I don't know about your business but in my experience proactive, positive, consistent new business winners are the holy grail of any sales organisation. All of my clients have their own unique ways of motivating, managing and running their sales teams yet they all have problems from time keeping those teams on target and “up for it!” In this article I am going to cover the core fundamentals of How to Develop a Proactive, New-Business Sales Team. These are the same strategies and techniques that I have used to help many of my clients explode their personal and their team’s sales. These strategies all combine an exciting and proven mix of attitudinal, skills and structural development that really works and what's more they’re fun so your staff will want to use them!
When I ask my clients what stops them from achieving their business goals they tell me that they just cannot find enough staff who will consistently canvass new business and this prevents them from opening enough new accounts. Or even worse that once their staff have got “enough” business in the pipeline they will simply stop their proactive activities. This is common place in sales teams in my experience and afflicts most sales people. This reticence to pick up the phone is a combination of factors and one which I have made one of my core sales focuses so that I can provide my clients with what they need - more sales.
When we talk about sales teams we tend to talk about skills, strategies and experience. Whilst these are important they aren’t the key. We’ve all recruited someone who’s been there, seen it and done it yet when they turn up in your business they just seem to leave their skills at home! You know the type - the “big-hitter” you recruit because of their CV and their ability. You’re already counting the increased revenue onto the bottom line yet right from their first day you know that their attitude’s shot! I’m sure you can think of your own examples…
What’s missing is sales motivation – the ability to access the sales skills that we have within us. Anyone can pick up the phone and say “Hello” to a client even if they don’t know how to structure a call and a salesperson with high sales motivation will. A salesperson with low sales motivation however will often avoid the phone at any cost giving “reasons” for not doing so such as “I don’t have the time”, “I don’t know the market well enough” or “I am too busy” … the list goes on!
Sales motivation has three areas that are crucial to the success of your new business teams:
- Being motivated to want to sell
- Remaining motivated during the sale
- Re-motivating yourself after the sale whether the sales went well or badly
Helping sales staff to understand their own sales motivation levels before they pick up the phone, coaching them in core skills whilst they are on the phone and reflecting with them whilst they learn after the call is essential to creating a successful sales engine. This holistic approach ensures that you will get results fast.
So what's wrong with good old training?
Well, there's nothing actually wrong with training in of itself. It’s what your staff do with it that counts. When you think about it, the training is worth nothing if your staff don't use it to get results. And that's what you need - action and results!
Lets imagine that a person goes to a specialist doctor with a bad back. After the examination the doctor says that he thinks that they should do 20 minutes of exercises every day. The patient complains and says that they want some painkillers. The doctor repeats his advice but the patient is adamant. After a small negotiation the doctor prescribes some painkillers but says “remember to do your exercises". Three months later when the patient returns to the doctor with an even worse back and he admits that he never did the exercises whose fault is it?
You need to find ways of working with your teams to get phenomenal results not to prescribe pills. Anyone can pop pills!
OK! So how do I do this?
In working with many leading organisations I've found that most sales training is too complicated for many sales staff to assimilate and use on a day to day basis. You need to start by implementing simple, repeatable, manageable processes and techniques. We all know that for a successful business common sense must be common practise. You need to focus on simple things that will have an immediate impact on the ability of your staff to win new business now. Just imagine your team reaching new clients, pitching new decision-makers and having more success utilising strong opening statements, getting past gatekeepers, handling objections and building effortless rapport!
Some studies show that 83% of sales are made because people like each other! When your sales teams hit the phones with the right attitudes, the necessary core skills and the ability to build rapport they will rapidly get results. This first contact with new clients not only defines your company but also dictates how seriously you will be taken. How many times have you seen your staff get passed down the line by a client to later be told that the decision-maker was actually the first person they spoke with? As you know, this is usually because the sales person wasn't taken seriously enough in the first place. With these core strategies under their belts this will become a thing of the past.
But that’s not enough! You’ll have to put systems and strategies in place to get your sales team to do these things on a daily basis. I would call doing what you know works - professionalism. Unfortunately however, sales people spend a lot of time talking about professionalism but very little actually delivering it. If you had an administration person in your company but they refused to file alphabetically you'd pretty quickly remove them from the payroll! But with sales people we let them go on for years and years doing everything wrong whilst they make the excuse of being an individual or having charisma! You must not let this happen in your business. Ironically, as you implement these structures and they start to take effect the morale in your teams will rise as staff realise that they are doing something worthwhile.
Moral: sometimes you need to make the decisions as the sales leader!
How would it feel to be able to open new accounts, even in a difficult market?
Cold calling and winning new business is essential to any sales organisation. If you're not growing, you're shrinking. There is no such thing as a static sales business! You really have to develop, support and coach more new business winners if you're serious about your business.
But how can I make a measurable difference?
Simple! Keep things simple and measurable. Design them to be supported by you or your managers in less than 10 minutes per day! Little and often is the key to success!
Sounds interesting - what areas should I concentrate on?
To explode the desires and abilities of your teams to win new business you need to focus on several core areas and you need to allocate between 3 to 6 months to ensure that the core strategies, attitudes and skills that you are looking to change become habitual behaviours.
1) Focus on the individual
You need to concentrate on helping your sales people to understand themselves better and why they are in a sales role. What’s important to them about their work? What do they want to achieve? Why do they want to achieve this? What will happen if they achieve it? What will happen if they don’t? What importance does winning new business play in the achievement of those goals?
Begin to identify areas where they can gain quick wins. Working mostly on their own and with your support you are looking to open their minds to a new way of thinking. Why not create a questionnaire or an audit of where they are now? What about creating a coaching form or process? This need only take a few minutes per team member per day.
2) Training on key attitudes and skills
Decide what the key attitudes and skills are that your team needs to be successful in winning new business. Create a simple, repeatable training programme and bring the delegates up to speed as fast as possible. Learning is associated with professionalism in the minds of many sales people and when you are looking to change beliefs, attitudes and skills you cannot skimp on this crucial part.
Start your training right now. You don’t need to be a great trainer or an expert to do this. You can always call an expert (like me) later on! For the moment, what you’re trying to do is help your team to feel valued, focus on what’s important to them and improve fundamental areas of the sales process.
Training Tip 1: Before you even start training you need to get your staff to view training in the most productive light. There will be some who think that they don’t need it, or that they’re above it or that it’s a waste of time! If you don’t change this before you start then the results will be unpredictable. Try telling a story about peak performers and how training is important to their success. Get your staff to do a brainstorming exercise on why it’s essential for them. Make sure that you ask them what their outcomes are prior to every training session.
Training Tip 2: When doing sales training you will find that there are many conflicting sources with one trainer saying one thing and another saying another. Try to stick to simple repeatable structures and processes and one or two methodologies that work together.
3) Personal responsibility
It is impossible to force individuals to change and doing so would only create resistance. That said, once you have the “buy-in" of the team you need to empower them to take control of the development programme for themselves. Creating a personal action plan for the duration of the programme helps to consolidate their thoughts, hones their personal skills and enforces the key attitudes and behaviours necessary for success.
Your company may well have such action plans for use in the business that you can use and I’m sure that they will be well thought out and structured. It’s worth noting however that in my experience it’s usually more effective for the sales coach to develop their own coaching and action plans because they will be totally focused on your teams and your style of coaching.
One of the questions that gets asked by managers and purchasers for companies is, “What return on investment will I get for my training?” I’ve seen many convoluted answers from training and development companies however the honest answer is, “It depends what you do when I leave!”
Even as an expert all I can hope for is to engage staff, create mindset change and inspire action. Unless I am paid to stay around I cannot guarantee success! Success is down to action and many of your team will need considerable support to ensure that these new behaviours and skills become part of their habitual behaviours. You need to create multi-sensory, experiential, ongoing, measurable and simple support tools to ensure that the new behaviours happen. I follow the management-coaching-autonomy model. Initially I “manage” people in their actions, gradually I step back into a more reflective coaching model and finally I release them to take autonomy for their own actions.
I went to one company where the HR Department was briefing the sales teams by asking them to “assess the training and see what they thought of it!” This was a team who weren’t making hardly any proactive calls at all! What were they likely to take from this training? With a focus like that, not a lot! How easy would it have been for them to walk out saying, “Not for me that!” or “I don’t think it’s that relevant!” The focus should have been, “We’re getting an expert in to help us. After this training we want you to come up with your own action plan on how you are going to use this to increase your daily activity and sales!” That way they know they are expected to act differently and that this will be measured and managed.
It always amazes me when staff who are seriously under-performing are sent on training and come back and say they know it all. If they do then why aren’t they top performers? Don’t let the wool be pulled over your eyes! Make sure that on the management side you create simple repeatable tools that ensure new behaviours and that help to create a fun and energised environment, which is supportive of change.
5) Celebrating success
It's important that any achievement is recognised and as your team puts the work in you need to create ways to recognise their success. In my experience many directors are internally orientated when it comes to motivation – we know when we’ve done a good job and don’t necessarily need telling. Many of your sales staff, on the other hand, will need that recognition. When I’m consulting with businesses the number of staff who say things like, “I don’t feel appreciated” or “I just wish that someone would say well done” is phenomenal. I think that we sometimes forget to tell them because we don’t need it ourselves or maybe because we aren’t explicit enough in the way that we do it! I worked with one director who thought that he always said “well done” to is staff yet they thought that he never said anything. What he used to say was, “So what’s next then?” In his head that meant, “Job well done. Now we can feel good and move on!” Unfortunately, what his staff heard was, “I’m never happy with anything you do, I always want more out of you!” As you might imagine that was an easy problem to solve once I heard it happening.
Exercise: Get a sheet of paper and write down as many ways of celebrating success that you can. Try simple “thank you”, competitions, games, wall-charts and email reminders for starters.
Most of all remember that taking action in developing a proactive, new-business sales team is not only essential it’s fun!
For the last 10 years, Gavin Ingham has been helping sales people to explode their sales performance by turning self-doubt, fear and lack of motivation into self-belief, confidence and action. With his inspirational approach to sales performance and motivation Gavin combines commercial experience, personal excellence and communications technologies in delivering personal and business sales success.
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