Sales Coaching: A Proven Model for Delivering Feedback to Your Team

By Kevin Higgins

Providing feedback to your team is a critical sales coaching discipline that must be delivered the right way to create an engaged and motivated team. In a recent survey of North American sales leaders, we at DoubleDigit Sales asked, “Do sales managers have a model they use to provide feedback to their people?”

The response was surprising: 56 percent said yes; 44 percent said no. This was an aha moment for us. Almost half of sales managers do not have a reliable coaching approach. We also know from our sales-management training sessions that feedback offered without a clear model ends up as a one-way conversation delivered from the manager to the performer. This leads to critical information not being understood and actioned by the performer.

These ineffective one-way feedback conversations come in one of two types:

  1. The “sandwich”: The manager presents the performer with what he or she did well, “sandwiches” the negative feedback in the middle, and wraps it up with more positive feedback. It’s a habit based on years and years of giving feedback – and it’s a habit we have to break. Sales coaching requires a two-way conversation to be effective.
  2. The “drive-by” approach: The manager doesn’t attempt to engage the salesperson; he or she simply states negative feedback and moves on. You never want to provide drive-by feedback. Remember: If you simply tell the salesperson, the conversation is one way; but, if you ask the salesperson, this facilitates a two-way conversation.

If you constantly praise your team members without suggesting improvements, you will have an extremely confident, unskilled team. If you constantly suggest how they can improve without celebrating their success, you will have a skilled team that is lacking confidence.

Balance in feedback is critical. Our Effective Feedback model makes self-discovery by the performer the first and most critical part of this process. The model is two way, and has four easy-to-follow steps:

  1. Ask performers what they did well.
  2. You add what you feel they did well.
  3. Ask performers what they will do differently next time.
  4. You add what you suggest they do differently next time.

We need confident team members, so steps 1 and 2 build confidence. Steps 3 and 4 build skill. Together, all four steps create a confident, skilled, and engaged team member with clear action items for improvement.

Do we spend an equal amount of time in each of these steps? Definitely not! People have different capacities for feedback and different abilities to assimilate information.

Those who lack confidence need more in steps 1 and 2. Those who are very confident – but lack skill – need more time in steps 3 and 4 (but be careful that it comes after reinforcing confidence in steps 1 and 2).

Although two-way feedback is common sense, it isn’t common practice. Making Effective Feedback common practice will engage your team and support their development. Once this four-step process is in place and well embedded in your culture, you’ll find team members are so well versed in receiving and giving feedback that they can actually provide themselves with clear, actionable, realistic, and balanced feedback on a daily basis.

How does this work in the real world? DoubleDigit Sales has consistent double-digit growth, and one of the most significant factors is feedback. When we hire new team members (all members, not just sales), we provide them with a two-page summary of what it will be like to work at DoubleDigit Sales. Here is what we say about feedback: 

“Growth and development is key in our industry, not only for clients, but for employees as well – you will receive constant feedback here, some you will like and some that is harder to hear – either way there is an expectation that you take it and act on it. 

“We will be open and candid with you. If you are performing well you will know it and if you are not performing well you will receive feedback and coaching.”

Our belief is that our successful growth has a lot to do with feedback being frequent and helpful for our team. Everyone on the team knows that feedback is a four-step process, and they appreciate how it contributes to their growth and development.

If you would like to improve your sales coaching skills and take your team’s performance to the next level, ask about our practical sales management training solution.

Kevin Higgins is the CEO of DoubleDigit Sales, one of North America’s top sales effectiveness firms that focuses on creating practical sales training solutions that unlock individual performance and produce sustainable business results. Kevin is also the author of Engage Me, a book focused on the strategies necessary for sales managers to succeed.

Three Things That Will Boost Your Brainstorming Meeting with Reps

brainstorming meetings

By Lisa Gschwandtner

As a sales leader, you want to welcome new ideas and innovation. Unfortunately, during meetings, many leaders can’t see past what Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, coauthors of  Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well, call “behavioral blind spots.”

In their book, Stone and Heen discuss the case of “Zoe,” who prided herself on the way she nurtured her team’s creativity during weekly brainstorming meetings. She didn’t realize, however, that people called her Annie Oakley behind her back. “As in, ‘she shoots down every idea,’” write Stone and Heen.

Zoe might never have become aware of the problem had she not decided to have a team member record a few of their meetings using a smartphone. “Zoe was stunned when she listened to the recording,” they write. Here are some of the phrases she heard herself utter:

“Here’s why I doubt that can work.”

“Here’s what I’m worried about.”

During brainstorming meetings, you might think you’re setting high standards or providing constructive feedback when, in fact, others see you as hypercritical. Try these three tips for leading a terrific brainstorming session.

Tip #1: Don’t worry about controlling the meeting.

Zoe truly believed in the benefit of new ideas. The problem was that she was afraid of wasting time during the meetings. Remember, creative energy needs room to breathe. Allow the ideas to flow, and stop worrying that you need to keep the meeting on track.

Tip #2: Stay open, positive, and curious.

Negativity quickly stifles creativity. Even if you can tell that an idea is not going to work, avoid saying so right away. Instead, see if you can pick one aspect of the idea that you immediately like, and focus on that.

For example, if someone suggests a customer-loyalty initiative but you can tell the plan is going to be prohibitively expensive, you might respond by saying, “What I like about this idea so far is that it addresses our key accounts. Let’s see if we can build on that.”

Brainstorming sessions are not the time to challenge ideas. There will be plenty of time to apply critical thinking after you develop ideas more and decide if you want to pursue them.

Tip #3: Plan ahead to capture ideas.

Although it’s ideal to let ideas flow freely, the lack of structure can sometimes mean that ideas become lost once everyone goes back to their desks. If this happens more than once, your team members are likely to be left feeling as though you’ve wasted their time. As a result, they might invest less effort in volunteering ideas.

Ask a good note-taker who’s not a core part of the team to attend the meeting and devote his or her full attention to capturing the ideas. Before the meeting ends, review the notes aloud to make sure they’re accurate and reflect the spirit of the discussion.

If you’re a sales leader, remember that your tone, attitude, and behavior sets the tone for the rest of your team. Also bear in mind that the way you perceive yourself is not necessarily the way others perceive you. Even if you don’t have doubts about how you’re coming across, try recording a meeting or two the way Zoe did. That way, you’ll hear the evidence for yourself.

How do you encourage the free flow of ideas when brainstorming with your sales team? 

selling power magazine

Lisa Gschwandtner

Lisa Gschwandtner is Editorial Director at Selling Power and Media Manager of the Sales 2.0 Conference. Find her on Twitter @SellingPower20.

[Image via Flickr /nhuisman]

Six Tips to Enhance Your One-on-One Coaching Meetings with Salespeople

coaching sales business Which of the following statements best describes your opinion, as a sales leader, of one-on-one meetings?

  • They’re the best way to stay connected to salespeople and drive pipeline opportunities forward.
  • They’re a low-value activity and should be skipped when more important priorities pop up.
  • They’re a dreaded but necessary evil.

Your answer probably depends on whether you have a defined coaching process to get the most out of these meetings. According to a sales-culture survey of more than 300 sales organizations across North America, which Fusion Learning conducted in 2013, nearly all sales leaders (97 percent) had one-on-ones with team members, yet 40 percent rated themselves 6 out of 10 or lower at conducting these meetings.

At Fusion, we liken one-on-one meetings that lack a defined process to the old sleight-of-hand “shell game.” In the shell game, the salesperson predicts which opportunities his or her manager will ask about (what shell will be lifted) and comes prepared with excellent examples of what’s been done to advance those particular opportunities. It doesn’t matter whether the examples are outdated. As long as the sales manager is satisfied, the salesperson can carry on with the status quo.

I speak from experience. My first sales manager and I met every Monday morning. These meetings were very friendly; we discussed accounts and I provided updates. I shared what I thought I was supposed to share. In retrospect, I realize we were playing the shell game. We would move the shells around looking for the pebble that wasn’t there. There was little coaching value in these meetings for either one of us.

Two years later, a new sales manager was assigned to our team. These meetings were similar but with one difference: he took notes and put them in a file folder labeled with my name. The next week, when he inquired about an account, I told a story similar to the previous week’s. He referenced his notes and I started to squirm a little.

“No worries,” he said. “Let’s discuss how you are going to move it forward this week.” Silly me – I showed up on week three and tried a similar tack. He was nice about it, but I realized the game had changed, and I needed to follow through on my commitments. My manager helped me and the rest of the team win business by staying focused and accountable. No more shell game.

At Fusion Learning, we know that world class one-on-ones are about dialogues and not two concurrent monologues. The conversation must meet these goals:

  • Focus simultaneously on business priorities and the individual salesperson.
  • Look to the future and not just backward at past performance.
  • Be strategic first and tactical second. Too often, one-on-ones take a tactical and operational approach. There must be a balance with a strategic perspective.
  • Hold the meetings at predictable and consistent intervals. Salespeople thrive on a steady, predictable cadence, helping them stay focused and remain accountable.

Here are six specific steps to help you conduct more productive, collaborative, and successful one-one-one meetings with your salespeople.

  1. Big Picture – Start the meeting by connecting with the salesperson and asking a high-level, strategic question. For example, you could ask him or her to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 his or her stress level or performance. It is not about the number, it is about the dialogue that results from the number.
  2. Green Flags – Ask the salesperson to share two recent accomplishments or actions he or she is proud of (for example, closing a deal or getting great feedback from a customer on a proposal). Then share two things the salesperson did that week that you’re proud of (for example, securing a meeting with an elusive prospect or updating opportunities in the CRM system). Discuss, give praise, and allow the salesperson to celebrate the successes achieved since you two last met.
  3. Red Flags – Next, follow the same process as in the Green Flags step, except this time focus on things the salesperson will improve. The salesperson should begin, “Here’s what I think I need to improve or do differently,” and then you can offer your own perspective. Help your salesperson create an action plan for improvement.
  4. Customers/Pipeline/Activities/Results – The trick here is to remain focused on all aspects of the salesperson’s activity – researching, prospecting, holding meetings, writing proposals, and closing – as opposed to locking in on one specific deal in the pipeline. (By the way, many sales leaders skip the first three steps and start here at the tactical level. Don’t do that.)
  5. Help Needed – Keep track of the commitments you make to help the salesperson, and follow through with them.
  6. Action Plan – During the meeting, note any action to which the salesperson commits. At the end of the meeting, have the salesperson repeat these commitments. Let him or her know you will review the action plan at your next meeting.

To learn more about how you can improve your one-on-one coaching meetings, check out chapter 5 of Fusion Learning’s book, Engage Me: Strategies from the Sales Effectiveness Source. It includes best practices, examples, and a template to use in structuring your meeting.

Alyson Brandt Fusion Learning Alyson Brandt is president of Fusion Learning USA.

 

[Image via Flickr / Peter Hayes]

Can Average Sales Performers Ever Be Rock Stars?

By Duncan Lennox

ID-100214811_bplanetWhenever I have conversations with senior executives or CEOs about driving sales performance, there’s a tendency to focus on the “rock stars,” that relatively small group of high performers. Frequently, they are described as “natural salespeople,” good at building empathy and establishing relationships and having a nose for qualifying prospects and getting deals done. Almost without exception, these gifted salespeople cannot tell you how they do it – they just do.

In many disciplines, significantly above-average performers are not simply a little better than average ones but much better. This leads to the false belief that, if we can just hire more of those folks, our numbers will skyrocket.

But there are two problems with this belief: the big problem is the assumption that you could articulate what makes an “A” player and know how to identify those characteristics in candidates you screen or interview. The really big problem is hiring rock stars at scale. Most of them (who don’t work for you already) are making lots of money somewhere else and probably not eager to apply for your open positions.

With barely 2 percent of most sales teams reaching the upper echelons of quota achievement, throwing more rock stars into the mix has the potential to extend quota attainment by roughly 15 percent at best – certainly not enough to deliver on markedly higher revenue targets. So the question remains: wouldn’t we get much more bang for our buck by using sales-enablement programs to help the people we already have be more effective – in other words, coaching and cultivating those average performers to be more like the sales stars?

If your organization is like most, the general approach to boosting sales performance might include such words as “training” or “learning.” Yet these are processes, not results, and more often than we care to admit, they fail to move the needle. The real goal must be to change behavior.

The path to doing this successfully begins with the acknowledgement that sales reps are people, and people, of course, are complex. People possess ingrained behavior, and changing that behavior – equipping sales reps to win – doesn’t happen via PowerPoint presentation in your local hotel’s meeting room.

To reduce the likelihood of employing “sales airheads” (aptly described in an earlier Selling Power blog) and replicate the productivity of top performers, sales executives must first understand the biological mechanisms of how memories and patterns are formed in the brain and then design a sales-effectiveness program that actively supports that process. While this may sound very academic, a team of researchers at Harvard has clinically proven that this approach boosts performance and builds the level of competency required to connect with customers and close deals. The key is two-fold:

  1. understanding, with data-driven insight, where individuals are today (what they know and don’t know and their strengths and weaknesses) and
  2. having a method that embraces three key elements to scale: simplicity, convenience, and motivation.

Oracle’s experience bears this out. Changing average sales reps into rock-star reps is simply a matter of changing their behavior. Oracle’s Business Brain Program introduces thousands of reps to successively more advanced thinking topics, so they don’t simply regurgitate product information but sell in context.

A company called BrainStudio put this program together for Oracle using Qstream, a mobile, game-driven sales enablement platform from my company. The platform pushes out personalized question streams made up of simple yet thoughtful scenario-based challenges, which take up only a few minutes a day using any mobile device. The program combines social-recognition elements, such as leaderboards, to leverage reps’ inherent competitive nature while keeping them highly engaged in what otherwise might be viewed as just another training requirement.

Through repetition over small periods of time, reps retain key messages and selling skills. What’s more, results are delivered to sales executives – not to flog the reps but to identify highly targeted coaching opportunities to ensure that every rep on the team is well prepared to sell with insight into the customer’s world.

Increasing sales revenue is a common goal, but some organizations end up looking in the wrong places. Instead of gimmicks, recruiters, and obsessive automation, it’s time we look within and honor our own people as the best path to achieving success.  How many rock stars could you develop this year?

Kevin Warren
Duncan Lennox is CEO and Cofounder of Qstream. Email him at info@qstream.com

Three Feedback Pitfalls to Avoid While Sales Coaching

When providing salespeople with feedback during sales coaching, it’s easy to fall into feedback pitfalls. If you are like most sales managers, you’re probably giving feedback to your team members the same way it was given to you. Yet recent research suggests that your feedback can have more influence over your team’s improvement.

Review these three feedback pitfalls to see if you’ve fallen into any of them. If you do, make note to avoid them going forward. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to see the impact of this effort on your team’s engagement, sales, and overall performance, and you’ll all enjoy the feedback process more than you did before.

Feedback Pitfall 1: Comparing each salesperson’s results to the team’s

It’s a natural part of the learning process to want to see measurable improvement, and if you are like most sales managers, you have a variety of measurable data at your fingertips: your salespeople’s week-to-week sales, their lead-to-client ratio, or their quote-to-sale ratio. Whatever you choose, beware of how you use them during your sales coaching. As much as you may be tempted to use the numbers to provide your salespeople with a sense of how they stack up against the rest of the team, resist it. People perform best when stats are used to compare their past individual performance to their current individual performance.

With this in mind, during your one-on-one coaching sessions with your team members, use the numbers you have to help your salespeople monitor the changes in their individual performance. Then base your feedback on the context of their individual improvements or slump. This will help them perform better.

Feedback Pitfall 2: Providing positive feedback

Who doesn’t love to receive accolades? Yet positive feedback isn’t what we want to hear all the time. Positive feedback is helpful in sales coaching…and it can be a pitfall in sales coaching. When salespeople try new sales approaches, they usually appreciate and desire positive feedback. But once team members develop a level of skill or mastery in a particular area, believe it or not, they want to hear the negative. They want to know what didn’t work, and they want to figure out how to do it better next time.

Knowing when to provide positive feedback or constructive criticism is essential when it comes to coaching your salespeople to improve their sales behaviors and ultimately their results. Make note of where your team members are in their learning, and match your feedback accordingly.

Feedback Pitfall 3: Telling your salespeople how to improve

It’s not unusual for sales managers to tell their salespeople what to do to sell more. Sometimes this will yield a change in a salesperson’s behavior, but unfortunately, telling salespeople what to do doesn’t always result in change.

One thing that consistently inspires salespeople to improve their sales behavior is when they become instigators of what to do differently. To help facilitate your salespeople’s development of this kind of initiative, ask them questions (instead of tell them what to do) as part of your feedback. This way, they become their own catalyst for change, and you become their advocate rather than the source of all answers.

By asking your team questions instead of only supplying the answers, you increase the likelihood that your team members will act on their own ideas. You’ll also remove the potential for any power struggle that might erupt if you try to get your team to do things your way. After all, what worked for you in a sales situation might not necessarily work for them because of personality differences, prospect idiosyncrasies, industry variables, technology changes, etc.

If you can’t hold back and you do tell a salesperson what to do, you can save the situation and increase the salesperson’s engagement by asking such questions as, “How might that work under those circumstances?” or “Would that have worked in that specific sales conversation?” This way, your team members can filter your idea through their sales experience and determine whether the idea would be effective or not.

As you know, one the reasons behind providing feedback is to help your salespeople develop better sales judgment so that next time they are in a similar sales situation, they will choose the more effective response. By asking your team members questions during feedback, you help improve their judgment and increase their engagement in the execution of their ideas.

Peri Shawn
Peri Shawn is the award-winning author of Sell More with Sales Coaching.

Insight for More Excellent Sales Management in 2013

This week Inc.com announced that bad managers cost the economy $360 billion in lost productivity annually. Hopefully, your sales managers aren’t making any personal contributions to this statistic. Either way, we thought it couldn’t hurt to assemble some collective insight for better sales management as we move into 2013.

ONE: Understand the skill set of a good sales manager, and fill the role accordingly.

Many sales managers were promoted from the position of sales rep. This isn’t a great idea. In fact, Peak Sales Recruiting says there are at least six basic reasons to NOT promote a top-performing rep to a position as manager. Jonathan Farrington, a globally recognized sales thought leader, agrees — as he points out, the successful attributes of a sales manager usually don’t align with the successful attributes of a top performing rep. Make sure you’re hiring sales managers based on management skills, and not solely on a track record of sales success.

TWO: Make sure your sales managers are practicing good coaching habits. 

A pre-call briefing, a ride-along to observe the sales call, and a post-call coaching session are all best practices for coaching recommended by Norman Behar at Sales Readiness Group. Are your sales managers actively involved in these activities? Or are they too busy running from one fire to the next as the end of each month and each quarter looms large? If your managers don’t know how to coach (or are simply not making time for it), you’re almost certainly cultivating discontent among your reps. So perhaps it’s no surprise that research from Oracle (quoted by Chuck Penfield at the most recent Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference in San Francisco) has indicated that 89% of sales reps want more coaching from their managers.

In a Sales 2.0 world, managers who aren’t invested in coaching are going to lose out on the rewards you can reap by combining science with soft coaching skills. According to PI Worldwide President and CEO Nancy Martini, who also spoke at the Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference, the ability to combine analytics with coaching holds unprecedented opportunities for sales managers to build more effective and productive sales teams that generate higher revenue. Clearly, coaching is a vital aspect of sales management and should not be ignored.

THREE: Make sure sales managers aren’t letting underperforming reps linger.

Christopher Cabrera, CEO of Xactly Corporation, recently blogged about his company’s joint research project with MIT which is examining data related to about 200 million transactions handled by Xactly each month. One early takeaway from initial analysis is that sales managers are probably hanging on to bad sales reps for longer than necessary. To quote from Cabrera’s post:

Our hypothesis is that many managers, if on the borderline of attaining their quotas, tend to keep low-performing salespeople on the books for too long. Those managers would rather keep underperformers on the books to generate even a few sales rather than the guaranteed zero sales they’d get if they fired the bottom tier.

This can obviously be a difficult call for a sales manager to make — and an even more difficult conversation to have once the reality sets in. But after you’ve done all you can to give lagging reps a leg up, it’s better to face the problem head on than to sweep the problem under the rug.

FOUR: Embrace the virtual meeting.

Based on her in-depth survey of 150 managers, Yael Zofi, founder and CEO of AIM Strategies told Selling Power magazine that “virtual teams are here to stay.” In fact, at least 70 percent of those she surveyed reported seeing a rise in virtual teams. Obviously, the virtual element of management has some very basic implications for process and operations. For example, take your weekly sales meetings. Are your sales managers holding frequent and regular meetings with field sales reps, no matter where they’re located? Your sales managers should be using video conferencing tools (like PGi’s iMeet, for example) to facilitate more effective and collaborate meetings, no matter where meeting participants are located.

Incidentally, if sales managers are already making use of video conferencing for meetings with reps, then it stands to reason that reps can use the same technology to meet with customers and prospects as well. That sets up your sales manager to increase team productivity and possibly win rates.

In the end, a bad sales manager adds up to a dysfunctional sales team populated by unhappy reps. And unhappy reps will only stick around for so long — the same Inc.com infographic shows that 65% of employees said they’d take a new boss over a pay raise.

Consider, too, that the workforce is fast becoming populated by Gen Y workers, who tend to prefer feedback from coaching and collaborative work environments. An investment in upping your standards for sales managers will put you on the path to success now and for years to come.

What are your best practices for sales management? Share your thoughts in the comments section. 

New Sales Conversations Helped Us Regain Our Competitive Edge

Often it’s difficult to realize and accept that changing your business approach could be beneficial or necessary – especially if your company is well-established and an industry leader.

Thanks to changing healthcare regulations and growing competition, we at Philips Respironics (a Fortune Global 500 company) recently found our dominance as the leading providor of sleep apnea products challenged for the first time in more than 30 years. We realized we needed to do something different and break out of our traditional mold – we had to elevate our messaging, positioning, and training and help our sales representatives differentiate in a competitive market.

First, we reached out to The Corporate Executive Board (CEB), which had published research about the importance of differentiating sales messaging from marketing messaging to see if they knew of any companies that could help us accomplish this task. The CEB referred us to Corporate Visions, Inc., who then helped us reassert authority in our market by shifting our approach to sales conversations.

Historically, our sales conversations focused on our individual products, their features, and pricing. Corporate Visions helped us realize that promoting these features didn’t differentiate us in the eyes of the customer, and that our solutions blended with those of our competitors. We needed to create differentiated messages focused on how our products solve the unique challenges of our customers and how we can help them to meet their business goals. 

After completing a series of positioning and training workshops (and training sessions for in-house trainers and sales managers) our salespeople took their new skills and messaging to the field. Just four months after the initial deployment, third-party measurement company BeyondROI surveyed 87 members of our sales force that participated in the messaging and training workshops to determine the quantifiable results. The impact was almost unbelievable: 

  • We generated a 10-fold return on specific deal closings and our overall sales pipeline.
  • We realized a $4.6 million impact on new business deals and a $1.4 million impact on won deals.

Tellingly, salespeople who were classified as “high adopters” (those who use the new messaging/skills more than 70 percent of the time) saw a nearly 5 percent increase in their monthly quota performance, whereas “low adopters” (those who applied the new messaging/skills only 43-64 percent of the time) saw a less than 1 percent increase in their monthly quota performance. High adopters also had an average deal size of $82,128 – double that of low adopters.

While altering our business approach was not comfortable or easy, elevating our sales messages and updating our delivery had an irrefutable, positive impact on our overall sales. It awakened our sales force, helped us differentiate, and positioned us to successfully reign as the market leader for another 30 years.

Susan McGinnis Philips Respironics resized 600Susan McGinnis is a Senior Corporate Sales Trainer at Philips Respironics

 

Managing Sales Team Talent: How to Help Reps at Any Level Sell More

By Nancy Martini

One of the most difficult challenges any manager faces is helping an employee improve performance. Creating a high performance sales team is even more complex. A typical sales team includes a number of top producers (10-20% of the team); these are the folks who crank out the numbers month after month — either with incredible skills, sheer effort, or a combination of brains and brawn. The middle group (60-80%); often includes reps who are adequate but not yet reaching their potential — various reasons get in the way, from confidence, to commitment, to limited skills or motivation. Finally, there is the small group (10-20%) of those struggling with the position and trying to figure it all out — they may or may not make it. Ultimately it’s up to the sales manager to drive the performance of the entire team, fortunately (as I discuss in my new book) science can help determine the exact scenario and who needs what.

scientific selling resized 600

As a manager it’s important to look first at the relationship between the reps’ sales skills and their actual sales results. There are four science-based scenarios that occur to help diagnose and guide you for accurate coaching.

The “Muscle” Scenario: High sales results, Low sales skills.
These are top producers who get the job done, but likely in their own way. Their success may come from years of experience, superb product knowledge, or they’re simply extremely hard workers. The good news is, they get superior results. The bad news is how they do it. A rep with high sales and low skills tends to be highly reliant on a single muscle (for example closing skills, presentation skills or questioning skills). They are most likely working inefficiently. By building other muscles, they could potentially increase their performance and efficiency substantially. Most top producers are all over increasing skills that can help create more sales; managers tend to shy away with a fear of messing with success. Gather the sales skills assessment data and dive in; this effort is well worth the return.

The Execution Scenario: Low sales results, High sales skills
These are the folks who know what to do but have trouble executing on that knowledge. They’ve attended the sales training, they even get it, but they just have a block getting it done. We all know the old adage “the knowing-doing gap” and this the classic issue in this scenario. It may be from lack of confidence, lack of drive, or simply lack of coaching but this rep needs help with the “doing.” In this scenario, a focus one-on-one coaching is ideal. The rep gets to see how his or her judgment and knowledge plays out live with feedback from a skilled coach. When a person has the sales skills assessment needed for the role, it’s also helpful to examine their behavioral assessment to uncover the drive behind their selling.

The Knowledge Scenario: Low sales results, Low sales skills
Your sales reps who score low on the sales skills assessment and have low sales results need one thing — training.  You can hire the best reps in the world, with all the drive necessary to succeed, but if they don’t have core sales skills, they become a rocket without a direction. This one is fairly easy to adjust: start with solid sales training and reinforce with focused skill builders. By increasing a rep’s core sales skills, you are giving them the tools necessary for the role. These reps tend to be sponges and the sales skills training is absorbed and used.

The Leverage Scenario: High sales results, High sales skills
This one is the most complex of all. A terrific rep who emulates all the sales skills you want and creates outstanding sales results. Good as it is, you have two risks to stay on top of: 1) the rep may plateau because of time constraints; and/or, even worse: 2) he/she gets bored when “been there, done that” kicks in. In either case, your top producers need to be kept engaged, challenged, and leveraged. The leverage approach suggests that you examine all aspects of the person’s role to remove obstacles and increase support to give them as much selling time as possible. It may be additional technology or it may be a part time assistant but ultimately your goal is to leverage this talent with more time to sell.

In each of the four scenarios sales analytics help remove the guesswork and provide you with laser sharp focus of what’s needed. Pay attention to the sales skills assessment scores, the behavioral assessment profile, and the reps’ actual sales results — those three data points provide the accurate insight needed to impact the sales performance of every member of your team.

Nancy Martini
Nancy Martini is President & CEO of PI Worldwide, publishers of the Predictive Index (PI) and Selling Skills Assessment Tool (SSAT). She is the author of the newly released Scientific Selling. In October she will present Sales Coaching 2.0: How Using Scientific Data Leads to Better Sales Performance as a keynote  speaker at the Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference in San Francisco.