Posts Tagged ‘Barry Bonds’

I Love Sales Training…But Not Another 12 Step Program!!!

September 20, 2009

Living my life in the world of sales, I have been exposed to my share of sales training, so when I started Randolph Sterling, Inc. I wanted to make sure we always had a way where we could help salespeople become better leaders in their field and, overall, hopefully leave the profession stronger than when we entered it. As we began as only a sales management company (before expanding into inside and outside sales and sales peer advisory) many companies asked about our sales training and how many steps our program had.

How many steps? I don’t know, how large is your office from one side to the other? How much walking does the average rep do in their territory?

I was completely confused by this question because I never looked at sales training as a 12 step program. I have heard of 12 step programs, but my understanding (with all due respect to those who have worked so hard to enter and stay on their personal programs) was that they are more for trying to stop doing something rather than learning how to be more effective at doing something.

Sales training, in my humble opinion, is not something that is completed in a set number of steps, but an ongoing process of individual improvement within a team concept. (Note: for those of you new to my blog, this is the time where I remind you how often I compare sales to baseball, so here is the next comparison.)

I look at what we do less as training and more like coaching. Think of a baseball coach. How long do you think the hitting coach would be employed if he said, “OK, day one of spring training all of you are only going to hit the ball to the second baseman. I will spend “X” amount of time with all of you in a group and tell you exactly how to hit to the second baseman so by the end of that time, you should all be able to do it. Tomorrow, we will be trained in hitting home runs. I don’t care if you are 6’5”, 240 lbs or 5’6” and 140 lbs, I will teach you the technique so you can all break Barry Bonds’ home run record.”

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? It is easy to picture a baseball team and realize that you would not train each individual player exactly the same because you can tell just by looking at them that they have different strengths and weaknesses. However, in reviewing many of the sales training programs out on the market, there is an abundance of “one size fits all” programs. Why? Simply put, they are easier to sell. The person who signs off on this training wants to know exactly what they are getting.

When they look at:

  • Week 1—cold calling
  • Week 2—planning for the appointment
  • Week 3—overcoming objections
  • Week 4 and beyond…special topics,

they see that each week, their reps will be learning something. It doesn’t matter if some are already pretty proficient in that particular area or if others need more time on a particular concept, each week they are learning something. By comparison, our inside sales service (which includes a component of training and coaching) takes a different approach to the concept of sales training which was adapted from many different influences but mostly from reading about how the single most successful team in professional sports, the New York Yankees, “train” their players.

When a new player joins the Yankees via trade, free agency, or is drafted into their minor leagues, that person is given about 200 at bats, or roughly 1/3 of a season, to do things “their way.” It is only after this time that the coaches will make any significant changes to the approach that the player takes. The reason for this is so that the player, who conceivably has some decent skills or they wouldn’t be in the organization in the first place, can find their own comfort level and show what they do well and what they may need help on over a decent evaluation period. This also gives the coaches time to better understand the player, his strengths and weaknesses, so they can tailor the coaching they give to get the most out of this person. Yes, there are certain absolutes that come into play once you become a Yankee, much like the certain absolutes that will be in the employee manual of any growing company, but to get the best out of a player, they have found it is best to teach them what they need to be taught rather than what they want to teach them.

Our sales approach is quite similar. We first evaluate the company and hope that they are evaluating us. Are we a good fit for them? Are they the type of company that we will best work with? Then we will do exactly what the Yankees do…watch and learn so we can find the personalities, strengths and weaknesses of the individual reps within their sales system. Once we have understood that, we will tailor our approach to fit the individual and work with them so their time is spent on the areas they need to work on, not in a class going over information that they do not find valuable or buy into.

I hope that this doesn’t sound like I am anti-training. I am not. There are some great training programs out there that fit certain industries and teams. I recommend quite a few of them. But, overall I feel an individual approach is quite more valuable.

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Why Is Promoting a Top Salesperson to Sales Manager a Bad Idea? The Same Reason You Don’t See Barry Bonds Working as a Hitting Coach

August 23, 2009

We work with a lot of successful companies at Randolph Sterling, many of which grow very quickly. One particular company we worked with went from one small office with three sales reps, to four offices with 12 sales reps two years later, to eventually 8 offices with 28 sales reps. The president and vice president of this company had no problem managing one office plus their other duties in running the company. However, when they got up to four offices, it got more difficult as they seemed to be spending all of their time going up and down route 95 traveling between New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC to manage the respective sales teams. When they got to 8 offices, it was just too much for them so what did they do? They promoted the top salesperson in each office to a sales management position.

The plan was a complete failure. The managers, who continued to work their sales territory because the president didn’t want to lose that revenue, continued to grow but everyone else stagnated. Most of the #2 guys in the offices eventually left.

How could this happen? These guys are great reps, they should be able to help these other guys out to be better too, right? A great theory but rarely does it work in practice. The reason why is similar to the reason why many great baseball managers were not the top players of their era—the skills to be successful are different.

Look at long time St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. Never a great ballplayer, (a career .199 batting average over 10 years and 132 games played) but his ability to communicate with his players, to study their strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of the opposition in order to put his team in the best position to be successful, and to work with upper management to communicate what he needs to win championships, allowed him to become one of the winningest managers in major league history. Do you think a guy like Barry Bonds, arguably one of the best hitters in baseball history (we will save my opinion on his alleged steroid use for another time), honed his communication skills to allow him to hit so many home runs?  Guys like that usually have very little patience for the guy at the end of the bench who you may need to call on when a starter gets hurt. Their attitude often is “I could do it so why can’t he?”

The story is many times the same in the sales world. There are some very successful sales managers who have been tops in their company and others that the dual role of sales rep and sales manager very well, but these are rare occasions. When looking to hire a sales manager, think of the skills that you want in that person to be successful…does the top rep have those skills? Does he want the job (and the possibility that he will be making less money?) Is there someone else within the organization who may fit those skills better? Maybe it’s the solid, mid level rep who always takes the new guy out to show him the ropes to make him feel part of the team? Maybe you should outsource some of the sales management functions?

There are several options for this very uniquely skilled position. Take the time to find the right fit, not simply the right now fit.