In the average sales organization, successful sales reps get promoted to managers. These “new” sales managers are suddenly tasked with leadership and training. In these situations, there is one common liability. The salesperson’s biggest strength now becomes the sales manager’s biggest weakness in leading a team. Typically, top sales reps don’t diagnose and document their sales routines and processes; rather, they “just do it”, as the sneaker commercial so aptly says. So, when they are asked to advance the same superior results in a large group, they can not do it. Why? Because these individuals are exceptional “drivers.” Most of their past success was due to their personalities and individual abilities, which are not transferable to the masses.
Sadly, most superior sales performers, when promoted to leadership positions, are unable to truly lead. They have trouble analyzing and teaching their personal sales processes in such a way that their sales teams can properly digest. Solo reps who move into the management sphere tend to manage people versus coaching critical competencies and behaviors, which hurts the bottom line. To be effective, sales leaders must understand and know how to integrate knowledge of sales systems and processes to their staff. They need the majority of their salespeople to accept it, own it and benefit from it.
Going one step further, it is crucial for sales leaders to have experience in identifying and measuring critical core competencies and essential performance metrics. Sales leaders should understand that there are a finite number of scenarios in any selling process. If you identify, train to and measure each one of them, you are on your way to excellence. True sales leaders shine a light on the most critical competencies, enabling the highest percentage of their sales force to routinely win. Sales leaders train to each one of these competencies, but they do so by priority. They understand that training to multiple missions at once will achieve minimal results.
The importance of sales training comes into play for sales leaders, who must consider results-oriented training as a process versus an isolated event. They don’t just talk about it at sales meetings, or attend seminars that superficially touch on it; instead, they extract the most important critical competency, such as creating new opportunities, and peel back every element that comprises it. They break apart the elements into single scenarios and attach powerful routines to each scenario. Sales leaders, like great business leaders, spend time developing systematic approaches to essential competencies. And they do it so that their people can outperform the standard.
Sales training campaigns should be setup to improve the ratios of success in each core competency. Operational effectiveness equals better competency routines. Better than whose, you ask? Your competitors’, of course. With the right systems in place, good sales leaders understand their essential competency ratios and performance numbers, and are able to relate them to revenue objectives. It is important to set realistic goals that are in line with performance ratios, then set “benchmarks” for each competency and train specifically to those benchmarks.
Jim Tressel, head football coach for the Ohio State Buckeyes, gave a preseason interview the year after winning the 2002 National Football Championship. He said, “We decided to identify a number of important performance benchmarks, and effect training to meet them each week. For instance, we found that over the last 15 years, when we gained at least 200 rushing yards in a game, we won the game 98% of the time. So we are training to routines that will help us get better at the competency of running the football on the ground in order to reach that particular benchmark more often.”
Sales leaders believe that sales reps will be accountable to results, provided that leadership:
(1) Identifies the important competencies required for success; (2) Supplies targeted training with appropriate structures for learning and application; and,
(3) Measures the degree of improvement.
Sales leaders are dedicated to transforming “C” players into “B” players, and “B” players into “A” players. They hold themselves accountable to develop or invest in relevant training systems, learning structures and support tools. They want most of their people to routinely meet or exceed company revenue goals, as well as personal career objectives. They know that they must provide the setting and the tools that foster this kind of achievement.
While their seat-of-the-pants skill sets are excellent, the natural sales rep, when thrust into the role of sales manager, must learn how to convert these skills into transferable processes and routines that focus on essential competencies. Thereafter, it comes down to how effectively they can train, motivate and support their staff towards maximizing core competencies, which ultimately increases the odds of exceeding revenue targets.