Could your company’s sales culture be stronger? If so, you’re not alone.
In just the past few years, we’ve seen an unprecedented amount of change in the business world. Without a world-class sales culture, organizations simply haven’t been able to withstand the turmoil.
Since 2000 alone, a whopping 52% of Fortune 500 companies have either gone bankrupt, been acquired, or disappeared completely. At this current rate, about 50% of all S&P 500 firms will be replaced by 2027.
At the same time, the average life expectancy of a Fortune 500 firm was around 75 years in 1960. Today, it’s less than 15 years, and declining all the time. Specifically in the world of sales, the data is equally bleak. The average tenure of a VP of sales has dropped precipitously from 26 months 7 years ago to 19 months today, and that’s across all industries and geographies.
Quota attainment has dropped as well, from 63% about 5 years ago to 53% today. But there are some tactical, tangible strategies you can implement to build a world-class sales culture that can withstand these brutal changes.
In this sales management training video, I’m going to show you 9 tactical strategies for a world-class sales culture. Check it out:
Be sure to download Marc’s incredible Key Pages & Worksheets Guide mentioned in this video! Just click here to get the Key Pages & Worksheets Guide instantly.
Sales Management Training Tip #1: Thoroughly assess your existing team.
I can’t tell you how many managers and business leaders come to me and say, “I need you to train my salespeople because they’re doing a terrible job.” Now, that may sound logical to some people at first. But it’s completely illogical when you really think about it. The reality is, there are probably some people on that team who shouldn’t even be there. And so, before we ever get into sales training, we want to first assess the existing sales organization.
Up front, we want to understand: Are the right people on the team in the first place? If not, then my suggestion is to either move them to another department where they might be happier, such as operations or customer service, or let them go and find a job elsewhere. You need to have a team of salespeople who are coachable, buildable, and willing to implement new ideas. If you don’t have this, then everything else is going to be a waste of time. No amount of sales management training will help you. You need to have the right people from the start, so assess your existing people before you do anything else.
What I suggest you do is rate them on an A to F scale. A is obviously superior performers. F is someone who really needs to be elsewhere. If anyone is below a B-minus, then they’re probably not the right fit for your team. You want to be focusing only on those higher performers.
Sales Management Training Tip #2: Use a process for identifying superior talent.
You may not be actively involved in the sales hiring process at your organization. But if you’re a manager or even the CEO of a good sized organization, you need to make sure that the process for hiring talent is going to yield superior performers. That means having a systematic process for hiring with multiple steps that force potential sales hires to demonstrate their selling ability. This is something I implement with my clients all the time, because we need to ensure the people we’re hiring are going to be the right fit.
Now, nothing is 100% certain. But you can mitigate a lot of uncertainty around the hiring process by making sure it’s systematic, it’s intentional, and it uses all the tools available to ensure someone is a superior fit. Some of those tools might include online assessments that assess both behavior and cognitive fit; pre-screen calls that test candidates’ ability on the phone through roleplays; and other highly structured methods of assessing potential sales hires.
Sales Management Training Tip #3: Know the strategic math to grow your sales.
Every manager, CEO, and sales leader must understand the exact math that goes into increasing sales.
There are only three ways to actually increase sales. First, you need to increase the conversion rate of every opportunity that’s in front of you. Next, increase the average size of each sale. And finally, increase your sales pipeline, or the actual raw number of prospects that you’re getting in front of.
Most organizations tend to focus on the first and last. They’re thinking about how to increase conversion rate and how to get in front of more people. But very often, the easiest one is increasing the average size of each individual sale so that sales increase. If you combine all three of these together, they have a multiplicative effect: You can actually double sales by increasing each of those areas by only about 26%. So, you can make smaller tweaks to each area to have a knock-on effect that’s huge. Understanding that math is vital to ultimately growing your sales.
Sales Management Training Tip #4: Implement leveraged prospecting.
So many CEOs and sales leaders come to me and say, “I want our salespeople to be making more cold calls.” My first response is always, “Well, help me understand. Is cold calling the most effective use of their time?” Now, in some cases, it can be — but very rarely.
This doesn’t mean that making a call to a person you don’t know is ineffective. It just means that the act of a pure cold call — where the other person has no idea who you are, has never received anything from you, and is just getting a random phone call from you — is probably not going to be the best use of a salesperson’s time.
Instead, we want to use leverage to make sure that every action by our salespeople has the highest likelihood of leading to either a meeting or a sale. So, leveraged prospecting simply means that we use every prospecting tool possible to make sure that salespeople are going to be effective. That typically looks like having a real sales prospecting campaign that salespeople are following, including a combination of emails, phone calls, LinkedIn messages, voicemails left, packages sent, etc.
Give prospects lots of content throughout this process and lots of ideas they can implement. Then, by the time you actually get the person on the phone, it’s most likely to lead to some kind of a real next step. We want to have leveraged prospecting. We don’t just want our salespeople to be making more dials. Make sure those dials are effective.
Sales Management Training Tip #5: Have a structured sales process.
This is a tough one. Many organizations are all over the place when it comes to sales process, so at the end of the day, they just end up letting their salespeople do whatever they want.
The problem with this is that it’s like herding kittens. Everyone is going off in different directions. Everyone is doing different things, and there’s no common sales philosophy within the organization. Quite frankly, what most salespeople are deciding to do on their own is probably not the most effective use of their time.
Put a structured sales process in place that walks salespeople through how to get prospects on the phone or how to get in front of prospects. What does that initial discovery process look like? How are they presenting? What do the proposals look like? Once we actually close a sale, how are we onboarding prospects into our general processes?
Structuring out that sales process is key. If your organization is small, then it’s probably just about finding some basic sales training to give your entire sales team. If you’re a bigger organization, you can really customize that process to make sure that it fits exactly in line. Every step, every question, every line is understood so that way, even if people aren’t following it exactly by the script, there is a process that they can follow, and you can manage that exact process.
Sales Management Training Tip #6: Track discovery meetings closely.
Managers, CEOs, CSOs, and VPs of sales always ask me, “Marc, what is the most important KPI or what’s the most important metric that we can be tracking of our salespeople?” There is no one right answer to that question, but if I were to generalize one answer that is accurate for most organizations, it would be the number of discovery meetings that salespeople are setting. Discovery meetings are those initial sales meetings that are in the calendar for that first introduction.
If managers are tracking that number, they’ll have the most likely indicator of that salesperson’s success because discovery meetings are the ultimate leading indicator of success. If a salesperson has tons of discovery meetings in their calendar, then you probably have a pretty good idea that they are likely to be successful in the following months.
Use your CRM to really track those discovery meetings and make sure that salespeople are setting enough discovery meetings. A whopping 90% of the issues I see in terms of prospecting are simply due to salespeople not setting enough discovery meetings, and so they have this empty pipeline, and all of the issues snowball from there. Make sure that the one thing you’re really tracking besides of course sales numbers is the number of discovery meetings that salespeople are setting or that they have on the books.
Sales Management Training Tip #7: Let your CRM do the heavy lifting.
I always ask managers, owners, and CEOs the same question: “Do you know exactly what your salespeople are doing on a day-to-day basis?” What’s amazing is that they often can’t answer that question in the affirmative. They say, “Oh, yeah. I think we generally have an idea.” I say, “No, no, no. Do you know exactly what they’re doing on a day-to-day basis? Can you track that? Can you see what’s actually happening?” Most managers, even VPs of sales at pretty sophisticated organizations, simply can’t say yes to that question. But the success of the organization depends on your ability to know what salespeople are doing.
This isn’t about being Big Brother. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s about letting your CRM present to you a story of what salespeople are actually doing. That way, you don’t have to stop in on their office or poke your head in and say, “Hey, what’s going on today? What are you doing today?” It’s the exact opposite. You can see exactly what’s happening in the CRM. You know exactly how many meetings they’ve scheduled, how many calls they’ve made, how many referrals they’ve asked for. Those key metrics are being tracked in the CRM so you don’t have to play that Big Brother role.
Sales Management Training Tip #8: Run a structured sales meeting.
Have you ever been in a meeting that was just completely unstructured? Suddenly, you look at your watch, and it’s been 90 minutes. You’ve accomplished exactly nothing. Well, this may be the experience that your salespeople have when they sit in on your sales meetings.
Now, I don’t mean to be aggressive about this, but it is so important that managers run structured sales meetings with their salespeople. There must be a clear agenda to every meeting, along with a clear set of commitments that each salesperson is 100% committed to accomplishing over a specific period of time. Likely, a period of time that will lead to the next sales meeting, when we will then check up on those commitments to see if they’ve actually done what they’ve said they were going to do. Start to run those structured sales meetings, and it’s amazing how meetings suddenly become more valuable.
A structured sales meeting means that it is regularly scheduled, there’s an agenda, and that the follow-up is consistent. You may run a meeting once a month, or you may run it once a week. It depends on the type of organization you have. Make sure the cadence is completely consistent, so salespeople can start to expect that consistency. Accountability starts to drive performance when salespeople know that there’s real consistency. Be sure to run that structured sales meeting.
Sales Management Training Tip #9: Coach with intention.
Coaching is one of those things that most managers know they need to be doing more of it. Yet, they don’t do much of it at all. It tends to be very reactive.
As managers, when we coach with intention, it means that we have a systematic process to coaching people. One of the things that I teach my clients is how to coach in a way that is leading to the answer, but not leading with the answer. It’s really easy for a manager to just say, “Hey, so I just watched what you did, and here’s what I think you should do differently.”
It’s really easy to do that. We tend to, as managers, be very driven and we just want to get right to the point. But what we actually want to do is have a systematic approach to asking questions of our salespeople to get them to lead themselves to the answer.
We want to ask questions of the salespeople. I call it the Rule of Three. Any time you have a coaching point that you want to make, ask three questions to get there. Let’s say you’re in a meeting with a salesperson and they just completely botched the budget part of the conversation with the prospect. Rather than saying, “Hey, you really want to be getting right into budget,” start with, “So, walk me through what you think could have been done differently in that meeting.”
Maybe they recognize the budget thing. Maybe they don’t. You say, “Well, help me understand the budget piece. What was your takeaway in terms of what their budget really is,” and now, we want to dig into that. Keep asking questions to get them to articulate that there was a challenge. This is what coaching with intention is all about. Whether you’re the CEO managing the VP level, or you’re the VP managing your managers, or you’re the manager managing your salespeople, or you’re the business owner managing your own salespeople, you need to be coaching with intention.
So, now you know 9 tactical strategies for a world-class sales culture. I want to hear from you. Which of these ideas did you find most useful? Be sure to share below in the comments section to get involved in this conversation.