If you lead a “for profit” organization, then presumably you want some of the people who work for you to sell your products and services. You may call these people advisors, solutions consultants, relationship managers, etc., but if continuation in their jobs depends on their ability to acquire new business, then they fall under our definition of “salespeople.”
Here are 5 tips for creating a culture where those people can do outstanding work:
Selling is advocating for a product, service or organization. It isn’t consulting, advising or befriending. Make it okay to sell within your organization.
Be honest with yourself. Do you respect salespeople? Do you call them “advisors” or “solutions specialists” because you think those titles are more palatable to your market? They’re not. Your clients and prospects know what a salesperson is. Call them whatever you want, but don’t choose deflected identities to cover up what they do. Regardless of what you call them, you still expect their activity to result in a sale that gets posted to your P&L. If you’re uncomfortable with that reality, chances are you’re sending an implicit message throughout your entire organization that selling is bad, wrong or unethical. How can a Solutions Specialist feel good about what they do in that environment? You’re in charge of the culture of the organization so watch your language!
Examine Sales Management. What are they doing to enable your sales team to sell? What messages are they spreading? Are they coaching your team to build relationships and to believe that the prospect will close himself if they do it right? Is your stock price or bonus plan based on the number of relationships your people have?! Use whatever sales strategy works best for your company, but be sure sales management is coaching to the right outcomes.
Examine other roles in the organization. If they have any influence on sales, such as HR or Recruiting, have them share accountability for sales results. There’s nothing worse than a recruiting department that advocates for candidates that are “self-starters” or “outgoing” without determining if the candidates will actually sell. Or an HR department that has developed a sales competency model based on all the wrong criteria. True Story: We had a head of HR tell us she would get back to us when she worked out whether prospecting was a priority for her organization’s salespeople! Do your middle management teams know what the organization’s priorities are? Have you asked them?
Review your recruitment and selection practices. How would your top performer stack up against industry peers? Ensure that your recruitment and selection practices aren’t filtering out top performers. Another True Story: A client recently brought one of our distributors in to help out when their salespeople, who were recommended for hire by the personality assessment they were using, were failing to prospect and sell. We administered our Call Reluctance test. We never would have recommended them for hire. They had a great personality (apparently), but they were so uncomfortable prospecting…that they didn’t! The moral of the story is: Ensure your hiring process isn’t filtering out good candidates and only allowing in moderate to sub-optimal candidates. You may need to re-order the tools you’re currently using or investigate some new ones.
Selling is hard work. For people who aren’t in sales, we often tell them it’s like trying to find a new job Every. Single. Day. You rely heavily on them so be sure they have your respect and support. When that attitude is obvious at the top, everyone else will take note.
Suzanne C. Dudley, CPA, is president and CEO of Behavioral Sciences Research Press, a 40-year-old research and development company that produces psychometric assessments used by corporations around the globe.