Building Winning Sales Teams– Fallacies, Training, Mentoring, Coaching, Replacing: Competence that Delivers Big Results…

Building winning sales team: The world of sales as we know it is undergoing significant change. Organizations are being forced to reevaluate the way they sell. Empowered customers and trends, such as; mobile, cloud, social, big data… are major changes agents; sales organization must reevaluate their sales– process, people, tools…

Although, sales process and tools are critical for success– it’s important to keep in mind that at the heart of all successful businesses are people who make things happen. The most successful sales organizations have impassioned and inspired individuals who are committed to win…

According to Joseph Miller and Patrick Longo; old methods of building a top sales team just don’t work anymore… Sales is the most important function to any enterprise, but management has no idea how to hire great salespeople and build an effective sales team. Many often hire salespeople based on their work experience at large corporations or hire salespeople based on ‘feelings’… These common mistakes often are the reason businesses fail to meet sales goals… It’s neither fair nor logical to exclude someone based merely on the amount of work experience, and the assumption that the number of years of work experience is a good indicator of one’s ability to do the job, well; maybe just a ‘experience fallacy’…

According to Adamson; companies need to sit down and figure out a map of the behaviors (e.g., salesperson and customer…) that drive success before doing any hiring… If you’ve got a profile of the behaviors to drive success, then you’ll make sure that people are more likely to be aligned… But when all else fails, you may have to come to grips with trimming the sales team of dead weight.

Data collected by the Corporate Executive Board show that companies tend to spend too much time coaching the top 20% of performers and trying to improve the bottom 20%. But focusing on the core middle 60% of the sales team it is the best way to improve sales…

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In the article Stop Hiring Under-Performing Experienced Sales People by c. j. Ng writes:  When most companies hire sales people the major criteria usually includes– having some years of experience selling in the same or a similar industry, and good track record of  sales results. However, if you were to look closer, these are not the critical success factors that will determine if the sales person will deliver results…

One key reason is that markets are constantly changing: Customers are getting more demanding, knowledgeable; competition is getting more intense;  things that you sell are getting more complex… In some markets, changes within just  few years are so drastic that they are beyond recognition… So if you are hiring based on past experience, how do you know that what worked in the past is going to work in the future? The same factors that gave you success in the past are getting less relevant for today’s and future’s challenges…

What about a good sales track record, you might ask:  Surely, if a sales person has been consistently producing great results the odds are that they will still continue to produce great results… However, the burnout rate among sales people tends to be very high and the best years may be behind them… This is not to say that having the relevant experience and a good track record is not important for a sales person. It just means that having some years of sales experience is not necessarily a good indicator of future performance…

In the article How to Find and Hire Great Sales People by Doug Dvorak writes: Building an effective sales team should be aimed at hiring the best, brightest, most talented sales professionals… and sales success hinges largely on the proper selection of sales people… Paying enough attention to selection of sales people, implementation of a relevant sales process, and supported with appropriate sales tools are the key factors for successful selling…

Smart sales people are adept at highlighting the strengths of the product or service… sales professionals are experts in spotting prospects and swift in overcoming objections… they sell well even in the face of adversity and cut throat competition… Also, great sales people have the internal drive to succeed, great sense of urgency to achieve sales objectives, even when conditions are tough.

So how do you spot such sales winners? Look for passion: It doesn’t matter if the sales person is a ‘rookie’ or a seasoned sales professional, everybody on the sales team should have that spark. The ‘fire in the belly’ should be felt through the eyes… Selling is dynamic, competitive, and it has no place for sluggish sales people who can’t deal with rejection and stress… Active and self-motivated people make good sales people. Sales people should love their profession, and body language will speak volumes…

Screening sales people on the basis of years of service alone is a dangerous practice: Many sales people have 10, 15… years of experience which could actually mean just 1 year of real experience multiplied over 10, 15… times. There are many qualified sales people who are just average performers, and an equal number of unqualified super sales performers. Talent, achievements, and passion can take precedence over qualifications when hiring experienced sales people…

Probe deeply as to whether the person can adapt to your sales organization, business culture… This requires matching the person’s expectations:  Sales people with a strong, independent streak are more likely to desire a sales culture that fosters and engenders a sales culture of independence, freedom…

They may be good performers but there is a high likely that they will leave sooner… Also, some sales people are so set in their sales skills and behaviors from their last organization that it becomes hard for them to shed old habits and adapt to a new sales organization, business culture…

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In the article Value of Hiring Experience by Michael Alter writes: Some things just can’t be taught in a class room. You can read all about great selling techniques, process, tactics, strategy… but until you actively engage customers, you really don’t know anything about effective selling, customer demands, expectations… Experience teaches problem-solving, people management, leadership skills…

Unfortunately, ambition and intelligence aren’t enough without real life, head knocking sales experience… It’s not that 21-year-old person who is sporting a hoodie and torn jeans couldn’t very well be the next Mark Zuckerberg. But, Zuckerberg is an outlier and taking a chance on inexperience can lead to more headaches, than it can to hip ideas that will actually help the business… If the situation allows someone with little experience to– grow, learn… well, that’s great. If not, place the bets on the person with the experience, insight… to get results, quickly.

In the article Hire Salespeople Who Are Exceptional by Dave Lakhani writes: Building and effective sales team requires people with passion to succeed, and demonstrated track record of succeeding despite adversity… they are people who are intensely interested in people, and they are interesting themselves… people who are more interested in serving than being served.

Great sales people may have huge ego but they also are very interested in creating a relationship and experiences that leaves a mark… People who can handle hard questions, rejection, changing thoughts in mid-stream and come back to task, who know when to take charge and when to sit back, who push back a little, and ask good questions…

The days of handing someone a phone book and telling them to start prospecting are over… when you get a great salesperson, treat them well, develop a reputation as a company that love their salespeople. Celebrate wins with them and share the wins with the whole team… Sales people are the lifeblood of your business: Choose them well, treat them well, let them sell…

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In the article Improve Your Struggling Sales Team by Tim Donnelly writes: If you are trying to get sales team back on track… forget pep-talk: You must be proactive and use  effective sales management and training techniques that can improve sales… According to Brent Adamson; at the end of the day, people don’t leave bad companies… they leave bad managers…

What do you do with struggling salespeople?  It’s a problem that’s vexed multi-national corporations and start-ups; managers, presidents of boards… It’s simply hard to know when to pull the trigger on removing underperforming team members when it could be that they just need a little guidance, encouragement, training… to get back on track.

A little professional nudge in right direction is a more economical choice over the time-consuming and expensive process of hiring replacement… Many sales professionals would rather give struggling sales people a chance to improve, and bring the results up to company standards… So while you’re trying to figure out whether-when the sales team can get back on track, try some of these strategies to lift the sales team out of the sales gutter:

  • Install a Great Sales Manager: You can’t have someone overseeing your sales team who is nothing more than a glorified cheerleader… You need to employ a manager who is not only willing to engage the team, but to also identify weaknesses and work      directly with sales people to overcome their challenges.
  • Implement One-on-One Coaching: Talk directly to the team to find out what struggles they are facing. What makes their jobs difficult? What could they do better? What could they be provided with to do better?
  • Put Your Team on a Sales Diet: Like anyone leading an unhealthy lifestyle, a sales team sometimes needs a ‘sales diet’ of sorts to get some perspective on challenges.
  • Looking to the Future, Hire Smart: It’s an obvious piece of advice, but one worth      repeating, the best way to handle lackluster sales person is to not have them in the first place, or to at least identify them early. Stay on top of the sales person’s performance, intervene before they become worse, significantly underperforming.

Building an effective sales team is real challenge, for example; it’s critical for the business and it also has highest people turn-over rate. It’s never-ending sales management cycle; developing relevant sales process, strategy, tactics… selecting the right people, training, mentoring, coaching, and replacing non-performers. In most companies, 80% of the sales seem to come from 20% of the sales team. While the objective has always been to try to clone the top 30%, that really never seems to happen… maybe the sales team is fine just the way it is; or, maybe not…

How can you tell? Evaluating the sales team is an important step in the process of deciding– how, where, when… to make sales team, sales process, sales tools… adjustments… However, some experts suggest that most of the time the real problem is not the sales people or sales tools, but the sales process  (i.e. how you sell…) that determines the results you get…

Different companies have different sales processes for different customers in different regions who are buying different product lines… sales processes can get very complicated… But still other experts say, selling is a people thing… According to Eric Herrenkohl; don’t hold your nose and hire people because of their resumes alone… the intangibles of employee motivation, drive, and cultural fit almost always trump experience in the end… It sounds funny to say, but don’t settle for someone just because they have great experience.

Make sure that they are the kind of person you want in the organization… Great salespeople are few and far between, and to find the best people look for these special characteristics: prepared and insightful, collaborative and connected, quick and mobile…