In a study by well-known author and sales behavior expert, Professor Steve Martin, he found that 79% of Sales Executives from technology companies said this was a major concern. The purpose of this article is to review the three steps that are necessary to resolve this issue. And, if you follow them, your organization should anticipate that your sellers will cut the time it takes for them to make their initial sale in half or more.
Briefly, those three steps include:
- Establishing a sales methodology and then managing to it,
- Developing a knowledge library, and
- Post new-hire training support from the Sales Manager.
Lets start with a discussion about what a sales methodology is. I define it as a set of processes that are repeatable and that help a sales person say and do the right things from initial targeting all the way through the close. Repeatable is key because a seller, preferably with their manager, will be able to diagnose any shortcomings to achieve long-term metric-based performance improvement.
And why is sales methodology important? It is generally accepted that a maximum of about 15% of sales people are what we call sales eagles because, well, they literally soar above the rest. They’re natural and intuitive sellers. But without a methodology, 85% of new hire sales people fall prey to a very common set of problems that results in high turnover and/or an inability to achieve quota. But having a methodology puts individuals in a position to not only avoid those pitfalls, but transform themselves into eagles. That is the real objective of having a sales methodology. And by the way, the probability of success is greatly improved with the help of a proactive manager, but more on that when we discuss step 3.
The next step – and it’s a critical one that is far too often overlooked – is to build your knowledge library. So what’s a knowledge library? It’s an online database of information that gets captured, organized, and categorized into knowledge tools. That means having your experts – in both your solutions and on your buyers – work through a highly structured process to build these tools. The tools themselves are specific to your vertical markets, the buyers in those markets, the issues confronting those buyers, and the capabilities you provide to them. When building that library, for every step in your methodology you should have the appropriate knowledge tools developed for your sales people.
I liken our first two steps to this: A methodology unties one hand from behind our sellers’ backs. But then having the associated knowledge library unties their other hand. It really is that important.
And now lets review the third step., which I believe is the most important: Proactive management. I say this because without management support the time, effort, and money spent on methodology and knowledge library will rapidly slip away.
Here’s a short story to demonstrate the importance of proactive management. A while back I was in Amsterdam. I met with a client’s Managing Director of Sales for EMEA. When I asked him how a group of his sales people, who had been trained two months before, were performing he said that people had virtually stopped using the processes that had held so much promise. He went on to explain that when the pressures of year-end hit – in his words – “my sales people reverted to Neanderthal selling.” But the real cause of the problem was that when he and his management team felt the year-end pressure, it was they who stopped managing proactively. That is what resulted in his team ‘reverting”.
So part 3, having a sales manager-driven on-boarding process, is the most important step or ingredient in this recipe. Lets now review that process managers should follow:
- The first step, directly after normal onboarding training in both your methodology and knowledge library, is to review the subtleties of the key vertical your “newbie” will be selling into. Your expertise is invaluable here.
- The next step is to do pre-call planning with your new seller. You should make sure that they build an appropriate call introduction to make sure that the buyer will conclude that your new seller is both sincere and competent. Next, review the solution development tools the seller should use, based on that vertical and the buyer’s title or function. You should also review the qualification script from your methodology so that the seller comes out of the call with the appropriate next step agreed to with the buyer.
- Then you should pull it all together and do two role-plays. I suggest that you play the role of the seller for the first role-play, and then reverse roles the second time through.
- After the seller completes the actual sales call, it is imperative for you to conduct a post call assessment. Your objective is to identify which steps the seller may not have executed well so that you can make sure they study it. Then you should role-play that particular step.
- Finally, any eagle sales person sends a post-call follow-up email to their buyer. Have the seller write a draft, which you should then review before the email goes out with your logo on it.
If you follow this plan you should be able to cut in half the time required for your new sellers to make their first sales!