When your company is in pain from a lackadaisical sales team, how can you respond?
One company we worked with had a challenge, and a common one at that. Their sales team of six plus one sales manager had integrated a “coffee or tea” culture. What does that mean? Well, the most pressing question every day in the sales team’s mind was whether they were headed to the kitchen for more coffee, or more tea! That is to say, sales were not a priority.
The team had worked together for a number of years, and, as we evaluated the team – we always begin our process with a set of objective sales criteria – we quickly realized a traditional sales training program was unlikely to produce new results.
Every team is unique, just like every person on your sales team is unique. Though the set of tools held by successful sales reps is fairly consistent, the path to getting them there, or more importantly, the path in getting your team there is as unique as the individuals you have on your team.
In this case, when we evaluated the team there was little evidence that training and development would change the culture. In fact, the sales manager held many of the same ideas as the sales team. It was as though hiring was focused around the question of “coffee or tea” more than it was around working with accounts. The ideas around the business itself and the role of the sales team were simply too fixed. We needed a path to open up the sales team’s thinking about the role of selling in the business.
Sometimes a little competition can go a long way. The structure for selling was set within the sales department, but there were opportunities in the products or services as well. We decided that by repackaging and restructuring the mix, a new division could be born around a solutions focused and adaptive product line. We found a sales manager excited about the new approach and brought on three new sales people, screening them for attitudes and skills that signal likelihood of success, to work under the manager.
The difference was striking. Outbound contacts were 1000% higher in the first month than they had been in the existing sales team in many years. Sales to the new target audience took off as well, and we were able to provide concise data to the leadership on contacts, conversations, offers and contracts. Within the first three months the new leads list was exhausted and the new division needed an additional call list.
At that point it was reasonable to move the original client list to a “house” pool. Any sales rep that closed a sale would draw from the house list. Job descriptions and expectations were updated, and the existing sales team could sell the new product mix or their existing set of offers providing them broad latitude in terms of ways to realize success.
Whenever we are working with a company that has become staid and where a sales team has become complacent, we want to understand what that story looks like. To create a new story, one built around operational efficiency and adaptive, solutions-focused selling rather than order fulfillment and processing we have to understand the internal push and pull – the internal conflicts that are holding the team back. Sometimes it’s a comfort level with asking for a close. Other times it’s disagreement about the product mix, quality or service. Other times it’s a lack of understanding, and still others, it’s a lack of willingness to support the goals of the organization.
When leadership can see what the challenges are and what pathways are available to resolve the conflict, what we usually see is relief on the part of stressed executives. You can’t address what you can’t see or name. In many instances, employees feel an obligation to nod and smile before getting their next cup of coffee or tea, making it nearly impossible for an internal manager to diagnose the situation. The employee doesn’t want to be the bearer of bad news, so they smile and go with the flow. Whatever management throws at them, they adapt their responses, but the core challenges are still unaddressed.
What Sales Development Expert can do is to shine a light on those things hidden behind the dust bin, bringing them into the light where they can be addressed.
When the story began to shift from “it’s ok to wait for the phone to ring,” to “every sales member has a responsibility to meaningfully connect with customers and solve problems through win-win contract agreements,” we saw significant change. The new sales team of three had already outstripped performance from the sales team of six. The writing was on the wall. Coaching and development were in place, so no one was left behind. Some original sales members left for other jobs, others changed their process, and still others failed to meet new benchmarks and were replaced. Within a year, we saw a revitalization and fresh energy within the sales team that the business had never experienced, and the business was in a new place in terms of growth.
If you would like to start a conversation about your sales situation, give Sales Development Expert a call – 518-378-8456. We begin with a free sales team assessment – the same assessment we utilized with the business in this case. We work with you to develop a customized plan of action based on your unique circumstances, identifying and resolving conflicts to move you closer to your potential.