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How to Hold Your Salespeople Accountable – Part 1 of 6 on Sales Management

January 3rd, 2021

What is the number 1 challenge faced by sales management? Achieving sales targets…Handling difficult clients…Geographical distance…Managing personality diversity…Motivating salespeople or Keeping clients happy?

Based on the feedback we have received for over the last 10 years the greatest challenge for sales management is how to achieve consistent sales performance from their salespeople.

By the very nature of sales it’s a tough job yet there are salespeople, who quite frankly would be better suited in another role but they are still in sales. The question is why? To amplify the point a research paper written by Julian Griffith, ‘Taking the Lid off your Sales Organisation’ concluded that 74% of salespeople are underperformers, 20% are strong performers and only 6% are in the elite category.

With such a high percentage of underperformers the problem rests squarely with sales management. Quoting from the same paper:
• 18% of sales managers should not be in sales management
• 34% of sales managers are not trainable
• 7% of sales managers are considered elite performers

As a manager responsible for sales, let’s face it salespeople are not the easiest group of people to manage. They don’t like to be held accountable particularly the underperformers who cause most of the headaches and consume most of their sales manager’s time.

In successful sales organizations sales management do hold their salespeople accountable and have the respect of their salespeople. In this environment salespeople will go the extra mile to achieve and surpass their sales targets. They set a standard that others in the salesforce want to follow. The push for higher sales performance comes from peer pressure and not so much from sales management.

Where to begin?
Create buy-in with your salespeople and openly discuss and encourage interaction by using the following sales accountability tools:

1) The measures and performance they will be accountable for

Begin by asking yourself, what is this salesperson capable of achieving and is there anything preventing them from achieving it? When discussing measures and performance let your salesperson know the reason for the sales or other targets by linking them back to the business goals. This will help them to understand why.

Talk about financial incentives and or sales awards on offer and your accountability to them. Your accountability could be the minimum days you will commit to working with them in their sales territory. When they know you are accountable to them as they are to you it demonstrates that accountability works both ways. This often has a motivating effect on salespeople.

Measures and performance need to be clearly defined so there are no uncertainties. Whilst measures should be realistic and achievable there needs to be a stretch factor to make it challenging for the salesperson. Measures can be daily, weekly or monthly units.

Example:
- Number of daily sales calls made to existing clients
- Number of daily sales calls made to prospective clients
- Number of on time reports handed in per month
- Percentage profit margin per product

2) Taking personal responsibility

If a sales manager doesn’t take personal responsibility for his or her actions and uses excuses for non performance then how can they expect their salespeople to behave any differently? The leadership you demonstrate and the environment you create can inspire your salespeople to want to follow you.

This can include:
- What you say is what you do
- You don’t use excuses but find other ways to get results
- You don’t accept excuses from your salespeople
- You demonstrate your commitment to your salespeople’s success
- You expect nothing less than the best from your salespeople
- You set the tone and pace of sales performance

If you have a salesperson who doesn’t take responsibility then you may need to mentor them. Focus on their behaviour and the problems it is causing and not on the person. They need to be held accountable for their actions which can include low prospecting activity, not meeting sales targets and low margin sales.
Only when your salespeople fully appreciate that by taking total responsibility for their thoughts, feelings, behaviour and sales results can they experience great success. This is a proactive approach to accountability.

3) A results mindset

There are basically two occupation mindsets:
3.1) Task orientated which leads to much activity but often doesn’t provide productivity gains
3.2)The results mindset that focuses on daily activities that are aligned with the sales target

If you have a salesperson that is task orientated begin by showing them how this behaviour leads to poor sales outcomes and is typically revealed by a low sales call to order ratio. You will need to spend time coaching them because there will be sales skills issues that you need to address, for example not qualifying prospective clients.

It may be tempting to become emotionally involved when holding your salesperson accountable but you need to remain focused or you will lose control of the situation. You are the sales manager so do what needs to be done even if it feels somewhat uncomfortable initially. The bottom line is that you are responsible for sales.

Kurt Newman is the co-founder of Sales Consultants Pty Ltd a firm that works with companies to increase sales and reduce the cost of selling. http://www.salesconsultants.com.au

Kurt’s expertise is in sales strategy, sales management development;

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Sales Management Part 3 – Mentoring Salespeople

January 3rd, 2021

Salespeople are most often associated with being coached to improve their selling competence but mentoring is seldom discussed or implemented for them. The question is why not? Is it because we have been conditioned to believe that mentoring is only for up and coming young executives or for those in non-selling roles?

So what is mentoring and its value to a business, a salesperson and a sales manager to become a mentor?

Mentoring is the term used to describe a relationship between an older and more experienced individual who is known as a mentor. Their role is to support and guide a less experienced individual, the protg.

A mentor fosters the personal and professional growth in their protg by sharing knowledge, skills, experience and insights that have been learnt over many years. A mentor’s background can vary greatly from the same profession and same position as their protg’s through to a completely different industry.

Mentoring creates an exceptional opportunity for cooperation, goal achievement and personal development. An effective sales manager mentor can establish rapport, respect and trust between them and the salesperson

Mentoring a salesperson can provide:

• Purposeful learning

When the sales manager also becomes the mentor their role is to encourage and advance the growth of the salesperson though planned learning. This includes their sharing learning experiences as and when the experiences relate to the salesperson’s need to learn. The experiences are communicated through anecdotes, scenarios and situational examples.

Both successes and failures are discussed in an open and truthful manner. These insights are often memorable for the salesperson and provide valuable learning

• Cooperative responsibility

This means sharing the responsibility for the learning outcomes. This can be formalized in a written agreement between the salesperson and the sales manager and designed to achieve the business’ specific mentoring objectives. The other type of mentoring is informal in that it operates by chance and for the most part is unrecognized by the business. Whatever method is used the salesperson’s growth is the focus

• Allocating time

Effective mentoring requires regular interaction between the sales manager and the salesperson and is not done intermittently. A schedule needs to be developed with dates, activities, planned experiences, demonstrations, case studies, and time set aside for reflective analyses. This adds motivation and direction for both parties.

For the business mentoring a salesperson can:

• Cultivate loyalty

• Boost morale and motivation

• Strengthen shared values and goals

• Uncover Talent

• Improve productivity

• Set new standards of professionalism

• Increase the years of service to a business

• Be an effective career management tool

• Enhance leadership skills of the sales manager

• Identify any barriers in the business

• Attract quality salespeople from other companies

For the salesperson mentoring can:

• Fast track their development

• Complement other structured learning or training

• Be tailored to suit the salesperson’s needs in terms of content and time frame

• Create an open and trusting relationship that provides encouragement and support

• Develop and explore their natural talents

• Expand current thinking and embrace new perspectives

• Reinvigorate their selling career

• Challenge the salesperson with new skills and ideas

For the sales manager mentoring can:

• Be the vehicle to share knowledge and expertise

• Develop skills in a more personal manner

• Build active listening, communication and modeling skills

• Develop a trusting and unique relationship with the salesperson

• Expand their understanding on what else is happening in other parts of the business

• Uplift their level of self-worth

• Receive professional recognition for their role

• Expand their expectations of self

Qualities of an effective mentor

Not every sales manager has the attributes to become a mentor. This can be because of their background or their lack of interest in this type of work. A senior salesperson with the right attitude and skill set may be better suited for the role? Often the driving force is a need to give back to others who will benefit from their experiences.

The following qualities however are common in all effective sales manager mentors:

• A successful track record

The sales manager may come from a different industry or profession but their level of expertise and experience is evidence of an individual who has ‘been there and done that.’ They can have a good reputation for developing others and possess a humble approach to their abilities. They have much to offer others

• The desire and commitment

The desire to be a mentor is a yearning from within that propels them into action and is underpinned by a feeling of excitement and the thought of the doing something extraordinary. The commitment is the sales manager’s pledge to continue working with the salesperson on the mutually agreed plan

• The ability to model

With this carries much responsibility because the sales manager needs to be an individual with a good moral reputation and is respected and admired by others. This is the reason why their behaviour is often copied by the salespeople. The mentor remains calm when the salesperson expresses frustration or anger. They show that they genuinely care about the success of the salesperson as much as the salesperson does.

• A positive attitude

Often a sales manager was the past recipient of formal or informal mentoring so they know what it feels like and the benefits of being mentored. One of the many things they learnt as a salesperson was the importance of being positive particularly when things don’t go according to plan. These are the times when they need their sales manager to give them encouragement with a positive attitude

• An active learner

Sales managers keep up to date with current technology, the latest in business and personal development, knowledge and skills in their field of expertise. They research and discuss areas the salesperson may need to further their development

• Time and boundaries

An agenda and the required time is allocated for each session. It is usually a mixture of meetings in and out of normal business hours. Additional time is needed for the sales manager to prepare for each session and complete post meeting notes of the outcome. The boundaries of the relationship are discussed so both parties know the limitation of their engagement. For example marriage difficulties won’t be discussed

• Compatible

Not every sales manager and salesperson relationship is compatible for a number of reasons including a lack of openness on the part of one party and if one isn’t ‘sold’ on the other. What works is:

- When both the sales manager and salesperson have similar goals

- They genuinely like and believe in each other

- They have an open and honest relationship

- When expectations such as what can and cannot be realistically achieved are discussed up front.

Conclusion

Mentoring isn’t for everyone. It may not be in your natural make up to be a mentor in which case actively look for someone who would be. It can be hard work and require your time and commitment