Sales – It’s time to get scientific: by Mark Blezard.
How many times have you heard ‘sales is an art’ or ‘the art of selling’? This is often derived from an encounter with a flamboyant, extrovert sales person. Sure, they are great communicators, know how to engage you, keep great eye contact and their facial expressions ooze enthusiasm. But wait a minute. This is their personality – not ‘art.’
The problem with managing sales executives is that they are a bunch of extroverts, all capable of talking you into a corner. Too many corporations are frightened to meddle with them. So long as they are hitting their numbers, they would rather leave them alone. And while every other department has weights and measures that keep a tight grip on performance, safety, training and accountability, in many organisations, the only time management lifts the lid on the sales team is when the boardroom are alerted to a sales target miss.
Up pops the red flag and in comes the sales trainer to fix the problem. Well, that is too late!
Does this sound like your organisation? Yes? Then read on. No? Well, read on anyway but with a smug smile.
Okay. I’m perhaps being a little bit harsh as most organisations have sales managers, regular meetings and transparent reporting of sales on a weekly basis. Perhaps even a weekly training session for the team. Fine. But this is still too wishy-washy.
There have been a lot of changes to everyone’s market place over the last 6 months and, for many, sales has become a lot harder. However, one thing that has not changed is the correlation between sales skills and sales performance. And this is where the science sits. This is the beating heart of professional sales management.
A high achiever can hide poor sales skills simply through hard work. Or perhaps they just have the best accounts.
John Doe = 130% of target: leave alone
Jane Doe = 45% of target: apply sales training
Where’s the science? If John is lacking skills, imagine where he’d be if these skills gaps were plugged. And Mary, well the damage has already been done. You’re missing revenue and she’s probably disheartened and dragging morale downwards.
This is why a sales skills assessment tool is essential. Applied correctly, it will shine a light on individuals, not teams, and their specific needs and requirements. No more ‘sheep dip’ sales training, just scientific, focused data on what will boost the sales performance for each member of your team.
It is as simple as this:
· Load each member of your sales executives into a spread-sheet.
· Add their salary, travel budgets, commission, etc.
· Total the cost for each one.
· Document their annual sales target and sales to date.
· Calculate this percentage.
This is their sales performance number!
Now run a sales skills assessment programme and document their percentage number. You should now have two numbers: sales performance percentage and sales skills percentage.
Only now can you start to manage sales performance scientifically.
Look for the sales assessment tools that focus on hard, trainable sales skills. Psychometric ones will report back on behaviour which is very hard to adjust, whereas a skills gap can be fixed immediately, resulting in an equally fast uplift in sales performance.
This simple spreadsheet and process will give you clarity on everything necessary to manage sales performance:
· How much is this executive costing me?
· What is their sales performance number?
· What is their sales skills number?
· Do these numbers correlate? If not why and what do I need to do?