Building a Sales Team: Part 1 – Assess and Analyze

Have patience with all things but first of all, with yourself

-Francis De Sales

In this new series, we will focus on building an effective sales team over time as we look towards 2024. And there is the key word: time. Like most things in life, you must exhibit patience to see results. To transform your team as their leader, you will need to fully understand the skill, experience, and ability to learn each member has. And that’s a good starting point for this three-part blog series.

Assess Your Sales Team

Take stock of your current team. I recommend starting with two essential measurements as you rank each of your sales team members: revenue generation and attributes/behavior. And the ranking system is as simple as ABC! Group your associates into A, B, and C players based on the two aforementioned measurements. Here is some help to determine rankings:

A Players: consistently exceed their revenue goals and are highly mature, motivated, and commercially grounded. You generally don’t need to give them much feedback but when you do, they eagerly accept it as a way to grow professionally.

B Players: have had some success but are generally inconsistent, requiring more of your guidance. However, they are eager to learn and have potential to become A Players.

C Players: often are entitled, inconsistent earners, and resist feedback. They are your lowest performers and can also be toxic to building a strong sales team.

Analyze Foundational Behaviors

Once you’ve done a stack ranking, it’s time to look at what behaviors are consistent with your A Players. These are the foundational behaviors you will use as your baseline for developing your team for a fast start in 2024.

Here’s where you will need some patience. Most of your B Players and likely all of your C Players will not exhibit these behaviors. So, you will need to help develop them. This won’t be easy because, well, if they had the inclination or inherent ability to develop these foundational behaviors, they would have already.

Take your time with each sales team member, creating a development plan in which they have some authorship and agree to follow. Pay attention here! Your C Players are the most likely to resist any effort to change how they do things. It may be time to have an honest, frank and direct conversation about their future. If they cannot commit to adapting to how your team is developing, it may be time to have them move on. One thing is certain…the time to address these issues is now, not in December.

Address the Changed World…And Then Move Forward

One last thing as you assess, rank, and develop your team. Remember our changed world. Things have been anything but normal for the last five years. As a leader, you need to acknowledge that but not dwell too long on it. Yes, COVID fallout is real and it impacted how business development has been done. Your team may have struggled. But now is the time to move forward and develop a strong sales team that can learn from those experiences as they improve their foundational behaviors. Wary should you be of those in your care who are still using COVID as a reason for not moving forward.

As mentioned in this post, determining how well your team accepts and reacts to feedback is an important assessment. In Part Two of this series, we’ll focus on communicating and delivering positive feedback to inspire them to develop. It could be that HOW you are delivering feedback is the reason they aren’t reacting well to it!

Checklist for New Clients

The Boy Scouts and I share a common, urgent message that we have been delivering for years: Be Prepared!

We live in a “need it now” culture. Too often, that means not doing the preparatory work needed before you talk with a potential client. “I just don’t have time” is what I hear most often. Which leads to the dreaded “I just went in there and had to wing it.” For your company, a lot of time, effort and resources went into getting you into that room. Winging it just won’t cut it!

If you’ve worked with me, you know that I stress “systematizing the process,” which is about as far from the above scenario as one can get. But I understand that you, like most everyone, are under time pressure to get everything done. So, let me help a bit. Below you will find a checklist. Use this BEFORE the next time you meet with a prospect.

And don’t cheat yourself…go through each point and check it off once you’ve completed it to your satisfaction. What I predict will happen is that you will enter the meeting more confident, with a better understanding of the client so you aren’t asking Client-101-type questions and can really get to their pain points far more quickly.

New Client Pre-Meeting Checklist

[frontend-checklist name=”New Client Checklist”]

[frontend-checklist name=”New Client Checklist” type=”pdf” title=”Giglio Co. New Client Checklist” linktext=”Download Your Checklist”]

Did it help? Let me know how. -SG

Leadership Planning for 2017: Developing Your “A” Team

This is part three of a three-part series designed to help you plan your leadership and get your team ready for 2017. The other articles are focused on Looking Back to Move Forward and Creating Your Mission Statement

Now that you’ve studied what’s worked with your organization, critically reviewed your go-to-market strategy and established your 2017 vision, what’s next? I’ll tell you…make sure you’ve got the “A” team to execute it and the metrics to measure it!

You can’t accomplish these goals alone. You need a team of dedicated mature people who are in sync with you. That requires knowing each person on your team, intimately, the lieutenants certainly. It’s important to determine the type of individuals you want on your team, the behaviors you want manifested and the level of collaboration you require. When was the last time you reviewed your team?

Managing Your Best Employees

One way to insure this collaboration is to formalize it. Determine how you’ll stay in sync as a team. You also need to determine what you’ll measure as an organization that everyone understands.
List out how you’ll remain in sync:

  • Weekly participation calls
  • Formalize an On-Boarding Plan
  • Create valuable incentive plans
  • Set clear territories for your client managers and new business development execs
  • Commit to a sales protocol that you don’t vary from

Determine what you will measure:

  • The number of client calls per week
  • New prospects researched per week
  • Meetings conducted with prospects
  • Business derived from existing clients
  • New business closed

What each client/prospect meeting must include:

  • An agenda
  • Completed client probing questions
  • An understanding of each client’s goals and challenges
  • A debriefing meeting with management to determine the next step to take

Developing a Plan for Weaker Players

You also need to formalize a development plan for strengthening your “B” Players and a formal review process with your “C” Players. Make sure your lieutenants are capable of coaching and developing your team. I’ve seen it happen that some leaders may orphan their direct reports which will prevent the achievement of your business goals. You can’t let that happen. Help them create a formalized Development Action Plan that you and your directs need to structure and use. Lastly, create a pipeline vetting process. Determine what questions each team member must be asked to separate a deal from a dream as you enter into 2017.

You may also determine at this point that you have to cut some people who will never achieve “A” level, or even solid “B” level, status. Those “C” players are holding back your whole team. Start the year knowing that every member on your team has potential and is eager to achieve it. You, and they, will be more satisfied when they look back at 2017 to assess the accomplishments you’ve achieved together.

Is your team full of “A” players? If not, what is your plan for developing your “B” team members? Let me know if I can help. -sg

Eight Tips for Calming Warring Teams

“I’ve got to have these two teams work together in harmony but, they’re at each other’s throats now!”

While companies strive for internal harmony among associates, often that’s not realty.  Teams feeling territorial, threatened or jealous take aim at the source of this stress which could be another team. And a power battle ensues.

As a leader, it’s your job to mollify the teams and get them focused on the whole, not just their area. But how do you do that?  I’m glad you asked…

Here are eight essential steps for calming warring teams:

1. Know the compelling challenge

Too often leaders will put their teams together to brainstorm what needs to get fixed. Generally, this is done as a band-aid that often backfires. You must know the core issue that is bifurcating your teams.

2. Know the politics involved

There are always politics. It’s important to read the tea leaves on who is doing what to whom. Who is the leader? Who is the muck-raker? If you can neutralize their efforts, you have made great strides.

3. Meet with each team leader

You do this to establish trust and a clear understanding of their “side” of the issue. This communicates a nice level of empathy and respect. And give you some inside information to stem the tide of confrontation.

4. Is integration possible?

This is not an easy question to ask, but ask it you must. You’ve got to honest with yourself and see the possibility before you can facilitate it in this plenary session. If these teams are just not going to blend well together, find another way to impact the way they work with each other.

5. Prioritize the issues

You won’t solve all the issues at once. So, which of them are having the greatest impact on the teams involved and preventing collaboration. Address those first. As you move further down the list, others may be willing to take on the smaller issues.

6. Determine what issues need to be vented

Politically through this diligence you’ll discover what issues need to be vented to clear the way to a new normal

7. Present clear behaviors that each team must accept

A debate is healthy provided each team understands the ground rules for successful communication. Rule #1: Listen without bias. Rule #2: Do not interrupt someone. Rule #3: Stay open to new ideas and trust each other.

8. Create the “New Normal” with joint authorship

Each team member wants to feel they made a difference and contributed  to the solution. Nothing works better than for each side to co-author how they will operate going forward. Once they realize that they’ve created it, they’ll own it. LET THEM. It’s their show, not yours. Co-authoring is a great action to facilitate to show the entire team how concerned you are for their buy-in and homeostasis.

Is there a ninth…or tenth…tip that has worked for you? Let me know in the comments. Thanks!


Developing The Diva

By this time of the year, as a leader you, should have a firm grasp on your team’s production and capabilities.

You’ve studied your team and know who your “A” Players, “B” Players and “C” Players are. But then you discover that you have a rogue “A” Player, who is in a “start-of-the-year” slump. What’s your plan for this “Diva?”

A Diva Won’t Ask for Help…Until It’s Too Late

Having a top performer is, of course, a good thing. But having someone who does things their own way, disregarding process and diluting your value proposition for the sale, can eventually cause this superstar to falter.  The person is your most competitive and most independent “A” Player. And they know they are failing recently. Likely, they want, but may not ask for, help.

The issue now is how to get inside their head and establish a path to success WITH them, since they’ve not created it themselves. This is a fundamental challenge of a leader. It forces you to be creative, humble and persistent as a coach. Actually, it’s part of your job as a leader.

Many leaders orphan this Diva believing they’ll figure it out on their own. They won’t.
Unless you rattle their cage in relational way, it will be June and the balance of their year will be just as dormant as the first half you’ve just lived through.

Jump a Level, Change the Climate

Albert Einstein once said; “In order to solve a problem you have to jump a level to solve it”.

In order to reach your Diva you too must jump a level in your approach. I’ve often coached leaders to be persistent yet likable. Your Diva must think they are driving the process…not you.

To succeed at this, you need to change the climate in which you develop your Diva.

Rather than going to their production numbers or pipeline, it’s better to take it slow and begin with forging a climate of curiosity and empathy.

Try asking these questions:

  • How are you feeling about this year given your great success last year?
  • What’s important to you this year?
  • What made last year so successful?
  • What are you proudest of?
  • What areas would you strengthen even more to replicate last year?
  • How should this year run given what you declared you’d produce?
  • What inertia are you encountering now?

These questions put your Diva into the driver’s seat, heck, that’s the only way they’d hear you anyway.

Try it and let me know.

Sales…Love It, Don’t Leave It

The sales person. Over the years, and many, many bad used car sales pitches, the reputation of the sales profession has gotten a bit…ok…a LOT tainted. And yet, the Chally Group states that 39 percent of B2B buyers select a vendor according to the skills of the sales person rather than price, quality or service features. Wow! My mission has always been, and always will be, to bring respect back to the sales person. I don’t need another motivating factor than this. Read more

New Managers: How To Coach and Enjoy It!

Picking up from last week’s post about fitting in as a new manager, let’s look at ways to provide direction and shape a Direct’s behavior. Your organization believes you can develop and lead people. Do you believe it?

Read more

Sell Like a Child Would…Be Persistent, Yet Likable

Ever been confronted by a child who wants something…really badly? How many times did the child get what he/she wanted? More times than not? That’s because children possess a skill that most of us have lost a long time ago…the ability to be relentless while still being likable, even lovable!

Why Children Would Make the Best Salespeople

Why do people say that children make the greatest salespeople?  Because they are relentless! Does this scenario ring true to you:

Monday: “Daddy can I have that X Box?” “No.”
Tuesday: “Daddy can I have that X Box?” “No.”
Wednesday: “Daddy, is today the day I get the XBox.” “No.”
Thursday: “Daddy, today sure would be a good day to get an XBox.” “No.”
Friday: “Daddy, if I had an XBox right now, I wouldn’t be bothering you.” “No.”
Saturday Morning: “Daddy, I really think that…” “Okay, okay, we’ll go! We’ll get the XBox today!”

Fascinating analogy isn’t it?

Death of a Salesman…Giving Up

A recent survey of sales executives by the National Research Bureau revealed that 80 percent of all sales are made after the fifth call. And yet…the same survey found that 48 percent of salespeople call once and give up. Further, 25 percent of salespeople call twice and quit. It gets worse. Just 12 percent make three calls and stop while only 5 percent make a fourth call before calling it quits. Only 10 percent of salespeople keep on calling. And, it is this 10 percent – the one salesperson in ten – that make 80 percent of all the sales.

Be Relevant and Persistent

Our job as salespeople/consultants is to be persistent, yet likable. To succeed at persistence, it’s essential to capture what’s important to your client. You need to play back to him/her what their challenge was to prove you’ve heard them. “You said that growing your West Coast division is mission critical.” Then, you create legitimate touch points that serve your client and illustrate your desire to resolve what your client said was keeping them up at night. “With the program I’m recommending, you can start building the West Coast division, see some quick results and grow it steadily over the next 3-5 years.” You’ve just become relevant in his world and you have his attention.You must be able to defend each touch point to your client. That way, they can see and appreciate your empathy.

And DON’T GIVE UP! Be the one of the last nine salespeople your client has seen who actually wins.

Developing Working Relationships with Millennials

Remember those millennials we’ve been speaking about? In a recent blog post on developing your future leaders, I spoke of the importance of understanding how to relate and develop younger executives on your team.

Lets look externally now. Whether you are in corporate sales, private equity or retail sales, meeting and creating professional relationships with this crowd is mission critical to grow your business and deepen your reputation. Read more

Pain Before Process

A few years ago, I was working with very savvy clients in San Diego on a sales development program. One night,I was dining with my client who expressed to me that after 20 years in selling and negotiating he realized this important distinction:

Process vs. Pain.

Selling to the Pain, Not the Process

What he said was: “I focus so heavily on understanding the ‘process’ of my client’s business that I’ve neglected to pinpoint and understand his ‘pain.”  He realized that it was mission-critical for him to locate a client’s pain and truly size it BEFORE delving into the client’s process of how he/she runs their business. 

In essence, finding their pain first then understanding their process.  If you focus your attention too early on fixing the process, you will miss what is really at the heart of the matter.  And thus, you will lose the opportunity to provide a solution for a much larger set of issues and become a trusted advisor. Listen first, ask the right questions and get to the pain first.  The process will come.  

Ask to Understand

The best, fastest way to understand a client’s situation is to find their pain within the first ten minutes of your meeting. Ask questions like:

  • From my research I see that your organization has declared XYZ, what’s essential now to insure this?
  • What are the challenges to this now?

Size their pain with questions like:

  • What’s been the impact of these challenges now to your organization?

Stay in their pain with questions like:

  • How has your revenue been affected by this? And how are you and your team viewed as a result of this?

Find Yourself Tethered to the Truth

If you think your client doesn’t have pain points in his work, then you aren’t digging enough. Do your research, which includes asking your client the right questions. The more you ask questions like this, the more you will find your champion who will act as your tether-line to the truth!