In March, John is up in the Pacific Northwest in the beautiful tree filled city of Seattle instructing a Sales Process Workshop, and working with the Managers on how to Coach to the process. In this video, John previews the upcoming articles for the newsletter and announces exciting travel plans that take FSS back out to the global market. Pack your bags and listen below.
Our new feature article, “Ask a Sales Leader” is designed to provide perspectives from the Sales Leaders that we have worked with and how they have used sales processes to win more business. We asked four questions below to capture this insight. In this edition, we feature Kevin Leak. Kevin is a two time customer of FSS, a 30+ year veteran in the Life Sciences/Pharmaceutical market and has lead teams in Sales, Product Management and Marketing capacities. To learn more above Kevin’s success click here.
1. Describe how your customer facing teams use your organization’s sales process.
They work together during opportunity development by asking a series of questions and listening to the customer, in order to identify and fully understand the root causes of the customer’s problem. In conjunction with Sales, the Product Engineering team has a check list of ways we could resolve the customer’s problem and deliver value through the four drivers of Speed, Cost, Quality and Innovation. Can our solution perform faster, thereby improving the customer’s efficiency? Can our solution help the customer lower their total costs? Can our solution help the customer improve the quality of their products and processes? How can our solution deliver innovation that creates a competitive advantage?
2. What is your Management’s approach to coaching sales reps?
The two key areas of coaching that we focus on are (1) opportunity development and (2) listening skills. Opportunity development coaching is the process we follow for identifying the critical factors that are required in refining an initially vague and undefined opportunity into a very specific and well defined opportunity that lists the decision makers, the timing, the value and the likelihood that we will be selected. Listening skills coaching is the process we follow for identifying, in the pre-call planning, the list of questions the sale rep should be asking, improving their ability to weave those important questions into the conversation with the customer and their ability during the post-call report (Meeting Summary) to show progress in our understanding of the customer’s situation.
3. How do you reinforce sales skill development for sales reps?
Repetition is the key. They must buy-in to our sales process that is repeatable and reproducible. The analogy I use to describe “repeatable” is that our sales process is a play book and everyone on our team has agreed that these are our plays, knows how to execute the plays and when we call those plays, everyone knows their role so that we professionally execute those plays. The analogy I use to describe reproducible is that our team plays at many venues (our different customers) with varied situational challenges (such as different competitors) and we sometimes need to bring in customized resources. When we execute our “plays”, based on the consistent use of our sales process, we successfully generate the consistent sales, margins and long term customer relationships that we are playing for.
4. What advice would you give to other sales leaders?
Break the “check the box” trap that many experienced sales reps fall into. Sales reps have their list of customers that they like and who like them in return. If the sales rep could, they would spend all of their time calling upon those “nice customers” and “check the box” each week when completing their sales call report. But frequently, they are not learning anything new that identifies new business opportunities or new influencers and decision makers, competitive threats or changes the customer is undergoing that could effect, for better or worse, our sales revenue with that customer. Challenge your sales reps to call upon the tough customers and learn something new about those customers.
This is a question I often ask Sales Managers.
Many of them respond that they do on the grounds of fairness. They try to distribute their time evenly between all team members and provide similar opportunities for coaching and development.
While I appreciate the intent, I disagree with the practice. At the end of the day, being a great sales manager doesn’t lie in giving your reps a similar dose of the same medicine, but rather in tailoring your prescription to each individual, which will likely result in a disproportionate amount of your time and energy spent with some reps and not with others.
Here’s what I recommend:
First, divide your team into thirds in order of performance – top 10%, middle 60% and bottom 30%. Many managers find this exercise difficult, as they’re reluctant to label certain reps as bottom performers. But it’s a critical first step in optimizing your coaching time.
Next, allocate your time with each rep according to his or her grouping.
Contrary to popular opinion, the bulk of your time should not be spent with the top performers (because they’re the most valuable), nor should it be spent with the bottom performers (because they have the most room for improvement). It should actually be spent with the middle 60%. The middle performers are the group that has the most to gain from focused skills coaching, and statistically speaking it’s with this group that you will see the biggest performance lift.
Of course you should still allocate time for your top performers. But your time with this group should be spent focused on retention rather than skills coaching – are they happy in their current position? Is there anything you can do to make their jobs better? Where do they see themselves 3 years from now?
Very little time should be spent with bottom performers. These team members can be an extreme “time suck” with very little payoff, and allocating the bulk of your time to coach the bottom tier very seldom translates into sales results.
So, is this a fair management strategy? Maybe not. But it is effective. It allows you to align your time and talents with the sales reps that stand to make the biggest gains, thus improving your ability to impact overall team performance and revenue generation. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what you were hired to do?
The following is a guest post by Jackie Meyer, a former customer and current colleague of Flannery Sales Systems.
The idea of 180 Degree selling is not a new sales methodology, rather it is the strategy of selling internally into your organization. Most sales books, seminars and classes teach how to sell into an external customer, but what about your internal customer? Everyone in business has internal customers, and they range from the C-Suite all the way down to your subordinates. Selling 101 has taught us to find the Coach, Fox or Sponsor inside the organization to which we are selling, and if this is your unofficial title in your organization for the third parties you partner with, take note of how to find success as the leader of any project you need to get off the ground.
Do Your Homework – What is the situation in the organization or market that would help you support the project you need executed? Are there secondary research reports that can help you with your facts? Have you interviewed people internally to get their thoughts and identify their needs – rather implicit or explicit? Most importantly, how and what are the internal politics you need to manage?
Build Your Concept Pitch – With the data you have collected so far, what correlations can you draw? Do you need to include some education about the project to help others understand its scope? What are the organizational weaknesses you need to consider, and how will you overcome them? Set expectations of what the project can and will do so there is no second guessing for both you and others in your organization.
Provide Project Options – Most people do not like to be told what to do, so provide options with pros and cons. Do not assume everyone understands the opportunity costs involved or that there is money to pay for the project you want to spearhead. In fact, in most cases the money is not budgeted. You must determine how you can mine for it or even plan for its future in the next quarter or year.
Beta Test Your Pitch – You might think you have it all figured out, but after gathering all your data, circumstances and people often change. Find your own coach, fox or sponsor within; gather their feedback on your pitch; and fine tune your knowledge and budget.
Commercialize Your Pitch – Plan it far in advance so you can work through how best to present in order to ensure your content is absorbed in the various minds of the people from whom you need to gain approval. Can you apply the ‘so-what’ test to everything you plan to say? Can you address likely objections that will come your way? Are you confident under pressure? If not, seek help from a trusted friend or colleague to practice your pitch. Besides the fact that Mom was right – practice makes perfect – remember how you need to influence your audience and brush up on your Aristotle philosophy on the art of persuasion.