Should Sales Leaders Have Previous Sales Experience?

experience-requiredCan a non-sales person lead a sales team? Of course. Many companies have leaders over sales teams that have never made a sales call in their life. In fact, many small business owners are the sales managers of their sales teams and have never been a sales rep either.

However, for growing companies, large or small, here are a few reasons why I believe it is much better if a sales leader has had previous sales experience.

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How to Tell A Decision-Maker They Have a Problem and Still Win the Deal

brutally-honestAfter successfully working with a division of a Fortune 1000 company for about four months, Michelle received an invitation to meet the head of training and development for the entire organization because he was looking to potentially scale the training nationwide. She accepted, but she knew that the conversation might be difficult.

She knew the truth might come out.

In her months working with the regional office, Michelle had come to understand that one contributing factor to the sales team’s substandard performance had little to do with the sales leaders. Rather, it stemmed from a systemic problem in the hiring process. The recruiting arm of the organization consistently hired people suited to the collaborative culture of the company, intentionally weeding out more aggressive candidates—the very candidates desperately needed in sales. As a result, the employees in the company worked well together while sales continued to lag far below quotas.

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Proceed With Caution: These 2 Jobs Are NOT The Same

The skills and personality attributes of sales managers who meet and beat expectation are usually very different from those possessed by the highest performing sales reps. This is why.

  1. sales-successSalespeople must deliver tangible sales results themselves. Sales managers must deliver tangible sales results through other people.Fundamentally, these are very different roles. Does having previous sales experience make a difference in the effectiveness of a sales manager? Absolutely. However, since the roles are quite different, the capacities, skills, and activities required for success are not the same.
  1. The sales rep role is largely tactical. They execute a defined sales process to land sales each month. Sales manager must live in both the tactical and strategic realms simultaneously. Strategically, they must develop a sales plan with organizational leaders for the entire sales team.  Tactically, they have to understand the subtle nuances of the sales process, aptitude of each sales rep, and specific coaching points to improve individual performance.
  1. A sales rep helping a customer succeed is very different from a sales manager helping a sales rep grow. Both require some degree of altruism, but a sales manager needs more than that. Without a genuine motivation for helping others develop personally, they may be challenged to achieve greater levels of performance from their team.

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3 Essential Traits of Superstar Salespeople

3-traits-top-performersWhenever I speak to a group of professionals, I get this one question from sales leaders and salespeople most often: “What is the make-up of a really good salesperson?” I usually give my lawyer response:

It depends.

All sales roles are not the same. So, it makes sense that not all great salespeople would be the same. They would have traits that align with the demands of their respective roles. Since that answer is more logical, it’s not quite satisfying to the inquisitive (and sometimes desperate) sales leaders or sales reps who are looking for a custom answer to their question.

In an attempt to satisfy this ‘universal question,’ here are three traits that I’ve observed time and again with superstar sales reps. Just be careful about how you apply these three, keeping the specific sales role in mind.  Continue reading

“I Only Have Five Minutes—What Have You Got for Me?”

5-minutes-for-the-saleEvery salesperson will eventually find themselves in this situation. For whatever reason, usually owing to an interruption or last-minute emergency on the buyer’s end, your scheduled thirty-minute first appointment has been whittled down to almost nothing. When this happens to you—and if it hasn’t, it will—context is key to determining your best response. Here are two typical situations.

Situation #1: Your prospect is a major account you’ve been researching for weeks and you had finally landed a half-hour on the buyer’s calendar.

Understand that when this happens, you’d better have your game tight. If you can’t deliver something compelling, with no hype, in less than five minutes, you probably weren’t ready for the appointment in the first place.

Your response: Cut to the chase.  Open with your purpose statement and your value statement together. Summarize your preliminary findings about a business issue your prospect faces that your company is in the business of resolving and tell them that is why you requested the meeting.  Continue reading

3 Surefire Ways to Reduce Conflict on Your Sales Team

reduce-sales-team-conflictDo you have sales reps that tense up when you walk into the room? How about flare up? Are you frustrated because of their excessive phone calls, emails, and texts?

These issues, and many others, can cause conflict within a sales team and negatively impact performance. No two sales reps are exactly alike, yet most sales leaders tend to communicate with everyone on their team in nearly identical fashion. Some respond well, others don’t. One of the best ways to improve communication between you and your reps is to share with them your communication style and expectations for how you conduct business internally. You also want to learn the same information about your reps and what they want from you.

Here are 3 topics to discuss with your sales reps to improve communication: Continue reading

3 Habits of Great Sales Coaches

Great Sales CoachGood sales coaches provide their sales reps with good answers. Great sales coaches provide sales reps with growth opportunities. Take, for example, a common step of the sales process: qualifying. Your salesperson excitedly reveals a hot prospect that they just know is going to close. A good sales manager might listen to the rep explain what happened on the sales call. Then they might share their opinion as to why the rep is either right or wrong in their assessment of the opportunity.

A great sales manager puts on their coaching hat and says, “How qualified is this opportunity?” The sales rep immediately must begin to connect qualifiers with closing. The sales rep might claim that the prospect is fully qualified and ready to close. The next words from the sales manager are, “Prove it.” (You see where this is going.) Continue reading

You Probably Aren’t Coaching As Much As You Think You Are

Sales CoachingAs a sales manager, you have the responsibility for developing each of your sales reps into an independent, self-sustaining profit center—for themselves first, and then for the company. Salespeople enjoy higher levels of motivation when they see their best efforts benefiting themselves and their families primarily. If your compensation plan is structured properly, the company is going to make money as the sales rep makes money. Both parties win; that’s the goal.

To reach this goal, the salespeople on your team need coaching. Some will need more and some less; some will need coaching in one area and some in others. Each salesperson is unique, but they all share one thing in common: they won’t reach peak performance without coaching.

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Selling Solutions In A Recovering Economy

Selling in a Recovering EconomyThe perception that businesses have about the economy can have a significant impact on the way that salespeople treat their prospecting and value propositions.

A sales management team needs to train their representatives to see beyond this idea, as the economy won’t always factor into their calls and shouldn’t affect the way they handle correspondence with clients.

The same is true for the representatives themselves, as these individuals have to prevent themselves from getting deterred and upset due to a large number of denials from companies that are not willing to do business. Continue reading

How Does A Selling Strategy Differ When Selling Into A Publicly Traded Company?

Sales Into Publicly Traded CompanyThe type of company that a representative sells to may influence how they approach the prospective buyer, but this different method of selling is likely not needed for companies that are publicly traded.

A sales management team has to teach their representatives to approach selling to a publicly traded company in the same manner as other businesses. However they need to emphasize the significant amount of material that is available to them in the public domain.

According to Heather Kivett, president of Resolution Systems, Inc., representatives that are selling to these companies are already at an advantage, as these businesses put so much of their information online due to the public nature of the operation. Continue reading