Do you enjoy working with sales teams? I enjoy it so much that I could see myself being a CRO (Chief Revenue Officer) or VP of Sales for a larger organization.
Most CEOs probably do not realize the mindset of a CFO is similar to a CRO. Both are strategic. They are both systems oriented. They are problem solvers, finders, and preventers. CFOs and CROs are experts in building playbooks from scratch based on the lay of the land.
But the CRO has all the luck. They work with better personalities. Plus, they sit in the front office whereas we’re typically relegated to the back office.
However, we have the cool graph that’s a secret weapon to changing an underperforming salesforce. Want to see it?
All of Your Clients Use This Chart
Before I show my secret weapon, all of your clients are looking at this chart regularly, right? They better be.
It’s your typical bar chart showing year-to-date sales ranked by rep with tickmarks showing their pace against quota.
That’s fine and dandy, but here’s the graph I construct for EVERY SINGLE CLIENT (emphasis purposely added) bar none. In short, the graph reveals the cumulative 12-month sales for each sales team member during their first 12 months on the job. If your client has only had a few salespeople on staff, I’d still complete it as the slope and height is meaningful.
So what are we looking at, and what’s so special?
First, this shows the cumulative sales for all reps during their first 12 months of selling regardless of their start dates.
Aaron has by far been the best sales person during their first 12 months. Pujols has lagged the most. Why? How about the reps in the middle? What’s driving their performance or underperformance? Can we pinpoint success factors and then repeat in the future? These are questions that have to be answered.
Still not convinced? Consider the following:
- Hiring | Most small business owners do not even think about a vetting process before hiring sales staff. They hire fast. They regret later.
- Training | Sales training is minimal to non-existent. Ongoing coaching? What’s that?
- Ongoing Performance Evaluation | While sales quotas may exist, there is no true way to gauge sales success or failure given the lack of sales training, mentoring, and coaching of any kind.
The 1st 12 Months Sales Rep Graph – Next Steps
The first time I created this visual for a client, I was blown away, but in a good way. I saw a major opportunity for structure, systems, training, coaching, performance tracking, and new onboarding practices.
It was about this time that I started creating sales playbooks. Even today, I build these from scratch.
As I look at past playbooks, every such document includes a sale funnel where I try to find out the best practices for filling each slice and moving prospects through the sales process. All of your clients should do something like this to augment their sales training process. It works.
In the example above, I’d first interview Aaron who has the best 12-month sales performance right out of the gate. For each slice in the sales funnel, I’d find out his best practices for moving clients through the funnel. I’d want to know what is working and what’s not working.
For each idea he shares, I’d want to formulate opinions on whether his best practices are teachable, trainable, and repeatable. If so, his best practices can be rolled out into a new sales training program for future reps.
For small distributors, the sales funnel will only include 2-3 slices in a sales funnel. For a professional services firm, the sales process is a bit more complex. Plus, the sales cycle drags on typically because the prospect is vetting other firms.
Get this process right, and you’ll be the knight in shining armor for your client.
Best Practices Documentation Is Worthless Without a Great Onboarding Process
Identifying the best practices for the sale process is essential and necessary for grooming and training new-hires. But that process is secondary for what I do for clients with small sales staffs–developing a simple yet effective onboarding process. The system you create should be so good, your client would never want it in the hands of a competitor.
The left side of the mind map addresses who we want and where we’ll find that person. The right side addresses how we go about the hiring process. I have pop-up notes in this particular map on what to do after the person is hired. In short, I’ve just shared my most important ING words for finding sales reps:
Finding | Getting | Onboarding | Nurturing and Growing
Great Players and Winning Practices, The Dynamic Duo
Have you picked up on a key factor on building a great salesforce? It’s a two-sided monster. There’s player development. But I prefer coaching, mentoring, nurturing, and growing activities after reps have been found and hired. And then there’s practice management as cited in the funnel discussion addressed earlier.
And therein lies the issue for most small business owners. Sometimes, they are good with working with reps but are weak in creating and managing a repeatable and scalable sales process. In other cases, the owner understands the sales process but is lacking in the necessary people skills to coaching and growing their sales team members.
I’m sure good intentions abound, but results are depressing. That’s why you’re in their corner to help with a better sales solution.
So how do we synchronize people and process? Keep reading.
Building a Great Salesforce with 3 Parts of the Human Mind
I’m not a touchy-feely person. At times, I feel my head is always tilting to the left as I perceive the right part of my brain is missing.
Yet, I fully understand we need to be holistic with respect to who gets a seat at the business development table. Your client’s old way is hiring anyone he/she likes that talks the talk and convinces them that they should be hired. No more. The new way starts with a holistic mindset.
For years, Kathy Kolbe has been teaching her clients, certified consultants, peers, and strategic partners that there are three parts of the human mind:
- The Cognitive
- The Affective
- The Conative
Let’s unpack these–I’ll be brief.
The Cognitive Part of the Mind
The cognitive part of the mind is all about know-how and capability. What are the necessary skills each salesperson needs in order to succeed? Do they need to be industry experts? Do they need strong consulting skills? Is technology know-how necessary? Or what about math and writing skills?
The Affective Part of the Mind
The affective part of the mind deals with social styles, drive, and values. Many of us have been inundated with the theology of personality profile assessments. Let me know when you find the one that measures the person’s humility, integrity, and drive in the most challenging conditions.
I have three go-to questions that help me to understand the drive of a salesperson. This helps in both the hiring process along with the ongoing coaching. Of the three parts of the human mind, this one is the hardest to grasp, especially in the mentoring process. If you figure it out, consider changing careers right now.
The Conative Part of the Mind
Finally, there’s the conative part of the mind, the part no one talks about. Every person on the planet has their unique way of going about their work when they have the freedom to do so.
According go Kathy Kolbe, some people are Fact Finders. Fact Finders are strategists by probing, researching, prioritizing, and comparing pros and cons. If you need a consultative salesperson, more than likely, a Fact Finder will be valuable on that sales team.
The Follow Thru person instinctively schedules, systematizes, and naturally creates steps and procedures. You’ll find this person charting and graphing progress. It goes without saying that your sales manager needs to be a Follow Thru (in most cases).
Quick Starts according to Kathy Kolbe are natural innovators who thrive in uncertainty. These are your idea people who tend to work best under tight deadlines. You need these people in brainstorming sessions.
If you know nothing about the conative part of the mind, you might think that Quick Starts are the best salespeople. I have access to some empirical research to support that theory. However, I’ve worked with successful reps without a Quick Start instinct. That’s because they are using all three parts of the human mind to the very fullest.
Implementers by nature are tactile who appreciate the quality of materials and machines. They tend to focus on the here and now with this uncanny ability of knowing how tangible items work. I’m not going to say an Implementor cannot be a successful software salesperson. I think they are going to be ideal in selling hard goods instead.
The Ideal Salesperson
Patrick Lencioni is the author of The Ideal Team Player. I love that little book. He calls the ideal team player:
- Smart (people smart)
Patrick is only partly right because he’s missing the bigger picture. The ideal (sales) team player is a perfect match where his/her cognitive, affective, and conative traits match the requirements of the role to be performed. That’s the ideal (sales) team player.
This is the philosophy we need to embrace as we help our clients build great sales teams. Get this dialed in and process/practice management discussed earlier becomes easy, well easier.
I could write forever on some of the key points in the mind map above–my personal Bible for sales onboarding. But I don’t need to. Read these four books if you want to take your sales management capabilities to a whole new level. If so, you’ll develop your own ING list which will be far better than mine:
- I’ve been reading Predictable Sales annually since 2013. I love this book and the author is a great teacher and writer.
- Mark Roberge’s The Sales Acceleration Formula is similar–different business, different industry, similar results.
- Topgrading for Sales is dated and just fair. I’d still suggest scanning it.
- I purposely resisted reading Hyper Sales Growth by Jack Daly. I thought the writer was all bark, no bite. Wrong, wrong, wrong. This former accountant conveys a message similar to the the authors of Predictable Sales and The Sales Acceleration Formula. And, it doesn’t hurt that I own a signed copy of his book (thank you Ken Allman).
Creating the Graph Is the Easy Part – Building a Great Sales Team and Process Is the Hard Part
Wouldn’t it be cool if we only created graphs and then all problems were solved? Yeah, in The Twilight Zone.
Graphs are easy-peasy. Creating the new sales management processes will be hard and will require patience. It’s not a simple one-year process. Plus, the business owner you serve will be tempted to go back to the old way, but the sales results will still be dreadfully awful.
Just stay the course. As I look back on my CFO career dating back to 2001, I’m not sure I’ve found anything more gratifying than playing a key role in helping to shape and grow sales teams for small businesses. You now possess some of the necessary tools for this critical role as a part-time CFO or fractional CFO (did I miss a title?). With some creativity and leadership, you can now make a huge top-line difference for your growth-oriented clients.