In our last blog we discussed tips for selecting great sales people. Now we focus on development. For those who didn’t see our last blog, deliberatepractice recently conducted a qualitative survey on sales behaviours in the Printing Industry.
We asked a group of managing directors and general managers from 18 companies the following:
Thinking about your top sales people, what are the skills and behaviours that make good sales people?
- What skills and behaviours lead to higher sales performance
- What skills and behaviours lead to lower sales performance?
- What would you like your people to do more of?
- What would you like your people to do less of?
The results were remarkably consistent with several main themes emerging as selecting and developing individuals who:
- are willing to prospect for business – cold calling, ask for referrals, close the sale, are comfortable being seen as sales people.
- have high attention to detail & follow up.
- are comfortable developing relationships.
- can demonstrate the ability to listen & ask questions.
- are excellent problem solvers.
- can communicate clearly & present with impact.
- think about the business & wider implications.
When we presented this information at the Printing Industry Conference of course delegates wanted to know how to develop these kinds of issues.
In doing so, we pointed out that there are 3 critical questions to ask first:
- Do they have the motivation?
- Do they have individual goals? Are these goals supported and compatible with the organisation’s goals?
- What do you want to specifically develop?
deliberatepractice believes that development initiatives need to be tailored to the individual. Instead of sweeping the sales organisation randomly with sales training we strongly recommend first taking the time to consider whether they have the motivation and objectively diagnose the issues.
Failing to consider these factors upfront can cost you several thousands of dollars in wasted training and also time where your sales people could be prospecting, problem solving or developing new relationships. Moreover poorly targeted or inappropriate training could actually do more harm than good.
Trying to train unmotivated people on sales or product knowledge is not going to fix the issues. Motivational issues need to be dealt with first such as:
- what are their career goals?
- are they comfortable being seen as a sales person?
- what is stopping them from asking for referrals?
- why do they feel they need to over prepare for sales meetings and how is this over preparation stopping them from selling?
Equally, product knowledge or training someone how to sell can be toxic if a sales person has too many goals, too many other hats that distract them from selling. It just gives them another thing to take them away from prospecting. In this kind of situation, the organisation and individual has a responsibility to remove tasks and responsibilities that take the person away from selling. From our survey, for example, respondents considered too many of their sales people were overly involved in the production process that this was distracting them from selling.
Development Tips to Try – Target Your Training
Some tips on developing sales people include:
- Understand behaviours – what is stopping people from selling? Is it a fear of being seen as a sales person? A fear of asking for referrals? Too many goals? Discomfort being seen as a sales person? Not being motivated to sell in the first place?
- Use sales & behavioural questionnaires to objectively diagnose blockers from selling in order to focus development initiatives.
- Use sales simulations for real sales development experiences.
- Implement sales coaching for teams or individuals.
- Prepare development plans and provide ongoing, regular feedback to support continuous development.
- Consider self development resources – what are you reading, watching?
And finally a question for sales directors and managers– are you setting a good example and role modeling the sales behaviours you aspire for your sales people?