Big data supports the importance of front-line sales managers

Sales managers

Sales managers

When companies get it right managers thrive, staff is more engaged, and companies gain a competitive edge.  In fact, according to Gallup, when companies can increase the number of talented managers and double the number of engaged employees, they achieve, on average, 147% higher earnings per share than their competition.

Gallup recently studied hundreds of organizations and measured the engagement of 27 million employees over the past two decades – across industries. One can only imagine the amount of data collected and analyzed.  From all that data the important big picture point is there are links between employee engagement and vital performance indicators like: higher profitability, improve quality, lower turnover, less absenteeism, less theft, and fewer safety incidents.  In other words when employee engagement rises, everything gets better.

To achieve this higher level of engagement, Gallup argues that every team needs a great manager. But, they’re hard to find. Consider this …

1. Gallup shares that only about one in 10 people possess the talent to manage.
2. Many managers are promoted because of their success as an individual contributor.
3. According to Gallup, great managers have these five talents:

  • They motivate every single employee to take action and engage employees with a compelling mission and vision.
  • They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
  • They create a culture of clear accountability.
  • They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.
  • They make decisions based on productivity, not politics.

We thought this was a particularly important study and set of conclusions for Sales. After all, the Sales function certainly is one that traditionally promotes successful salespeople into sales management roles.  And, there is little question that Gallup’s five talents map extremely well against what it takes to be a great sales manager.

This massive research study just once again suggests that sales managers are the pivotal job for sales success. Few companies would err by aggressively devoting more time, effort, and resources to developing of a superior cadre of front-line sales managers

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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3 considerations for creating a sales training curriculum – An STC Classic

A Classic - '63 Corvette

A Classic – ’63 Corvette

Planning your sales training curriculum for 2014?  At this time of year most sales training managers are into planning for the year ahead. Given priorities being set and budgets being finalized, this is a good time to not only think about what sales training needs to be accomplished but also to review some of the fundamental “how-to’s.”

In previous blogs we have touched on the idea that what you do before and after the sales training is as important as the sales training itself.  It is hard to over emphasize the point that time spent beforehand planning on how to position the training and afterwards on how to reinforce it, is time well spent.  With that notion on the table, let’s turn to three other ideas that are worth considering as you plan for 2013.

Sales training isn’t always the answer. Sales training programs should not be relied upon to fix all performance problems.   Sales training programs can address a lack of knowledge or skill.  They can effectively jump start new sales reps by providing them with a base of knowledge.  They can be a great help in making sure that a new product lives up to expectations.  And, that’s just the short list.

However, sometimes a performance problem is not about a skill or knowledge deficiency.  For example sometimes it’s a motivation issue … or perhaps the source of the problem has to do with management issues inside the company?  Or, perhaps, the performance expectations aren’t clear or the compensation system is dysfunctional.  In situations like these if sales training is embraced as the solution the end result is misspent money and a sour taste about sales training.

The same sales training isn’t always for everyone. Companies often institute company-wide sales training initiatives. Sometimes this makes sense – like when you’re goal is to institute a common sales language for the sales force.  And, of course, corporate-wide sales training is a good idea when a new strategic initiative is introduced.  For example, if the sales team must move from selling individual products to selling an integrated solution, then everyone needs adjust and adapt their skills to the new sales challenge.

These are specific situations faced by many companies where the same program for everyone is the right answer.  On the other hand, sometimes it is a better idea is to target programs for specific segments of your sales team. For example, a “Top Gun” school for your high performers could be a high payoff or maybe if you are experiencing high turnover, a program targeted just for new hires is smart training priority.  So, perhaps every program should not be for everyone.

Sales people, like everyone one else, learn best when they’re motivated. Telling sales people they need to attend a one or two-day sales training session next Tuesday may get “butts in the seats” but their minds are elsewhere.  Sales training yields much better outcomes when sales people want to be there – when they come to the sales training program with a positive attitude.

So, how do you get sales people “to want” to attend sales training? Buy-in is not about compliance; it’s about persuasion.  Senior management support, of course, is a key – clarifying the message as to why the sales training is being done, sharing that they’re serious about the sales training, etc. But that shouldn’t be the end of the effort. One approach is to generate positive buzz.  One of our clients rolled out a sales training initiative by inviting the most successful, respected sales people to attend the first three programs – we called the programs – “Inaugurals.”   When the very best spread the word that the sales training program was worthwhile, a positive buzz was created.  After those first three programs, it was easy to fill the slots in future programs.   In fact, we had a waiting list and in the end, everyone in the sales force attended by choice.

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

©2013 Sales Horizons, LLC

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Sales leaders – 5 tips for achieving your best from McKinsey & Co

 

Sales management

Sales management

Centered Leadership, a new book from Joanna Barsh and Johanne Lavoie at McKinsey & Co, introduces the importance of mind-sets to effective leadership. They note that unfortunately leaders often attack a challenge without addressing the underlying attitudes and beliefs that drive the challenge.

The authors focus on ideas that allow leaders to find new behaviors that improve their ability for leadership to emerge naturally.  Although the book is about leadership in general, we thought the lessons were particularly important for sales leaders.

Find your strength – As we’ve written before, sales leaders spend a lot of their energy focusing on weaknesses.  Of course everyone has areas that need improvement – but by shifting the focus to strengths, sales leaders can be more inspiring and are more likely to drive creativity and innovation in others.

Practice the pause – When facing demanding internal challenges and customer crises that generates stress, pausing and then reengaging can help shift a sales leader’s mind-set from the negative fear of failure – to a positive about success.

Forge trust – People define trust differently, so understanding how the members of your sales team perceive trust is critical to building it.  Barsh and Lavoie suggest four aspects of trust that deserve attention:

  • Reliability – keep commitments and deliver on promises
  • Congruence – align language and actions with thinking and feeling
  • Acceptance – withhold judgment and separate the person from the performance
  • Openness – state intentions clearly

Choose questions wisely – How you formulate a question has significant implications for how a conversation plays out with a sales director or sales manager. Questions like: What’s the problem? What’s the cause? Who’s to blame? Why hasn’t it been fixed yet? – more often than not leave the person on the other side of the table defensive.

When the conversation is focused on a problem where there’s a definite right answer all that might work.  But as issues become more complex sales leaders need to move away from problem-focused questions to ones that are solution focused – like: What would you like to see happen?  What are some of the alternatives we need to explore?  How can we get started to go about fixing that?

Make time to recover – Find 10 minutes twice a day to recover and recharge. Whether it’s walking up a flight of stairs, learning something new, gazing out the window, or a call or email with a friend – senior executives report that making time to recover helps them spend more time in high performance mode.

Summary – Sales productivity requires creating a superior sales team – moving from good to great starts with excellence at the top.

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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A sales leadership red flag – sales turnover matters

Sales Team Turnover

Sales Team Turnover

Sales leaders spend a fair amount of time and effort reviewing issues related to the cost of sale.  The issues can vary from travel policies and territory designs to compensation structures and bonuses.  An issue that is receiving increased attention is the cost of turnover.

For those who have not recently taken a serious look at the cost of sales turnover, we thought a quick exploration of the topic might be warranted.  Let’s take a look at some estimates of the real cost associated with sales turnover and an idea or two that have good track records for reducing sales turnover.

Defining the sales turnover problem.  In their most recent newsletter Colletti-Fiss, national leaders in sales compensation, made the following observation about the financial importance of retaining sales talent – “Our research shows that when a sales rep leaves, 20% to 80% of the business is at risk. The cost associated with replacing one sales rep – particularly top performers – is 35% to 200% of annual total cash compensation.”  The point being, at the high end, the cost is devastating.

From our own observation in markets such as high-end medical devices the customer, in this case the physician, may “go” with the sales rep if they leave for a competitor.  Does it matter?  The research from HR Chally reports sales person effectiveness accounts for 39% of a customer’s choice of a vendor – more than price or quality.  So, yes it matters.

Bottom line – sales turnover matters to the bottom line.  Consequently, it is well worth the time to know more about your sales turnover figure and to estimate the cost for every salesperson who leaves – in terms the dollar value of the existing business at risk, the cost associated with finding, selecting and training a replacement, and the opportunity cost while the new sales rep is getting up to speed which in B2B sales is longer than ever.  If you are experiencing a turnover rate near or higher than 20%, the costs are likely to be unacceptably high.

Understanding why.  If the number does prove sufficient to warrant action, what are some steps for getting it right?  First, it is important to better understand the nature of the sales turnover – who is leaving and why.  Second, correct the problem.

In regard to the first step, upgrade the exit interview process.  In some cases exit interviews are not even conducted and in many others, nobody pays much attention to the results.  You may need to change what you are doing and who is doing it.

A more involved approach for understanding the “why” is conducting a 360 assessment with your front-line sales managers.  Front-line sales managers are the pivotal job for sales success – making sure they have as much insight as possible about what is going right and what isn’t can provide a critical data set for understanding the source of the sales turnover problem.

Correcting the problem.   Obviously some of the specifics for addressing the sales turnover problem will be driven from the work done to find out who is leaving and why.  However one across-the-board intervention with a proven track record is sales training and development.  Salespeople expect an investment in their development and it works for reducing sales turnover.

In regard to expectations, a recent leadership study by Bluteau DeVenney & Company reported that the one of the most important expectations of all employees is the opportunity to grow.  As expressed by the employees who participated in the study – “we expect personal growth and development – if you don’t help us grow and learn, we’ll go elsewhere.”

Turning to the relationship between sales training and turnover reduction, the recent CSO report of over 2000 companies – The Business Case for Sales Training – reported that one of the reasons for investing in sales skills training was lower turnover rates.  The results were particularly compelling in that among those companies where sales teams reported the sales training exceeded expectations the average annual turnover rate was 10% lower than when the sales training was viewed as needing improvement.

Summary.  Sales turnover matters!  High sales turnover can have a devastating impact on bottom line revenue generation.   The good news is – there are established interventions for addressing the problem.  More attention to sales training and development is a great first step.

 

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 – 6 tips when transitioning to a new sales team

Sales manager with a new sales team

Sales manager with a new sales team

As most in sales leadership would share – the front-line sales manager is the pivotal job for building and sustaining sales success.  And, perhaps the most critical time for any sales manager is when first taking over a new sales team.  Getting the right start means long-term success will likely arrive quicker and easier.

So what does a great start look like and what are the hobgoblins that are likely to get in the way?  Let’s take a look using the scenario of an existing sales manager from inside the company taking over an existing sales team in another region. Here are 6 tips that sales manager:

  1. Do your homework to gain an objective lay of the land.  Drill down and learn about the territory and the sales team.  Here, the CRM system can be a best friend.  Review the team members’ performance both currently and over time. Identify the top accounts – who has them, the solutions they are using, and potential new opportunities.  Become familiar with the sales pipeline, the prospects populating it and make revisions where necessary like getting rid of no-win opportunities.
  2. Talk with senior management. Although you’ve surely talked with senior management before taking the sales manager position, now you have an opportunity to address a different set of questions. Two particularly important areas of inquiry are: what are the expectations and what are the institutional resources that are available to your team and how can you tap into them?
  3. Solicit from the sales team what is working and what isn’t.  The best time to make changes is right up front when you take over the position.  There is a short window before everything again becomes frozen – so time matters.  The first step is find out what is working and what isn’t.  Soliciting ideas from your new sales team as to what needs to be changed and how it should be changed is always a good idea.  Using your sales teams’ ideas to augment your own is a no lose step.
  4. Solicit from the sales team what they want from their sales manager. As a build on the prior tip, ask each member of the sales team what they want their new sales manager to do – and what they expect.  Some important specifics – how should coaching work and when and how should I help you sell.
  5. Share your expectations.  Sharing is a two-way street. Don’t make your sales team guess. Share your management style and what you expect from the sales team – in terms of sales performance and responsibilities as a member of the sales team.
  6. Consider a personal 360-degree assessment.  Although it is not always possible, before you leave your existing sales manager position, do an informal 360 assessment.  Discuss with your boss, your old sales team, and some peer sales managers your strengths and weaknesses in managing your sales team.  A fresh start is a great time to pause and take stock of how you might do some self-improvement.

As to the “hobgoblins” – number one is the pressure to get into the weeds before you lay the foundation for your transition.  You might score some early points but in the long- run you are less likely to accomplish that of which you are capable.

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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MedTech sales: when customers change – so must you

Transformation changes affecting medical sales

Transformation changes affecting medical sales

In times of transformational market change there are new winners and losers.  If you are a Medtech company, a piece of the puzzle for being among the winners is making the investment in your sales team commensurate with the need for change and the opportunity to benefit.

As recently reported by Booz & Company, healthcare is a striking example of an industry that is undergoing unprecedented changes.  Most healthcare organizations are uncertain about the best strategic path forward.  However, what is clear is standing still is not an option.  Among market leaders the journey of change has already begun and will continue as the future unfolds.

Although many of the long-term implications of the major drivers such as the Affordable Care Act are still vague, the article points out two mega-trends that will help shape the picture of the future:

  • consumerization – patients will have greater choice and control
  • risk migration – risk will shift from payors to providers

The article then identifies four considerations that hospitals will need to address as they respond to these trends and attempt to adapt to the changing business environment:

  • What will be our operational focus? – For example will we focus on low-cost care and high volumes or opt to become a center of excellence in a specific medical specialty?
  • How will we reduce the cost of care without impacting the quality of care? – It is clear that reimbursements will be declining so how do we transform both the clinical and administrative sides of the business to reduce costs and improve quality?
  • How do we become more customer-centric? – How do we create an improved patient experience, not just deliver better outcomes at reduced costs.  There are a wide variety of alternative care models presently be explored to achieve this goal –from Accountable Care organizations to Frontier Stay Clinics.
  • How will we deal with the shift from fee-for-service to outcomes payment models? – This shift will not happen over night but it will happen.  So how do we transition during the shift?

When hospitals change what they buy, how they buy, and what they are willing to pay for it that constitutes a clarion call to Medtech companies that every aspect of their sales effort needs to be revisited – from how they are organized, to their value proposition to their sales training.

Although again some of the specifics may be unclear, a wait-and-see strategy provides your organization no chance of being among the new winners.  Because it is clear that top MedTech sales performance will not be achieved simply by selling to the same people, in the same way, with the same message as yesteryear. 

To take a deeper dive into MedTech sales strategy, download the free white paper – Getting Sales Strategy Right - MedTech -Cover copyGetting MedTech Sales Strategy Right – click here or visit http://www.salesmomentum.com/getting-medtech-sales-strategy-right-free-white-paper/.

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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Team selling – more prevalent, more important and as difficult as ever

Team selling

Team selling

In major accounts there are a number of different strategic situations where a team sale is preferred.  The salesperson might want to bring along someone from top management either because of the purpose of the meeting or because of who is attending from the customer’s side.

Another common situation is when the salesperson is engaged in a long sales cycle and given the call’s agenda brings a person with expertise in a specific area such as: technical support, manufacturing, or customer service.

Do these situations sound familiar? These types of situations are becoming increasingly more common because the customers are looking for their suppliers to provide the expertise need to creatively address their challenges.

The growth in team selling comes not only from customer demands but also from the increased complexity of the sale, as well as, customers using teams. Customer teams often take the form of buying committees or purchasing teams.

The classic trap in situations like these is not having a team attending the meeting. Instead, it’s just two people who happen to be in the same room at the same time.

To avoid this trap, we’ve found these eight best practices to be helpful:

  • Successful teams have a compelling clear vision of the sales team’s purpose that is shared by everyone on the team.
  • Everyone must believe there is benefit to the company – and to them personally – for working as a team.
  • All of the roles to succeed are represented on the sales team and each team member is clear about their role in the team and the expectations.
  • The sales team members recognize talent alone does not guarantee team success. Attitude is critical. Positive attitudes can lead to a sales team performing at its peak; bad attitudes can rip a team apart.
  • There is a team leader. Without a leader, all teams can lose their way.
  • Sales teams often struggle making poor decisions, no decisions, or decisions by edict – led by the loudest voice – because they have no processes in place.  Successful sales teams adopt or create their own team processes that guide how they operate.
  • Successful sales teams adjust, adapt, and keep track. They make effective strategic adjustments as the sales team’s collective knowledge grows and insights are gained from the customer.
  • Last, without trust, the team members don’t believe they can count on each other. Sales teams like these cannot possibly achieve their shared purpose. Trust is not something that automatically happens automatically.

Want to take a deeper dive into team selling? Take a look at this Team Selling

Team Selling Infographic

Team Selling Infographic

Infographic from The Whale Hunters for more best practices around team selling in major accounts.

 

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

©2014 Sales Momentum®

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Getting MedTech Sales Strategy Right – A FREE Sales Momentum White Paper

Getting Sales Strategy Right - MedTech -Cover copyWhile the MedTech industry is positioned to grow in the coming years, all is not rosy. Shifting decision-makers, rising number of new influencers, pricing pressures, increasing consolidation, and consumerizing healthcare will require MedTech salespeople to redefine their sales strategies to continue growing the business. Having a superior sales force is a key to sustaining a competitive advantage in MedTech accounts.

Sales Momentum today is publishing a FREE white paper – Getting MedTech Sales Strategy Right. It’s  divided into two chapters:

1.    Formulating MedTech Sales Strategy – describes common pitfalls and shares best practices that increase the probability of MedTech sales success.
2.    Executing MedTech Sales Strategy – highlights eight areas highly correlated with winning MedTech sales strategies: staying on track, networking, building and sustaining relationships, managing the competition, selling with clinical data, selling to the VAC, selling at the senior level, making the business case.

To download the free white paper click here or visit http://www.salesmomentum.com/getting-medtech-sales-strategy-right-free-white-paper/.

And to learn more about our MedTech sales training programs, click here

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 coaching above and beyond the sales comfort zone

Sales Coaching

Sales Coaching

Salespeople sometimes have a propensity to stay in their comfort zone – doing more of what they are doing well.  There are many reasons and rewards for taking up permanent residence in ones comfort zone – like being comfortable and successful selling a particular product to a fear of change.

From a sales coaching perspective it is important to understand whether a sales rep fails to move beyond their comfort zone by choice – that is, they simply want to continue to do what they are doing.  Or, they want to break out but don’t have the skills and know how to do so.  The first situation is fundamentally one about attitude and motivation and the second is primarily about knowledge and skill.   Let’s take a look some ideas for how a sales manager might deal with a sales rep facing the second situation.

  • Establish a sales coaching priority.  Jointly establish with the sales rep that moving out of their comfort is important for their success.  Then focus your sales coaching effort on the knowledge and skills to make that happen – make sure you describe what the end-state for change looks like.
  • Minimize the risks of failure.  Trying something different involves a lot of risks from: perhaps initially reduced commission to negative feedback from customers and peers.  Where possible the sales manager needs to help the sales  rep manage and minimize these risks.
  • Reward behavior not just results.  Successful change is best-accomplished one step at a time – over time.  It is important to provide positive feedback all along the way as new behaviors are learned and applied, as opposed to, waiting until the final results are achieved for providing the proverbial pat on the back.
  • Document and broadcast success.  Usually when someone tries something new, the failures tend to be well documented.  The sales manager needs to make sure the same is true for successes – this is helpful to the sales rep and to other sales reps who might be taking the same journey in the future.
  • Collect best practices.  As sales coaching efforts unfold good ideas will emerge relative to what sales reps looking to change need to learn.  Document these best practices!

Looking back even five years, there are few markets where top sales performance  can be achieved simply by selling to the same people, in the same way, with the same message as  yesteryear.  So, “this how do we help people skillfully move beyond their comfort zone problem” is likely to more than just – a nice to do.

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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