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Emotional Intelligence – the Secret sauce of Sales

Emotional Intelligence – essential both to Lead and to Sell! 

 

Those with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70% of the time; this strange statistic was not fully explained until the concept of emotional intelligence became widely known in the mid-90s. This discrepancy severely impacts the widely held belief that intelligence alone is sufficient for attaining one’s goals. Years of studies have established that emotional intelligence is the primary differentiator between top and average performance.

 

For example, a study conducted on sales professionals found that those with higher emotional intelligence were able to build stronger relationships with clients, resulting in increased sales and commissions. These individuals were able to effectively understand and address the needs and concerns of their clients, leading to higher customer satisfaction and repeat business. Conversely, sales professionals with lower emotional intelligence struggled to connect with clients on an emotional level, resulting in missed opportunities and lower earnings. With the right training and development programs, individuals can improve their emotional intelligence skills,

 

Brief History

 

Emotional intelligence is not a novel concept. Edward Thorndike explored three categories of intelligence about 100 years ago, including social intelligence, which is concerned with a person’s capacity to connect with others. Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer coined the phrase “emotional intelligence” the early 90´s  to describe an individual’s capacity to understand and control their emotions, as well as their social abilities.

However, it wasn’t until Daniel Goleman wrote his book Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ in 1995 that the phrase became popular. In the decades afterwards, the concept has evolved from a passing novelty to an everyday word that is now a key factor in many firms’ recruiting operations.

Understanding Emotional Intelligence in a Nutshell

 

Each of us has this “something” called emotional intelligence, often called EQ. It influences our ability to control our actions, deal with the complexities of social situations, and make good choices for ourselves. This is described by various authors over the years, in countless articles and publications. Best selling author Travis Bradberry explains this well in his book “Emotional Intelligence 2.0”, (see Forbes Article “Emotional Intelligence: EQ” from 2014 for an introduction” )

 

The two basic competencies that make up emotional intelligence are “personal competence” and “social competence,” each of which consists of two sub-competencies.

 

 

Personal competence is made up of self-awareness and self-management skills. These focus on you individually, rather than on the interactions you may have with other people. Essentially, this is about your ability to become aware of your emotions and to use this awareness to manage your behavior and tendencies. 

  • Self-Awareness is your ability to sense and understand your own emotions and be aware of them when they happen.
  • Self-Management is your ability to use this self-awareness to react to and positively direct your behavior.

 

Social competence, on the other hand, is made up of your social awareness and relationship management skills. Social competence is all about your ability to understand other people’s moods, behaviors, and motives and to use this in order to improve your relationships. Its two components are:

  • Social Awareness is about how well you “tune in” to other people’s emotions and understand the social web that helps you understand what is really going on.
  • Relationship Management is your ability to use this social awareness in a good way to manage interactions successfully.

 

 

Explaining the concepts – What’s the main difference between IQ and EQ and … isn’t that just “Personality”?

 

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is an important aspect to consider in sales management. While IQ measures cognitive abilities and personality traits define our individual styles, EQ focuses on our ability to understand and manage our own emotions, as well as empathize with and connect with others. Developing emotional intelligence can greatly enhance a sales manager’s effectiveness in building relationships, resolving conflicts, and motivating their team. However, IQ and emotional intelligence have no connection or interdependence. It’s impossible to predict emotional intelligence based on how smart this person is. 

 

IQ, or just intelligence, is a purely cognitive trait—your ability to learn and understand your physical context and surroundings and it’s the same at age 15 as it is at age 50. 

 

Emotional intelligence, on the other hand, is a skill that you can learn and improve with practice. Some people are naturally more emotionally intelligent than others, it certainly seems you can develop high emotional intelligence with practice and over time, even if you were not born with it.

 

Personality is another term that is related to these. It’s the “style” that defines us and is the combination of hard-coded tendencies we have, for example, how introverted or extrovert you are. Similar to IQ, personality traits can’t predict emotional intelligence. The personality doesn’t change over time. 

 

IQ, emotional intelligence, and personality each cover different dimensions of us and help explain what makes us move forward and be motivated.

Is Emotional Intelligence Linked to Performance?

 

How influential is emotional intelligence for your own professional success? Travis Bradberry´s firm, TalentSmart, tested emotional intelligence as compared to other workplace skills and discovered that emotional intelligence is by far the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs. 

 

Specifically, in Sales, emotional intelligence is even more strongly linked to performance. Individuals with higher levels of emotional intelligence are often more successful in their sales performance, as they are able to effectively manage relationships, navigate difficult situations, and adapt to changing environments. By understanding and effectively utilizing their emotions, individuals with high emotional intelligence can connect with clients on a deeper level and build strong rapport, ultimately leading to increased sales success.

 

Your emotional intelligence is the base for a whole system of important skills you possess and impacts pretty much everything you say and do. This makes Emotional intelligence the single biggest factor for performance in your job and the strongest motivator for leaders to develop personal excellence.

 

In their study, TalentSmart found that 90% of top performers have high EQ, while looking at the bottom performers, only about 20% of them do. You can be a top performer even if you are not so strong on emotional intelligence, but you have much less chance of succeeding.

 

Consequently, people with high EQ make more money—and according to the study, an average of $29,000 more per year than people with low emotional intelligence (2014). The correlation between emotional intelligence and earnings is in fact so strong that we can see that for every point that EQ increases, this adds another $1,300 to an annual salary. These findings hold true for people in all industries, at all levels, and in every region of the world. 

 

Good news! – Emotional Intelligence Can Be Developed.

 

Emotional intelligence originates physically in the two-way dialogue between your emotional and logical “brains.” Emotional Intelligence starts in the lower brain, close to the spinal cord. This is where your basic sensations arrive, making their way to the front of your brain so you can process the information logically. But still, they must first pass through the limbic system, the seat of emotional skills. So, our initial response to situations is an emotional one rather than a logical one. Connecting your head’s logical and emotional processing systems is crucial for displaying emotional intelligence. 

 

Neuroscientists refer to the brain’s ability to change as “plasticity.” As you learn new skills, your brain forms new connections. The transformation is gradual, as your brain cells form new connections to help improve the effectiveness of newly acquired skills.This plasticity naturally applies to emotional intelligence. By actively practicing and developing emotional intelligence, we can strengthen the connections between our rational and emotional centers, allowing for more effective communication and better overall emotional well-being. 

 

 

 

The billions of tiny neurons that connect your brain’s intellectual and emotional centers can branch off into tiny “fingers” (similar to the branches of a tree) to connect with neighboring cells, and this process can be enhanced using techniques to improve emotional intelligence. There can be thousands of connections made for every single brain cell. This exponential growth makes it simpler to put this new behavior into practice in the future. 

 

With consistent practice, individuals can cultivate a greater sense of self-awareness and develop stronger relationships with others, ultimately enhancing their overall emotional intelligence. 

Unlocking the Secrets: Proactive Time – Key to hitting targets

Are you struggling to meet your targets? Feeling like you’re always behind and never quite catching up? It’s time to take control of your time and start tracking your proactive time.

That’s right, by tracking the time you spend on activities that you control, you can start to take back control of your day and achieve those elusive targets. And it’s not as difficult as it might sound.

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of tracking and managing your proactive time, how to do it, and some common pitfalls to avoid. So let’s get started!

 

The Benefits of Tracking and Managing Proactive Time.

 

The most important benefit of managing your proactive time is increased productivity. Becoming aware of how you are spending your time allow you to plan and make adjustments to ensure that you are using your time in the most productive way possible. For example, if you discover that you are spending too much time on incoming support requests from small D-customers, you can find smart ways of minimize this time, and adjust your schedule to allocate more time to major customers. If you have decided that you need to prospect a certain number of new customers, then for a certain number of hours per day you must give priority to this over incoming requests even from large customers. And so on. It’s all about YOU deciding what to do with the time.

 

Improved Time Management.

 

One clear benefit from monitoring and following your proactive time is improved time management in general. When you understand where your time goes, you can actually start managing it. You will make better decisions about how to use your time in the future. For example, if you find that you are spending a lot of time on tasks that do not produce results, you can decide to focus on different tasks in the future. This means that not only your immediate productivity goes up, but also your ability to make better and more powerful plans increases.

 

A chance to actually follow your plan!

 

And finally, by tracking your proactive time it gives you back control – a chance to actually follow your plans and turn them into reality. Too often, people make plans but then do not follow through with them. By tracking your proactive time, you can hold yourself accountable and make sure that you are actually following through with your plans.

 

 

 

 

How to Track Your Proactive Time.

 

So, the first step to gain back control over your time, is to know where you stand today. You need a simple way to monitor your time spent. Most time awareness initiatives that fail do so because people reject the notion of spending additional time administering and registering every move. Don’t add to your burden. Use existing sources.

 

Simple monitoring

 

In order to get an a picture of where you spend your time, start with the places where your activities were registered for the last two weeks (or any period you want to include). I normally look at my Calendar (exporting all activities and meetings in a list with activities and their durations) and logged CRM activities (if you have customer activities logged, and you should). This will give you a good idea of how much time you actually spend on customer-related activities, as well as how much time is spent on other tasks.

 

Categorise

 

Categorise your activities in terms of

  • PROACTIVE Customer work that is part of my sales plan – planned proactive time
  • REACTIVE Customer work – initiated by customer (requests, support, firefighting)
  • other: non-customer related tasks in outlook. This will help you see where most of your time is being spent, and whether or not you’re able to focus enough attention on customers.
  • Other tasks that you don’t log. Try to estimate. One way of thinking could be that all inside a 40 hour week that is not in any of the previous categories,

Later on, you may want to start using tags and categories on your meeting calendars to make the analysis bit easier.

 

Determine the % share and hours of each category

 

Once you’ve categorised your activities, it’s helpful to determine the percentage share and hours spent in each category. This information can be used to create a more balanced schedule that allocates more time for customer-related tasks.

 

 

 

Make a plan that you can comitt to!

 

If you want to improve your productivity and actually achieve your goals, you need to commit to proactive time – time that you control, rather than reacting to the demands of others.

 

Set realistic targets on proactivity

 

Set an objective on time that you will spend pursuing your plans. How much available sales time do you really have?

 

It’s not realistic to expect ALL the time to go to the plan and proactive selling. Assuming that all available time goes into the planned activities will almost certainly make any salesplan fail. How much time should go to incoming requests, problem-solving, firefighting, internal meetings, trainings etc?

 

Block and Allocate Time

 

Once you have a good understanding of where your time goes, it’s time to start setting timers to allocate specific blocks of time for proactive activities. For example, you might set a timer for 30 minutes to work on a specific task, and then take a 5-minute break before starting the next task.

 

Daily follow up on the committed time

 

Be sure to follow up with yourself daily to ensure that you’re still on track. Instead of focusing on the individual tasks in your plan, look at the global picture. Did you really use all the time you had set aside for the Proactive work?

If you do this at the end of each day and a make a small note of it, the end of the month checkup will be so much easier, and you can do small adjustments along the way.

 

Take back control of your Email Inbox!

 

Your email inbox is your best friend and worst enemy at the same time, .It is helpful to control it to reduce the amount of hassle and overload. Here are a few ways to do this:

 

  • First, set up email templates for conversations you have on a regular basis. This will save time and you won’t have to spend time thinking about the perfect response.
  • Next, create a folder filing system for your inbox quickly. This will help you organize your inbox quickly and make it easier to find emails that need a response by the end of the day or week.
  • Last, set aside and block time each day to respond to emails rather than reacting as you receive them. Unless an email is urgent and requires your immediate attention, give yourself an allotted amount of time to focus and prepare it for the next day.

 

 

Make proactive time allocation a part of objectives

 

It’s also important to make proactive time allocation a part of your overall objectives. This way, you can hold yourself accountable and ensure that you’re making progress towards your goals.

 

 

 

Common Pitfalls in Proactive Time Management

 

One of the most common pitfalls when working with your proactive time is overcommitting and planning in too many objectives simultaneously. This happens when you try to allocate too much time to too many tasks, or when you try to do too much in one day. It was most likely happening before your started proactive time management, but then you didn’t have the data to identify the problem.

 

When this happens, it’s important to take a step back and reassess your priorities. Try to focus on the most important tasks, and cut back on the number of tasks you’re trying to accomplish in one day.

Another challenge is when all those incoming customer requests continue to interfere with your allocated time blocks. It’s important to remember that you can’t control everything, and that some things will always come up that you didn’t plan for. Try to be flexible with your time, and if a customer request comes in that you weren’t expecting, see if there’s any way to pass it on the right channels, or find ways to work it into your schedule.

 

Conclusion

 

The big secret to hitting targets is to commit to and manage your proactive time. By doing this, you can increase your productivity, improve your time management which in the end will allow you to finally follow your plan. There are different tools available, including prospecting aids, CRM software, calendar management, automation, and pre-scheduling breaks. Blocking and Allocating time with pre-scheduled breaks and better Email Inbox control are other strategies that can be used to make the most your day.

To track and manage your proactive time, study your last two weeks, categorize your activities and set objectives to allocate time. Then, make a plan that you can commit to and follow up on daily. Some common pitfalls when tracking proactive time include overcommitting, continued incoming customer requests, and focusing on too many goals at once. Take a moment of reflection every afternoon and take not of the day. Did you decide what to do today? Or did someone else?

 

 

 

Why does my boss wants me to sell 10 times my own salary?

This discussion often comes up in our “cost of sales” workshops, and we believe it is a great idea for any manager or director to thought through these cases so that you can provide a simple and straight forward answer to the question when it comes.

 

Why is it that companies ask their teams to sell for so much more money than their own salaries. One could think it would be enough just to sell to cover your own cost, couldn’t you?

 

Let us take the Software example: You are working for a great start up B2B SaaS company, the team is great, you believe in both the company and the idea, but  … they ask you to sell for a million, but your on-taget-pay is less than 100k. How can this be, seriously??

 

As you will see, there are many obvious and hidden costs to consider, and by being transparent with your team about where the money goes, you will save yourself potential problems. In this article we will take you through two different examples, one SaaS company and one traditional industrial equipment manufacturer, and compare. 

 

You may also want to download our excel calculator that you can plug your own numbers into the two scenarios. 

 

 

Cash is king. Let us consider two different cases:

 

  • Software have very high gross margins, but cash comes in slow nowadays with subscription and pay-as-you-go schemes.
  • Traditional things, such as industrial machinery are often paid at delivery buton the other hand the internal margins– gross margin– after costs of goods are much lower. 

 

Many recent companies, startups and scaleups, don’t have California-style financing and unlimited resources (you are in Europe). Your company need to be profitable or close to profitable – EBIT wise. This means that your sales need to carry both your own cost and part of the rest of the company’s cost. What is your reasonable quota?
Profitable companies cover costs – a rule of thumb


 

A rule of thumb that often is used to keep a SaaS company profitable is to at least let the value of new contracts cover the sales cost. Or in SaaS terms, the new annual subscription revenue rate (first year ARR), should be higher than the customer acquisition cost (CAC) – (new ARR > Cost of Sales, CAC).

 

This means for the company any new customer must be paid for already during the first year contract (from signing). Otherwise, the company will need external financing to cover while waiting for the second and future years payments.

 

If first year contracts cover CoS, the company can grow with limited external financing, and not be restrained by a systematic cash flow problem for its growth.  

 

A software example

So, what is the reasonable quota, or sales target you should carry?  Lets look at the cost of sales and the money we can expect initially. 

 

For those of you who were in business in the 2000´s – Subscription software – SaaS, has completely changed the game plan. What used to be a 100.000 € initial deal, with annual maintenance of 20.000€ has now become a 3-4.000€ monthly subscription. Over time this is great, but Saas companies struggle to become profitable as payments are pushed int the future.  How do you cover costs with subscriptions only?

 

Looking at the cost of sales – CAC

 

In a software company most cost is personnel related. To sell your product you are using company resources to close your deals .. such as techsales, new features/development, management and admin.  We don’t include some parts – The customer retention or “customer success” team manages customer service and support, and drive usage of your product so they carry their own cost.  

 

Without going into any great detail on what may the case in your company, it will probably be a good rule of thumb to think that you carry yourself and 3 – 4 more people in the company – so If you sell for about 4-5 times the average employee cost you are all right.

 

The real cost for any of us employees, is around 1,5 – 2 times our salary, we end up with a reasonable quota at roughly 10x the base salary. This includes social security fees, indirect taxes, the office space you use up, medical insurance, meal tickets etc.

 

Example

 

Let’s have a look at the following example, if your salary is 60kEUR, your total cost is around 100kEUR, and the reasonable quota is 450kEUR-600kEUR . If your salary is 100kEUR, you should not be surprised if your quota is 800-1.000kEUR. Why?

 

Why is 4-5 times your cost, (or 10 times your salary) a good rule of thumb?

  • One (1x) is to cover your own cost to the company (100k)
  • One (1x) is to cover other direct new sales costs, Presales activities, free Consultancy, proofs of concept, development adaptations etc
  • One (1x)is to cover other overhead and indirect sales costs, your sales director, your marketing personnel, a part of admin, all more or less involved in new sales. 
  • The final (1x to 2x) is to ensure some margin for the Company and to cover risk. (the risk that not all colleagues make their quota)

 

Needless to say, we are oversimplifying the matter. In the companies I have worked it made sense for me and my team, under the circumstances I described above. The ratios can vary.

 

For example, if the company is investing heavily in sales and marketing quotas are higher. If the company is spending you job gets a lot easier, but at the same time your sales need to cover a higher cost.

 

In your company the logical figure may be anything from 3,5 times to 9 times cost, or 7 to 18 times your salary. It is normally stable, so when you figure out what the logical ratio is for your company, then you can use that as a benchmark for the future.

 

 

 

An example for Industrial Products

In our traditional B2B example, we apply exactly the same reasoning. In this case the product has an internal margin that can vary, and this margin is what need to cover the CoS plus any extras. 

 

Example 

 

You sell industrial equipment that is produced elsewhere. The cost when delivered to your warehouse is 65% of List Price, leaving you with 35% to pay for your team’s cost of sales. 

 

Let us assume that the sales effort is the same, which means that for every sales person you need one Presales engineer, and on average one Backoffice position. To this we add one for management Overheadand office etc. Finally, we add one to cover for the internal margin, and risk that any territory fails.

 

In this example your pay remains 60k€/year – that give a total cost 100k€ per person. That makes 300k€, plus internal extra of 1-200k€.

 

  • This 500k€ must be covered by the internal margin after cost of Goods.
  • Total cost/internal margins from factory =  400k€/0,35 = quota of 1.143 k€
  • The pure cost is 300k€, so if you sell for less than 300k€/0,35 = 857k€ your local unit will present losses! 

This means that you probably should have some mechanism that starts paying at 850k€, and pays full On Target Earning at 100%.

 

Conclusion

 

You have seen two examples, with similar input, but with sales expectation that become different due to the cost structure that supports sales.

 

When you look at the minimum quota it is helpful to use the cost perspective to discuss around when and why the company would lose money from selling, to avoid this from happening. In buoyant markets, and when you have strong financial backing your criteria and therefore the calculator may be completely different.

We have developed the two examples in the simplified calculator you are free to download here. It is provided as is, and with no guarantees, but use it and inspiration froryour own calculations and methods.

Let us know if you want help building a similar case for your own company and we will be happy to create a customized tool for you.

 

5 steps to run trainings that sticks

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 and 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 competencies to achieve real learning in the team.

 

 

The 5 steps to remember when we are to build effective trainings are outlined below.

 

 

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 a 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, the 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 lend 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 Timing 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 are 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 the cards in your hand to actually make it stick!

 

Interview candidates with a purpose – free template

If you are a bit new to recruiting and interviewing, and feel you could use 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, is extremely experienced, and is 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, they are what managers I talk to mention as the most important criteria when recruiting.

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

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

 

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 ranked active listening, problem solving, confidence (trust), relationship building and communication skills as the top 5 traits. Technology understanding, years of experience, and industry expertise came lower.

During your interviews, pay special attention that the candidate:

  • will adapt to the context and support network you have in your company
  • will learn well and can adapt to ways of working
  • is open to change
  • will fit in your culture, making it easy to work together
  • shares 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” competencies all fit. Product/technology, market/industry, contact network, and demonstrated sales methods and techniques were all “check!” yet they failed. Why?

 

What happens is that the soft abilities and cultural fit just don’t align with how your team and company work. 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 decides to open a new sales office in a new country/market, and hires a top manager from the incumbent competitor for the job. This is always a bad idea, as the first person in the market needs to do all the work themselves initially, and there is no support network yet.
  • A large corporation that hires people from startups often finds it difficult to accommodate the new hire’s appetite for creativity and room for own decisions, and the employee often feels hindered and suffocated under all the 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 we 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 an interview template that helps you evaluate the candidate in all these dimensions. You can download a simple template by clicking the button below.

 

USING TESTS

The more important you deem the values, culture, and other “soft” skills for the role, the more you may want to consider a personality test. 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 something similar for you.

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

 

MULTIPLE INTERVIEWS

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 much more complete picture of the candidate. After each round, 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 competencies and personal traits you will want to evaluate.

Use it as a support to help you formulate questions and conduct the conversation so that in the end, you feel confident all areas were covered to your satisfaction. The questions 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 want to know, and how to formulate the question to get the answers you need.

Remember to ask for relevant references, and complete the interview by contacting those references.

 

Onboarding for scalability & 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 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 and 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 the organization becomes an explosive cocktail of high attrition on new hires, with stagnated growth as the most severe consequence.

 

The onboarding program helps mitigate the effect by

  • Shortening the learning curve and time to productivity.
  • 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 so they 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 in your company and context.

 

Some things you may want to include are listed below:

  • Market and ecosystem understanding
  • Contact network
  • Customer understanding
  • Product and technology
  • Personal traits
  • Values and cultural fit
  • Sales technique
  • Sales process and strategy
  • Tools and 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 is a template to use to create your own onboarding program. Fill the boxes with the training, meetings, and activities that your new hire should plan 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 needs 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,” need to happen early on, and others will be more evenly spread out over the year. We suggest you stage the learning in the following time categries:

  • Immediate (< 2weeks)
  • 1stmonth
  • 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 they make 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 call coaching means visiting customers together with the purpose of receiving feedback and improving sales skills. It is 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 and develop while getting to know each other better by 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 when you hold more general performance evaluations. Do this live in 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-life situations.

 

Sales call coaching is your best tool to get a first-hand feel for sales behaviour. You should consider doing this with all customer facing personnel, inside sales, product specialists, and account managers. We all need to develop 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, 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 in the following ways:

  • 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
  • Develop sales skills in all staff
  • Find out how 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.

 

Aim to spend at least 2 working days per week in the field. Some of the visits can be virtual, but make sure you apply a mix of different types of meetings and situations so you coach and support all phases of the sales process.

Sharpen your skills evaluating reps 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? Notice when they are doing the following:

  • 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!