Protecting New Recruits From The Mediocre Masses – Sales eXchange 2110

By Tibor


Many in sales buy into, or more accurately, settle for the 80/20 rule, one example would be 20% of a company’s reps generating 80% of sales.  This post is less about disputing or validating the accuracy of the rule, if you want that, download The Shanto Principle; but more about how to ensure that your new recruits develop to be the 20%.  AT the same time, you can you use the same tactics to move from the 80% group delivering just 20% of the revenues, to the 20% club, the group that makes a difference.

Let’s look at a new rep joining a company, being social critters they want to fit in, be part of the team (part of the crowd, easy to hide in a crowd), they look around the office and take in the atmosphere.  Part of the ritual, is talking to their colleagues, getting the lay of the land, “how are things done around here?”

So who is likely to be in the office, who is likely to have time to just “talk”, rather than being out at client/prospect meetings; who lacks the discipline to not stop what they had scheduled, and shoot the breeze with the new guy?  You guessed it, the members of the 80% club.  The 20% club is too busy being out and driving revenues.

This is not to say that the 20% club members are not willing to help a new person out, on the contrary, they do, but they are not in the office, hanging around, they are making things happen.  So for the new team member, they need to make the effort to find and engage with the 20% club members.  In fact this can be an early indicator as to what you hired, how well do they seek out, engage with and model the 20%.

This is why the onboarding process is crucial, managers and organizations must proactively guide and steer new recruits, even experienced sellers, sheltering them from the 80%.

Picture the new recruit in the office with the all-knowing non-producing masses, as he or she stands up to peak out over their cubical walls, and the see the 80% members at their desk, getting ready to prospect, getting ready to learn about the new product, getting ready to go and ask the manager for a further discount so they can win the deal – putting more effort into selling the need to discount than they did selling the prospect on the value, getting ready finish their picks for the pool; for the most part, getting ready.

What is the take away for the new recruit – “hey this is the way they do things around here, if I’m gonna fit it, I best do the same”.

Stepping out to do the things the 20% do requires guidance, or expectation from their manager, and the ability to against the crowd.

Inviting the 20% club members to mentor new recruits not only instills good habits in new team members, but develops future leader in the process.  This in turn can help you increase the quality of the team, and tilt the numbers in your favour, over time, you can move the dial from 80/20, to dare we say it, 70/30.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Train them or help them sell better – Sales eXchange – 14762

If you are in sales you have likely seen or participated in a discussion about whether sales training works or not.  You have likely heard that it works when there is follow-through, or if there is buy in from front line sellers, or the degree to which management is committed to supporting the new training.  While these and other factors do play a role, I see a variation the last point as key.

While most have framed their reasoning and discussion around the argument of
management/leadership commitment, I believe it comes down to something more profound
and less often discussed, intent.

Just as intent will differentiate sellers in their buyers’ eyes, intent is more often than not the determining factor is sales training success.  Many companies embark on a training program because it is one of the things they (feel they) have to do.  While there is the underlying understand that training is a good thing and does lead to improvement at some level, it is often something that is done to satisfy a KPI, or is one of the things that was an initiative on the calendar for that fiscal year.

I recently was involved in a discussion with a company that typified this approach.  Several times we talked about the “need” for training, but when we tried to dig down and understand what were the specific objectives for the initiative, the discussion was held to a superficial level.  Any attempt to understand what the underlying factors were, how they wanted to see the team be different as a result of the initiative were met with generalities, “more revenue”, “better interactions”, “more profitable relations”, and more.

When we tried to take the discussion to a deeper more specific level, we met with surprise about the questions, and told that it was part of a greater plan.  We felt that if we were going t contribute to their success, it would be integral for us to understand the plan, what had already been addressed, if or how was it adopted, we were met by surprise for the question, rather than specific answers.

As part of any engagement we like to meet with reps and managers in advance, as an informal assessment (we often will conduct formal assessments), yet this is at time seen as a foreign request.  When it is, I have become suspicious about the intent and nature of the commitment.   It is as though they were telling us that the important thing is to have training, not necessarily to help the team sell better.

To me if the intent going in is wrong, the results will not be far from that either.

Next Step

  • Understand what specifically you intend to get as a result of any training
  • Spend longer sourcing the training than it takes to deliver it
  • Share your goal with the chosen training partner in advance, not after

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

It’s Not Always Easy18

Earlier this week, I posted on two related or intersecting topics sales leaders need to manage and improve. First, their view of, and approach to sales training; second the alignment of their sales assets with clearly identifiable market segments.

Based on some feedback, I want to expand on some key points and make sure that the wrong message is not being taken away.

With respect to KPI’s and training, I was not saying that KPI’s do not belong as part of training initiative.  In fact there needs to be metrics, measures and other indicators to ensure that the training is effective, implemented and is delivering the desired behavioural change.  Those same indicators should then be utilized to refine training strategy and implementation.  What I was saying, and don’t apologize for, is that sales leaders need stop making decisions on training in order to meet one of their KPI’s.  Not only does this not result in training that moves the dial forward, but more importantly communicates a clear message to their sales teams.  The message is that it is OK to just go through the motion to meet the basic requirement without regard for the end result.  After all, if the VP can get by with training that does not change sales behaviour, than why can a rep take a similar view, “you wanted five face to face visits, you got five”; KPI met, sale or not.

The question of alignment extends in to training as well.  Just as you don’t want to misalign the resources based on the type of buyer involved, you also don’t want to assume that all your sales people will benefit from the same type of training.  I have written in the past that there needs to be no democracy in sales training.  Indeed, when it comes to sales training, one size does not fit all.  Many have taken a forward step of separating new recruit training and some form of “advanced” training; others created online programs better matching requirements and content.  When actively managed this moves things in the right direction, when not, which is often the case, this type of training just invites the KPI mentality highlighted above.  This happens eve when there is testing built into modules.

In the end, as with anything strategic and core to business success, it is about having a long term view and the backbone to execute, especially when long term results and success will materialize after the next fiscal quarter or year end.  Let’s start by removing the KPI for cosmetic band aide initiatives.

Next Step

  • Develop or ensure your sales process aligns with and reflects your market’s buying process
  • Make sure you have the right people on the bus
  • Use the two above to determine he right training to create success behaviour

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


The Pipeline Guest Post – An interview with Peter Cook

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about Peter Cook’s new book “Punk Rock People Management”.  Based on the response, I asked Peter to sit down and tell me more.  What follows is that interview with Peter, Author of “Punk Rock People Management” and “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll”

What in your background led you to write Punk Rock People Management?

I started out life playing in punk rock and rock bands, but took a job as a chemist working in pharmaceuticals.  It was a wise decision as I enjoyed earning money and doing science just as much as driving round England in platform shoes in the back of a van. I kept music as my hobby and travelled the world fixing factories.  Working for the company that became GSK also allowed me to study for an MBA.  I left the company at the age of 36 with no idea of how to run a business but with a great deal of passion and energy.  The learning I gained on the MBA was very instructive, but I learned just as much from being on stage, engaging an audience.  I eventually distilled this rich mixture of learning down into “Best Practice Creativity”, “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” and “Punk Rock People Management”, which have been acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professor Charles Handy and featured on national TV here in the UK.

Punk Rock People Management is a really unusual title? What inspired it and what is the book about?

In case anyone is wondering, I am NOT suggesting that business people should don mohicans, smash up the reward system and pogo at the office party.  I am using punk rock in the sense that punk was about simplicity, brevity and authenticity.  Much of the stuff emanating from the HR institutes is about the opposite of these things.  Busy managers need short, simple and decent ways of handling people management if they are to generate high performance at work.  So Punk Rock People Management is for anyone who manages or has to get things done through people.  In terms of what it is about, the subtitle describes exactly what’s on offer:  A no-nonsense guide to hiring, inspiring and firing staff.  It follows the time-honoured ‘life, sex and death HR lifecycle': Getting a job, getting on with the job and getting out of a job.

I spent a lot of my early life playing in punk rock and rock bands, plus following bands such as The Damned, The Doctors of Madness, Siouxie and the Banshees, The Sex Pistols et al., having also played with and alongside a few original Brit Punk acts: John Otway, Altered Images, The Fall, Wilco Johnson and Norman Watt Roy, Ian Dury’s bass supremo.  I love all forms of music, even the pomp and circumstance progressive rock that preceded punk rock and which it aimed to eradicate.  Some punk music combines intelligence with brevity and this captured the nexus of what I wanted to do.  Just think of the sheer genius of Ian Dury’s words and music, Joe Strummer, Elvis Costello and one or two others in the genre.

In the spirit of punk you have made each chapter just two pages long. How have you condensed the information to make it quick and simple?

This was really difficult.  I recall that Winston Churchill said that he needed more time to write a 3 minute speech than a 3 hour one.  He is right and I was chatting on this very subject with the great Tom Peters a few weeks ago.  To write a chapter which is just two pages long requires huge amounts of discipline and creativity if you are to avoid the trap of just removing the content.  I did this by:

  1. Reducing the ‘size’ of each topic to manageable proportions e.g. appraisal, conflict, selection etc.
  2. Setting out a simple 3 part structure for every chapter: A critique of traditional people management practice in a particular area; the punk rock alternative and;  three pithy tips on how to get started.
  3. I ruthlessly edited it to remove all unnecessary words – I read the whole thing out to my I Mac and then edited it again so that it wrote like it might be read out, as many of the chapters lend themselves to keynote speaker events.
  4. Finally I applied some devices to improve the book’s ‘stickiness’ – a bit of alliteration and rhyming to help things along.

All of this bearing in mind that the content is still more important than the delivery vehicle.  It’s really a matter of tremendous goal focus and then following through with precision.  I’m absolutely sure that the approach leaves people wanting more in some of the areas I’ve covered.  We can always do more detail but we live in a busy world and I aimed to make it possible for people to be able to read a chapter and gain value from it in less time than it would take to pogo to a Ramones or Linkin Park song.

Do you think Kindles and reading online are more popular than print nowadays?

Decca records rejected The Beatles in 1962, saying that ‘Groups with guitars are finished’– they were wrong!  My hunch is that the same is true of print books.  However, certain types of reader clearly prefer to read books on a Kindle.  Reading online is very popular, as Amazon report that more than 50% of books are read in this way.  Kindles are not so good for books where you don’t always read from start to finish or you might want to compare something on one page with another etc.  For the ‘bookish’ person, I feel that print books as a format will be with certain types of reader for a very long time just as CD’s have not completely eradicated other music formats.  For this reason, Punk Rock People Management is available as a print book, a kindle version and a free pdf download

What is next for you….?

In business, I’m off to Greece shortly to give an HR keynote on how companies can rebuild themselves after the economic meltdown.  Also some long term management development (without the punk rock) in The United Arab Emirates and a follow on keynote from Tom Peters in South Africa. In music, I am working on some corporate conference offerings with my colleagues John Howitt, session musician to Celine Dion, Anastasia and Shirley Bassey and Bernie Torme, lead guitar player to Ozzy Osbourne and Ian Gillan.  In writing, I am constantly busy with The Rock’n’Roll Business Blog – I have a backlog of books to release – one lengthy tome on innovation, a follow up micro book ‘Hard Rock Marketing’ and a possible book of ‘business poetry’.  There isn’t time at the moment, but I am also planning to release a new album of electronic guitar soundscapes in 2012, inspired by the work of Bill Nelson of Be-Bop Deluxe, who I am proud to know and who has been a continuous inspiration since my teenage years.  Here is a piece of film soundtrack music I wrote and recorded in my basement to end with, inspired by Bill Nelson, entitled Mars Warming.

About Peter Cook


Peter Cook runs Human Dynamics, a creative management consultancy, serving the top businesses in the World. With over 20 years’ business, academic and consultancy experience: Leading innovation teams; International trouble-shooting; Internal business and OD consultancy: Leadership and management development.

Peter started life as a chemist, has an MBA and a ‘university of life’ qualification in leading rock bands.  Author of ‘Best Practice Creativity’ and ‘Sex, Leadership and Rock ‘n’ Roll’, acclaimed by Tom Peters, who said of it “Sex, Leadership and Rock ‘n’ Roll is a marvellous book, which closes the door on the tidy, hierarchical, know-your-place ‘Orchestral Age’ and ushers in a new, creative era of challenge and change.

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Who’s Expectations? – Sales eXchange – 11917

We often do an exercise with teams centered on expectations of roles, the frontline reps and their managers.  More often than not, there gaps and differences between the managers’ expectations of the frontline reps’ role, and the expectations those same frontline reps present about their own role.    While most of these are not fatal, some of the gaps in expectations can be costly in a number of ways.  While not fatal, even the smallest discrepancies take time, resources and money to resolve.  Even more so when you consider that the average manager waits much too long to take corrective action.

One of the reasons for this is the difference in role expectation between HR and the frontline sales manager.  The more HR is involved in the hiring process, the more pronounced the challenge is.

Ask any manager in a company with more than one layer between frontline sales rep and the VP of Sales, about their hiring process, most of the time the initial step is handled by HR. This explains not only the lame descriptions in the want ads, but also why so often the wrong reps get hired or it takes so long to get them productive.

Take skills and attributes.  Sure a member HR group to sit down with sales leaders and captures the skill sets and “attributes” they are seeking needed in a candidate.  It’s one thing to create a list, it is another to understand how it all comes together in a functional way in the field.  By extension it impacts the choices one makes.

Because of their points of reference, their view of specific attribute are different, after all there is a reason why these two individuals followed different paths.  What a sales manager see as desired assertiveness, an HR manager could easily see as aggressive.  Since everyone agreed that they are not seeking aggressive sales people, the HR manager passes on someone the sales manager would have seen as a good add to the team.

Conversely, HR may see amiability or sociability as an important attribute, while a sales manager may see that attribute a distant fourth behind trustworthiness, inquisitiveness or other attributes that will help a sales person in formulating a solution.  Again, leading to a situation where if HR conducts the initial screening interview, they may turn away good candidates, leaving the manager to select from the best of the rest.

While it is true that it would not the sales managers best use of time to screen hundreds of resumes, it is also true that the cost of having the wrong sales person on board, the resulting vacancy in the territory, and the cost of hiring a replacement is not small either.  The solution is to either have the two work together, that is rather than having one do the screening interview, then manager interview, have them both participate in the first interview.  If the candidate satisfies requirements, they then continue in the interview process.  The key challenge continues to be sifting through the initial volume of resumes, which puts the focus back on HR, who like good sales people, need to look past their biases and focus on the need of their customer, the sales manager.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Punk Rock People Management20

I have just received an advance copy of an unusual book on managing people by the business author and speaker called Peter Cook.  He is the author of ‘Best Practice Creativity’ and ‘Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll’, acclaimed by Professor Charles Handy and Tom Peters.  Peter mixes up business academia with music in a heady cocktail that reaches the parts that other business gurus do not dare to touch.

His latest ‘album’ is curiously titled “Punk Rock People Management”, it offers some short and straightforward advice on hiring, inspiring and firing staff.  In the spirit of punk, Peter has made each chapter just two pages long – ideal for busy people and those who now browse books online.  On hearing of the idea that you could read a chapter in less time than it would take to pogo to a Sex Pistols or Linkin Park song – international author and speaker Tom Peters tweeted just four characters to Peter – “DO IT” – That’s punk rock economy!

Peter offers keynote seminars and more traditional business consultancy without guitars, based on his ideas – you can find out more at THE ACADEMY OF ROCK and HUMAN DYNAMICS.  Connect with him at LINKEDIN or read his ROCK’N’ROLL BUSINESS BLOG for regular updates.

If you like Punk Rock People Management, please fast forward, share and network it with colleagues and connections.  It’s absolutely OK to do this as the book is copyright free.   A full colour print copy and an AMAZON KINDLE version are available.  Just click on the highlighted links in this e-mail.

Take it from an old prog rocker, this Peter’s stuff is great!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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