I recently read an excellent article by David Hubbard in Selling Power titled, "Three Actions Steps to Avoid Lackluster Sales Quarters." In the article, Hubbard paints a picture that we all have seen before. Sales results lag and the gap between production and goals is widening. The Sales VP reacts by increasing the activity level of the sales force, reviewing deals in progress and taking other measures to close the gap. Hubbard identifies three ways to avoid this trap:
- Establishing a well-defined sales process
- Leveraging social selling
- Sales and marketing alignment
These are all excellent recommendations and I agree with them wholeheartedly. We have another suggestion to add to your sales management bag of tricks.
Oftentimes, the gap between goals and results occurs because the business is overly reliant on the performance of one or two sales superstars. If they have a bad month, the whole company has a bad month. Imagine a situation where you have a team of high-performers - if one of them has a bad month, somebody else picks up the slack.
Here are some ways you can turn your journeymen sales reps into superstars.
1. Use a data-driven hiring process to get the right reps on board.
According to HR Morning, the cost of a bad hire for a position with annual compensation between $110,000 and $130,000 ranges between $152,000 and $220,000 per year. Obviously, you want to hire the right salespeople.
Here are some suggestions to avoid absorbing the cost of a bad hire:
Profile the attributes of your top performers and look for them in your hiring process. What do your top-performers have in common? Do they have similar educational backgrounds? Similar personality traits? Are they proficient using sales technology? By identifying areas of commonality and looking for them in your hiring process, you will reduce your probability of making a bad hire. Be careful - don't rely solely on these traits in your hiring process. You'll probably find some differences in your top performers as well.
Use an aptitude assessment tool in your hiring process. There are may different assessment tools on the marketplace. Evaluate them and ask trusted colleagues for their opinions on the tools that they use. Assessment tools aren't just for new hires. By having your current reps take the test, you will identify the areas of commonality identified in the previous post.
Tick off the HR checklist. This is a common-sense recommendation, but make sure to check references, do background investigations and all of the other things you need to do to make sure you're hiring the right employees.
Be crystal clear about objectives, expectations and company culture. Make sure you paint an accurate picture of what it's like to be a successful employee at your company. Define expectations and the consequences of failing to meet them. Nobody should be surprised if things don't work out and you need to let someone go. You also need to be clear about your company culture - the good, the bad and the ugly. Cultural fit is very important. For example, if you're a small business and you're hiring somebody from a Fortune 500 company, you need to make sure they're coming in with eyes wide open on what's it like to work for a small business.
2. Set your reps up for success in your onboarding process.
Once you've hired the right person for your sales team, make sure you have an onboarding process that sets reps up for success. Although most top-performers have some innate ability, good sales reps are made, not born. Here are some tips for your onboarding process.
Have a clearly defined training program that all reps need to complete. Hiring a potentially good rep and throwing them to the wolves is a recipe for disaster. Make sure you have a documented training program with checkpoints to cover product training, sales technology training and your sales process. Make sure the Sales VP meets with the new employee at each checkpoint to make sure they have a good grasp of the material.
Assign a mentor to newly minted reps. The Sales VP will be the primary point of management contact for any new sales hire. You should also assign a more experienced senior rep to mentor the new rep. They often can bring a perspective to the onboarding process that the Sales VP can't. Don't make the classic mistake of assigning your top performer to mentor new reps. It may make sense, but the same traits that make them a good producer may not be ideally suited to mentoring.
Make sure to have an "open door" policy with your reps. As a sales leader, your primary responsibility is making sure each member of your team is productive. Spending plenty of time with the new rep and encouraging them to seek you out for help will go a long way towards establishing a relationship of trust that will work for everyone over the long run. Remember, their failure is your failure.
3. Have a well-integrated sales technology platform to support your reps.
It's a well established fact that the buying process has undergone a fundamental change due to technology (specifically the internet.) Buyers now research purchase decisions on the internet and social media networks long before they speak to a salesperson. A good sales technology platform will help your new sales reps succeed in the modern buying environment. Here are some tips on building a sales technology platform to support your sales team.
A good CRM is the centerpiece of your sales technology platform. You not only need a good CRM system, you need to train your salespeople to use it. It's an essential management tool for sales leaders; if your sales team doesn't use it, it's a waste of a good resource. Better yet, use tools that integrate with your CRM and automatically record activity. For example, the Ringio CRM-enabled calling platform records sales interactions without requiring the sales rep to enter data.
Integration with the CRM is the key to making sales technology work for you. The CRM is the repository of data for your customer and prospect relationships. A good CRM will integrate with your other sales technology tools like marketing automation, phone system, webinar platform, etc. That's why CRMs like Salesforce and Zoho CRM are so popular - they have integrations with a broad range of sales technology tools.
Sales technology needs to be part of your hiring and training processes. Since sales technology is so important to your sales process, you need to screen for candidate's experience with and comfort with using sales technology in your hiring process. Equally important is to train your new reps in how to effectively use sales technology during the onboarding process.
Having a team of well-trained and highly motivated salespeople will help you avoid the feast or famine results that come with relying on one or two high-performers. Having an optimized recruiting and onboarding process is equally as important as having a clearly defined sales process. Follow the tips shared in this article and you will avoid the fire-drill routine resulting from a surprising lack of sales results.