Improve Your Sales Force Despite Veteran Salespeople


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This past summer, the Boston Red Sox celebrated their 100th Anniversary. Every living player and manager who wore the uniform was invited and many came to participate. Those veterans included National Baseball Hall of Fame members Carlton Fisk, Jim Rice and Carl Yastrzemski. The veterans are loved and cherished by the fan base. Their appearances provided opportunities to coach current players. It helped grow the business of Red Sox baseball.

For companies who want to grow revenue, veteran salespeople cause more problems than any other factor. After all, if you have a young, energetic group, there’s nowhere to go but up and everyone knows that they need to improve. On the other hand, veteran salespeople believe that they know everything and everyone and probably could lead the sales training class. But their arrogance, defiance and inflated sense of accomplishment aren’t really the problem. The real problem is that the CEO’s, Presidents, Owners, Sales VP’s, Sales Directors and Sales Managers to whom these veteran salespeople report are simply afraid of them. Here are the top 10 things which I’ve heard about veteran salespeople in the past 27 years of sales development consulting and training:

  1. I don’t want to upset the apple cart.
  2. If they don’t buy in, then nobody will.
  3. They are too set in their ways – nobody can get through to them.
  4. I’ll be wasting my money on them.
  5. If we make them participate, they’ll quit and take their customers with them.
  6. They’ll give you trouble – it won’t be worth it for you.
  7. They’re complacent – I don’t know what to do with them.
  8. You’ll never get them to find new business.
  9. They’re holding us back – no question – but I can’t do anything about it.
  10. They’re holding me hostage – I have no options.

I’m not saying that these issues don’t exist. I’m saying that you can’t raise expectations, grow revenue, increase profits, improve morale and sustain it if you don’t address these issues. Most executives (who’ve grown their companies to a profitable, respectable level) simply don’t have the appetite to face this problem head on.

The reality is that the right sales development specialist can turn a group of veteran salespeople around on a dime. Sure, it’s not without some initial griping, but it happens much more easily and quickly than if the executives tried to accomplish it on their own.

The Sales Force evaluation process gets the ball rolling (as surprising as the results may be to some veteran salespeople). Through that process, veteran salespeople develop, perhaps for the first time ever, an awareness of what their true, sales skills gaps are and how much that’s costing them. They don’t have to agree with everything, but they finally get the sense that they don’t know it all. They may not like it, but you didn’t have to tell them. They may be angry, but they’re really angry with themselves or us this time, not you.

When sales management has been trained and coached to provide meaningful, business-generating coaching (rather than technical, pricing or sales support), they begin getting more value out of sales management.

Then the formal sales process is introduced. That’s when they realize that until that very day, they’d never actually been selling. Instead, they realize that what they’d been doing all this time was presenting, conducting demos, acting as product experts, writing proposals, sending quotes and chasing decisions with mixed results. They also realize just how much selling has changed, not just since they started in the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s, but even in the past 5 years!

Somewhere betwen the sales process introduction and 4 follow-up sessions later, the light bulb turns on and they get it, embrace it and buy into it hook, line and sinker. Then 10 things begin to occur as they:

  • Enjoy selling again,
  • Successfully turn around prospects who weren’t interested,
  • Add more new opportunities to the pipeline than ever before,
  • Have more productive sales calls,
  • Stop wasting time on unqualified opportunities,
  • Shorten their sales cycle,
  • Improve their closing percentage,
  • Increase sales,
  • Increase margins and
  • Increase their income.

What about you? Do you need your veteran salespeople to step it up, but can’t get them to do so? Are they setting bad examples for the rest of your sales force? Are they holding you hostage? Is the tail wagging the dog? Are they finding every excuse in the book to not seek new business? Are they being paid too much for the existing business which they’re managing?

You’re not alone nor without sympathy. But sympathy, hope and time won’t solve the problem unless you wait until they retire or die (and with your luck, they’ll outlast you!) You’ll need to take some action now if you want change in 2013.

(c) Copyright 2013 Dave Kurlan

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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