Haven't we all wished for just a little pixie dust we could sprinkle over our sales force so that quotas are consistently met and exceeded by the majority of our sales professionals?
Well there is pixie dust, and it's called practice.
Think about it. What successful sports team, from sandlots to the majors, do you know that doesn't hold practice for their players? What musician plays a concert without practicing? What great chef serves a meal without hours in the kitchen practicing and perfecting the recipe?
You get the idea. To succeed in any profession, the age-old axiom applies: Practice makes perfect.
So what does it take to hold a successful practice in the sales profession? Here are six things that make for effective sales leadership.
1. Sales leaders must provided a well-documented and constructed sales process.
The sales process is not about the features and benefits of the company's products and services, although sales consultants certainly need to know that information. The sales process is about the science of selling: How to develop and manage client relationships so that both parties benefit.
Therefore, a well-constructed sales process focuses PRIMARILY on understanding the client's goals and plans, and THEN on how your company's products and services can impact those goals and plans.
A well-constructed sales process makes the science of selling teachable, measurable, replicable, and coachable in a systemic way. It takes away the uncertainty, the hope, that sales people will make quota by giving them a process whereby they can make and even surpass quota - consistently. It changes the paradigm of a "born" sales person to a "made" sales person.
A well-constructed sales process gives sales leaders the quality control mechanism they need to ensure consistent success across their sales organizations.
2. Sales leaders must teach the process.
Many sales managers I know believe that this is the easy part. It is an academic exercise. I transfer the knowledge in an appropriate learning environment, I test that knowledge acquisition has occurred and I am good to go.
Well, not so fast. This is where many sales organizations stumble. They fail to fully appreciate all the nuances of adult education. Moreover, they make the fundamental error of thinking knowledge acquired is the same as skill developed. This is not true, and can be a costly error. Knowledge only turns into skill through practice.
3. Sales leaders must have a commitment to practice.
We must gain agreement from each of our sales people individually that they are committed to practicing not only in the training environment but in their daily sales lives as well. Without that commitment sales people will never achieve their full potential.
4. Sales management should help sales people find the time to practice.
If we do not help our sales people build time in their schedules to practice, all of the training efforts will achieve suboptimal results, and become an expensive investment.
When we do create the time to practice, sales productivity and morale are optimized and the company and the sales people achieve their goals.
5. Management should provide sales people with structured material to practice.
This material is a direct by-product of a well-documented sales process and can come in the form of video role-plays, CDs that they can listen to repeatedly and internalize, or workbooks with written exercises.
6. Sales leadership must make a commitment to coaching sales people.
Sales leaders must observe what their sales people are doing well and what can be improved. We need to help them isolate specific skills to work on one at a time for incremental and continuous improvement.
Don't be a sales leader who fails to observe the universal truth.
Practice makes perfect. A commitment to practice turns your sales people into sales professionals, ultimately delivering better results for your people, your customers, and your business.