Guest Post: Sales Teams Have More to Worry About Than Just Losing Clients

If you conduct searches on Google and look at popular sales blogs, you will find plenty of articles about what it takes to locate the perfect sales representatives. You will also find information about how to write the best job description for a sales position and how to boost customer retention. Why is it easy to see all this stuff?

You could go to the  HubSpot Sales Blog and find articles about finding and hiring the best Sales Development Rep (SDR). There are two specific blog posts which perform better than any others on there. The titles are “10 Common Sales Job Interview Questions” and “40 Sales Interview Questions to Recruit the Best Reps.” If you were to check the analytics of these posts, you would see they have organic views in the thousands per month. Organic views are people who find the posts through search engine searches.

Companies worry so much about interviewing to find the best sales representatives. Maybe this is not such a good thing to do. It might be wiser for them to spend more money and time on improving the performance of the sales representatives they currently have. Losing clients may not be as bad as losing fellow teammates and sales representatives of the company.

According to a Bridge Group report from 2018, the average sales representative will have a tenure of 1 ½ years. This is not that great because the average sales development representative will need 3.2 months to achieve maximum productivity. How to reach the highest level of productivity – you definitely should have a look at our tips.

In the year 2010, a survey was conducted on the average tenure for sales representatives, and it revealed that 44% of them had a 3-year tenure. In 2018, only 8% of sales representatives reportedly have this much tenure.

What Makes Sales Representatives Want to Leave?

The main reason they are leaving is that they have very little job satisfaction. According to a study in which Marc Wayshak conducted this year, merely 17.6% of the people surveyed had indicated they have “outstanding” job satisfaction. Another 47.1% of the respondents said they have “good” job satisfaction. The study also revealed that salespeople like their jobs more when they can devote more of their time to activities related to sales. The sales representatives who got to spend 4 hours or more on sales-related activities per day were more satisfied with their jobs than sales representatives who spend only 3 hours or less. The former gave their job satisfaction a 3.8 / 5 rating.

Big Expectations for Management and Culture 

Going further into this study, we found out that salespeople care a lot about the effectiveness of management and organizational culture. Sales representatives indicated these things are more important than job flexibility, commission, compensation, and job role.

There are still sales stereotypes in companies. Sales representatives already realize that people don’t like them. In the study by Wayshak, we saw that salespeople used the following words to describe how customers perceive them:

Greedy

Annoying

Untrustworthy

Pushy

The average salesperson’s tenure does not last if it takes to get a decent promotion. This is probably a big reason that sales representatives don’t stay very long.  Sales representatives will have an 18-month tenure on average. As a sales development representative, they will spend about 13 to 18 months before getting a promotion to an account executive position. Most sales representatives are too impatient to wait this long for a promotion. They will leave the company before their bosses consider them for it.

How Can Sales Managers Retain More Sales? The quick answer is to hire additional sales representatives who have a lot of experience.

In a report from Bridge Group, it revealed that hiring sales representatives with additional experience increased their average tenure. It also increased the amount of time they maintained full productivity on the job. Don’t make the mistake of hiring some new business development representative who just graduated from college because they will work for less money. It is smarter to invest more money in hiring an experienced sales representative. That way, they will know how to make you money faster without needing any on the job training.

Train Your Reps on Organizational Management and Culture

When Wayshak did his study, he discovered that sales representatives find the most value in having great managers to work with and a great organizational culture. Meanwhile, he saw that sales representatives were not concerned so much about compensation. Therefore, salespeople need to be trained in a way that makes them support the culture of the company and the sales team.

According to a CSO Insights survey, a sales leader will devote 20% of their day to assisting their sales team with closings. This is a no-win scenario because the sales representatives don’t feel like their careers will develop this way. The deals may not even work out either.

Promotion Communication

Your sales representatives must be regularly informed about their work performance and chances for promotion. The millennial generation makes up the current sales representatives out there right now. According to a survey by Deloitte, 25% of millennial sales representatives want to quit their current sales position within 12 months. Another 44% indicated they want to quit within 24 months.

You need to try to retain your sales representatives. Always let them know how they’re doing so they don’t wonder about it. Talk to them in person and give them feedback on a regular basis. If they know you’re considering them for a promotion, they will want to stay.

Managing the Performance of Sales Reps

According to a sales executive named Norman Behar, sales performance management is more important than leadership and sales coaching skills.

Most companies assume that their managers can manage sales performance effectively. This is not a good thing for them to do, though.

People may perform well as sales representatives, but that doesn’t mean they will perform well as sales managers. It takes an extraordinary ability to motivate sales teams to generate more sales and revenue.

Companies spend too much time worrying about sales results instead of sales behaviors. It takes certain behaviors to make the results happen. In the survey by Wayshak, 81.6% of the best-earning sales representatives spent 4 hours or more doing activities related to sales. These activities included sales meetings, prospecting, follow-ups, and referrals. These are all behaviors, not results.

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are what drive this issue today. The systems conduct measurements in real-time, and the results get reported afterward. Majority of salespeople prefer a transformative way of using CRMs – automation tool, sales bots which regularly allow getting reports about sales deals closed, show which deals are the most promising and update any necessary information easily due to chat interface.

Closer bot can become a great assistant for you, so you can leave all routine work for it and focus on the most important – on closing deals.

It can be helpful to watch this data as it comes in. However, the information is based on things that have already happened. It doesn’t measure underlying behaviors which affect future outcomes.

Behavior Management

Sales representatives typically set goals for how many pitches to make in a given period. You should not track this behavior, though. The survey by Wayshak showed that a mere 7% of the best-performing sales representatives indicated they pitch often. Meanwhile, 19% of other lower performers reported they often pitch too. Therefore, pitching is not a behavior that will determine your level of success.

Sales organizations need to consider the primary objectives they should watch for and which behaviors will help achieve them. Just remember to monitor results while managing and monitoring behaviors. After all, the results are the lagging indicators, and the behaviors are the leading indicators.

To help you understand what makes behaviors and results differ from one another, consider the following example:

If the result that your company wants to achieve is “acquiring new customers,” then your key behaviors will be:

– Establishing meetings for the first time with potential customers.

– Providing the sales pipeline with more opportunities.

– Planning out the territory and making a thorough list of potential customers (for example Closer bot shows on who to focus, what the most promising deals are).

– Making plans for accounts which outline the primary influencers and decision makers.

Make sure you place limitations on the number of primary results that you wish to watch. If there are a lot of outcomes that you want to happen, that will cause many more behaviors. Let’s see an example of this. Suppose a sales company wants to watch 15 results. If each one of these results is connected to 4 behaviors, then sales managers must manage and monitor as many as 60 responses. This could never be maintainable.

If you want to be practical about this, direct your attention to 2 or 3 of the results that are most crucial. From there, you can manage the 8 or 12 behaviors that correspond with these results and drive them forward.

The 4 Ways to Practice Performance Management

After you have achieved the results you wanted and identified the behaviors which correspond with them, sales managers should focus on performance management.

Here are the four steps they need to do this:

1) Tell the salespeople what the expectations of their performance are.

2) All specific behaviors should be managed and monitored.

3) The results need to be monitored.

4) Standard feedback should be given.

Regarding the new customer acquisition example, the sales manager is now able to tell their salespeople how many customers they are expected to obtain, and which behaviors will allow them to achieve these results. And, of course, they will be told the timeframe in which they are supposed to do this.

Sales managers need to give feedback to their salespeople on a regular basis. The input should encourage the salespeople based on the key behaviors they have attained and/or the gaps which exist in their performance. For instance, a fundamental behavior could be something like setting 20 appointments for the first time in one week. Differences in performance might be failing to provide account plans to the sales manager.

In the end, sales managers still care about results. They need to realize that behavior management is how those results will be achieved. If you can tell the difference between results and behavior, then it will be easier for your sales team to succeed at keeping sales representatives happy.

Author: Vlad Goloshuk is a serial entrepreneur with a focus on B2B sales tech. He is the founder of Closer.bot (a slack bot designed to minimize sales reps time on CRM updates) and also a CEO at Brightestminds.io (a B2B lead generation agency).

Should you follow the Money or the Manager?

Anyone who is interested in the Watergate scandal remembers the famous phase from the drama-documentary “All the President’s Men”. It’s that moment when Deep Throat advises Bob Woodward (played by Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (played by Dustin Hoffman) to “follow the money.”

But does that same advice apply to sales?

Follow the moneyWe all seen them – the employment ads promising 6 figure incomes, or uncapped commissions. We see dollar signs and decide to apply to those positions. Sometimes the job postings are accurate and sometimes they are dishonest.

But should you always follow the money?

Here is the dirty little secret in sales – compensation plans change all the time. Yes, technically speaking, compensation plans should usually change about once a year, when managers adjust quotas or commission percentages. But in the real world, that’s not always the case.

I’ve known situations where compensation plans change once a quarter, or even once a month. Like it or not, the manager (or most likely the owner) is controlling the purse strings. If he feels the salespeople are earning too much money, he will “adjust” the compensation package to ensure that you’re not earning too much money. I know one owner who feels that it’s important to keep salespeople “hungry” so that they don’t become too complacent.

Why? Because hiring and retaining employees – even salespeople – can be expensive. Owners must consider an array of expenses, including rent, leases, office supplies, utilities, etc.

So what should you do? Should you follow the money?

Or, should you instead follow the manager?

You see, here’s another dirty little secret in sales – good sales managers are hard to find.

And if you find a good sales manager, chances are, you will also find a fair compensation and benefits package, an equitable distribution of leads and prospects, and valuable coaching and advice.

Where do you find these good sales managers?

Word of mouth.

Networking

And sites with employer reviews like Glassdoor and Indeed.

So next time you go the job hunting, ignore the dollar signs. Instead, find a good sales manager. Because when you find a good sales manager, and you prove your worth to the company and sales team, trust me, the money will follow.

Because here’s my final dirty little secret in sales – good salespeople are hard to find.

Note: If you like this post, please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career

 

What to look for in Your New Sales Job

new sales employee

OK, you got hired. You are now working for a new company in a sales position. Maybe it’s your first sales job, or your third one. Regardless of how many sales jobs you have had or how long you have been working in sales, what should you look for when you start out in a new sales position? During your first couple of weeks, you should begin to figure out if you made the right decision, or if you should start sending out your resume again.

1). A Clear Agenda –

Has your sales manager presented you with a written clear agenda for the next couple of weeks? The plan should include what you should learn, e.g., a new CRM, product lines, company policies, and procedures? Has he mapped out specific days or times for you in the agenda? Or, is your sales manager working off the seat of his pants and just winging it? If the answer is the latter, then you may have a problem. Try to request something in writing so that you have a good understanding of your job, especially your goals for the next couple of weeks – if not longer.

2). Your Co-workers –

Are your colleagues friendly or are some giving you the evil eye? Are they treating you as a fellow professional, or are they bringing out the long knives to stab you in the back? Don’t just listen to what they say – watch the body language. Are they giving you eye contact or avoiding you when you speak? Are they giving you the cold shoulder? Are they quickly answering your questions before they jump on the phone?

3). Compensation Package –

While you may have been given the broad strokes during your interview about what your total compensation will be, or expected to be, now that you are hired, do you have a written compensation package? If it’s down in writing, is it easy to understand or do you need to be a mathematician to figure it out? If you have trouble understanding your compensation package, speak up early or you may regret it later when you are not being paid as much as you thought.office space

4). Office Space –

Are you working in an area that allows you to sell, or are always being interrupted and distracted? While open offices or spaces appear to be the prevailing norm these days, you still need to concentrate and adequately function to hit your numbers. (Please see my post on Open Space Offices – Good or Bad Idea?)

 5). Support –

Are you getting support from your co-workers and administrative staff? Or is everyone giving you the brush off or the bums rush?

6). Your Sales Manager –

Is he accessible during your first couple of weeks, or is his office door closed continuously? Is he taking the time to coach you and meet with you on a regular basis during those first couple of critical weeks? Has he taken you out to lunch as a friendly gesture to get to know you better? Has he introduced you to the rest of the sales team and other key employees? Does he care if you succeed or are you just a meal ticket to him?

7). Mentor –

Has your sales manager appointed a senior sales person – a mentor – to be available to help you? Let’s face it, sales managers can be very busy at times, so it’s always helpful to have someone else around to work with you to smooth out the rough edges until you are solidly on your feet. (Please see my post on In Sales, Should you use a Mentor?)

8) Morale –

Are people excited and eager to come to work, or are they continually gossiping and bitching about their jobs or the company? If it’s the latter, don’t get drawn into all the drama. I’m old school – drama should belong in the theater not in the workplace. If you find yourself dealing with too many drama queens and kings, avoid them like the plague. Instead, stay focused, hunker down and work. Sooner or later, people will get the message that you are a serious player who wants to make money.

9). Marketing –

Is the marketing department helping the sales team by providing good leads and prospects? Are they working to enhance your company’s brand name and recognition? Are they finding good trade shows to attend? Or, is your marketing department wholly clueless and hostile towards the sales department? (Please see my post on Can Sales and Marketing Get Along?)

10). The Owner –

Depending on the size of your company, you may rarely see or meet the owner. But if you are working for a small to mid-size business, the owner should have either interviewed you himself while you were applying for the position or taken the time to introduce himself after you have come on board. If the owner is a total ghost, that may not be a completely bad thing, but when it comes time for a promotion or raise, how is the owner supposed to reward you if he doesn’t know you exist?

For more advice on how to start your new sales job, please check out these links –

“11 Tips for Starting a New Sales Role,” by Chris Gillespie
“2 Techniques to Get Up to Speed Fast In a New Sales Job,” by Emma Brudner

Special Note: If you like my post, please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career

Photo credit for middle picture: chrisjagers Steelcase Frame I Desks with Leap Chairs via photopin (license)

 

Is GIA hurting your Sales Department?

When you hear someone say Gia, what immediately comes to your mind?

Is it Gia Carangi, the famous fashion model from the 1970s and early 1980s?

Is it Gia Carides, an Australian actress, known for her portrayals in Strictly Ballroom and Brilliant Lies?

Is it the Gemological Institute of America (GIA)?

Is it the Gaming Intelligence Agency (GIA)?

Is Greed hurting your sales department?If someone describes your sales department as a Gia, run, don’t walk, as quickly as you can before your sales career ends up in the dumpster.

What does the acronym GIA mean?

G- Greed

I – Incompetence

A – Arrogance

So is GIA hurting your sales department?

Let’s take a look –

Greed – is greed harming your abilities to meet or exceed your sales quota because your sales manager is hogging most of the good accounts? Does your sales manager have an insatiable appetite for taking most of the good inbound leads and leaving you with mostly table scraps? Is your sales manager so selfish with his time, that he offers you little or no coaching to help you?

Incompetence – is your marketing department doing a lousy job providing you with excellent qualified leads or prospects? Is your marketing department doing a terrible job gathering intelligence on your competitors? Is your marketing department unable to give a good snapshot of the best prospects you should be targeting? Is your marketing department so incompetent that they couldn’t find high-quality trade shows for you to attend if you pinned them on a map?

Arrogance – is your sales manager or the owner so arrogant that they don’t want to consider your ideas or suggestions? Is upper management so arrogant that they ignore your proposal for getting a better compensation package? Is your company so arrogant that they don’t gather feedback or suggestions from their customers?

You might be able to handle one of the three predicaments above and survive. For example, while your sales manager may be stingy, if your marketing department is doing an excellent job, you may have enough leads and prospects to earn a good income. But if you have to deal with all three problems, it’s time to find a new job.

So is your sale department suffering from GIA?

Please let me know.

Note: If you like this post, please read my book Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

Phone Interview Tips for Salespeople

Most companies these days will ask you to do a phone interview prior to inviting you in for an in-person interview. This is done for several reasons. First, it saves everyone time by making sure you are going to be a good fit for the job. Second, it’s a good way for the employer to hear you speak and interact over the phone (especially if you are applying for an inside sales position). And third, it allows the employer to weed out candidates who don’t do well over the phone, or who don’t have the qualifications to do the job.

When doing phone interviews, always make sure you have your resume, the job posting and any other supporting documents you need at your fingertips. While this may be a phone interview, you have to be just as prepared as if you were attending an in-person interview. And it goes without saying; always do some research on the company and the hiring manager.

Also, never assume that only one person is listening to your phone interview. While in most cases the HR person will do the first phone interview, sometimes the hiring manager will stay quiet and sit in the background listening to your conversation. Shortly after the interview, he may tell the HR person to give you thumbs up or down and then move on to the next candidate.

And depending on the sales job you are applying for, sometimes you may be asked to do two phone interviews before being asked to meet someone in person. This could be the HR person and then one of the hiring managers. They may want to compare notes before asking you to come in.

Doing a sales phone interviewLeaving Voice Mail Message Test

In some cases, before you even speak to the HR person or Hiring Manager, you may be asked to call and leave a voicemail message. You can leave any voice mail message you like, but it’s usually sales related to what you are currently selling or have sold in the past. If you leave a good voice mail message or sound professional, you will move forward in the interviewing process.

While leaving a voicemail may be a requirement before you are interviewed, sometimes you may ask to give a spur of the moment sales presentation over the phone. This happened to me a few years ago when I applied for an inside sales position at a durable medical equipment company. After going through a series of interviews, at the last-minute, I was asked by the owner to call him from another office. I could make any sales presentation that I like. I was not prepared for this in advance. And to add more pressure, most of the sales team was listening in and gave their critique after my presentation. Fortunately, I passed with flying colors and I was offered the job in a few days.

No Appointment Phone Interview

And finally, sometimes the sales manager may want to call you without an appointment. They do this for a couple of reasons.

First, they want to catch you off guard and see how you interact with a total stranger over the phone. Are you poise, confident, and speak well under pressure? Or are you flustered and irritated by the call? Can you answer questions about the job you are applying for without the job posting and notes in front of you? Can you answer questions about your employment history without your resume in front of you? Can you ask questions of the sales manager without your notes in front of you? You may think the sales manager is being rude by calling you without an appointment, but consider this a test – perhaps the first of several tests you will have to go through during the interview process.

Second, the sales manager may want to call you without an appointment because he’s busy. He has a job that must be quickly filled, and he doesn’t want to go through all the niceties and bureaucracy of hiring someone. If you sound half-way professional over the phone, and your resume is above average, he may want to get you in the door quickly. This is especially true for a high-turnover sales department or a small company that can’t afford a sales position to be open for too long. If that’s the case, beware that you are not walking into a “churn and burn” sales department. Unless you are desperate for a job, take your time before considering accepting a job offer in a hectic and crazy sales environment.

Treat the phone interview just as seriously as an in-person interview. It could make the difference between landing your dream job or being unemployed.

For more advice on handling phone interview, please read –

“17 Phone Interview Tips to Guarantee a Follow-up,” by Larry Kim

“6 Steps to Nailing a Job Interview over the Phone,” by Judith A. Stock

Note: If you like my post, please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

Is your Bumper Sticker killing your Job Hunt?

bumper stickerIt goes without saying that you have to be very careful what you post on the internet these days. This is especially true on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. While you can keep both those sites private, it’s still a good idea to Google yourself to see what comes up. Are there any embarrassing pictures of you being drunk at a party? Any controversial political comments you posted somewhere that you don’t want a potential employer to see? (And these days, given how hot the political climate is, anything you post is going to be viewed as controversial by someone).

In sales, you don’t want your sales manager and customers reading anything that could hurt your sales or your ability to find and keep a job.

But beyond social media, what about your car? That’s right, your car!

Several years ago, I went in for a job interview with a small publishing company in Greenbelt, MD. The interview went well. After the interview, the sales manager insisted on showing me to the door and walking out the building with me. While we were standing outside talking, he asked me where I parked and what kind of car I drove. I proudly pointed out my American made Mercury Sable (which was becoming a lemon with all the car repair bills I was paying for).

And then, he quickly leaned in and told me in a very low threatening voice that he doesn’t want to hire any gays in his department. If I were gay, he added, I better withdraw my employment application right now. And with that, he quickly smiled, shook my hand and walked away. I was stunned by what he said. I didn’t know if he was targeting me specifically (for the record, I’m not gay), or if this was a standard hiring practice that he incorporated in all his interviews.

But it also just occurred to me why he wanted to see my car. He wasn’t interested in my taste in vehicles. Instead, he wanted to see if a gay bumper sticker or other “offending” stickers on my car.

Was his behavior unethical? Yes.

Were his actions illegal? Probably.

Was he being sneaky? Of course.

bumper stickerYou see, if a hiring manager doesn’t like LGBTQ people, liberals, conservatives, Christians, atheists, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, environmentalists, feminists, Trump or Clinton supporters, etc. you need to make sure you don’t show your potential employer the bumper stickers on your car. It could hurt your chances of landing that dream job.

Am I being paranoid? Maybe.

But given the current political environment, I think it’s better to be safe than sorry. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of freedom of speech and the First Amendment. But when you are job hunting, sometimes you need to put your feelings and political or religious views aside and focus on getting a paycheck.

(And is it just me, or am I seeing fewer bumper stickers on cars these days? I live in the Washington, D.C. area, and I’m not seeing as many bumper stickers as I use to. Maybe people are afraid of promoting their views, or they prefer to drive cleaner cars).

If you would like to remove your bumper sticker, here is a link from WikiHow –

WikiHow to Remove Bumper Stickers

However, there are ways you can temporarily cover up bumper stickers. Here is some advice below –

“Is there a way of Temporarily Camouflage My Bumper Sticker?” by Car Talk

As always, please let me know if you have any comments or questions.

Note: If you like my post or other posts on my blog, please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

Top Photo credit: andres musta car combo via photopin (license)