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In our last post, we looked at why you need to establish a skill set requirement to make your sales process customer focused so you can position yourself as a problem solver for those customers.  In this post, we will consider the what you need in your skill set, how you might assess where your representatives are in the desired skill set, and plan training or other interventions to help them improve their skills so they can achieve more sales and keep customers coming back.

Step 1 – Determine necessary skill set.

Basic skill your sales representatives may need include:

  • Understanding value creation and proposition (more than just knowing your products/services and the competitors plus the differences)
  • Implementing a customer-driven approach that builds relationships (which includes solving their problems by becoming an advisor verses being a pest)
  • Understanding buyer styles and behavior (knowing the difference between conversation and communication skills, as well as body language signals and key phrases)
  • Knowing what questions to ask a new lead when asking for their time or a sale
  • Identifying opportunities (as well as knowing who your customer base is while understanding industry regulations)
  • Knowing the complete sales process and determining where each customer is in the process

Step 2 – Assess current skill levels

  • Determine skills and competencies needed for various sales expectations or levels
  • Design a sales skills matrix and assess each sales rep against it
  • Analyze the matrix results and plan appropriate sales training to fill the gaps in each rep’s matrix

Step 3 – Plan upskill interventions

  • Hold sales training that includes role playing and key questions reps may need to answer
  • Besides training, consider mentoring/coaching and monitoring for successful continual learning
  • If you are planning a hiring ramp up, be sure to include an onboarding process to move new hires along the skills matrix more quickly
  • Re-evaluate yearly to keep up-to-date and promote more sales

If you would like some options for sales training, please visit the Peak Performance Solutions website.  If you are interested in a book to encourage your sales staff, consider The Sales Messenger.  If you have any questions on how we can help you with your sales process and training needs, please contact us.

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Are you in a highly competitive marketplace? Does your sale require a lot of prospecting? Is revenue or retention a priority? According to CSO Insights, only 23% of customers view the Sales Rep as a problem solver and very few find their time with a sales person of value.  That brings up a question, are you positioning your Sales Rep to focus on the customer or their training? How much time do then spend on product training versus pure, tactical persuasive selling. There is nothing soft about sales training. It is a skill like welding, batting, or playing a musical instrument.

I watched a documentary on Ted Williams this past week. He was considered the greatest hitter in baseball of all time. He would get very upset when people said, he was a natural. He attributed his success to practice, hard work and self-improvement. He mastered everything including hand and finger positioning, the swing, the hip movement and more. Persuasive communication ( i.e. selling) is no different.   I like to say, there are a lot of amateur baseball players, photographers, and golfers and they are pretty good. What separates the good from the great? The great focus on what matters most: the customer – first, last, and always.

Ramp up your competitive advantage by making sure your sales representatives have the right skill sets to get the answers to the question they need, make a compelling presentation and the sale should close itself. Excellent sales skills should easily transfer from business to consumer (B2C) and business to business (B2B) departments within an organization.

How do you know if your employees have the right sales skill set for your business?  First you need to determine what that skill set should include.  Second you need to assess where your representatives are.  And third, plan training or other interventions to help your representatives improve their skills and excel at winning sales.

Check back for the three steps on How to Upskill Sales Representatives in the next post on assessing sales skills.

Everything DiSC Productive Conflict

Everything Disc Map for Productive Conflict

Conflict in the workplace is inevitable, stressful, frustrating, and sometimes very uncomfortable.  Did you know it can also be productive?  Your response to conflict is within your control.  Conflict is usually a difference of opinion that can bring about strong emotions in people.  Understanding yours and others responses to possible conflict situations by engaging DiSC styles can be helpful to move conflict in a productive direction.

The typical manager spends 25-40% of his or her time dealing with workplace conflict. – from Training Industry introducing Productive Conflict product and training modules

Rather than focus on a step-by-step process for conflict resolution, Everything DiSC® Productive Conflict helps you curb destructive behaviors so that conflict can become more productive, ultimately improving workplace results and relationships. This tool and training helps you increase self-awareness around conflict behaviors.  With it you can discover how to effectively respond to the uncomfortable and unavoidable challenges of workplace conflict with improved communication.  The Productive Conflict training goes beyond the classroom with your unlimited access to My Everything DiSC for on-demand insights about DiSC and strategies for applying DiSC to real work situations.

You should know that self-awareness and knowledge of conflict behaviors is not a “one-size fits all” approach.  That is to say, understanding each other’s DiSC style (see videos) can help move conflict from destructive behaviors to a more productive process of working it out together. However, it is what you and others are willing to put into the process that will make it successful.  Below is a 2-minute video introducing Productive Conflict profile using DiSC model.

Team LeaderIn a zone post a few months ago, I shared a few tips from the book Monday Morning Leadership to help leaders improve.  This time I want to share a little on how to make sure the teams you lead are the best they can be.  Below are some paraphrased tips from that same author along with thoughts shared in our Leadership Excellence and Team-building workshops.  Three Things the Best Leaders Must Do For Their Teams

  1. Hire good employees. Do not just fill open positions quickly the easy way, instead hire tough.  If you hire tough, you can manage easy.  If you hire easy, you are forced to manage tough.  Good employees will do their best for you.  Words of wisdom quoted from the book: “The most important thing you can do as a leader is to hire the right people.” And “The most important asset in your company is having the RIGHT PEOPLE on your team.  If you have the right people on your team you have a great chance to succeed.” Check out PXT Select to see if it can help your improve this process.
  2. Coach every member of the team to become better. Everyone can improve, so give your team (as a group and individually) feedback on what they need to do.  Be open to ideas of training and mentoring inside and outside the team.  Continuous learning can eliminate holes when someone has to have time-off or be out-of-the-office for meetings, vacation, or illnesses. Check out The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team to see if it can help you improve the team-building, performance, and feedback processes.
  3. Dehire the people who aren’t carrying their share of the load. Your other team members see their bad performance and wonder why you are not taking action. Others could begin to feel like they should do less too.  So get with HR on what you should do to begin tracking performance issues to begin the dehiring or internal transfer/placement process.   Words of wisdom quoted from the book:  “Never lower your standards just to fill a position!  You will pay for it later.” And “The greatest liability in your company could be having the WRONG PEOPLE on your team.

To help with the first thing above, the author presented the interview tips below later in the book.

Three Rules of Three for Interviewing

  1. For each position, interview at least 3 qualified candidates. Hold out for the best fit, whether it is a new hire position or a transfer within the organization.  If you are in a hurry and just take the first one that looks good, you could end up with a bad fit for the team.
  2. Interview the most qualified candidates 3 times. Do this at different times of the day each time they come in.  Changing the time will help you and your team to evaluate how each candidate may be at different times during a work day.
  3. Have 3 different people evaluate the candidates for best job fit. Hiring manager and/or HR representative could be first two people.  One or two other people to finish the three should be from the team the position is for.  Team members know the work the best and the team dynamics, so they can help determine if the candidate fits the need.
The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team

The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team Pyramid

The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive team program includes reports to help the team improve along the Five Behaviors model (Trust, Conflict, Commitment, Accountability, and Results).  Below is a list of the reports.  Feel free to contact us for a sample report or to get you team started on this model.

  • Team Comparison Report is the initial report after all team members complete their profiles.  This report shows the team where they are on the Five Behaviors model on a scale of low, medium, high colored like a traffic light (Green=Go/Good, Yellow=Caution/Review to Improve, Red=Stop!/Work on It is Necessary) based on summarizing the individual member’s overall scoring on profiles.  The summary is followed by information in each area that includes:  averages, details and how personal DiSC style may affect the team’s progress, discussion questions for the team, and action worksheets for the team’s use to create improvement plans as needed.
  • Team Progress Report is an optional follow-up report that teams, leaders, or facilitators may use quarterly or semi-annually to see how team is improving along the Five Behaviors model.  It is a great way for teams to see how they are getting better and what they need to do to continue to grow as a team.  Find out more in previous post introducing this feature.
  • Annotated Team Report is used by a team-building session facilitator.  This report is a copy of the team profile/comparison report that includes additional aids for facilitation.  The extras include: expanded explanation of profile content, scoring interpretation, resources for additional information, and indicators of personalized/tailored content.  In addition, an appendix includes a ranking of all assessment items by team average and the team’s percentile for each of the Five Behaviors. Find out about facilitator accreditation in flyer on our website.

I have shared the role of the Sales Coach before.  I want to go a little deeper this time and talk about how coaching directly affects your sales team’s effectiveness.  This is important because as you know, their effectiveness in- the-field and on-the-phone affects your company’s bottom line.

Coaching is about tactics and blocking.  It is the strategic part of the experience.  Coaching is about the ability to build rapport, trust, guide and influence.  It is about knowing the plays (sales process steps)  that will get you to the end (successful close).

In sales, it is also about setting conversational boundaries – what to say, what not to say.  There needs to be focus and a purpose to the words you and your team use.  They should sound like music to the customer’s ears when they hear them.   That is both the strategic plan for every encounter and the tactical skills to move the conversation forward.

Your role in the coaching process is to be sure all sales and customer service representative are armed with the skills, tools and confidence that keep conversations moving forward, while creating an ideal customer experience that will  keep both customers and employees for a lifetime. If they miss sales, you need to let them know if and what they might have done differently or better.  If there was not a better way, than congratulate them on a sale conversation well done.

You should always be coaching your team.  If you are at a loss for how to do so, start by asking these six simple questions of yourself?  Then try asking them individually with each member of your team by changing the “I” to “WE”.

  1. How do I create the ideal customer experience?
  2. Do I get the answers to the questions I might need to be viewed as a problem solver by the customer?
  3. Do I answer the customer’s questions to their satisfaction?
  4. What will it take to get everyone on same page?
  5. Am (Are) I doing what it takes to get mastery of the sales language?
  6. What are the gaps and what actions and behaviors can I personally influence?

So are you being a leader, manager, or coach?  If you do not utilize these coaching techniques, you may be viewed as a micro manager.  The worst thing that will happen if you do not coach your team – you will not have people who can get and keep the customers buying.  The next worst thing, you may lose some great talent on your team if they do not feel they are being helped to reach their full potential.

 

The Ideal Team Player Model

The Ideal Team Player Model

In other posts, I have talked about the Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team based on the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.  This time I want to share three key characteristics to make sure you are hiring great team members from his book The Ideal Team Player.  You might ask “Why does Lencioni have two different books to deliver a full message on team building?”  It is fairly simple, if you want cohesive teams that have trust, show commitment, work through conflict, understand accountability, and deliver resultsyou need to hire and keep the right people.

To hire the right people for your teams, you need to look for people who are humble, hungry, and smart.  To keep the right people on your teams, you need to continually monitor existing employees against  those three team player characteristics to make sure they still fit into your team culture.  We need to take a closer look at what Lencioni means by humble, hungry, and smart to better understand why we need to hire for and monitor against these traits.

Humble should be a requirement of any team player!  These people like working in a team, sharing credit with others, and defining success as group accomplishment.  Self-centered, ego-driven, or politics-playing individuals will not fit into a team well.  So look for “we” instead of “I” when they talk.

Hungry people are always looking to do more, take on responsibilities, or learn more.  These people are self-motivated, diligent, and require little supervision.  Ask questions about projects they have been on and how they have handled problems,  you should be able to gauge hunger by the way they have handled situations in the past.

Smart is not mental intelligence or skill sets (IQ), it is about people (more along the lines of EQ) and social skills.   This is not touchy-feely stuff.  It is about using common sense when working with and talking to other people.  Ask questions about how they work with others and you should see enthusiasm in their responses.

In Lencioni’s model, you can see that it is easy to be fooled when looking at any one characteristic too strongly.  Lencioni examples are Humble=Pawn, Hungry=Bulldozer, or Smart=Charmer.  Even settling for a combination of two characteristics can be bad.  Lencioni examples are Humble+Hungry=Accidental Mess-maker,  Hungry+Smart=Skillful Politician, or Smart +Humble=Lovable Slacker.  You want is someone that falls in the middle of the model.  This way they truly will have all three characteristics: humble, hungry, and smart.

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