Sales people are really hard to find. Some say they are a dying breed or going extinct like dinosaurs. I’ve heard a ton of people blaming this on Millennials, as they do many other things, saying Millennial sales reps are soft and can’t close a wet paper bag. I personally disagree! (I’m a GENXr) The truth is that there are systematic failures in how sales reps are being prepared and the environments we ask them to succeed in. Couple that with the growing sales innovation gap, and customers demanding a better experience and you have a recipe for disaster.
Today’s sales people, if you can find one, are being put into roles they are ill-equipped for. They are using technology that accelerates their failure, and all of this is happening with a distinct lack of formal sales education. The curve of sales performance looks bleak in many areas for too many companies.
So, what the hell can we do about it?
Well, it isn’t a matter of just sitting back and hoping that a bunch of Rockstar sales performers get dropped off at your front lobby with suitcases of leads and sales. It’s going to take some real focus, effort and commitment for a successful team to be discovered, designed and delivered in a way that makes an impact on your bottom line.
Here is a 7-step blueprint for shifting your sales performers
1. Clearly Define Your Sales Culture & Hire Firmly Into It.
The success of your sales team is going to live and die by the people you have working in it.
Talking about having a fantastic sales culture gets you nowhere. You really need to live it, and make sure you bring the right people into foster and be consumed by that culture. Not everyone’s going to be a Rockstar and not everyone needs to be a Rockstar! In today’s business ecosystem people can succeed in sales if you just hire the right people, create the right culture and build an effective sales team with coaching and structure.
The sales culture is always going to be slightly different, with different quirks and intricacies depending on the organization, the region, and the product group. But that’s why it’s important to write it down. Document it and make sure everyone is aligned to the same cultural elements.
Then hire to it. Train for it. Live by it.If you do those things and lead by example, the culture will come together and your team will inevitably perform better as a unit. Ultimately the success of your sales team is going to live and die by the people working in it. One amazing tool for identifying sales people is to get a talent optimization platform like Performance Index.
2. Clearly Define Your Sales Process
So many sales organizations leave the sales process up to the individual reps, letting their Rockstar’s and poor performers run their own show, leading to inconsistent results. It’s one of the most common mistakes you see in sales teams. So, how do you measure to ensure you can optimize around the best process?
The key here is clearly defining your sales process. You have to map out each individual step and then measure the efficiency between each of them. Far too many companies have a rough idea of the processes they would like to follow, but with a lack of training the output is inconsistent at best. If you don’t know which way to go, how can you get there? It’s like putting a ton of people in different cars, giving them a destination but not sharing with any of them a map or GPS to get them to the destination. Only the most resourceful or lucky make it.
By taking a holistic view into what’s working and what isn’t, within the sales process, you will be able to refine and tune things up until it is humming along smoothly.
3. Create Data Driven Accountability
The devil is always in the details they say and they are correct. Numbers are indisputable — no one can question them! Poor metrics pose a huge hindrance to accountability, because people don’t have the same understanding or interpretation of results. You need to create a common understanding of what the core metrics for your sales team are, because they will drive every conversation you have throughout the business.
Poor metrics pose a huge hindrance to accountability, because people don’t have the same understanding or interpretation of results.
It’s not just about management, tech, and marketing. Everyone needs to have a clear understanding of what those metrics are and how they can individually influence them. This enables you to guide your team to success or improve their performance when needed. You can help them create the career path they want, and help them own their sales flow accountability. As we used to say, they can write their own check!
There is a warning here. When you’re looking at the data you don’t want to come down with paralysis by analysis. You don’t measure EVERYTHING. Instead, just focus on measuring the core metrics that matter. What matters is going to be different depending on the audience of the metric. For example, what your sales executive will want to see is going to be different to what your sales rep needs.
Make sure you understand the implications of what you’re measuring, understand why you’re measuring it, and make sure you can do something with the outcome. If you can’t do anything, then there’s no point in measuring it.
4. Cultivate A True Coaching Culture
Mastery isn’t achieved in a day. It takes time, and it takes work. A high-performing sales team must have a strong culture of coaching.
Let’s look at it from a sporting point of view. Lebron James, Tom Brady, or Serena Williams. They didn’t wake up one day and become the very best at what they do. It took a lot of hard work over a long period of time to be able to achieve that level of success. They all still have strong coaching too! Well, sales is one tough sport, just like those physical pursuits. It can take a lot of time, practice, hard work, and deep reflection to reach an elite level. Sales leaders need to deeply understand this. They need to be in the trenches, feeling the same pain that their sales reps feel. Only then can they truly celebrate and share in the victories.
You can’t just manage the numbers and build a great sales culture, you need to be a coach, a mentor, a confidante.
5. Create Team Goals, With A Strong Personal Focus
You really need to create a shared goal for the business, and then turn that into something that has a personal focus for the people within your team.
Simon Sinek says, it all starts with “Why”. People need to understand why they are coming to work every day, it’s a great driver of human emotion and motivation. What impact can each individual have on other people? On the broader community? Or perhaps on the world?
Sometimes it’s hard to find the why. If you’re selling Chia Heads to someone for example, the why is pretty buried. But it’s there, you just need to look hard enough.
This concept is not just about helping your team be more productive or have a more enjoyable work experience. It’s also something that can drive you. If you’re motivating people towards a common goal of helping others and contributing to the “why” of the organization, it creates a certain sense of fulfillment in your work life. Your team goals need to align with your personal and company goals. Alignment is crucial to keep the entire machine moving.
Once you have a common goal that everyone’s working towards, the job then turns to tying that back to each individual. It’s not enough just to work towards a common goal, that won’t help your reps deal with rejection day after day. That common goal needs to link back to their personal goals, and their future career path, just like yours do.
How does pursuing that common goal ultimately help THEM succeed?
Once you can draw those parallels and get your team believing in their own contribution to a greater objective, it starts to build momentum. That’s your pathway to a high-performance culture and a great team of salespeople.
6. Encourage Co-Operative Competition
The harsh reality is that not everyone can get the trophy. This isn’t little league t-ball. There are winners and there are losers. And the biggest earners in a sales organization get rewarded. They get recognized with a big commission check. That said, the reward is not always going to be equal in this type of sales organization. These high-performers need to be recognized for the value they provide to the organization, which is often quite considerable.
But when you’re go to reward these people, does it create an environment of co-operation? A lot of the time it doesn’t. It fosters competition between team members, so you need to get creative in order to bring that co-operative element into it.
One area you can do so is with the use of SPIF’s. SPIF is an old school terminology for Sales Promotion Investment Fund, which is a technique that has been around for a long time but seems to be holding strong. A SPIF gives you a pool of money that you can use outside of your traditional commission-based compensation to reward performance. To create co-operation you can create team-oriented goals for this additional pool of money that everyone has a chance to win, not just the high performers.
Instead of basing it simply on who brings in the most revenue, another way to look at it is to create broader goals across functions in your organization. Gamification tools are great for executing this type of strategy. There are a ton of them out there now with all the new tech available and many of your sales CRMs include this capability. They help you create a healthy form of competition within your sales team, where people can work towards a common goal while still focusing on their personal objectives.
7. Have Some Freaking Fun Together
The last thing you need to do to create a high-performing sales team is to have fun together. Winning is fun but you can’t just have an environment that is fun after winning.
The best performing teams really like each other. Whether it’s in sport, military, education, or business. You’ll find that when you do hit tough times, it’s much easier to handle when you enjoy having your team members around you.
From a sales perspective, when you’re getting feedback in a coaching environment, it stings a little less if you like and trust the person delivering that feedback. The losses that you have with your customers taste a little less bitter. The wins that you have are SO much sweeter when you get to celebrate them with colleagues you enjoy hanging out with. The wins are SO much sweeter when you get to celebrate them with colleagues you enjoy hanging out with.
This bonding happens when you create a fun environment. Some companies do this with an annual sales kick-off event that they’ll host in a tropical location and everyone has drinks by a pool. Others do it with monthly nights out. Others do it with weekly in office happy hour parties. But, my favorite and the most effective and easiest way to achieve it is to create a common dining experience once a week. The act of breaking bread has been bringing people together for centuries, and it helps you learn more about the individuals you’re working with and build relationships beyond the work environment.
What makes the other people in your team get out of bed in the morning? What do they do on the weekend? What makes them tick? Understanding these things will create a fun environment within the organization and ultimately, it’ll help you pull together all the characteristics of a high-performing team culture.
The big close, here it comes…..
You might look at your organization and say “Sh$t, we’re not actually doing any of these things”.That’s ok, I understand the way you feel. I’ve felt that way before myself. What I found is that you don’t go trying to tackle every one of them at once because it would be too hard
The first thing you need to do is define your sales culture. Get together with your leadership colleagues and define what you want your culture to be. Something that everyone can get behind. It needs to be a collaborative decision with everyone’s buy-in.
Then, start having fun together. If you have a clearly defined culture, and you start to have fun together you’re on the right track.
Once you have those two things going in the right direction, start to think about the other elements I’ve mentioned in this article. Data driven accountability, well defined customer centric process, coaching, shared goals and co-operative competition.
Doing these things puts you in a position to develop a high-performance culture which will change over time as your company grows. It’s something you’ll always need to work on so understand the job is never DONE.
Do you need help running or building a strong and highly performing sales team?
If I could show you a way that guaranteed your sales would increase would you be interested?
For more information leave comments below.