challenges in achieving these targets? Well, it’s going to get even harder because of some fundamental shifts in our economy.

I’m currently working in the robotics industry. Exposure to this has sensitized me to the growing prevalence of automation. Many professionals feel that automation is not something we have to worry about. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Automation: Be Afraid! Be Very Afraid!

Sales is polarizing into two approaches. The first path is transactional. Salespeople who engage in transactional selling are order takers. Order takers deal with problems that are well defined. Furthermore, the solutions purchased are well understood.

The only questions in buyers’ minds are: how much and how soon? The sales rep who is cheapest and fastest wins the business. More and more, that sales rep is showing up as not a person, but a slick e-commerce Website. E-commerce sites work 24/7. They respond to buyers with unprecedented speed. They guarantee the lowest price. The traditional sales rep is becoming obsolete.

Is Consultative Selling the Answer? (No.)

This is driving sales leaders to get their teams to focus on “consultative selling.” In a previous blog post, I explained that the consultative sales approach is obsolete. Sales reps who show up asking too many questions end up annoying buyers instead of pleasing them. Buyers complain about reps who take their time before they provide anything of value.

Sales leaders realize they have to up the ante. They have to teach their salespeople how to create value for the buyer up front. The buyer must immediately recognize the benefit of developing a relationship with them.

Debating with the Younger Generation

But wait! Isn’t challenging buyers safe from the encroaching threat of sweeping and inevitable automation? That’s what I thought…but an article I tripped over jolted me awake.

Years ago, my son Ryan – who is very articulate – said he wanted to pursue a career as a software developer. Being a seasoned and passionate sales guy, I tried to discourage him. I explained that companies are automating back-office jobs. Companies will outsource those that aren’t automated to China and India. I asked him to leverage his incredible communication skills. I asked him to focus on being in front of the customer because that’s where he could create real value.

This conversation took place about five years ago – which, as we all know, was a long, long time ago! So much has changed since then. Ryan recently shared a YouTube video with me called “Humans Need Not Apply.” This video captures the implications of the work my son is now doing. I watched the video. I thought, “Yes, but companies will not automate professional work. Professional work requires human judgment!”

I woke up when I read an article in the Harvard Business Review. It was “Technology Will Replace Many Doctors, Lawyers and Other Professionals.” The gist of this article is artificial intelligence (AI) initiatives are now unstoppable. AI machines are outperforming human beings in many cognitive tasks. Professionals use approaches that seem immune to automation. Unfortunately, AI enables new approaches. Moreover, AI learns from itself and teaches itself how to be even more efficient.

In the next 5-10 years, professionals all over the world will get the shock of their lives. Automation and AI will replace routine and mechanical tasks. It will also replace “sacred” and insulated professional roles. This relentless drive toward automation will challenge us. It will, most likely, unravel our entire capitalism-based economy. In the future, the majority of human beings will be unemployable. Automation and AI will do meaningful work instead of humans. Humans may only find meaningful work in activities of social unrest. Economies may no longer find it possible to be based on the upward mobility of the middle class. Unemployable people may demand socialistic or communistic approaches to the distribution of wealth.

In the meantime, today’s sales leaders must execute the following imperatives:

  1. Stop messing around with your CRM. Embrace it. Master it. Enhance it and use it to understand your most important customers.
  2. Acknowledge that “Thing-to-Thing” selling will completely replace order-taking salespeople as the Internet of Things matures and sellers’ devices transact and negotiate with buyers’ devices.
  3. Invest in mastering Human-to-Human Selling. Invest in your best salespeople. Develop them to become even greater strategic, critical, and creative thinkers. Encourage them to up the ante. Find new, unprecedented ways of creating value. Be committed to work with your customers who must also cope with the seismic shifts in our economy.

Adrian Davis is president of Whetstone, Inc, where he has worked with organizations such as Johnson & Johnson, KPMG, Motorola, PwC, Phonak, Aviva, and Dupont. His highly talented team has developed a reputation for leading organizations to innovative and practical solutions that enhance customer value and dramatically increase sales. Adrian is the author of Human to Human Selling: How to Sell Real and Lasting Value in an Increasingly Digital and Fast-Paced World, a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), a certified professional in Business Process Management (P.BPM) and a certified Competitive Intelligence Professional (CIP).

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