Successful sales managers are effective delegators

Lessons for Sales Managers

Lessons for Sales Managers

The Gallup organization is publishing a new book on entrepreneurism – Entrepreneurial StrengthsFinder at the end of September. In the book, the author shares several key points about entrepreneurs which we believe surely presents lessons for sales managers.

Here are 4 key points from the book, shared in the Gallup Business Journal:

1. Highly successful entrepreneurs quickly adjust to accommodate the changing needs and new realities of a growing business. If you are a Delegator, you understand that a rapidly growing venture needs capabilities and resources beyond what you alone can provide.

2. Delegators work on the business rather than in it. You recognize that a growing business requires a shift from a do-it-yourself style, which is helpful in the early stages, to a more hands-off approach as the business starts to grow. You are well aware that you cannot possibly accomplish everything yourself, and you are willing to relinquish control and hand off authority for certain tasks to others who are better equipped to handle them. You have mastered the art of delegation. This frees up your time to focus on activities that yield the highest returns for the company and that grow the business.

3. Delegators are great managers and supportive bosses. You set clear expectations about timing, budget, and deliverables; make sure employees have the tools and resources they need to do their jobs; provide opportunities for training and learning; and genuinely care about the growth of each individual. You seek input from your employees and value their opinions and expertise. What’s more, you encourage new ideas and approaches to getting things done, and you are focused on outcomes rather than processes.

4. While you do delegate effectively, do not abdicate your overall responsibility for a project. The buck stops with you. Remember to set milestones to monitor progress, and communicate frequently with the people to whom you are delegating to avoid costly mistakes or surprises. When they complete tasks, provide feedback about what worked and what didn’t. Set up a successful delegation process. In the long run, it will build employee capacity and, more importantly, save you time — time you can use to create new opportunities for your business.

From our observation, these points are particularly important for front-line sales managers. They are the pivotal job for driving sales effectiveness. Without a solid group of front-line sales managers it is not possible to build and sustain a superior sales force.

Let’s close by building on just one of the points in the Gallup Journal – quickly adjust to accommodate changing needs. Today a number of markets, like healthcare, are undergoing transformation changes. These changes require the sales force to adjust and adapt every aspect of what they do. This required level of adjustment simply will not occur unless the front-line sales manager provide a personal model for change and the direction, guidance, and motivation for others to follow their lead.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

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Sales managers with new sales teams – first things first – focus!

New sales managers

New sales managers

When front-line sales managers take over a new sales team, the natural tendency is to get things moving – make a mark. While admirable, the question becomes – “Get going on what?”

For example, it is not uncommon that the “what” turns out to be a bunch of stuff that choruses of those on your sales team are complaining about.  While this makes your sales team feel good and will reduce the noise level, it may do little beyond that.

Let’s look at another approach that is more likely to achieve your business goals – start by identifying the reasons behind your sales team’s success and focus on leveraging success.

Any manager will share when moving into a new management position there are a ton of things you can “fix.” But, they will also tell you that you can’t fix everything and that some of the things you can fix aren’t really going to help achieve your business objective.  When it comes to the “fix everything” approach not only is there not enough time, your sales team will find their head spinning as they try digest one change after another.

But, what if you take a more measured approach?

  • First – identify and focus on what you team is doing successfully. Figure out how to codify those successes so they are repeatable and can be used more pervasively. 
  • After that is done, identify what you believe “needs fixing” in order to meet your goals, prioritize which ones to address in what order and act on them one by one.

If you are a front-line sales manager there are lots of people pulling you in lots of directions.  Consequently, for front-line sales managers taking over new sales teams it is easy to fall into the trap of addressing the urgent versus the important.  One answer to that dilemma is to rise above the noise and focus on getting a few important things right.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

 

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Sales managers – when in a meeting, speak last

Lessons for sales meetings

Lessons for sales meetings

I belong to a book club that has an interesting way of selecting the monthly book to read. Whoever will be hosting the upcoming book club meeting sends out an email with 3 or 4 choices. Then people start responding. But, rather than responding directly to the host they use the “respond all” feature. Needless to say, it doesn’t take long for the first book mentioned to win several “votes” early – and then few if anyone wants to swim against the tide.  Realizing this was not the best way to select a monthly read – we now send out an email with the options and have a paper ballot vote at the end of each meeting to select next month’s book.

This did get me thinking about sales managers who raise an issue in their team meetings and then go about answering it. And if that doesn’t work, they make enough points to make it clear to the sales team what they believe the right answer is. Some sales managers try to be inclusive and ask a question or two – but that’s often done half-heartedly so they can “check off the soliciting opinion box” and then go ahead sharing what they think the answer is.

Now there is no doubt that some topics are not open for discussion – so fair enough.  On the other hand, many topics are open for discussion and one is likely to get a “better” answer if a real discussion occurs. In the latter case the obvious problems with the no-discussion approach is the experiences of the sales team around the issue are not brought to bear in crafting a solution. Plus, the sales team is less likely to get support for the solution.

In many cases sales managers are not cutting off discussion by intent. They are simply trying to get a lot done in a short period of time and from their perspective do not see the topic at hand as warranting discussion. Of course the problem is the rest of the team may well have a different view.

How about trying this approach next time? Be the last person to speak and start by asking questions that build on and challenge the ideas on the table so your sales team becomes actively engaged in understanding the issue and in crafting the solution.

From our observations the reason why all this might be more important than it first appears is more ideas fail not because the idea is inherently flawed but because the idea is poorly executed – and great execution requires buy-in and buy-in requires active engagement in formulating the idea.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

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Are you coaching your top sales reps? – An STC Classic

A Classic - '63 Corvette

A Classic – ’63 Corvette

One sales coaching question frequently asked is – Where should we focus our sales coaching efforts to optimize the impact on revenue generation? Fortunately that question has been answered.  The answer is – focus on the 60% of the salespeople that are in the middle of the performance curve.

While the above answer is widely accepted, it does not mean that coaching top sales performers should be totally neglected.  Unfortunately that happens more frequently than it should.

If you listen carefully to conversations among sales managers and get the story behind the story, two rationales for not coaching top sales performers pop up more than others.  The first is a takeoff on the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” notion.  “My top performers are doing just fine so I leave them alone – the main thing is don’t mess them up.” The second reason is – “they don’t want to be coached.”

We would suggest both of these reasons are more about what’s not true than what is true.  Let’s take the second one first.  Attrition – one of the main reasons top sales performers leave organizations is the lack of opportunities for personal development.  This is particularly true among younger sales professionals in the Millennial generation.

As to the first reason, if it was true why is it that every Olympian has a coach and companies are spending up to $3500 per hour providing executive coaches for their senior leadership.  It is safe to say that top performing salespeople both need and want coaching.

One of the underlying reasons why these untruths persist is the notion that sales coaching is strictly about fixing something that is wrong or not working right. If that is the perception then why would sales managers need to coach top sales performers and why would top sales performers want to be coached?  In fact, sales coaching can be about leveraging strengths as well as improving deficiencies.  In the case of top performers sales coaching is often more about the former.

Assuming the myths have been put to rest and one is serious about coaching top sales performers, what should be top of mind for getting it right? Here are 7 ideas.

  • Try innovative assignments. Top sales performers love challenges and enjoy trying new ways to address perplexing problems – plus they are able to make tactical adjustment quickly and effectively.
  • Don’t forget blueprinting. It is a good idea to keep track of what and how top sales performers do what they do.  Many ideas can be translated into techniques that can be transplanted to the rest of the sales team.
  • Provide actionable feedback. Contrary to some popular opinion, top sales performers do want and appreciate feedback as long as the feedback is thoughtful, concise, and actionable.  And, the really good news is they can implement it in an imaginative and creative fashion.
  • Use multiple approaches and people. Because top performers assimilate information quickly and reach a boredom plateau sooner than most, using all the resources available is a good coaching idea.
  • Solicit feedback. Due to the fact that top sales performers are good at doing what they do, they expect their ideas to be considered in formulating how the coaching takes place.
  • Provide recognition. Not unlike the rest of us, top sales performers appreciate awards and recognition.  Even though they have received many, it is still a good idea.  In this case the rewards can take on many different forms – such as the aforementioned innovative assignments.
  • Don’t confuse confidence and arrogance. There is little doubt that top sales performers are extremely confident.  Sometimes if that confidence is viewed through the wrong end of the telescope it can come across as arrogance – most of the time it is not.

When considering whom to coach the middle 60% should be kept front of mind.  However, one neglects top sales performers at their peril.  They are extremely intent are developing their sales skills and talents so if not with you, then with somewhere else.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

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Close the 4th quarter strong – 10 reasons why online sales training can help

Online Sales Training

Online Sales Training

As the 4th Quarter begins, salespeople are looking for ways to meet – and exceed – their sales quota. Sometimes the path to success is not only working harder, but working smarter. A quick way to get smarter is to leverage the power of online sales training.

Here are 10 reasons why online sales training is an effective, efficient option you should consider.

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MedTech clinical staff – invite them to the sales training party

MedTech clinical staff + sales training

MedTech clinical staff + sales training

MedTech clinical staff spend the majority of their time on client sites – whether at a hospital, standalone medical center, or physician practice – they provide support and education to both clinical and administrative staff.  But why stop there?

Because of the transformation changes in the healthcare buying environment, many MedTech companies either already have or are now seriously considering leveraging the clinical support staff to participate more actively in the sales effort.

After all, because they spend a lot of time on site they are in an ideal position to develop relationships, capture competitive intelligence, and identify sales opportunities.  They are also very knowledgeable about topics that are important to customers, such as hospitals facing significant pressures to improve quality and reduce costs.

Yet, in many cases the clinical specialists are reticent to get more engaged in the sales process because they lack the knowledge, skills and confidence relative to selling.  They are after all first and foremost technical staff by training and experience.

But selling is like any other skill – it’s learnable.  It’s not about tips and tricks.  It’s a highly skilled profession.  You can sell and also retain the customer’s respect for your technical expertise.

All that is why when MedTech companies plan their sales training initiatives, clinical staff are now being considered as part of the target audience.

This raises the question of how to engage the clinical staff in sales training?  From our experience, the most critical factor is to have the clinical staff participate in sales training with the sales reps. Not only do the clinical staff learn sales skills, through in-class interactions with the sales reps there is an unintended outcome – they and the sales reps learn more about each other’s expertise and challenges and can discuss how to sell as a team.

But taking clinical staff out of the field for extensive sales training is often difficult for companies who count on them to cover cases, provide in-service training, etc.  For staff that have strong clinical backgrounds but lack the confidence and skill to help sell, we find that an initial foundation in sales fundamentals can be learned by online sales training.  Therefore they can come to the sales training with the sales reps better prepared and in many cases reduce the time spent in the classroom.

And one final point … MedTech is not the only industry where clinical people could be involved in sales. IT and Professional Services both find themselves with a staff of technical people on customer sites who could contribute to the sales process.

Want to build your sales skills? Check out this our sales skills training.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

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Salespeople must add business collaboration to their skill set

Sales reps - business collaboration

Sales reps – business collaboration

Across industries, we’re witnessing B2B sales becoming increasingly complex – involving more decision makers, buying committees, longer sales cycles, vendor consolidation initiatives, and cost reduction programs.

With these changes to the customers’ buying process, sales reps often must shift from being a lone wolf to a captain of a team. The sales team could consist of internal technical specialists from a variety of areas to external alliance partners.  This requires adding an additional skill to a salesperson’s repertoire – business collaboration.

Two points about business collaboration:

  • First, business collaboration isn’t about bringing people into a room, asking what they think and then doing what you were going to do in the first place.  It’s about opening up the conversation and being able and willing to analyze and create new ideas for moving forward. The larger the team the more difficult it is making the necessary tradeoffs and building a better path forward. And that’s exactly the challenge many salespeople face when managing a sales team involved in today’s markets.

And in response to the naysayers who say that collaboration takes too long in today’s fast-paced environment or that it is an easy skill set to master so no big deal or that the trends in the buying process are short-term and soon things will return to “normal” – just pause and review the winners and losers that have emerged historically when industries have gone through a transformation change.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

 

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6 tips to help sales managers take over a new sales team

Managing A New SaleTeam

Managing A New SaleTeam

Front-line sales managers are the pivotal job for building and sustaining sales success. How can new sales managers get a good start when taking over a new sales team? This infographic shares 6 tips.

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Tips for selling to the c-suite – Video

Selling to the C-SuiteSalespeople increasingly are calling on the C-Suite – and it’s a different sale. This video presents tips to successfully call on the C-level. Take a look at our online sales training to learn more about the critical sales skills to win more sales – Communicate with Customers to Win More Sales.

Selling to the C-Suite video – youtube

 

 

 

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Sales teams – lessons from the US Open doubles partners

Team Selling

Doubles tennis and sales teams

Did you watch the US Open doubles tennis matches? Do you begin to wonder what the players were saying to each other between points? We did and others must have too since the NY Times printed a front-page article about just that question.

What is going on in those conversations between points? Are the players deciding where to position the next serve on the court? Are they using the time to motivate each other? Some teams take communication a step farther and use hand gestures behind their back to signal their partner – just like volleyball players or pitchers and catchers.

Regardless of what is being said, as the article points out one thing is certain – “it happens after almost every point in professional doubles tennis matches, as predictably as the ritualistic high-fiving and fist-bumping the players cannot seem to live without. Whether the point is won or lost. The partners convene. And they have a little chat … Professional doubles players treat points as baseball or football players map out plays.”

And that got us thinking about team selling. While sales teams may not “work” in a stadium with thousands watching, they are often playing for some relatively high stakes.  So the importance of the sales team members communicating how to work effectively is important. Without the communication, the sales call can deteriorate quickly – no points, no advancing the sale.

And even though sales team members can’t caucus after each question or comment, they must avoid the classic team-selling trap – the team sales call being just two people who happen to be in the same room at the same time.

What are some tips for avoiding this trap? 

8 principles we have observed successful sales teams using:

  1. Establish a compelling and clear vision of the sales team’s purpose that is shared by everyone on the team.
  2. Everyone believing there is benefit to the company, their group and to them personally for working as a team.
  3. Team members investing in the preparation and planning time and effort to get it right.
  4. All of the roles to succeed are represented on the team and each team member is clear about their role on the team and the expectations.
  5. A call manager orchestrates the sales call.
  6. Rules of the road are created so it’s not just the loudest voices that carries the day.
  7. Adjust, adapt, and keep track, making effective strategic adjustments as the sales team’s collective knowledge grows.
  8. Build trust among the team members.

In many markets the team sale is becoming increasingly important.  In some the sales rep must function as an Account Executive who must marshal and manage alliance partners in order to sale and service the account- the latter is a big deal and tough to get right.

The mistake is assuming that as long as a sales rep is good at selling that managing and leading a team to sale is no big leap.  If we go back to sports for a moment, it is easy for all of us to see the fallacy of taking that position.  As Michael Jordan once noted – on most nights stars will look good – superstars will help those around them to look good.

Want to build your sales skills – including team selling? Check out this online sales skills training.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

 

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