When providing sales training to our clients in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto, we’re constantly asked for our opinion on the development of Salespeople. Sales Managers know the benefits of having a highly skilled team in great sales performance and minimizing client and employee attrition. Developing Salespeople is no easy task given the nature and personality of each individual. What works well for one person may not have the same impact on another. Here’s a 3-step process that is working well for our partners.
These 3 steps are sequential and should be followed in order to provide the framework for success. Skipping steps or not investing the time and attention required in each will not payoff for the Salesperson or Sales Manager and will hinder the ability to exceed sales targets. I’m interested in hearing your comments based on your personal sales experience at the end of this blog.
Developing Salespeople – Step 1: Nurture
This step is foundation of sales development. Avoiding it means Steps 2 and 3 will having nothing to stand on. The ability to nurture talent is a prerequisite in any performance-based role: sales, sports, music. If you want to develop talent to its highest potential, you must provide a fertile environment for growth to occur. Here’s what that means in sales:
- Provide Salespeople with an understanding of the team’s sales beliefs and best practices for success. Here are some great examples – consultative selling, representing the client’s best interests and providing a high level of service. Ask your Sales Team to participate in creating best practices that are the action steps of your beliefs. What does consultative selling mean to them? Asking great questions to determine client needs, active listening skills and creative problem solving are all tangible activities that provide clarity to your beliefs. Responding to web inquiries within an hour is a great practice that makes a statement to potential buyers and Salespeople.
- Create an environment where Salespeople can learn and grow their skill set. Continual self-improvement is always an attribute of top-performing Salespeople. It’s the sign of a professional who makes the commitment to his of her development. Pick a great sales book once per quarter and tell your team that you expect everyone to read it. Give each them an assignment to be openly discussed in a future sales meeting. Share great videos and blog articles to further enhance their development. We always encourage Sales Managers to print our posts and share them with the team. That’s free sales training so why not take advantage of it?
- Invest personally in the development of Salespeople. Schedule regular individual meetings to talk about their clients and what could be done to increase their sales volume. Go in the field with your Salespeople to visit clients and work together to establish strong relationships before problems occur. There is no better training than two-person sales calls. Watch the face of the surprised buyer who learns that you came out on a call to simply thank them for their business. As a Sales Manager, I told Salespeople that I was willing to match their efforts in developing their career. They felt that I personally wanted to contribute to their success. I also told them if they invested little to nothing, I would follow suit. After all, why hire Salespeople who don’t want to get better at what they do and then wonder why they don’t meet sales targets?
Do you have any other suggestions for nurturing the development of Salespeople?
Developing Salespeople – Step 2: Nudge
Most Salespeople respond well to the concept of nurturing their professional development. However, occasionally you may have to move to Step #2 with many good or even great Salespeople. We all have strengths and areas for growth. For example, you may have to nudge Salespeople into developing specific areas to coach them to success.
- Ask each Salesperson to privately assess themselves in all the necessary areas of sales success while you do the same. Sit down together to discuss your mutual ratings. This is a great exercise for open discussion on the areas with differing ratings. Don’t be surprised if a Salesperson gives themselves a poor or average rating in an area that you feel they are strong. This tells you a lot about the person you’re coaching.
- Create a plan with your Salespeople to work on areas like prospecting, new business development, growing current accounts into champions, negotiating, collecting on receivables (if applicable) and when to consider firing clients.
Nudging Salespeople who might procrastinate is what a great leader does. However, imagine skipping Step 1 – Nurturing. What perception will the Salesperson most likely have? When nudging, talk about the reasons why and be 100% focused on the development of the Salesperson, not the company. Ask him or her to explain what their success might look like if they became more proficient in their areas for growth. What are the personal and career benefits to improvement in these areas? This is no different from what you expect your Salespeople to do with their clients. Sell the benefits and remove the pain to experience the reward.
Your ability to start with Step 1 – Nurture and then move to Step 2 – Nudge will give you credibility with your Salespeople because of the investment you’ve personally made in their success. You’re acting like a leader and partner, not just a boss. Managers manage Salespeople. Leaders teach Salespeople to manage themselves.
Developing Salespeople – Step 3: Kick
Yes, kick, metaphorically speaking. There are Salespeople who will require a good kick to go in the right direction. If nudging isn’t working and the development of the individual becomes an issue for everyone involved, you must do what is necessary. Be tactful, diplomatic and direct. Tell the Salesperson what is required for success and review everything that you’ve done together to get to this point. Be sincere and honest with them to ensure they understand what you’re communicating.
Ensure he or she understands that you want them to succeed and are here for them. At this point, they must dig deep down and decide if they wish to make the commitment required or not. There’s nothing you can do as a Manager to replace the lack of investment in personal sweat equity on their part.
I must admit this was my area of growth in my first few years as a Sales Manager. While I believed in nurturing and nudging, kicking did not come natural to me. I thought I could turn anyone into a great Salesperson and if I tried hard enough, they would succeed. First and foremost individuals need to be responsible for their own development. Be there as a Sales Manager for those performers and watch their growth catapult.
A mentor taught me a valuable sales management lesson in this regard. It seemed that I would always wait to virtually the last day of a new Salesperson’s probationary period to let them go when required. He made me aware of this one day and asked why. I simply said because I was hoping that he or she would suddenly turn the corner and have great activity levels and results. He asked me if anything had changed in the last 30 or 60 days since I started to suspect that we needed to part ways.
The was so obvious that it hit me right in the face. Nothing was different. I was delaying the inevitable and causing more stress to both the Salesperson and myself. I then learned that I was helping a non-performing Salesperson by letting them go because everyone deserves to be successful at something. As tough as it was, I was being a leader in their personal development by forcing him or her to look for a new position.
It should be very clear why these 3 Steps need to be followed in succession. Skipping one or not investing time and effort in any one of them can easily result in unrealized expectations for both the Salesperson and Sales Manager.
I can honestly say I’ve never met a Sales Manager who naturally excelled at all 3 of them. Some steps come more easily than others. The key is to acknowledge the areas for growth required and take steps to be strong in each one.
The success of your Salespeople depends on it.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. If you liked this article, feel free to share it on your favorite social media platform. If you’re a Sales Manager looking for management training, please contact us for a discussion on exclusive training.
Are you a salesperson who believes in continuous self-improvement? Check out our book SHUT UP! Stop Talking and Start Making Money available on Kindle and paperback on Amazon or our online sales training program The Sales Skills Incubator. Take the free trial on Chapter 1 – The Stigma of Sales.
Dave Warawa – PROSALESGUY