mANAGER - lEADERS

Are You Developing Managers Or Leaders?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

We have all witnessed situations where an outstanding sales rep is “rewarded” with a promotion to sales management, leading to two compounding problems. The previously successful contributor flounders in the new role, and you have an underperforming territory where you had a star you moved. There is no doubt that you’re a+ Primo players, should be recognized, even rewarded for their contribution, (which is what I thought the incentive plan was for), but that reward should be one that resonates with them, not with current company leadership.

Successful leaders create an environment where they understand what the rep in questions considers to be a reward or recognition. Many companies default to either monetary rewards or hierarchical promotion. The challenge with the former, is that real A+ Primo players can generally achieve the financial results they want, especially if, as mentioned, you have an effective incentive plan in place. But even then, money is an interesting aphrodisiac, it is a lot like gas, which fills the entire space or volume of its container regardless of the container size, no matter what the volume, it will fill a bigger container. Even a substantial increase will have limited lift, limited change in behavior.

mANAGER - lEADERSThe challenge with promotion is that some don’t want it as much as those higher in the hierarchy believe. Clearly those in senior roles, those who enjoy and are successful at it, find it hard to understand why others don’t get turned on by the same thing. But many don’t, we have all known career sales people, who continuously make more money than their managers or even directors, but and have no desire to take on the role. Promote one of these reps, as many do, and you not only face the issues presented above, but a bunch of collateral damage. Damage on the other members of the team who now lack a leader, this will manifest in either lower revenues or mass departures, sometimes both. Not to mention the countless dollars spent with experts to try “reprogram” the rep, mentor, coach, and all the other programs invested in, with little or no impact.

The answer is determined a lot earlier, at the time of hiring. Organizations should be hiring for the role, not hoping that some will evolve into it, especially when they were hired to do a specific thing. I don’t see a lot of football team bringing on a lot of placeholders with a goal that they will one day make great field goal kickers or quarterbacks. With all the talk about Account Based Management, perhaps we should extend the concept to how we construct a successful sales team, put some focus and energy in to Role Based Hiring and Development. I do apologize to those who sell programs to help people make the “transition” from one role to the next, but more often than not the result is the creation of a managers not leaders. Bureaucrats who excels in explaining and enforcing a process, but are useless at leading their teams in executing and continuous improvements in that execution. Manager is a great title, but it is leadership that will drive results both in the short and long term. Don’t settle just because it is easy, convenient, or always done that way.

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Leader versus manager

2 Traits Separating A Leader From A Title – Sales eXecution 3281

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

There is no doubt that people should celebrate recognition in the form of promotion. When you become a sales manager, or a VP of Sales it says a lot about you, your accomplishments, and your organisation. What one does with their new role and opportunity is what separates leaders from promoted minions.

In my experience as a participant in the corporate world, and as an observer with a unique seat in the stands, is that there are a number of things that make for good leaders, there two that are must if you are going to lead and have people willingly follow.

The first is leading from the front, rather than behind a desk. This involves two things, one you can fake, the other you can try, but people see it. Many get to the position by survival, which is after all a skill in a competitive environment like sales, but not necessarily a success factor for revenue growth. We have all met that VP of Sales who has risen with the tide, or their cheaper version, the one that just managed to hang on to the dick as the tide was washing over him. These are the people with 20 years tenure, unfortunately, the same year 20 times over, rather than 20 years of evolution, personal growth, and the resulting wisdom. You can’t learn a lot while keeping you head down, while sales is war, you gotta come out of the fox hole to win and grow. But you can always impress the 80%, with war stories from back in the day.

The part you can’t fake is synthesizing and extrapolating from years of real experience. More importantly, the ability to share that with a member of your team, and educate them without “bossing” or telling them how you did it. Context is key, leaders understand that and use the situational context of their reps’ currently reality to educate and help that individual grow, and win the right deals.

A dividend of the latter, is it hones the next generation of great leaders. The risk of the former is the same, except the result is the next generation of inept manager/executives.

The second trait is accountability. Managers focus on keeping their people accountable. Which is a real challenge when they see a manager not a leader. Leaders understand that they are accountable for the success of their people, they strive for mutual accountability, leading with themselves.

I recently encountered a VP of Sales (by title only, habits: manager), faced with a negative situation he blamed everyone in sight. First it was his admin who messed up, then it was the manager, finally the rep. Never in the discussion did he consider his role in the blunder. He literally used his team as a human shield from facing the situation he created and was responsible for. He expected his people to be accountable for his failure. Would you follow this guy in to battle? Not that you could as he was firmly strapped to his desk.

The leaders I respect are not the ones who ask what are you going to do to improve, but the ones who ask: What do I need to do for you to help you succeed?

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A Lead Is A Terrible Thing To Waste – Sales eXecution 3140

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Garbage

Every day around the globe thousands if not hundreds of thousands of leads are created. Some are created by nice marketing folks, others by sales, some at trade shows, probably a few on your site, some are inbound, many are outbound, and frankly some are nowhere bound, but there is nothing but hope and blue skies at the point they are created.

But many of these leads never have the opportunity to grow into viable leads, delivering their full potential, evolving into prospects and finally full blown sales. No, many leads are wasted, ignored, sadly forgotten, and like so many before them, end up being another “might have been”, the latest addition to a pile of unrealized business cards.

Waste is never good, especially when what’s being wasted has real potential. It is especially sad when many sales people are begging or Jonesing for leads. Normally people are careful with a resource in shortage, in this case leads, and the ultimate finished good, sales and customers, sellers should be working leads full out, not wasting them. While leads may be a renewable resource, that’s no reason to waste or be casual with them, if you don’t want to work them, someone else will. Each of these leads has the opportunity to reward you now, and pay dividends well into the future. So why do people in sales allow, and at times deliberately set out to, waste and squander leads. After all, a lead is a terrible thing to waste.

Some have told me that they are not wasting these leads, but allowing them to “fully develop”. Why just last week, during a review with an IT sales rep, he told me that the lead was “not real, they are not looking to buy for another six months.” The sales version of the glass half full routine. Where I saw a good runway to build rapport and understanding, he only saw something wasting his time. “What’s a good lead?” I asked, “Someone ready to buy now, not next year.” I followed up and asked how long his sales cycle normally was, he told me six months. I tried explaining to him, but he insisted that there was no point in engaging with them for another six months.

While you can forgive the stupidity of the above, what is not forgivable, are those know what they have to do but don’t do it. Follow up once, twice and then punting, is wasting. But it takes effort to develop and execute a good pursuit plan. On the other hand so does whinging about the quality of leads you get from marketing, I mean how many times can we hear the same story.

Better use of that energy is to develop a plan for maximizing every lead. The plan should take the emotion and guess work out of maximizing a lead. Outlining the specific steps to take in converting a lead to a prospect will take the emotion and the effort out of it. You will be there early, you will do things to build rapport as time moves forward, and you’ll be the right person at the right time. Not late because you were were waiting for the perfect time, trying to get that right is a waste of time and leads. And you know what they say, “A Lead Is A Terrible Thing To Waste”.

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The Antidote To Micromanagement0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

People love to complain about micromanagement, even when at times they are just being actively managed , which is a perfectly good and welcome practice for front line management. While I agree that true micromanagement is neither effective nor desired, at times it is easy to understand why some managers turn to it. I also find that many who feel they are being micromanaged, are in fact just being managed, and can actually prevent the negative aspects of it if they were willing to take on a couple of core requirements for sales success. The biggest way to avoid being micromanaged is to embrace the other side of the coin – Accountability.

That’s right, if sellers were willing to be more accountable for their actions and outcomes, they would find that their managers would (or at least seem to) “micro manage” them less. I know that accountability is one of those “feel good” words in sales and business. Leaders talk about it, they want, even when they themselves are reluctant to be accountable to the team. Sales people love talk accountability, just rolls off the tongue, and talking heads like me, well what’s a good rant without accountability being bounced about. So let’s put a little teeth and definition into it.

One thing that continues to fascinate me even after all my years in sales is how many sales people know their own metrics. Let’s make it simple, let’s look at a few leading indicators, that when focused on, can have tremendously positive impact on sales success, and when ignored, well the opposite. Let’s take three simple examples, number of potential prospects you need to engage one “real” prospect; how many “real” prospects you need in order to generate one quality viable proposal; finally how many viable proposals lead to won deal. There are others I know, but for the sake of this discussion these will do. I am going to start by asking you to write down your own three metrics for the above, if you are a manger or higher, what is the average for your team?

Sales professionals need to “own” these numbers, and those who understand the importance of accountability for success do. One reason some feel they are being micromanaged is because their manager is asking for these numbers, (sorry, I forgot, sales is not a numbers game), metrics. Many managers are asking because they want to develop an improvement plan for the rep in question, i.e. taking accountability for their rep’s success. If they come with the number in hand and present it to the rep, it will be fuel for micromanagement fire, it is much better if the rep knows and owns the number and is an equal partner in the development plan, but without an agreed on starting point and end point it is hard to move forward.

The challenge for sales managers and organizations is commonly called the Accountability Paradox: the harder you try to create accountability, the less accountable people actual become. Many believe their only option is to try harder, which again just sends a different message than intended. While the goal may be coaching to success, the interpretation by some is that they are being micromanaged. This where frequent and consistent coaching comes in.

In many organizations there are regular meetings with reps, but it is often data processing not coaching. What coaching may take place seems skewed to the managers’ requirements, not as a means of helping the rep improve. The easiest way to encourage accountability, is to demonstrate it. As a manager, you should have a coaching plan for your team as a whole, and for each individual on the team. Coaching sessions should be frequent, at least weekly, more often where needed. In case you believe that this may not be a good use of time, some indicate that ten minutes of contextual coaching can lead to reps increasing revenues by up to 17%.

If coaching is not a regular expectation, it becomes an event, usually an event centered on a short coming. As someone once said, “you only get coached when you’re not doing as well as they want”. One way managers can drive accountability is to be accountable for the success of their people, not just the numbers, after all, if their people are successful and improving, the numbers will follow.

Micromanagement sucks for all involved, why not commit to the antidote, and commit to mutual accountability.

 

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A Discussion with Stu Heinecke (#podcast)0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Some of you may be familiar with Stu Heinecke, a Hall-of-fame-nominated marketer and Wall Street Journal cartoonist, see example above. Last year I had the opportunity to speak with Stu while he was working on his book “How to Get a Meeting with Anyone”. More recently I joined Stu, for extended conversation on not just on how to get a meeting with right prospect, how to position and extend initial engagement. This was part of a podcast series Stu has been producing. Have a listen, and more importantly, let us know your thoughts.

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Experiment and Extend0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Expand

Every human being has an X chromosome, and in sales people that X will stand for one of two characteristics. In some it denotes those spend their time and energy making excuses as to why they are not succeeding. In others it is all about how they execute and drive their own success and by extension the success of their customers. But in truly exceptional sellers, the mythical 20 in the 80/20 rule, the X goes deeper, it drive them to experiment and as a result, continuously extend their skills and successes.

Sounds simple, yet difficult for many sales people, and sales organisations. And this is definitely an instance where you have to go past the “messaging”, and explore the action.

While it is easy to look at the front line and find fault, but the ground work, expectations, culture and accountability is the date main of the executive, both sales leadership and other leaders accountable for the success of the company. Often the lack of experimentation is a result of the leader’s inability to distinguish between focus and limits. One can focus on outcomes for buyers without limiting execution, especially when winning deals is about helping buyers achieve objectives, not product differentiation.

Leaders need to lead from the front, not from behind a desk, and this means leading by example. If you as a leader are not will to continuously expand the bounds of you sales and sales approach, how can you expect your people to. Forget all the flowery communications, the old adage of so as I do, not as I say do looms large here. If your activities show as unwilling to grow and expand, then how can you expect your team to?

Change is key to sales success. Front line sales people are trying to get buyers to change, change the way the see things, the way they do things, the things they are willing to do. As I have mentioned in the past, one of the biggest barriers to this is the seller’s own propensity to change. Why would a customer make a change with you when your actions reinforce the fact that you yourself are closed to change. The way you sell informs a buyer reaction and response to you. If you sell the way the hundreds of others who have tried to, and failed to sell to that buyer, why would they change with you when you don’t represent change. But if the example they see from their leaders is resistance to change, how are they supposed to change, and on it goes from there.

One way is to establish and ,maintain a dynamic, continuously evolving process. This will not only allow leaders to demonstrate change, but drive it through every level of the organization. Central to this is a deal review process, we use one called the 360 Degree Deal Review. This allows organizations to identify and capture movements in the market, and respond accordingly. Front line can expand according to findings, sales and marketing leadership can support that change by introducing initiatives that support the front line, and at same time make the organization as a whole responsive to the market and clients.

New tools can also be introduced, or at a minimum, existing tools can find new life and utility for the front line reps and ROI for the organization. For example, clients who were challenged in getting adoption of CRM, found this approach as a good carrot. Front line sellers see a direct link to their success and commissions. Front line managers become more efficient coaches, driving benefits both up-stream and downstream. The executive finally get the visibility on aspects of the business and trends they need to have to meet their objectives.

Another area where leaders can experiment and expand in in their hiring approach. Looking for reps who are capable, yet different than their current crew. Hiring lookalikes, or people we like just perpetuates things and again confirms the lack of change, if not stagnation. In one example I was involved with, a VP had a habit of hiring only those with “industry experience”, meaning they knew the product, but sold no differently than his current team. After some convincing and arm twisting, he went out hired someone from a very different industry, different style, and a track record of exceeding quota. The goal was to be disruptive and shake things up from within, creating a nervous energy that one can never get from threats or heavy handed approaches. Result was that many of the habits rubbed off on others, managers actively encouraged others to follow suit, we built coaching plans to help willing reps change and grow. There were those who did not like the experiment, and are now working elsewhere, they were replace by others with varied backgrounds and styles, and the culture and success has continued to expand.

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Training vs. Improving – Sales eXecution 2981

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

iStock_000002705035XSmall

People often confuse training for a bunch of things that may or may not need to be present to achieve what they really want to achieve which is usually, change, and more specifically a change for the better, improvement. But improving, especially in sales, take a whole lot more than just training, and certainly more time than most people consider when it comes to training.

Training is an easy check mark on the KPI card, but improvement requires, planning, effort, and patience. All too many leaders “just train”, and often simply train their sales people to do the same thing, some times better, sometimes not, but “we trained them”. Sort of like an annual tune up on your car.

Training is part of the process, but it starts with planning. What are trying to change, and more importantly to what end. There are some who will do assessments, but then fail to set specific targets or outcomes for the training. “As a result of the assessment and interviews with Trainer X, the goal for this program is to increase pipeline value by X%; or to improve the conversion rates from stage X to stage Y of the process; or to reduce the sales cycle from an average X weeks to, X minus weeks” Or any other objective. To achieve improvement, you not only need to set goals, but benchmarks so you can measure progress, and metrics so you can manage progress.

Speaking of manage, why bother training the front line if you don’t train the managers. Or let’s be more accurate, train those leading your front line to really lead. But training is not enough, as Steve Rosen always reminds me, coaching and leadership is an ongoing process, as is development and lasting improvement for the front line.

As with any other improvement process your company takes on, it need to be planned, “sold” to participants, delivered, and then driven, not just left to “happen”. Sounds simple, I’ll bet a bunch of you reading this are saying, “Of course, why is this guy stating the obvious?” Sure, it’s obvious, but think back to your last training, sales or otherwise.

Unless it is an iterative process with specific goals, it is just a feel good KPI exercise. And don’t be fooled by assessments that capture your unfounded subjective observation that will seem to improve if for no other reason than the fact that you paid attention to it, ticked off on your list, and feel good about the fact that you rep is “now also responding”. The only thing that changes is the reps ability to give the right answer the second time around. Objective measures that lead to improvement, feeling better is not improvement.

There is an old joke in the training business, ask a leader “if you had a 14 year old daughter, would you rather she had sexual education at school, or sexual training.” And everyone feels good about choosing education over training. Go for improvement, the means is secondary.

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Talking Sales Strategy – Sales eXecution 2921

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

TV Head

Earlier in the month, I was invited to sit in with Executive coach and Sales Coaching Expert Steven Rosen, and Emma Foster of expertise.tv. The questions came from the audience, and as such will hopefully be similar to those areas of sales you are interested in. You can view and excerpt below, and watch the entire program on my You Tube channel.

Have a look, and tell us what you think.

Tibor Shanto

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There Is More To Leadership Than Leading – #SPS15 Special0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

woman with sketched strong and muscled arms

There is a lot written about leadership in general, and more specifically sales leadership, I have contributed my share to the din. This is a clear indication that no one has really figured it out, if they had the book will have been written, millions of copies sold, and people move past the debate, and focus on the next thing.

One common theme in pieces about leadership is how the leader needs to be involved and leading the process. And while that is true, the nature of that involvement differs based on who you read. I have always been an advocate of “leading from the front, not behind a desk”, and the assumption many take is that this literally means out in front of the troops Napoleon style. But I truly think that the best form of leadership, and means of driving change, the right change, not just change for change sake, anyone can rearrange the furniture and replace the curtains, is to not be part of the action. The best leadership, and I see things through the sales filter, is change that comes about in what appears to be in an organic way, initiated and completed by the sales rep/team, with only partial prints from the leader.

Managing/Coaching sales people, is really an exercise in selling. In a conventional sale we are trying to get the buyer to purchase our “stuff”, as a means of helping them achieve their objectives. Well as a coach, you are trying to get the sales person to integrate and take on your view alongside or instead of their current view or means of executing. That being the case, it really is best approached as a sale itself. As such, you not only have the opportunity to get the rep to buy into the change, but the means by which you do that could itself be a model or at a minimum, reinforce the process.

Everyone buys into the notion that “people don’t want to be sold”, and so you need to create a buying environment. The flaw with that in coaching is twofold. First While people may not want “to be sold”, they often need to be, that’s why we hire sales people. And the fact that the rep took on the job of selling, they have de facto declared that they want to buy, or buying to your process, otherwise, why are they working for you.

So how do we pull this together, simple, much like buyers like to hear things come out their mouth more than the sales reps, even when it was the sales person who choreographed the moment, sales people, especially established, good sales people who need to be taken to the next level, respond to ideas and actions that are their idea, not the managers. Meaning the best thing a manager can do lay down the bread crumbs, and let the rep discover things on their own, and when they do, you can become a resource in their journey to success.

How do you do that, I am old school, put the focus on your sales process. You have one right? Clear stages, specific activities in each stage, objectives, desired outcomes, tools, contingencies, and most importantly, clear reasons to disqualify. Each stage supported by an evolving playbook, and a clear next step go-no go, criteria. If you have this, you’re set to help the rep discover what you want them to, without directly leading them. If you don’t, you can call me and we can get you started.

As a first step, you can join me and my colleagues today for the 2015 Sales Performance Summit, webcast live from Toronto.

Tibor Shanto

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You Can Play Nice or You Can Play To Win0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

iStock_000003854002Small

There are times when you hit a wall in a given sale or opportunity, where you have some though choices to make: do you walk away, do you take a different approach with the buyer, or do you abandon the person you have been working with and go around or over them.

As interesting as the choices that people make in these situations, what’s even more interesting and noteworthy from a learning standpoint, is why and how the make those choices.

Not a negative, but a reality is that many sales people positive nature and disposition, a ray of sunshine buyers will be drawn to, a “can do” attitude spiced with plenty of optimism. This drives them to look for positive outcomes, which is often different than the right or profitable outcome.

As an interesting side note, according to recent Harvard Business Review article by Steve W. Martin, What Separates the Strongest Salespeople from the Weakest, the best sales people as measured by performance, are in fact inwardly pessimistic. Questioning the buyer, motives, aspects of the sale, etc. This allows them to qualify/disqualify and be more effective sales winners (as opposed to the large group of relationship starved professional visitors who are in sales). While “possibilities” are endless, reality comes down to fewer choices, some harder than the others.

Of the choices above, abandon, change the facts or change horses, most sales people will be most reluctant to changing horses, going around or above the person they have been dealing with. Odd, because it is generally the most effective, both in terms of outcomes and best use of time.

It all hinges on how you view one fact, what are the potential consequences. The most optimistic relation types see negative consequences (now who is pessimistic), they say “If I go around or over them, it may upset the person I am dealing with, and the deal won’t happen”. The best, high performing sales people say “If I stay on the current path, the deal ain’t happening, I need to engage someone who can make it happen”.

One major difference is that the high performers look at it from the perspective of what’s right and best for the buyer and their company; they look at deal, not the people. Most importantly, they look at the situation as being “who else can I engage”, not necessarily going around or over someone. If that’s what you are looking for, that is what you’ll find.

At it’s core the question is a common one in sales, are you reactive or proactive, do you put more faith in hope or action?

It is not a question of the cup being half full or half empty. What differentiates these two types of sales people is that they both see the half glass, they both aspire to have the glass full. One is hoping that being genteel, nice and smiling will hopefully fill the glass. The other group knows they need to take proactive steps to fill the glass.

Tibor Shanto

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