Posts Tagged ‘Sales Training’

Can’t Invest in Sales Rep Development? How Can You Afford not To?

June 2, 2010

I went to visit a prospect last week who started out his conversation with me by saying, “I’m not really sure why you are here, we have a sales manager and our reps are supposed to be doing their own phone calls. What can you do for us?”

“Good question,” I replied, trying obviously to sound as intelligent as I could while wondering if this was going to be the shortest meeting on record. “Well let me ask you this, why did you agree to meet?”

“I feel like our guys are doing well, but they don’t seem to be progressing, and I thought maybe you could help with that.” OK, now we are off to the races.

“What do you do to invest in their continued development?” Now I’m starting to think there is a chance that this meeting will last past the two minute mark.

“We’ve done training courses, brought in motivational speakers, even set up sales contests, but none of that stuff has brought anything new to the table. Maybe our guys are just good for a period of time then we’ve gotten all we can out of them.”

“How often do you meet with them?” I responded, hoping I could find a way to help.

“We meet as a group once a week to discuss what is working well and what isn’t. I usually hear about these great opportunities that are on the horizon, but very rarely do they talk about anything getting in their way. They seem to have all of the tools needed to succeed. I mean, they are not doing poorly, but they seem to be pretty comfortable with where they are.”

Before making any recommendations or even telling him more about what we do, I asked him if he would allow me to interview one or two of his guys and then meet with him again to see if there is a way to help. He agreed.

What I found was that he was right. They had done several training courses and motivational speakers, which got their guys excited for change for about 10 minutes. They also did have a weekly meeting which, for the most part, nobody ever opened up in because they didn’t want the other reps to think they were having problems, and they certainly did not want the manager knowing they were struggling, especially when the numbers showed they were just fine.

This is a problem we saw way too often…salespeople who need additional help but don’t want to go to their colleagues or manager for fear of looking badly. We recommended that he take two of his guys…the top guy and the bottom guy, and put them in our SAM peer advisory groups for three months. SAM groups are designed specifically to have sales and marketing professionals develop their sales skills outside of the regular work environment. It allows them to work with other, non competing sales professionals and learn from each other’s experience, holding each other accountable for goals (real goals, not the “make my manager happy” goals that many had been setting) and helping each other out.

After the first meeting of each of his reps (the top rep was in an Executive SAM Group while the “bottom rep” was in a regular SAM Group) even before I had a minute to call him, I received a call from the sales manager. “These guys loved it,” he exclaimed. “Now let’s see if it makes any changes. Call me in two weeks and we will see.”

I called him back in two weeks to find that both had made tremendous gains in attitude, which was turning into more dollars in everyone’s pockets.

“What the heck do you guys talk about in these meetings? We’ve got to bring you into our weekly meeting to share it with everyone else!”

I explained to him that first of all, every meeting, like every salesperson, is unique and that SAM meetings contained no “special sauce.” People get out of it what they put into it. I next explained that while I would love to be a part of their weekly meeting, I didn’t think that was the best course of action and, in fact, suggested he scrap the weekly meeting entirely. “It is a waste of everyone’s time. Nothing new gets discussed and they don’t want you or the guys they are working with to know they have problems, especially when the problems are internal.”

I suggested that we put each of his guys in a different SAM group, reinvesting the time and money he had spent on weekly meetings and motivational speakers into something where his people were learning, growing and most importantly, knew that the company really did care about their growth and not just about how much money they were going to make for them.

Interested in seeing if you qualify to join a SAM group in your area? Contact us at info@randolphsterling.com for a schedule and application.

Advertisements

Closing the Deal on the Go: What to Do When Your Salespeople Are Dealing with Difficult Clients: Showing Support in Difficult Times

January 20, 2010

The other day I posted an article about what to do when you deal with difficult clients. Today I thought I would write about what to do when your salespeople encounter such clients.

Salespeople can find dealing with difficult customers draining, especially if they do not feel they have the support of their management. Therefore be on their side when they are right, and be there to listen. Help them more effectively deal with difficult customers with role-playing exercises. Tell them when a customer goes over their heads to you. And let them know you will speak with them about any action you take when intervening in one of their accounts. If you do not do this, you risk damaging your relationships with both your salesperson and their client.

Also, resist taking the easy way out when a salesperson’s difficult client comes to you, even if placating them seems like it would be the best short term solution, because ultimately your people must live with the consequences of you decision, plus, that difficult customer may soon becomes your consistent problem.

This post is based on material originally published in Closing the Deal.

For more information on Closing the Deal, check it out on Amazon.

(Burghgraef, Richard. Closing the Deal: Hot Sales Strategies that Make Money. Encouragement Press. Illinois: Chicago. 2007)

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.