Tag Archive for: leadership

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Sales Managers Onboarding New Sales Hires

In my role as a Fractional VP of Sales, I regularly help my clients’ sales managers with the recruitment, hiring, and onboarding plan for their next great salespeople. When I ask about their onboarding process, some business owners chuckle and admit they don’t really have one. “We just kind of throw them in there!” is not an unusual response. 

Interestingly, it’s these same business owners who bring me in because they have an issue with staff turnover in their sales team. There are a few that have a structured employee onboarding process. Not surprisingly, these business owners typically don’t have issues with the turnover of sales talent. Which camp do you fall in? 

Why Have an Employee Onboarding Process for New Sales Hires?

During the first two weeks on the job, your new hire is assessing you and your company just as much as you are assessing the new hire. You are in a probationary period just as they are. Putting your best foot forward as a company helps them confirm that they have made a great choice by choosing to work with you. Consider their first two weeks as the ‘welcome to the family!’ phase. Set them up for a shorter and steeper learning curve so they get on track to job satisfaction and the desired levels of productivity faster.

How to Structure an Employee Onboarding Process for New Sales Hires

Plot out the first two weeks of onboarding for your new sales hires. Every working hour should be accounted for, including a clear goal for what they need to learn, what they are to be doing, and who they will be doing it with or learning from.

Setting the Stage for the Onboarding Process

Let each new hire know who they will be learning from and sitting with. Likewise, let the team member responsible for orienting the new hire know:

  • How much time the new hire will spend with them
  • What the new hire needs to learn
  • What things they need to teach the new hire

Let the new hire know how their learning will be assessed and what things, in particular, they should focus on while working with and learning from others.

Teaching During the Onboarding Process

Every adult has a default learning style. Some people learn best by observing, others by reading, and still others by doing. All people typically learn through a combination of all three. Structure the teaching so that all three of these learning modalities are included. Include video training, working with others, and hands-on application to increase the effectiveness of your teaching. Vary the daily schedule so that your new hire gets a bit of each type of learning opportunity every day. This will reduce the chances of boredom by engaging your new hire in varied and interesting ways.

Interacting With Experienced Team Members

Each week, arrange one or two lunches with experienced team members who will play a key role in the new hire’s life at your company. Chats during mealtimes tend to cover more non-work ground than conversations throughout the business day. Purposefully setting up these interactions will ensure your new hire gets to know their teammates both as coworkers and people.

Preparing Content for Your Onboarding Process

Simply having your new hire sit in a chair beside a co-worker and observe them for half a day can be helpful but not sufficiently illustrative to prepare them to do the job themselves. If job manuals don’t exit at your company, then you will need to break their job role down into its primary components and then provide “how to” instructions so they can successfully navigate their new role. Work from macro to micro when structuring learning content. Provide screen capture videos to show how tasks are completed and how to navigate your company’s systems and tech stack.

Tracking the Effectiveness of the Employee Onboarding Process

Close the loop on your new hire’s learning by checking back to ensure that teachers taught, and the learner learned on a daily basis. Learning assessments can be in the form of written quizzes or person-to-person debriefs. These are vital for helping all parties understand if the training is effective so you can be confident that the person is in a position for success once they are to fly on their own. Ask the employee to provide feedback on how you are doing at teaching them. Getting this feedback will help you meet the needs of the new hire and improve your onboarding process for future hires.

Making the first two weeks at your company amazing for your new hires is a step in the right direction toward improving your staff retention and employee satisfaction. As with all things, there is some nuance involved with developing your onboarding plan. If you would like to discuss this further, please reach out and let me know.

 

How to Know When You Need a Sales Manager

In my role as a fractional VP of sales, I often see business owners wait too long to bring on a sales manager. As things get busy they find it tough to stay dialled into the sales function. How do you know when it’s time to bring on a sales manager?

How to Know When to Hire a Sales Manager?

Let’s take a look at the different scenarios your business may be facing in relation to hiring a sales manager.

When Sales are Up

Although it may seem counterintuitive, a good time to consider whether or not you need a sales manager is when your sales are up. There are many reasons for your sales to be up. Perhaps the market is buoyant because of the geopolitical, global landscape shifting in your favour. Or maybe your products and services have improved, leading to a boost in sales.

Whatever the reason, the question you should consider is whether you are positioned to maximize on this up market from the perspective of your sales capacity. Capitalizing on an up market can put your company in an advantageous position for future growth and longevity.

Having a sales manager on board to lead your salespeople and manage the numbers can help you build out your sales process infrastructure to capitalize on the immediate-term up market and build a foundation that will weather down market storms.

When Sales are Down

When your sales are taking a nosedive it is an obvious time to consider hiring a sales manager. If your sales are down but you’re confident that it’s not a direct result of market or product issues, it may be that your sales process is weak or underdeveloped and needs some attention. 

A sales manager can help by distilling what to do and in what order to establish a robust, repeatable sales process that will allow you to reach your sales goals reliably and predictably. Plus, having an expert on the team to worry about the sales process will free you to work on the other strategic aspects of your business that you are best positioned to handle.

When You Don’t Know Where Your Sales are Trending

Not knowing which direction your sales are trending in is a sign that you have been pulled in other directions within the business and have been unable to devote the focus you need to the sales function. 

A sales function can drift for several months with inbound revenue requirements being satisfied by existing customers. If you’re not paying attention, several quarters can drift by before you realize that you’re not bringing on enough of the new customers you need to expand your reach and revenue.

In this case, bringing on a sales manager who can watch the dials, read the reports, and work with your salespeople to course correct as necessary will allow you to focus on the other needs of the business with the peace of mind that the sales function is in capable hands.

No matter what stage your business is in, be sure to assess your sales to determine whether it might be time to bring on a sales manager before it’s too late. If you’re not ready to bring on a full-time sales manager, there are several benefits of an outsourced sales manager as well.

If you need assistance thinking through whether a fractional sales manager could help you grow your business and achieve predictable, steady revenue growth, please contact me and I’d be happy to discuss this further.

How a Process Driven Sales Process Makes Your Business a More Attractive Asset

If you’re planning to sell your business, you need to consider what the buyer wants. They want a profitable revenue-generation machine. If you’ve struggled to hit your revenue goals reliably and productively, what can you do to make your business more attractive and achieve the purchase multiples you desire? 

In my role as a Fractional Vice President of Sales, I work closely with clients to build a sales and revenue-generation process infrastructure that helps companies reach their sales and revenue-generation goals reliably and productively. Here’s what you should look at to accomplish this in your business too.

How to Build a Business Worth Selling 


1. Sales and Revenue Generation Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Do You Have Any?

Track sales activity and results key performance indicators to have a clear idea of how your business is performing and know when and how to course-correct your sales process. 

Sales revenue for the overall company is, of course, required. But going more granular and tracking sales revenue per rep demonstrates that you have cracked the code on how to make salespeople in your business and your industry successful.

Classic sales and revenue generation KPIs are things like sales quota per territory, which rolls up to a regional and then a national goal.  Next to that would be the actual revenue generated per month, per quarter, and per year per rep. 

2. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System: Do You Have One?

If you’re currently using spreadsheets to track sales activity and performance, chances are that you could benefit from streamlining your process by adopting a CRM. Invest in a CRM and use it religiously, 100% of the time, for all of your sales opportunities and salespeople. A good CRM is like a mirror that reflects the diligence with which your sales team follows your sales process. 

A CRM not only gives you a centralized repository of all your sales information and lets you present it in an easy-to-understand format but also allows you to increase productivity and optimize your selling.

3. Build a Documented Sales Process

This crucial aspect of your business is the recipe for your sales team’s success. It is essentially an instruction manual to follow to generate sales in your industry. When you have a detailed sales process nailed down, this is a clear indication that you can scale up and have any new salespeople you onboard become active and productive very quickly.

4. Refine Your Hiring Process

Create a defined and refined hiring process that ensures you can consistently hire candidates with the highest probability of sales success. This will position your company to scale up at any time. 

Without a clear hiring process, the purchaser of your company will be left to try to unravel the mystery of hiring sales winners on their own. By giving them a tried and tested formula for hiring excellent salespeople, you make your business more attractive.

5. Have a Sales Coaching Protocol

Sales coaching is an integral component of empowering sales reps to reach and exceed their sales quotas, share best practices, and improve retention rates. Creating a process description that outlines the content of sales coaching sessions shows that you understand how to take great sales hires and long-term performers and continually increase their knowledge base, sharpen their skills, and improve their performance levels year over year. 

When you have all of the above components, it demonstrates to potential buyers that your company is not reliant on a single individual for revenue generation success. Rather, you can demonstrate that you have a well-oiled revenue-generation machine that can continue to function even when the players change.

A buyer wants to see that you have set up a systems and process infrastructure so that the company is in a position to generate revenue in up markets or down markets, good times or bad. This is the type of guarantee that a potential purchaser of your business is looking for.

If you’re thinking of selling your business or if you are currently building one with the long-term goal of selling it, get in touch to discuss how to structure your sales function to make your asset as attractive to your buyers as possible.

Why Chasing Shiny Objects Isn’t a Great Approach to Sales

It’s been my experience as a Fractional VP of Sales that chasing shiny objects is the number one reason for sales revenue generation failure to launch. In sales, ‘chasing shiny objects’ refers to the successive and rapid non-focused pursuit of any and all sales opportunities that look promising. This is a phenomenon in which each opportunity looks more interesting than the one before it and is pursued without any analysis of Probability to Close to support that decision.  

The Danger of Chasing Shiny Objects 

This type of activity makes a sales team appear active and potentially productive, which can lull business owners into a false sense of security. In reality, this approach means resources get poured into chasing sales opportunities that are not a good fit.  Further, the opportunity cost of the time invested in these wild goose chases is high.  Weeks, months, and quarters can fly by while chasing these shiny objects with no revenue results to show for it.

Unfortunately, it can take several quarters to prove that this approach to sales is ineffective. An entire year of sales quota can be burned as the sales team goes after these non-opportunities. So, what can be done about this? 

How to Avoid Wasting Time and Resources on Sales Opportunities That Don’t Materialize


1. Identify Your Ideal Customer Profile

Before your sales team is tasked with going on the hunt for new clients, ensure they have a vivid description of exactly what it is they are looking for. Document the prospect type by whatever parameters are required for your business.

Typically, these are things such as their annual revenue, headcount, geographic location, the degree to which they would use your products and services in volume and revenue, and the pain points that your solutions or products would resolve.

2. Create Buyer Personas

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional psychographic description of the individuals your salespeople are selling to. It should describe in detail the things the buyers or decision-makers are motivated by, what they do and don’t care about, and what their goals and challenges are. 

It’s helpful to create a specific representation of a buyer with a name, age, gender, and position in their company’s organizational chart. This detailed description helps salespeople prepare for the sales task at hand by helping them visualize a real person with needs and challenges that they can address in their sales approach.

3. Identify the Opposite of Your Ideal Customer Profile and Buyer Personas

Once you’ve got a clear description of who your ideal customers are and their detailed buyer personas, that allows you to be equally clear on who you’re not targeting. This gives your salespeople clarity on what not to pursue as they are hunting for opportunities.

Opportunities with insufficient volume or lack of clearly stated needs are not the best ones to devote time and effort toward. Beware of prospects that say, “we’re small now but we have big growth plans”. These often end up being customers that get significant discounts upfront for volume that never materializes. 

4. Teach Your Sales Team to Say No

Salespeople tend to be eternal optimists who see every viable sales opportunity as a great one. Being competitive and enjoying a challenge can also play into chasing shiny objects. Your people may not take the time to discern between a viable opportunity and an excellent one. 

One way to remedy this is to let them know that it’s absolutely okay to throw a fish that’s too small back into the water! It’s also a good idea to let them know that it’s perfectly acceptable for them to empty their funnel of opportunities that are shiny objects and start from zero.

5. Establish a Documented Sales Process 

Salespeople are attracted to shiny objects because they enjoy the reassurance of a full funnel. An empty funnel is a scary thing when you have no clear line of sight into how to fill it up with good opportunities.

Taking the time to document your sales process gives your team a systematic process to follow that will result in a full funnel over time. With clear steps to take, they will have confidence in their ability to fill the funnel as long as they hit the minimum daily sales activity requirements. Taking the mystery out of finding opportunities will help prevent chasing shiny objects.

6. Add “Chasing Shiny Objects” Into Your Company Vernacular

Even your best sellers will occasionally fall into the trap of pursuing shiny objects. By adding this language into your team’s vocabulary, the manager of your sales team has a non-judgemental way to question whether or not an opportunity your salesperson is devoting time, resources, and money into is, in fact, worthy of it. It’s also a catchy phrase that will stay with your salespeople and encourage them to ask themselves, “is this a shiny object I’m after?”. 

No sales leader wants their people to be distracted by pursuing new opportunities at the expense of neglecting better opportunities that may already be underway. The urge to chase shiny objects happens to the best sellers but being aware of it and taking the steps above can help you make sure your revenue doesn’t suffer because of it. 

Are you dealing with shiny object syndrome on your sales team and wondering how to approach it? Get in touch and I’d be happy to discuss this with you further. 

 

How to Set Your New Sales Manager Up for Success

When you’ve promoted one of your sales people to the role of Sales Manager, you need to ask yourself: is this person ready to “manage” or will they get caught in the trap of being a “Doer”?

In my role as a Fractional VP of Sales, a classic trap I see newly minted sales managers fall into is to assume their new job role is to be an amplified version of what they were doing as a salesperson. Meanwhile, business owners often assume that first-time sales managers are prepared for their new management role when in fact, they are not.

Doing vs. Managing

The situation I most commonly see play out is one in which an ambitious salesperson is identified as the next great sales manager. That person gets promoted amidst high expectations, but eventually begins to flounder and gets buried six, nine, and twelve months into the role while all parties are left scratching their heads as to why.

The job of a sales manager is to manage the numbers and lead the salespeople. This means devoting time to coaching their reports rather than doing their jobs for them. A sales manager who is a doer will quickly get buried in tasks that they are doing on behalf of their team. In other words, their time gets eaten up by doing the fishing rather than spending time teaching their reports how to fish for themselves. 

How to Help a New Sales Manager Succeed

Here’s how to avoid the common pitfall of having a sales manager who is a doer rather than a manager.

1. Give Your Sales Manager Leadership Training 

Most people are promoted to leadership positions without having a clue how to be effective leaders. It is just presumed that because they were a good salesperson they will automatically be a good leader.  This is often not the case because leading is an entirely different skill set.

Look externally to find someone who can offer leadership and management training to your sales manager within their first couple of months in the role. If you google “leadership or management training” you’ll have more local options at your fingertips than you ever believed could exist. Another option is to find a paid leadership coach or mentor for your new hire. 

The reason for hiring someone external to your business is that they can provide an objective learning experience  to a new manager. They will guide this person in a way that teaches them leadership and management with a fresh perspective not beholden to anything in the organization.

 2. Establish Relevant KPIs for the New Sales Manager 

The first KPI to set would be the number of coaching sessions held with direct reports. You want to know the frequency, duration, and content of those sessions. This is the simplest way to know whether your manager is actually managing as they should be, or if they are guilty of doing.

If they are managing, they will be devoting regular time and energy in the form of 30-to-60-minute one-on-ones with their direct reports. The content of these coaching sessions should make sense to the business owner relative to what the salespeople should be doing on a daily basis.

If there’s no coaching happening, it’s not happening frequently enough, or when it is happening it’s focused on the wrong things, then you can be sure that your sales manager is not teaching their people how to fish. A new sales manager should be having meaningful one-on-ones with their team by their second month in their role.

3. Task the Sales Manager With Creating a Professional Development Plan for Each Salesperson

If a sales manager doesn’t have this documented, they probably haven’t considered the development of their people. When combined with not having coaching sessions that should be devoted to developing each member of their team the path is set for the manager to be doing rather than managing.

4. Assess Your Manager’s Approach to Problem Resolution

Ask your new sales manager what role their salespeople are playing in fixing problems that arise. If your manager is using language that has a lot of “I’s” (ex. I did x, I solved y, I took z over…etc.) then the manager is likely taking matters into their own hands rather than encouraging their people to find solutions.

Of course, there are natural points of escalation when a manager needs to get involved. But a manager’s role is to provide guidance to all their people and follow up as needed. Their reports should be the ones in there with their sleeves rolled up and fixing issues.

5. Structure Your Manager’s Role to Allow Them to Manage

You need to free up your manager to manage. If you want them selling, then their title should be a salesperson. If your sales manager has dual roles that require them to both sell and manage others, they’ll be challenged to succeed. 

It’s simply too much work for one person to sell and maintain accounts and lead others. When someone is tasked with both things, at least one of those two things will not be done satisfactorily. Or worse, neither of those things will be done well!

6. Talk to Direct Reports of Your Sales Manager to Assess How They are Doing

It’s a good idea to check in with the salespeople to see how they are doing working with their new manager. Of course, you need to keep in mind that people are generally reluctant to throw someone under the bus, so you need to ask questions carefully and read between the lines to interpret not only what they’re saying but also how they’re saying it.

As a business owner, you want your manager to succeed. So be sure to listen for things you may not want to hear. The sooner you have a real insight into how your new manager is doing, the sooner you can course-correct to help them improve.

By following these steps, you’ll give your new sales manager the tools they need to succeed and prevent them from getting burnt out. If you have questions about any of these steps or are looking for help with getting a new sales manager ready for their position, get in touch.

How to Create Part-Time Roles for Sales Reps on Parental Leave

Every sales manager or business owner will eventually encounter a situation in which an employee goes on maternity or paternity leave. In some cases, after a period of time the employee may express a desire to get back to work on a part-time basis before their parental is finished.

Of course, before setting up any kind of work arrangement with an employee currently on parental leave, be sure to check all the required governmental rules and regulations in your area before doing so.

Though there are certainly some precautions that need to be taken, if managed correctly, this is a great opportunity for both the company and the employee in question. The employee has the opportunity to feel fulfilled by contributing at work, and the business can benefit from a positively contributing resource.

Tips for a Successful Part-Time Work Arrangement During Parental Leave From a Fractional VP of Sales

It’s easy to imagine what might go wrong when a member of your sales team is not officially back from leave yet contributing again. The danger is that tasks might be partially completed and left dangling for someone else to pick up, all at the risk of appearing disorganized or unprofessional to your customers.

Luckily, there are some steps you can take as a sales leader to minimize the chances of this happening.

1. Have the Employee Secure Regular, Committed Childcare

For any staff member to do their job well, they need focused time and attention. Without committed, reliable childcare, that just isn’t possible. If a staff member on mat leave plans to deliver on tasks, there is likely a co-worker downstream whose ability to do their next task depends on that thing being done. 

If a person on mat leave has committed to doing something by a certain time, but that gets prevented by insufficient child care planning, that disrupts the people downstream and everyone –  the sales rep, the customer, and the company – experiences frustration.

With reliable childcare, the employee can have some guaranteed closed-door time during which they can effectively do their job, and downstream parties can rest assured that they can plan their own tasks and days accordingly.

2.  Have Childcare Planned for the Right Time of Day

If the duties and tasks the employee wants to do must be done during business hours (such as customer-facing interactions), then their childcare needs to be available at the right time of the day to serve the needs of all parties. 

It may be that the tasks they’re doing can be done after hours, in which case, that’s great! Just keep in mind that tasks can carry over to the next day if there are questions about them that need to be answered. 

3. Establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

The person on leave must commit to how much they will do of which duties and tasks. As the work they are doing is likely going to impact other people they’ll need to know what’s going to be done and when. This will help the leader manage the situation and prepare resources downstream from this person for whatever outputs will be coming their way.

The KPIs should include a weekly one-on-one meeting to assess how things are going and course-correct along the way if necessary. This of course means that the employee must be available once a week for a 30-minute meeting with their manager.

4. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

When an employee is on leave, they may not present at all departmental meetings. This makes it important to establish clear, open, and frequent communication to ensure that all parties are consistently aligned. 

This will facilitate addressing any day-to-day challenges that might arise during a part-time work arrangement. 

5. Provide Appropriate Compensation According to Local Labour Laws

In Canada, it is possible for an employee to work up to ten days during maternity leave without losing maternity pay or benefits. This arrangement is referred to as ‘keeping in touch’ days. Before setting up any kind of part-time work arrangement, be sure that you and the employee on leave are both fully aware of the regulations around working during maternity leave and how that impacts benefits.

Returning to the workplace in some capacity during maternity leave can be a great opportunity for interested parties to remain fulfilled and “connected to the adult world”. It’s also a great opportunity for employers to help those employees remain fulfilled. By following the tips above, you can set the stage for this to be a win-win situation.

Feel free to Get in touch with Rob if you’d like to discuss this further.

The Benefits of an Outsourced Sales Manager

Ever wondered how hiring a Fractional Sales Manager could help your business and whether it’s worth it? This article is designed to help make your decision easier by exploring the factors you need to consider when hiring a Fractional Sales Manager.

What is Outsourced Sales Management?

As you probably know, sales management is the process of leading, directing, and controlling an organization’s sales force. The main objectives of sales management are to achieve your desired sales outcomes and, ultimately, to meet your organizational goals.

This includes developing sales plans, setting quotas, managing customer relationships, monitoring performance, and providing motivation and training for your sales reps. Depending on the size of your business, the task of recruiting, hiring, and evaluating salespeople may also rest with your sales managers.

Outsourced sales management, then, is when you outsource the responsibilities of a sales manager to an outside firm or individual. This can have several advantages for your business.

What are the Benefits of Outsourced Sales Management?

There are many pros of outsourcing your sales management, including access to specialized knowledge and expertise, improved efficiency, and cost savings. Let’s look at some benefits in more detail.

  1. Increased Sales: When you outsource your sales management, you are essentially hiring experts to help boost your sales. These experts have the know-how and experience necessary to help close more deals and increase your revenue.
  2. Cost-Effectiveness: Outsourcing your sales management can be very cost-effective, especially if you choose a reputable and experienced company or consultant. You will likely see a return on your investment (ROI) relatively quickly.
  3. Flexibility: Outsourcing gives you the flexibility to scale up or down as needed, without having to worry about managing a team of employees. This can be extremely helpful during busy times or periods of growth.
  4. Free Up Your Time: One of the biggest pros of outsourcing your sales management is that it frees up your time so that you can focus on other strategic aspects of your business. When you outsource, you no longer need to worry about day-to-day sales tasks or managing a team of salespeople.

When is the Right Time to Outsource Your Sales Management Needs?

There are several things to consider when deciding whether to outsource your sales management needs. The single most important factor is the size and complexity of your sales operation. If you have a large and sophisticated sales operation, it may save you time in the long run to outsource your sales management tasks so that you can focus on other aspects of your business that only you can do.

I’ve talked before about how to assess your sales strategy and execution, and when it makes sense to hire a Fractional VP of Sales. When the organization and its sales team is small and the sales process is not complex, it may make more sense to hire a Fractional Sales Manager.

You may also find that you don’t have the internal resources or expertise to effectively manage your sales operation – especially if you’re growing faster than you can handle. In this case, outsourcing may be the best option.

Another important factor to consider is the cost of outsourcing versus the cost of maintaining an internal sales management team. In some cases, outsourcing can be more cost-effective. Of course, this will vary depending on the specific services you require and the provider you choose.

Finally, you should consider the level of service and support you need from a sales management team. If you require a high level of service and support, it may be more effective to outsource your sales management needs rather than trying to manage everything internally.

How to Find a Good Fractional Sales Manager

Before you hand the sales reins over to a Fractional Sales Manager, you want to be sure you’ve found one who is up to the task. Here are a few key tips:

  1. Do your research. It’s important to understand the different types of outsourcing options available and what they entail. This will help you narrow down your search and find the right fit for your business.
  2. Consider your needs. What type of sales assistance do you require? How much experience does your ideal candidate have with that? What skills should they possess? Answering these questions will help you create a job description and identify the best candidates.
  3. Check references. Once you’ve compiled a list of potential candidates, be sure to check their references. This will give you insights into their previous work experiences and performance levels.
  4. Interview multiple candidates. Once you’ve narrowed down your list, it’s time to start interviewing candidates. This is where you’ll get a better sense of who they are and whether they’ll fit within your company culture.
  5. Make an informed decision. After careful consideration, it’s time to hire the right Fractional Sales Manager and enjoy the perks.

Conclusion

It’s clear that there are some great advantages to outsourcing your sales manager. Just keep in mind there is no one-size-fits-all solution, so you should weigh the pros and cons carefully in the context of your specific business goals. If you need help thinking through whether a Fractional Sales Manager could help you, please contact me to discuss this further.

 

How to Test for Integrity When Hiring Sales Reps

Integrity matters in any business endeavour. But it’s especially important in sales. When it comes to the trust factor, no job role involves a higher degree of trust than sales. In my role as a Fractional VP of Sales, a mistake that I see business owners make during the hiring process is presuming sales candidate integrity instead of rigorously testing for it.

Why Should You Test Sales Candidates for Integrity?

Sales is a highly independent job role, especially in small businesses, which don’t typically have the enforcement mechanisms that large companies do to ensure all processes are being followed to the letter.

As a business owner or manager, you may only see your salespeople for a couple of hours per week – or even less, given today’s remote working options. Often, you’re taking everything your salespeople say as complete and accurate.

If you hire a salesperson who is prone to misrepresenting themselves, their sales productivity will be lower than their peers and they are likely to create a significant amount of pain and heartache for all other people they touch within the organization. So, how can you prevent this from happening?

How to Weed Out Sales Candidates With Questionable Integrity During the Hiring Process

Most business owners screen for personality traits like competitiveness and the ability to take initiative when hiring because these are known to be correlated with sales success. In the way you do this to hire sales overachievers, you should test for integrity during the hiring process. Here’s how.

Use Behavioural Interviewing Techniques for Sales Candidates

The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. Behavioural interviewing is an interview technique based on this premise that is designed to help the interviewer understand how a candidate might perform in the job based on past performance.

For example, instead of asking, “Tell me how you would [insert the skill or task you’re looking for here]” a behavioural interview question would ask, “Tell me about a time in your past that you [insert the skill or task you’re looking for here]”. Instead of “how would you beat your sales quota”, ask “Tell me about a time in a past job when you beat your sales quota. How did you go about doing that?”.

Using this approach regarding integrity, you should ask the sales candidate questions about how they handled situations in which they had to make decisions using integrity. Some questions to include:

  • Tell me about a time when you observed some sort of injustice happen to a fellow employee that no one else knew about. What did you do?
  • Describe a time when you found it necessary to slightly bend or stretch the truth when talking to a customer in order to help with a sale. (for example, stretching the truth may look like a salesperson telling a potential buyer that clients experience great results in 3 to 6 months when in reality clients don’t typically see results for at least 6 months)
  • Tell me about a situation in which you had to choose between making the right decision and making an easy decision.

Be sure to sprinkle these questions related to integrity throughout the interview (ie. Don’t ask them back-to-back!) to get a more accurate view of the candidate across all the questions related to this theme.

Implement and Interpret Behavioural Interviews Properly

It’s great if you’ve decided to use behavioural interview questions, but you want to ensure you’re doing it correctly so that they yield useful information. There are three main things to keep in mind when asking behavioural interview questions:

  • Don’t lead the candidate in any way.

It’s all too easy to let on what the ‘right’ answer is if you’re not careful. Candidates may quickly understand what an interviewer wants to hear if the question is not presented neutrally.

  • Once you’ve asked the question, stop talking and actively listen to what they tell you.

Active listening includes making eye contact, letting the person know you hear them, and asking follow-up questions at the appropriate times to elicit more relevant information.

  • Take their response at face value and then reassess that answer after the interview.

A lot is going on during an interview since you are interpreting body language and tone along with what the candidate is saying. Reassessing their responses after the interview can help you identify things such as the use of evasive language. A candidate may give their true answer first and then backpedal to try and minimize it, or they may gloss things over their initial response and give a more accurate answer in the second half.

Have a Sales Candidate Do Multiple Interviews With Different People Within the Business

It’s important to have a multi-interview process to ensure that the sales candidate is interacting with several different people within the company. By having the candidate speak to multiple people, you’ll gain more insight into whether they’re the right fit for your team. Of course, you need your team to have their radar up for integrity and be clear on the techniques discussed above.

Before getting too far along the hiring process, you should also do a social media check to actively look for any signs of a disconnect between how the candidate portrays themselves in interviews and their day-to-day life.

How to Assess the Integrity of a Sales Rep You’ve Already Hired

We’ve seen how to test for integrity during the hiring process, but what if you have concerns about the integrity of someone you already have on staff? Many things can raise a red flag, but some of the most common issues I’ve seen with questionable sales reps are:

  • Promising sales results that don’t materialize
  • Stating actions and activities as completed (when they’re not) or not completed (when they are)
  • Saying different and conflicting things to management vs. other staff
  • More obvious things like inaccurate expense reports etc.

Every business owner or manager has had experience with one of these people. If the dots don’t seem to be connecting, take the time to dig into the details. It’s tedious work, but it has to be done to avoid any further damage to your productivity or team morale.

This means going through reports to make sure numbers add up or to check whether the person in question is misrepresenting information. If you do find discrepancies, meet with the salesperson with an open mind instead of jumping to conclusions. Be candid and ask them to help you understand what you’ve found. Of course, if it turns out they are cutting corners, then you need to decide what to do (but that’s a whole other topic)!

The truth of the matter is, if you have a job to offer that someone wants, they will be highly motivated to successfully navigate an interview, maybe to the point of telling you what you want to hear. Meanwhile, a hiring manager also wants to screen someone in rather than out because they’re motivated to get the position filled. This is why integrity can sometimes fall by the wayside and should be intentionally assessed.

The tips here are not completely failproof, but actively testing for integrity will help reduce your chances of hiring a dishonest person who is likely to make your business and team suffer. If you’d like to chat further about how to judge the integrity of sales candidates through behavioural interviewing, please get in touch.

 

How to Deal with Underperforming Sales Reps

On any sales team, there are top, mid-level, and bottom performers. It’s easy to know what to do with the first two – keep paying them to produce results! Sales leaders often have more trouble dealing with underperformers.

When I consult as a Fractional VP of Sales, I typically see two problems with underperforming reps: 1) they are left on the team to dwindle or; 2) they have a high level of staff turnover. So, what is the right way to handle your underperformers? Hint: the answer is not to immediately fire them!

How to Assess Your Bottom Performers

As a sales leader or business owner, you need to approach unsatisfactory sales performance from a place of curiosity. In other words, you should be asking why your bottom performers are struggling to get results. Here are three questions you can ask to get to the bottom of poor sales performance:

  • Why is the person in question producing at that level?
  • Why is that person going about their sales job in the present manner?
  • What is motivating this salesperson to chronically underperform?

An astute manager will flip this hierarchy of questions around and start by asking about motivation. It’s something that I don’t see managers consider very often, but it is absolutely the most effective way to get to the crux of the problem. That’s because there are two main drivers for success as a salesperson: competence and motivation.

How Competence Influences Success as a Salesperson

If we consider competence to mean knowledge and the skill needed to apply that knowledge, then it’s possible to teach salespeople things to empower them to improve their performance.

If someone is performing poorly in sales, it could be that…

  • you’re not giving them what they need to succeed
  • they don’t know what tools to ask for
  • they know what they need but are afraid to speak up
  • they don’t know how to use the tools they already have

For example, the CRM provided to a sales team may be either insufficient or too complex for some salespeople. Or perhaps they are expected to use technology platforms they’re not adequately trained on, which negatively affects their interactions with potential customers.

Whatever the specific issue may be, you can ensure that competence is not the problem by providing all the tools and training necessary for a person to improve their performance.

How Motivation Influences Success as a Salesperson

If you understand a person’s motivators when it comes to their job, you can feed them those motivators to set the stage for success. To know what motivates someone, you as a leader need to get to know your people.

Whether you choose to do that in a direct or roundabout way, you need to understand exactly what drives a bottom performer. Is it achievement? Do they enjoy competition? Do they prefer to work as part of a team? Do they shy away from public recognition, or thrive on it? Perhaps they’re motivated by a mix of money and an innate desire to help people.

Every person has a different mix of motivators that drive them to perform. Note that not every salesperson has money as their number one motivator. With that being said, if money is not in their top three motivators, they’re likely in the wrong job.

The Influence of the Interpersonal

As a business leader, you need to know how your people are doing as human beings in general. What’s going on in someone’s life outside of work can have a profound impact on how they show up in their job. In fact, one of the top indicators of job performance is the direct relationship between an employee and their superiors.

If you have no idea how they are doing as people, you’ll likely be at a loss for how to help them succeed. How you choose to get to know your people is up to what is appropriate for you and your style. Take whichever path you’d like, as long as you get there – or else, risk high turnover.

How to Deal with Bottom Performers Based on Your Assessment

So, now you have your diagnostic checklist for assessing a poor performer:

  • Are they competent (have you given them the tools they need to succeed)?
  • Are their motivators the type that will position them for success as a seller?
  • What’s going on in their life outside of work?

With all this information, you can figure out whether you’ve got what Jim Collins would call ‘the right person on the bus’.

You may find that with the right training and motivators, a bottom performer is in fact in the right seat on the bus and can get results when given the right tools. But not all salespeople are cut out for the role.

Someone may be an amazing fit for a different role in your company. For instance, you may find you have a bottom performer on a sales team who doesn’t have a competitive streak and doesn’t like asking for business. In that case, they’re not right for a sales role, but may be amazing in a customer service or account management role. In other words, they’re in the wrong seat on the right bus. Now it’s a matter of moving that person to a different seat on the company bus where they can excel.

If you’ve been through the diagnostic list and determined that someone is not capable of performing well in any role in the company, then they’re not a fit for your business. They’re on the wrong bus altogether, and it’s time to exit them (in a respectful way that allows them to succeed in the future of course- but that’s a topic for another post)!

If you’d like to talk through how to approach bottom-tier salespeople on your team, reach out to me and I’d be happy to help.

Top Three Sales KPIs to Ensure Steady Revenue Generation

When things are going well and your sales are up, you can sit back and relax, right? Wrong! Business leaders tend to sound the alarm when sales are already down – but if you’ve waited until your revenue has dipped, it’s already too late.

Find out why the best time to question your approach to revenue generation is when your sales are up, and the three leading indicators you should consider when doing so.

Why You Shouldn’t Wait for a Dip in Sales to Optimize Your Sales Process

Imagine you’re walking along in the mountains and you take a path going down toward a valley. If you go too far in that direction without being sure that’s the way you want to go, it’ll be a long hike back up.

If you’re already at the bottom of a sales valley when you realize you need to do something about it and ring the alarm, you’ve clued in much later than you need to and have made climbing back up the mountain very difficult.

Typically, sales are measured at the end of a quarter. When sales are trending down, business owners often don’t sound the alarm because they assume it’s just a temporary dip. The next thing they know, another 90 days have gone by and they’re in the valley of despair, sounding the alarm that something needs to be fixed. 

Unfortunately, two quarters have gone by and now there are only another two left to get sales back up. In other words, an entire calendar year can be negatively affected if course corrections aren’t made in the first quarter or two.

So, what can you do to make sure you’re not too far down the valley before you realize sales are going to dip? What you need is a map that can help you continue your journey without losing elevation. This is where leading indicators (KPIs) come in.

The Top 3 Indicators for Assessing Sales Performance from a Fractional VP of Sales

If you’re a business owner and you want to significantly decrease the number of times you find yourself in a sales valley, you need leading indicators in place that you and your team follow diligently to understand if and why your sales are going to go down. These are the top three sets of indicators to consider.

Leading Indicator 1: Sales Activity Levels

 This category of indicators looks at crucial activities that lead to revenue down the road. If two or three weeks go by and sales activity levels are below where they should be, it is virtually guaranteed that it will lead to a low-revenue month.

There are many specific indicators you could choose from, but the top three must-haves are:

  • On a per-sales rep basis, how many sales calls or meetings with potential buyers are happening per week?
  • How many proposals are being sent out weekly?
  • How many hours per week does the team spend prospecting?

In my role as Fractional VP Sales, I often encounter sales leaders in small to medium enterprises who are not comfortable checking in with their salespeople about these indicators because they don’t want to be perceived as micromanaging. If you want a clear picture of whether your sales are on track or not, you need to keep track of these metrics.

Leading Indicator 2: Top-of-Funnel Health Check

The next set of crucial indicators for assessing and optimizing your sales process relates to the top and middle of your sales funnel. Bearing in mind your conversion rate from proposals issued to deals won…

  • At the top of the funnel, you should have at least three times the revenue opportunities that you need to meet your target for a given period. For example, if your monthly target is 100k in revenue, you should have 300k worth of opportunities at the top of the funnel. This is because typically, two-thirds of your opportunities won’t convert into paying customers.
  • In the middle of the funnel, you should have at least two times your target revenue forecasted to close in the next 30 days (if you’re measuring monthly) or 60 days to close (if you’re measuring quarterly).

If at any time you’re not meeting one of these minimums, a month or quarter down the road, you won’t meet your revenue goals. Based on these metrics, it will be obvious what you need to do to course correct depending on where you’re stuck.

Leading Indicator 3: Revenue Closed

Although this is classically a lagging indicator that shows what you’ve done, it can also be a leading indicator of what your team is capable of doing. It helps you understand your conversion rate and forecast the results you can get if you continue to do what you’re doing. Thus, it’s another opportunity to gain some insight to inform course correction to achieve the targets you want.

When you’re at the top of a sales peak, your valleys can be anticipated by looking at these leading indicators. The pitfall for most business leaders is to be happy when things are going well and then focus their attention elsewhere. Instead, you should be asking what will happen to sales in 30, 60, and 90 days based on your assessment of these indicators.

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to applying these high-level tips to your business, and far more detail than can be covered in a blog. I’m always happy to have a conversation about how this applies to you, so please contact me for more information.