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

 

The Choice, or How a Millennial got Screwed

(Note: The following story is true. Real names are not used for obvious reasons.)

You are a sales manager for a 5 person sales team at a small conservative parochial company. It’s a slow growth business using limited marketing and social media programs to help generate qualified leads and prospects.

The office is crappy.

The plumbing is crappy.

The computer system is crappy.

The CRM is crappy.

The morale is….well, you get the drift.

What keeps most salespeople working year after year is the compensation package, decent benefits, and a no enforced sales quota policy.

After 4 months of interviews, you finally hire a new salesperson. She’s a recent graduate. This is her first real full-time job. She’s a millennial living at home with her parents.

good and bad choicesSix months into the job, you find that the millennial is doing a fair job. But you begin to detect that her head isn’t completely in the sales game. Sure, she goes through the motions of making sales calls, getting orders, entering sales notes, etc., but she’s not lighting any fires.

While you figure she should be grateful that she has a job, you feel she’s not very enthusiastic. But to be fair, no one on your sales team is very enthusiastic either. But at least you know they’re older, have major financial obligations, and can’t afford to move to another city anytime soon. Furthermore, because the other salespeople have been with the company for a long time, they are locked in, e.g., they have a high base salary, a large pipeline, and lots of vacation time. Unless someone comes along and makes them an offer they can’t refuse, you’re confident your sales team will stay put.

But you are not so sure about the millennial you hired. Since she’s living at home with her parents and has smaller financial obligations (except maybe student loans), she could turn on you like a dime and jump at another job offer – maybe even another city.

Along comes a former employee who used to work for you. He left the company a few years ago to do consulting work. But lately, times are hard and he wants to return to his old stomping grounds for regular paychecks and benefits.

You know him. He has plenty of sales and marketing experience. He’s mature. He’s hard-working. And unlike the millennial, he has a mortgage and major financial responsibilities to deal with. You also know he’s not going to be a flight risk.

But you have a dilemma. You don’t have any openings in your sales department.

So, what do you do?

Do you keep the millennial and hope that she grows with the job? Or, do you get rid of millennial and replace her with the more experienced salesperson?

Before you answer, consider the following –

Further complicating your situation, you live in the outer suburbs of Washington, D.C. Your commute is long and terrible. And to top it off, you and your wife are raising two kids. And to make matters even worse, your wife is working a part-time job she hates. But because the bills are piling up, she has no choice but to work. At least once a week, your wife reminds you of this fact.  Your wife wants to know when your big commission checks will be rolling back in again so she can stop working.

Long commute, children, mortgage, bills, wife complaining. The financial pressures are accelerating.

Now, how would you answer the above questions?

Millennial sales personThe sales manager in this situation forced the millennial out of her job. He did so by writing her up on picayune issues like coming to work a few minutes late and making minor errors on her orders. While petty issues, the sales manager was clearly trying to bully the millennial to leave. Unfortunately, the millennial was too naïve to understand what was happening to her. A more experienced salesperson would have seen the handwriting on the wall, and either a). work harder or b). jump ship.

As for the millennial, she eventually had enough “write-ups” in her file to get fired.

Was the millennial treated unfairly? Yes.

Were the sales manager’s tactics unethical and maybe even, illegal? Yes.

But from the sales manager’s point of view, his scheme worked. He got the new experienced sales person on board. And with that new person, the chance of generating more income for himself that would eventually get his wife off his back.

As for the millennial, she eventually landed a new sales job three months later. Did she learn any important lessons? Unsure.

Lessons:

1). Never take your job for granted. Living at home isn’t a crime. Hell, more millennials than ever are living at home until they can generate enough income to buy their first home. In fact, a Census report, “The Changing Economics and Demographics of Young Adulthood: 1975-2016,” states that about 34% of all young adults between ages 18 to 34 – are still living with their parents.

But from the sales manager’s point of view, living at home means you will find it easier to find a new job or relocate. Yes, you may eventually find a new job or relocate anyway. But you need to keep your head in the game and at a bare minimum, pretend that you’re taking your job seriously. You don’t want your manager to catch on that you are job hunting or bored with your job. Trust me, there will always be people waiting in the wings to take your position.

2). Sales managers are human. problems faced by sales managersWhile a good manager is always professional, personal problems or other outside pressures may force him to take unethical actions to boost his income. This is especially true when the sales manager is not only earning commission on your sales but his sales as well. While you don’t want to pry and participate in office gossip, keep your eyes and ears open to any issues your manager is facing that could jeopardize your job. Is he going through a divorce? Is his wife or one of his children requiring expensive medical attention? Is he more stressed than normal?

3). Look at the signs. If your sales manager’s attitude towards you suddenly changes for the worst, fairly or unfairly, he may view you as the weakest link on the sales team. Even if you are meeting or exceeding your quota, the sales manager may feel you can do better. It’s not unusually for sales managers to hire their friends or previous employees they know well. It’s not just a matter of earning more money, but it’s about having a comfort zone. Sales managers want to be surrounded by people they know and can trust.

To learn more if your boss hates you, please read the articles below –

“7 Signs Your Boss Hates you (And How to Handle it),” by Alison Green of Dailyworth

“Ten Signs Your Boss Hates You,” by Liz Ryan

Selling is an honorable profession. But like any profession, we all have to make choices. Make sure you don’t end on the wrong side of a bad choice.

If you were the sales manager discussed in this post, what would you have done? Don’t be too quick to judge the sales manager too harshly. While many Millennials may enjoy safe places on college campuses, in the workplace, it’s still a jungle.

Life is unfair. If you didn’t learn that while on campus, you soon will once you enter the work force.

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

The third photo is from photo credit: Rusty Russ Sea of Tears via photopin (license)

Great advice for sales managers

In the video below, Bob Perkins, founder of AA-ISP, offered three tips for sales managers. He discussed how important is it to create a motivating cultural and to ensure that salespeople are valued. He advises sales managers to do the following –

1). Make prospecting sales calls with your sales team. Among other things, this will help sales managers gain credibility with their sales team. This is important because too often sales managers are either busy working in an office, or attending department level meetings, and don’t always have a good understanding of what is going on in the real world. Getting on the sales floor and showing your team that you are willing to get in the trenches with them is a major morale buster. It reminds me of the movie “Patton”, where the general at one point decides to walk among his troops along a dirt road.  Sometimes you need to walk the same path with your sales team to gain their respect and earn their credibility.

2). Delegate. He advises sales managers to delegate some projects to team members. Not only does this relieve the sales manager’s workload, but it also shows that he respects his team members to be problem solvers. He argues that team members will feel valued and invested in the sales process. I should add that is this also a good way of grooming future managers down the road. Too often when sales managers leave or are promoted, companies are faced with the daunting task of hiring or promoting a new manager. By giving team members a chance to solve problems and work on projects, you will begin to see who your next potential new manager may be.

3). Make it personal. Take team members out to lunch or dinner. Take the time to get to know your salespeople as human beings and that you care about them. Great advice!  Some sales managers will only treat their salespeople as meal tickets rather than as real people who have goals to achieve and problems to resolve.

Here is the video of Bob Perkins advice –