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Don’t sell to who can’t buy – Decision makers and stakeholders

Don’t sell to who can’t buy

A golden rule and common wisdom says:

“do not sell to someone that cannot buy”. 

 

As one of our highly appreciated colleagues at IBM used to put it,

 

– There are a few people in the buying process that you need to say “yes”, everyone else involved can only say “no”, so go sell to the former, but make sure the latter likes you”

 

In complex B2B sales situations, when:

    • you are selling at premium price,
    • implementation of your product implies major change or a transformation
    • implementation involves many users and stakeholders

.. in the customer, then it is adamant that the perceived benefits must outweigh the pain, i.e. the cost of the implementation.

 

Regardless of your price the real perceived cost to say “yes” is high, much higher than your price. Therefore we need to spend tour time talking to the people who can appreciate the Business Benefits. Those who can say “yes”

 

 

The real cost of saying “yes”

When we are selling Value, we solve Business Critical problems for the customer, and the customer appreciates the value off this. Often the solution is a combination of a product or technical solution, and a transformation project. This implies a change process that is far more costly than any product we could ever sell. This is why: 


Even if we gave the whole solution away for free, in Value Based situations, the customer may still refuse or stall the decision.

 

When we approach the purchase signature, concerns about the whole project rises. This is absolutely normal. Price is almost irrelevant at this point. Doubt and the perceived risk weigh over on the “Reasons Not to Buy” side of the balance together with the internal cost of the change project, making your price a minor issue in comparison.

Never try to compensate risk and transformation concerns by lowering your price!

In the Article about why Pipeline deals slip and are delayed, we discuss what to do about this, but for the moment we just need to understand who the key Influencers and Decision makers are, and that they ar crucial to us to approvce the project.

Otherwise, they can stop, scrap or stall our deal at any time between now, and the order. We have to make sure they don’t.

A major business decision is very rarely taken by one single person. If we want the Customer (the Company) to go ahead with the deal, we need to acknowledge this fact and make sure we know who is who in the company, and work to secure the deal in multiple fronts.

Decision makers and Influencers

Who should we look for?

Most companies withing the same industry have similar internal structures (titles tend to vary much more between industries). This makes it a good idea to map out the typical decision chain and decision making structures for the industry you are about to campaign or approach.  Describe the decision-making personas for the industry vertical, write them down, and then go search for them. This is helpful later when you create account plans for specific companies and put real names to the personas.

 

 

 

The Influence Circles

Some personas we often encounter and that you may want to start off with:

Decision maker – power sponsor

  • Has the ultimate YES/NO decision to make
  • Often merely a formal approval
  • Can go against recommendations of team!
  • Well protected and sometimes almost invisible

 

Things to consider

  • Qualify that the person is the true decision maker
  • If you can’t get direct access, what other players have the ear of this guy?

Influencer – expert

  • Sees things from a functional point of view
  • A filter in the process
  • Can say NO, but not really the YES we need

 

 

Things to consider

  • Engage Influencer early in the process
  • Is the offer presented in a way that Influencer understands and backs?
  • Do we know what his/her attitude towards us is?

 

The user

  • In general very many of them in the company, professional roles.
  • The propel who will use our solution, and the support agreements that came with it. 
  • Influence decision making if asked, not always considered though. 

 

 

 

To consider

  • Reach out to at least a limited set of users and consult them.
  • Ask yourself what users will likely say about us if they are asked
  • Consider the effort and return of engaging with them

 

 

The Sponsor

  • A sponsor wants us to succeed as this makes hium/her look good within the organisation, or get the task done better
  • Not necessarily in the leadership teams, can be outside the traditional contact surfaces, but should be influential enough 
  • A Sponsor will support us informally with information, advice etc.

 

To consider

  • Do you have a sponsor for the opportunity at hand? 
  • Is th sponsor powerful enough internally to drive the business forward
  • Do we understand the sponsors pains and the benefit from our solution?
 

 

Beware: Just as you can find sponsors who backs you, there can also be sponsors for our competitor with the same powers as the Sponsor, but who will work against us – we call them Anti-Sponsors!

The Stakeholder map

Pains flow throughout the organisation

For both decision makers and important influencers, you need to understand the professional and/or personal motivators so that you can build an individual Value Based argumentation for them. What keeps the these people awake at night? What would he/she be really enthusiastic about?

 

It is a good idea to think a little extra and try to map out the “who is who” in the company. To get you started, here are some examples – typical professional motivators associated with different roles. 

 

Some examples:

    • A CFO will have financial and cash flow considerations, he will listen to arguments focused on productivity gains, lower costs, less stocks, less CAPEX, payment terms and subscription models.
    • The Operations director will look at productivity, less risk for downtime, efficiency, less personnel rotation, job satisfaction, delivery precision, quality
    • A project manager will be interested in holding the deadlines, meeting requirements and strict budget control
    • etc.
    • Asking the right things to the right people is always important, and to do so we must understand them, who they are and what they do and think. It is as easy as that.

 

If this is a big contract, spending time to anchoring the decision with as many as we can from these people is absolutely key.

 

If the deal is smaller, perhaps we have to rely on our sponsors to do the internal selling. We have to use our common sense to judge the reasonable effort.

 

Example of how to use a simple stakeholder map, perhaps during your account planning

Trust is a must – about personal styles, DISC, and matching in sales

 

In other posts we discuss sales techniques and methods on selling value. To sell value, and be able to charge extra for that value, the value must be fully perceived… felt.. by the customer. Whether we get across with our message or not, is influenced by our styles, our behaviors in different situations, and how well we fit.  Sometimes this personal fit is simply referred to as… the personal “chemistry” between people. Let’s have a look!

 

Trust – a must

 

When we meet new people, our brain reacts by asking two questions immediately and subconsciously. The first is about how we will communicate – considering openness, warmth and trustworthiness, and the second is about the competence and knowledge. “Is this someone I will get along with and trust?” and “Is this someone I can respect and understand?”. Entering into a personal relationship with the person, the first always trumps the other. If we don’t feel we will get along with the person, the competence dimension becomes irrelevant.

 

In Sales it is generally the customer side that determines the level of trust that is needed in the relationship for the sale to take place.

 

To generate trust we need to:

  • Understand how others perceive and appreciate our behavior
  • Know how to read the behavioral style of our customer
  • Learn how to adjust our style to the customer

 

There are many models and tools that help us understand styles and behavior. But few are as simple and as well documented as the DiSC model. The reason why the DiSC model is so suitable to apply on Sales is because DISC simplifies the reality and allows us to take quick decisions.

 

 

The DISC model

 

It is out of the scope for this manual to provide all the details of the model, but we encourage the reader to learn more about the theory and the tool to gain a good understanding of the personality styles and how to adapt our behaviours.

 

The DiSC model dates all the way back to the 1930s and based on William Moulton Marston’s findings and thinking. Although far from complete, it provides some basic insights into our ways and how it is likely that we react and behave in certain situations. It is one of the most used instruments, and while it is not really measuring or evaluating our personalities, it does describe basic human behaviors.

 

 

The DiSC model identifies four different behaviour styles (D. I. S. and C). Too make the model simpler and more accesible, it uses individual color codes for each style, and tells us four different ways in which we usually react to a given situation.

 

D – Dominance Style (RED) :

 

People with a dominant style in their base behavior will see themselves as strong in a non-friendly (e.g. professional) environments. This is why they tend to try to dominate the situation and the meeting. They are straight forward in their ways, not afraid to speak their mind, find it easier than many to see how to overcome different obstacles. They are challenge driven and goal oriented. They are willing to change, but normally only if they think it can help them to get what they set their mind on. A dominant style person will perceive himself as powerful, energetic, innovative, goal oriented and resolute. By others they however are perceived as arrogant, pushy, aggressive and insensitive.

 

I – Influential Style (YELLOW) :

 

Individuals with a strong influential style will see themselves as strong in a naturally friendly environment. In general they feel they have nothing to fear from the environment and people around. Therefore they want discuss things, have others to share their opinion and try to influence them through friendly persuasion. Their primary goal in any situation is to be understood, accepted and involved. A person with high Yellow will see himself as convincing, confident, generous, inspiring and open. By others, this person can be seen as selfish, superficial, egocentric and unserious.

 

S – Steady – stable Style (GREEN) :

 

People with a predominant stability style often see themselves as weaker than the surrounding, and when given the choice prefer to be in a friendly and conflict-less environment. They are concerned with not upsetting or change this environment, and want to preserve it to continue to feel safe and good about themselves. On the other hand, to change they must first be convinced that they don’t risk losing anything at all. As a sales person, the style is often perceived as a bit passive, and with difficulties to get to a close with the customer. A stability-style person will perceive themselves as loyal, good-listener, encouragingly and calm. But at the same time others can see them as stubborn and reluctant to change.

 

C – Compliant Style (BLUE) :

 

A strong compliant-style person tend to think that the surrounding is generally hostile and thus feel weaker. Because of this perceived weakness, they don’t exercise much influence on their own. They tend to prefer working by themselves and take great care to fit into existing and predetermined structures and rules to reach their goals. To avoid risk and conflict they will analyze each situation carefully before deciding to do anything that would change the given structure. A person with high Blue will see him/herself as fact-seeking, knowledgeable, systematic, diplomatic and reflective. On the other hand this person can be perceived by others as pedantic, avoiding, indecisive and reserved.

 

 

 

5 steps to run trainings that stick

Training – an effective tool for change

 

To be efficient and effective as Sales Managers, there are a number of things we need to learn and become good at ourselves. One of the 6 pillars of Sales Management is building and developing your team.

Every time we ask our teams to perform something that is new to them, we need to step into the Develop & Build area to develop the new skills and behaviors.  Sometimes you have the option to bring in professional trainers, but for most daily learning you cannot bring in external resources.

In this article you will find some hints and tips for how you can plan your own trainings for your teams.

 

 

5 steps to build a training that sticks

As you are not (and we assume you do not want to become) a full-time teacher/trainer, we advise you to use this knowledge to build only short condensed and interactive sessions, rather than full day or multiday trainings.

Longer trainings are very complex to build, and difficult to run. They require a rich set of competences to achieve real learning in the team.

 

 

The 5 steps to remember when we are to build effective trainings are:

 

 

1.      ENSURE YOU KNOW THE SUBJECT

 

Gain a thorough understanding of the materials, and the messages that you want to convey. You don’t need to be black belt 5 star expert, but you need to know enough to convey the content in a credible manner, and be able to answer basic questions around the subject.

 

 

2.       UNDERSTAND THE PROCESS OF LEARNING

 

There are many pedagogical models and methods available. One model, that we have chosen in this context is called 4MAT. Dr. Bernice McCarthy (USA) developed the first basic structure of the 4MAT system in the late 1970s. Since then, the method has systematically and continuously been used, developed and linked to the newest research in the field. ( http://www.4mat.eu )

 

Basically, model stresses that people have different learning styles. This means that for ANY training we want to build, we need to accommodate for these different learning styles, and build our training block so that all phases are included. Some people are focused on:

 

 

                • WHY? – “Once I understand why we need something I’ll figure out the rest”
                • WHAT? – intellectually understand what is needed: “If you give me the book to read or present to me in a lecture, I will do it myself later”
                • HOW? – activity: “Ok, I got it, just let me try myself, let’s see here…”
                • WHAT IF?-finding and testing alternatives “And why couldn’t we do it this other way?”

 

 

3. MASTER A WIDE VARIETY OF METHODS – AND LEARN WHEN TO USE THEM

 

Try to use a wide variety of techniques in your trainings. Vary your style so you can both lead the class, and use more interactive methods.

 

Use the button to download our one page quick guide

 

 

One Page Quick Guide

4. A TRAINING SESSION HAS THREE PHASES – BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER – USE THEM

 

A common mistake is to only focus on the training session itself when we design the training. Especially since we want to build short, concentrated blocks, it will be extremely important to use before and after in a good way.

 

  1. BEFORE: Preparation by all involved
  2. DURING: A Well-designed Training Session
  3. AFTER: Structured and active follow-up

 

As you can see in the picture below, a good way to plan your training sessions is to map the content and the technique blocks you are planning to use against a “WHY?”, “WHAT?”, “HOW?” And “WHAT IF?” timeline.

 

 

 

The preparatory tasks you send out lends themselves very well for the “WHY?” And to some extent “WHAT?”, so that you can spend more time in the classroom for “WHAT?” and “HOW?”. After the session, it will be about putting the learning into practice, and therefore to the “HOW?” and experimenting with the “WHAT IF?”. The experiences are ideally captured and shared in a separate follow up session.

 

Plan the activities carefully and think through the steps, creating and writing what we call the Running Master, or Timings plan.

 

It should contain:

  • Objective – learning points
  • Preparations (for the teacher)
  • Before – Preparations for participant – timing/dates
  • During – Blocks, content and method/technique – timing minutes
  • After – how to put to practice and follow up.

 

 

 

5. MAKE WHAT YOU LEARN A PART OF DAILY WORK

Only 10% of the effect in a change effort comes from lectures, training and reading.  20% can be attributed to tools, systems and structure such as feedback supporting the training and the changed behaviour. Finally, 70% derives from on-the-job training and experiences.

 
En bild som visar text Automatiskt genererad beskrivning

Unless on-the job training, experiences and reinforcement of the tools and behaviours learnt is truly put into daily use, changed behaviours will not succeed.

If you are the manager of the team you hold the training for, you have a fantastic advantage compared to most teachers and trainers around. Most trainings fail due to lack of management support, follow up and integration of the matter into daily work. You, on the other hand, have all cards on your hand to actually make it stick!

 

Athletes train activities and fine-tune behaviours, you should too!

 

Clear and challenging goals boost performance 

Studies show that by setting clear, challenging, meaningful and agreed objectives for ourselves, our productivity increase 10-15 percent. When the goals are followed up though structured feedback methods, the positive effects are approximately doubled (!!)  (“A little book on Goals”, Christopher Svensson & Stefan Söderfjäll 2020)

 

Performance (Activity) and Learning objectives are not micro management

 

Setting and working with objectives on all levels is enormously effective and will almost certainly guarantee you a new boost to your growth. You as the teams manager need to become very good at using different types of objectives in combinations, often adapted to the capacities and experience of each individual.

 

Most companies we work with have sales targets for sales personnel, in the form of quota letters, with or without financial rewards attached to them (bonuses). These are pure Result Goals, and the problem is that we cannot coach or improve results – they already happened! (See our article on Leading and Lagging Indicators)

 

Our focus must move to Performance/Activity and Learning. The Activity, how well we perform it, and which customer we prioritise, explain a good part of the productivity increase, the rest is explained by the increased motivation through the intrinsic sensation of empowerment and control of your own situation. 

  • The first part, how well we do customer work, depend on competence and skills, and improvement happen through Learning
  • The second part – prioritising the right customers and contacts in the right moment, improves through pro-active calendar planning and careful selection of where we invest out time. 

 

When you define tactical 1-2 month objectives, plan the month together, and move focus to almost exclusively discuss the activity, not the result. Set goals for the activity, who to visit, where to present, contacts to prioritise. While the overall Result objectives may stay the same for a year, your road there – the choices you make, the visits you plan, the trade fairs you attend, the calls you make – will be constantly adapted, revised and changed! 

 

Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision and change.

Richard Branson 

 

As the manager, your principal goal is make your sales rep become successful, to sell more with less effort, spend more time with prio customers, and eventually having a better life, more time with family.  This is important to understand, the wish to excel must be present, and rooted inside our rep. As with all change management, the desire to perform must be there before you can introduce new ways of setting goals. Otherwise you risk being perceived as “micro managing”. (See ADKAR model, prosci.com on Desire in change management )

 

 

The swim coach and you

 

You can compare the methodology to coaching Athletes. The Athlete and his/her coach set up a common goal. “I shall win the World Championship in 200-meter Medley”. None of us would expect a Coach to just give the Athlete the Result Objective of winning the championship and then walk away wishing him/her luck. Right? Yet this is what we often do as Sales Managers/Directors.

 

What does the coach do? The coach follows the Athlete through training, identifies weaknesses, uses strengths for tactics, build individual training programs and coaches and helps the Athlete to push him/herself to the limit, and cross it.

 

In Medley, the three strokes are carefully studied, and optimal individual training programs are planned and executed. Just like we need to balance our Platform in Sales, the swimmer need to balance training in Butterfly, Backstroke and Breaststroke. And it is the coach ́s job to cut the Total Time of the 200m distance down to a minimum. (as it is our job to maximise Revenue)

 

The training and exercise program that the coach build is everything to the success of the Athlete. And it is Activity Based – the Result objective of winning championships is there at the horizon, but the daily challenge revolve around movement and behaviour – Activity. The coach looks at every movement in the water. Should the left hand be a little more angled during the stroke? Is the position good in the water?

 

The same way, we can only help our Salesrep if we know where in the process he/she tend to get stuck, where he/she spend too much time, if he/she is talking to the right people, is saying the right things, making the right questions. Our job as Sales Directors is to build these individual training programs, and by joint activities and follow up, coach our Sales Rep to excellence! 

 

Leading Indicators tell you the future

 

… and Lagging indicators tell you what just happened.

 

 

Leading or Lagging KPIs?

As managers it is our job to have a good view of our business, at all times. For this we look at our processes, and define some key measures along the flow. These measures, that tell us how much or how well we do things, we refer to as KPIs, or Key Process Indicators. Often you will see that any process is split into a sequence of process steps. This way it is easier to isolate and consider each step separately and study their charateristics.

 

When we measure things that go into a process step, to predict what will come out on the other side, this is known as a leading indicator. Leading indicators are generally more difficult to measure, but make it possible to influence the future result. Typical leading indicators will be focus around activity and capacities, e.g number of visits, meetings and proposals made.

 

When we measure on the result that comes out of a process, we talk about a lagging indicator. Results are per definition things that already happened. They are easy to measure, but are generally very difficult or impossible to influence. Typical lagging indicators are sales revenue, profitability, quantity sold.

 

 

Most sales organizations have focus on the lagging indicators of the business. i.e. Orders received. These are often easier to measure, and tend to be available through accounting, ERP and CRM systems. However, it is important that we also look at the leading indicators of our business to establish that we are undertaking the right amount of activities, of sufficient quality and in the right direction that will give us the results we need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activities Drives Sales

 

We should always look for leading Indicators when we want to see how we will be doing. Lagging indicators, such as last month’s sales numbers tell us what already happened (was sold last month). They say nothing about our coming months. When we are looking for predictability, and to plan our work we need to look elsewhere for guidance.

 

Many companies analyse the sales pipeline to predict future results. But the sales pipeline is just a static snapshot, it tells us how many opportunities there are right now in every sales step. In other words, what work we have invested to move each opportunity to where it is now. If we do not spend a minute of work on any of the opportunities at all for a month, our sales pipeline would look exactly the same a month later. The deals would just be delayed a month, except that we would probably lose some.

 

If you use Pipeline data, do look at the change in pipeline, rather than the absolute numbers. Examples of forward looking Pipeline KPIs you may want to consider are:

  • New Opportunity last 30days (Value and # of opportunities)
  • Time Opportunities are in same stage (per stage)
  • Number of transitions, forward movement between sales steps

 

These are the direct results of the amount of customer interaction that is done and of how well the interaction went, thus indirectly measuring quantity and effectiveness of Activity. We recommend however that you work with Activity data in an active way to complement these more traditional views. For this, it is important that calls, video, visits are registered. In our opinion, it is preferred that all activity gets at least a quick mention and an entry into the system. Prioritise getting at least some information about all activity, rather than asking your team to write long visit reports, as this almost guarantees you that only very few will be made.

Interview candidates with a purpose – template

If you are a bit new to recruiting and interviewing, and need some basic tips and tricks, continue reading. As with most things in Sales Management, putting a little structure and thought behind your recruiting will enhance your chances of selecting the right person and getting off to a great start as a manager.

 

In this article we have put together some general guidelines and tips to help you prepare for your interviews.

 

 

Who do I want to work with?

The first area to spend some time on is to define what is truly important for the role.

 

“HARD” SKILLS

 

We all understand the importance of understanding your advanced technology, or that the candidate has a great network, extremely experienced at the same time as young, hungry and full of energy. We can call these the “hard” skills. They are often tangible, more easily measurable – and 9 times of 10, are what managers I talk to mention as the most important criteria when recruiting.

 

On the concrete or “hard” competences, you will want to evaluate the candidates

  • market knowledge and network in the territory
  • product and technology understanding
  • sales skills/technique competences

 

“SOFT” TRAITS

 

Very often the “soft” abilities are passed to a second plane, they are more difficult to define and measure, or even to talk about. Yet, they are key to a successful transition into your team and to reach productivity.

 

In The LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2020: U.S. Edition, 500 buyers and 500 salesreps/managers were asked what 10 characteristics buyers desire from salespeople compared to the characteristics sales managers look for in the sales reps they hire. Buyers were ranking Active Listening, Problem solving, Confidence (Trust), Relationship Building and Communication skills as the top 5 traits. Technology understanding, Years of Experience, Industry Expertise came lower.

 

During your interviews, pay special attention to that the candidate:

  • will adapt to the context and support network you have in your company
  • learn well and can adapt to ways of working
  • is open to change
  • will fit in your culture, make it easy to work together
  • share similar values, and will subscribe to the corporate values

 

 

Recruiting the right person to the wrong place

 

There are only too many examples of great salespeople – absolute top performers who are recruited into a different context but selling something very similar to the same people, who still failed to succeed or even get close to the previous success. The “hard” competences all fit, product/technology, market/industry, contact network, and demonstrated sales methods and techniques, all “check!”, yet they fail, why?

 

What happens is that the soft abilities and cultural fit just don’t align with how your team and company works. This is everything from your internal team dynamics, culture and jargon, but also misalignment with the expected surrounding support, HR, pre/tech sales, support, services, marketing etc.

 

 

Two classical scenarios:

  • the medium sized company who decide to open a new sales office in a new country/market, and hire a top manager from the incumbent competitor for the job. This is always a bad idea, as the first person in the market need to do all the work him/herself initially, and there is no support network yet.
  • large corporation that hires people from startups often find it difficult to accommodate for the hires appetite for creativity and room for own decisions, and the employee often feels hindered and suffocating under all processes.

 

Note that we are not saying one is better than the other, but as hiring managers, we must be conscious of our own ways, culture, and values, and must be sensitive to which candidates will fit in our context.

 

 

The Process

 

DEFINE KEY EVALUATION CRITERIA

 

Make sure to complete the “hard” job descriptions with the most important “soft” characteristics you are looking for. Then design the interview template that help you evaluate the candidate in all these dimensions. You can download a simple template clicking the button below.

 

USING TESTS

The more important you deem the values, culture and other “soft” skills are for the role, you may want to consider a personality test, and make sure you prepare your interview well and focus on these areas. If you are using an agency, they can often set up a DISC test or similar for you.

If the job require technical skills, set up a test that your candidate need to solve, or ask them to prepare a convincing sales meeting if recruiting telesales.

 

MULTIPLE INTERVIEWS

Do have at least 2 people apart from yourself interview the candidate throughout the process. Let them meet with different personalities and roles, to catch possible moments where non desired behaviours come up to the surface. You will get a moch more complete picture of the candidate. After each round do set up a debrief with the interviewers, and run through the evaluation criteria.

 

 

Interview template

To help you structure the interview, we propose a simple template that you can follow. It should not be a questionnaire, but list the key competences and personal traits you will want to evaluate.

 

Use it as a support that help you formulate questions and conduct the conversation so that in the end you feel confident all areas were covered to your satisfaction. The question in all cases being:

  • “How well/badly do I think the candidate will be doing……?”
  • “Will the candidate be strong enough in ……..?”
  • “Is the candidate motivated and able to learn this ……. quickly”

 

 

Download template

 

Prepare by thinking through each area, and note what specifics you will want to know, and how to formulate the question to get the answers you need.

 

Remember to ask for relevant references, and to complete the interview with a contact to those references.

 

Onboarding for growth

The importance of a great Onboarding

 

Studies show that employees give their new companies about 6 months on average before they decide whether to go all in or not with their new employer. At the same time , other sources point to a learning curve, and time to full productivity of a year or more, at least one full sales cycle. In a culture where success often is made synonymous to revenue and sales numbers, new salespeople risk losing interest and enthusiasm long before success and hitting their numbers.

The combination of high expectations, a long ramp up/time to sales, together with short patitence of both the new employee and often the organization as well, becomes an explosive cocktail of high attrition on new hires, with stagnated growth as the most severe consequence.

 

The onboarding program helps mitigating the effect, by

  • shortening the learning curve and time to productivity, and
  • redefining and widening the term success, since activity metrics, competence development and personal growth are also considered successes along the way.
  • keeping people interested and motivated from the first day and throughout the learning process

 

A great onboarding program helps new hired individuals perceive and appreciate the company’s effort to develop and grow them, and are more likely to return the favor by staying on and being more motivated.

 

 

Defining what is important

We have prepared a template for a 12 month onboarding plan, where we have selected some standard areas for sales reps in a complex technology sales context. Use this as inspiration to create  your own plan. Consider what is truly important and if possible differente a sales rep in your company and context.

 

Some are you may want to include are:

  • Market and ecosystem understanding
  • Contact network
  • Customer understanding
  • Product and Technology
  • Personal traits
  • Values & Cultural fit
  • Sales technique
  • Sales process and strategy
  • Tools & Methods

 

A structured approach to competence management is helpful throughout all phases, from recruiting to the periodical evaluations. What you do the initial evaluation, already in the recruiting phase, and construct a initial training program to cover any weakness you discovered, we call it our Onboarding Program.

 

 

a simple onboarding plan based on competence areas helps providing structure

Onboarding program for a Sales Person

Below you find a template to use to create your own onboarding program. Fill the boxes with the training, meetings, and activities that your new hire should be planned to do within different time horizons. To help you organise your thoughts, go area by area, one by one, and fill in the boxes. You may be surprised at the end by the quantity of activities the new hire need to do to get up to speed. Keep this is mind when you set the expectations for sales and productivity for the fist couple of months!

 

Many of the activities sucha as “getting to know the company” , and walk through of practical tools and arrangements need to happen early on, and others will be more evenly spread out over the year. We suggest you stage the learning in

 

  • Immediate (< 2weeks)
  • 1st month
  • 3 months
  • 6 months
  • 12 months

 

In each area you may also want to add success criteria, or milestones that you can check off and celebrate with your hire as he/she makes each one. Click below to download our onboarding template.

 

 

Download template

Sales Call Coaching – getting the most out of every sales minute

 

Sales Call Coaching – going together to customers is a great coaching tool

Sales Calls Coaching, means visiting customers together with the purpose of receiving feedback and improve sales skills. They  are on-the-job-training for all of us, regardless of position or role. It is a vital part of the continuous development for the whole sales organisation. It is a tool for sales professionals to learn, develop and at the same time get to know each other better, sharing knowledge and experiences.

As a Sales Manager you need to sharpen your coaching skills to do this well, but when done well, it is an invaluable input for later on when you hold more global  performance evaluations. Do this live kn customer situations, and not by interviewing the sales person. Discussing and coaching on activities and quality of work  is not realistic nor trustworthy without continuously observing and studying behaviours in real live situations.

 

Sales Call Coaching is your best tool to get first hand feel for sales behaviour. You should consider doing this with all customer facing personnel, Inside sales, Product Specialists as well as Account Managers. We all need to develop a self-awareness and understanding of how our behaviours affect the outcome in customer situations.

 

 

Why should all managers Coach on Sales Calls?

 

The first line sales organization aims to provide increased customer value. To ensure Sales Reps can perform in line with this and provide this increased customer value, also Sales Management needs to change and provide added value for Reps. Sales Call Coaching is a key tool to achieve this.

 

Doing Sales Calls with reps will help managers to:

  • Continuous improvement – towards a world class sales team!
  • Benchmark successful behaviors
  • train and ensure product knowledge among Sales Reps and other customer facing team members
  • help develop sales skills in all staff
  • find out about Sales Reps spend their time
  • obtain good ideas for Benchmarking and Best practice
  • ensure Value Sales is applied professionally
  • gather information from the market
  • practice and improve yourself in difficult negotiations, meeting key customers etc
  • get to know staff better and further improve teamwork

 

Download - How To: Sales Call Coaching

 

Evaluating and giving feedback on different customer interactions in the sales process require different skillsets of the manager. Sometimes we may even need to work on multiple roles at the same time, in complex multirole meetings selling as a team.

 

Sales Directors and higher management should also make an effort to find the natural opportunities to visit customers together with their sales reps and managers in order to help them become better at what they do – for the manager, this is coaching the reps.

 

The Sales Manager should spend at least 2 working days per week in the field. Some of the visits can of course be virtual, just make sure you apply a mix of different types of meetings and situations so that you coach and support all phases of the sales process.

Sharpen your skills evaluating reps in, and coaching for all situations!

If planned and executed well this work should not take more than half our week.

 

Download - Sales Call Evaluation template

 

What to look for

 

You should pay attention to basic sales process situations, and how different tools and sales situations and parts of the meeting (see example below) are applied.

 

Different steps of the Pipeline sales process require different skills. See the evaluation template for inspiration. Adapt the template depending on what type of meeting it is that you coach. How is the Sales Rep performing in different situations? E.g. When they for instance are:

  • attempting to open new parts of the business with a focus/growth customer
  • cross selling on higher levels of the management of key accounts
  • applying Value Selling to increase share of wallet in already well established accounts

… etc. etc. –  the examples are infinite, select the situations to train and coach according to your tactical needs and go for it! 

 

The GROW model

The GROW Model is a simple sequential coaching model that allow executives to simplify the complex realities to reach the right conclusion on directions to take and decision to make. It is often used by executive coaches all over the world as a framework to hold on to in the sessions and in their work. 

As a manager you are wise to learn how to use it in your 1-on-1s for mentoring and coaching your team members. 

 

GROW is an acronym that stands for:

  • Goal (establish objectives for the session)
  • Reality (how things are going right now)
  • Options (possibilities to consider)
  • Way Forward (agreement and commitment going forward)

 

Needless to say, an open and fluent coaching session doesn’t necessarily follow a clean 4 step sequence, but it is a great tool for us as new managers to hold on to and use as guidance for our conversations. 

 

As you gain experience and confidence with the model, it becomes a natural flow for your 1-on-1s and you allow the conversation to move a bit back and forth throughout the structure. 

 

Similar to many sales techniques such as SPIN and Solution selling, the key to using the GROW model and to coaching in general lies in asking the right question. This is central, because here we are not telling people what to do — good coaching is about helping them to find their own answers by asking the right question – at the right time.

Below you find the GROW framework, and some questions that can serve as inspiration for each step in the process. 

 

Goal 

 

Coaching starts with establishing a goal. This enables us to focus on one specific thing to try to solve in the session, here its helpful to consider what goals can actually be:

·      Result or achievement goals

·      Activity or performance

·      Learning and development goals

·      Process, Problem solving, decisions to make 

 

Formulating objectives is not easy either, to get more productive sessions (and for many other discussions as well) you may want to train and practice target setting with the SMART model. 

 

All well formulated objectives are:

  • Specific (concrete, that you understand)
  • Measurable (can be determined if we achieve or not)
  • Attainable (within our realistic reach)
  • Relevant (matters – of real importance for us)
  • Timebound (agree by when it should happen)

 

 

To set the goals/objectives for the session you may want to ask:

 

  • What do you want to achieve from this coaching session?
  • What goal/objectives do you want/try to achieve?
  • What would the benefits be if you achieved this goal?
  • What would you like that [someone/thing] did?
  • What outcome/result would be ideal?
  • What do you want to change?

 .

 

Reality 

 

Here we are trying to gain awareness of the reality, what is the real current situation? How far off are we from the ideal? What is going on, and how good /bad is it?

 

Use your soft skills and go easy with your questions. Plan the question and let the person reflect on the answer. Listen, and avoid jumping to suggestions or sharing your own opinions and experiences in this stage. Here we are defining the context and reality, not finding the answers and solution, not just yet. 

 

Here are some questions you may find inspiration in:

 

  • So what’s the status now (who, when, and how often)? Where are you now in relation to your goal?
  • Have you already taken any steps towards your goal? (What have you already tried?)
  • How would you describe what you did?  What was the effect so far?
  • On a scale of one to 10, what progress did you make?
    • What things worked out the best? 
    • What could you do better this time?
    • What is working well right now?
  • Why haven’t you reached that goal already? What do you think is stopping you?
  • On a scale of one to 10, how bad/urgent is the situation?

 

 

Obstacles and Options 

 

Only when you have agreed, established, the current situation, you can move on to the solution. Start by evaluating obstacles to success, and then the available options, let the employee lead, guided by your questions. 

 

Here are a few samples you may find helpful: 

 

  • What is the hardest/most challenging part of that for you?
  • What do you think would happen if someone else did/said that?
  • What is the best case? what could make that happen? What would the worst case? What should you avoid for that not to happen?
  • What do you think you need to do next? Which option do you have?
  • What do you think you need to do to get to your goal?
  • Could you find help in anyone, anywhere?
  • What has worked for you already? How could you do more of that?
  • What would happen if you did that?
  • What options do you feel are the lowest hanging fruit?
  • How have you tackled the same situation before?
  • If there were no limitations at all, what would be the best way forward? 

 

 

Way Forward 

 

Similar to the Accept phases in sales techniques, we probe for acceptance and commitment to the actions. When accepted, we establish a clear path to the  

Finally, again, here you have a list of questions that will help you guide your coachee to commit to the right actions to achieve the goal. 

 

  • So, what should you do to start? What do you need to do right now?
  • Tell me how you’re going to do that.
  • How will you know when you have done it?
  • Doing that, what is the likelihood of your plan succeeding? (use a “on a scale 1 to 10” if you like). – Subsequently – What would it take to make it a 10?
  • What hinders do you expect, roadblocks that require planning?
  • What else do you need? Is there anything missing? What support do you need to get that done?
  • When will you start? Tell me at least two things you can get started with and done already this week? 
  • How motivated do you feel to get this done now?
  • What would happen if you don’t get this done? What would the consequences be? 

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Today, you need more leads than ever!

4 reasons you need more leads today than you used to

You probably already have a pretty good idea about your teams performance, monitoring basic sales process and metrics. You know how many leads enter in one end, and how many turn into qualified prospects, and later into deals. You are controlling your conversion rates and you are constantly trying to find ways to improve them.

Just increase the conversion rate and you will do well” is the common recipe.

Yes, increasing your conversion from lead to actual sales is of course important. But, a “conversion rate only” strategy depend on individual skills, and introduces a serious scalability problem. Why? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

 

Diminishing benefit per transaction

First, the benefit you get from every transaction is not what it used to be, especially in Software, the introduction of SaaS models, initial deals are smaller, you may find yourself with initial benefits/margin from the first contract not even covering your transaction cost. Over time and with Customer Success management, you will win it back many times – but in the meanwhile you need to finance your activity. 

 

 

B2B sales remain complex

But, you may say, a customer who used to need 5-6 months and 8 signatures to pass you an order of 100.000 Euro, today the same guy pay a subscription fee of 2.000 Euro/per month. At least one could expect the purchase decision to be easier for the customer. This is often not true. The decision to implement a software solution, is STILL associated with great risk later on in implementation and usage. 

For the customer, the main part of the actual transaction cost is not in the price, but in the implementation of new processes, adoption of new technology, the product cost over the whole lifecycle, perceived risk of cloud hosting etc. So, even if your contact could sign off on the initial contract, he or she will not take the risk without doing all the evaluation work, proofs of concept studies, and anchor the decision with his peers and managers, just like before.  

 

 

The “educated” Lead

Additionally, today your leads already come to your “shop” well educated. They have studied your offerings on the web, certainly also your competitors offerings, they understand the basic benefits of the product etc.

They find plenty of information on the web, before you even get a chance to talk to them. Even if you have got the lead through outbound activities, your leads will browse around to educate themselves before buying anything from you. This makes traditional selling even more difficult than say 20 years ago, and your transaction cost (“cost of sales”) increases.

 

Sales conversion takes sales skills

Increasing your win-rate, or conversion rate, from the leads that you have essentially depend on the skills of your sales reps. Meaning their personal skills on: how to create a buying vision, how to meet objections, manage the process… how to turn a sceptic prospect into a devoted believer. These skills take time to develop, and only a few reps will become real stars.

Long learning curve, and total dependence on your key seller(s), doesn’t really sound like a very scalable model to build your business on, does it?

 

 

Get the Lead-Machine working, and qualify well

 

You need more efficient ways of increasing sales than to just hire more and “better” sales reps:

  • Lead generation is key – build a lead strategy, get enough (online) qualified leads for your sellers. Traditional cold calling to people is dead, so you need to find other ways of reaching out. You need to create an abundance of good leads coming in. If you have few leads coming in, you risk having sales spend its days calling the same leads time after other, “loving them to death”, but… not selling anything. There is a lot of truth to what SaaS-sales gurus Aaron Ross and Jason Lemkin say in their bestseller “Predictable Revenue”: – “Lead Generation drives growth; Salespeople fulfil it”.
  • Work pipeline efficiency, rather than conversion. Get skilled at early qualification! (Or rather disqualification). It’s all in that first sales-call. If you can, specialize a group of reps for this phase, qualification, and make others good at follow through, negotiate and close the deals. Provided your lead generation phase provide you with working material, your qualifiers will dare do a real qualification, and use the right questions. See my article on Qualification and pipeline efficiency.
  • Be “data driven” – Make everything measurable – so that you actually know when you are improving and when you are not. Today there are plenty of good CRMs and marketing automation tools out there, from which you can get all kinds of statistics that help you work your efficiency.  (Also make sure you work the 100% adoption of these tools in your teams, see “love your CRM”)