Sales and Sales Management Blog

January 7, 2015

5 Critical Steps to Regain Your Team’s Respect

Filed under: business,management,Sales Management,team development — Paul McCord @ 1:03 pm
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Everyday there are tens of thousands of sales leaders trying to manage a sales team that has lost respect for them—and many, possibly most, don’t even realize that they’ve lost control of their team.

Are you faced with any of these issues?

1. Team members are seldom on time and come and go as they please.  Are your sellers straggling into the office and scheduled meetings because of a lax office atmosphere—or because they simply have no respect for you and your ability to control them?

2. Your interactions with team members are usually monologues.  Are team members listening to you intently and respectfully and giving their opinion freely—or are they simply waiting for you to shut up so you’ll go away and they can go back to ignoring you?

3. Your team members try to talk over you.  Are they excited and want to get their ideas out—or do they think you have nothing worth listening to and don’t respect your opinion?

4. Your requests are ignored or assignments are completed in a half-hearted fashion.  Are they so busy with selling and taking care of their customers that they just didn’t have time to get to the assignment—or do they think the assignment was a joke not worth their time and effort, and besides, you’re not going to do anything about it anyway?

It’s easy for managers to ignore the above symptoms of disrespect.  In fact, it is far easier and a lot more comfortable to ignore them than to address them.

But if you’re in a position where you have a team that does not respect you, either you or they are short timers.  A manager—and the company they work for—cannot last long once they’ve lost the respect of their team.

But once the team’s respect has been lost, is it possible to regain it?

I’ve spoken to many management experts who have argued that once lost, respect is impossible to regain and the only solution is new management.

And for the most part I agree.  However, I have seen several situations where management redemption did occur.  In virtually every case, the manager took the following five steps:

  1. Personal acknowledgement.  The manager recognized the loss of respect and committed themselves to aggressively addressing and correcting the issue.
  2. Confessing to the team.  The manager confessed to each member of the team (either in a group meeting or during individual meetings with team members) that they had lost their commitment and had failed the team and have recommitted themselves to serving the team without reservation.
  3. Establishing new ground rulesand adhering to them.  The manager sets out a new set of rules that govern both the team’s and the manager’s actions along with the consequences for breaking those rules.  Discipline is not only needed, it must be demonstrated.  Consequently, it is necessary that the team know what is expected from them and from the manager and that both have objective rules and guidelines that all parties are aware of and can measure one another by.
  4. Encourage discussion–and dissent.  It is imperative that an open dialogue between the manager and the team members be created and it is the manager’s obligation to set the tone and get the ball rolling.  If the manager can’t break through the ice and begin a real conversation with the team, no amount of confession and fair rules will do any good.
  5. Treat team members with respect.  Very often the team begins losing respect for their manager not simply because they view the manager as weak, but because they feel that he or she isn’t treating them with respect.  A manager cannot expect respect from the team if they aren’t showing the team members respect.  Respect, more than any other aspect of relationships, is a two-way street.  Part of earning respect is showing respect and the manager must begin the process by making sure the team members know they are respected.

The above five step process isn’t an overnight fix.  In fact, regaining respect takes time—a lot of time, weeks and months worth of time.

Yes, once the team has lost respect for their manager the most expeditious solution is replacing the manger.  But that isn’t the only solution.  If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve lost your team’s respect—or if you have a manager that for whatever reason you cannot replace and they’ve lost their team’s respect, apply the steps above and you will, given time, repair the damage and once again have the team’s respect.


February 8, 2013

You Have to Act the Part to Become the Part

Back in the days when Indians roamed the range, before leather helmets, when the Flying Wedge was all the rage, I played football in high school.  My high school team wasn’t all that great since I went to the new high school in town and the city fathers finagled it so that most of the good players went to the old, established school. 

We had a coach who would tell us that in order to become the player we wanted to be, we had to act the part to become the part—that is, we had to act like good football players in order to become good football players.

That small bit of advice has a tremendous amount of wisdom packed into it—and a lot of room for misinterpretation. 

First let me say what Coach didn’t mean—seems especially important in today’s culture.  Acting the part didn’t mean trash talking, acting like the school stud, or grandstanding.  He would never put up with someone putting on airs, demanding special treatment, or getting too big for their britches. 

Acting the part meant imitating the play of a quality player—doing those things that the good players do that make them good. 

Acting the part means forgetting that one might be relatively new or inexperienced or hasn’t mastered necessary skills

It means consciously forcing oneself to go through the same motions good players go through, using the same techniques and strategies, assuming the same confidence and self assurance (and faking it if necessary).

The philosophy behind Coach’s words is simply that you cannot become the person you want to be if you don’t do the things that person would do.

That small bit of advice works not only in sports but in all aspects of life, especially in selling.

Are you not the seller you want to be?  Are you new or haven’t produced in the past at the level you want?  Are you not one of the top sellers in your organization?  Are you not at the top of your industry?

You can be—but not unless you act the part of a top seller, doing the things top sellers do.

I have heard literally thousands of average or slightly above average—and especially below average–sellers claim that they want to sell their way rather than imitating the top people in their organization.  Some say they “can’t” sell the way the top sellers do, others that they know a better way.  Ultimately they all have the same thing in common—they never make it to the top level.

There are thousands who claim to be sales trainers and gurus, all ready and willing to give you the secrets of selling success for the right price.  And much of what they sell is really good and will help you increase your sales.  I’m not downplaying the role of a quality trainer—after all, I’m one. 

That being said, the quickest, surest way to becoming a top seller is to simply act like a top seller, doing the things a top seller does.  You’ll be surprised at how quickly the “act” becomes the reality.


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January 2, 2013

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Filed under: sales,sales training,selling,success,team development — Paul McCord @ 11:53 am
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Virtually every business day I receive at least one, and often as many as four, unsolicited requests to post blog articles on my blog from sales trainers I do not know and most often have never heard of before receiving their email.  What I have learned from these requests is both disappointing and disturbing.

It is more than reasonable to assume that sales trainers not only know how to generate sales but that they also practice what they preach.

Based on the requests I receive to help sales trainers expand their reach and influence more people by posting their articles on my blog the concept of practicing what one preaches is foreign to a good segment of the sales training community.

One of the fundamentals of sales is to concentrate on your prospect rather than on yourself.  As sellers we have to have a message that appeals to our prospect, that is, it meets a need the prospect has or it fulfills a desire or want.  At the least we need to put our offer in a format that answers the most basic prospect question of “what’s in it for me?”

It would be absurd to approach a prospect with a proposal that totally focused on our needs and totally ignores the prospect.

But that is exactly how sales trainers who should know better approach requesting help from someone they do not know and who does not know them.

Why is this issue one that should concern you?

I think it is a reflection of the state of the sales training industry.  Let me point out a few of the more glaring issues with sales trainers—and very possibly the training they provide—the above reveals:

  1.  They don’t recognize a sales situation when they are in one.  How a trainer approaches me tells me a great deal about them.  I don’t need nor do I expect a trainer to do anything for me in order for me to post their article—if it is good I’ll post it.  But the trainer who is requesting my help can’t make that assumption.  When they approach me or anyone else to solicit our help they must recognize that they are in a selling situation and therefore must act accordingly.
  2. They don’t practice the fundamentals of selling.  As noted above, one of the fundamentals of selling is to focus on the prospect, not on oneself.  But in most cases the solicitation email I receive is totally focused on what I can do for them without so much as a thank you for your time.
  3. They can’t effectively teach what they don’t practice.  In many respects selling is similar to sports—consistent, effective practice is the foundation for success.  Although we might be able to mouth the right words, if we aren’t actively practicing what we preach we really can’t be effective teachers.  Like sellers, sales trainers need to be immersed in sales and that means actively practicing selling.  Sales training is more than simply saying the right things, it is demonstrating through practice what works; it is turning words into actions.  If one cannot turn words into actions in their own life how can they expect to effectively help others do what they can’t?

I attach a great deal of importance to how a sales trainer solicits me to post an article they’ve written as I believe it tells me a great deal about them as a seller and thus as a sales trainer.  If they aren’t demonstrating the fundamentals of selling I ignore their request.  The fact that so many fail that simple test isn’t surprising but it is very disappointing and disconcerting.

Whether you’re a seller seeking a sales training coach or a sales leader looking to hire someone to do training for your team, find out how they sell, it will tell you a great deal about what to expect from them—and don’t be surprised if their real message is “do as I say, not as I do.”

October 15, 2012

Have You Noticed the Same Disastrous Change?

I grew up several decades ago during a time of social upheaval and change, a time when there was tremendous political and cultural tension, a time when there were riots and demonstrations and assassinations.  It was a time when one could have expected the long established social etiquette customs to break down just as the rest of society seemed to be breaking down.

But they didn’t.

I grew up in a major city with supposed big city values and the hustle and bustle of the big city.

But when I went to a store or went to buy a car or a home or anything else I found the vast majority of people who waited on me to be efficient, focused on their job, friendly, and wanting to help.  There was an expectation that service to the customer was paramount.  Every employer, as well as every customer, expected those working with customers to perform their duties in a manner that reflected well on the company and the employee.  If service was slow or rude or incompetent, it only took a single complaint to get results on the floor.

Of course there were some employees—and some companies too—that simply didn’t care.  They were slow, indifferent, uncaring.  But for the most part they were the minority

Today I live in a small city of about 130,000.  Decades ago small cities such as this were famed for their hometown feel and the level of service that went far above and beyond what we would have found in a large city.  When I moved to my current city back in the early 90’s there was a very high level of customer service and care in both the consumer and business sectors.

But something has radically changed in the way customers are treated, and it isn’t just where I live or just in Texas.  I notice it throughout the country when I travel, more so in some areas than others but it permeates the entire country. 

When standing in line at the grocery store, the person at the cash register is often more interested in talking to a friend or the checker in front or behind them than in taking care of the customer in front of them. 

The salesman at the car lot glances at his watch a bit too much because you’re taking up too much of his time. 

The person who called you to sell a copier sighs loudly when asked for an afterhour’s appointment because you’re busy and can’t meet them until after closing. 

The lady on the phone trying to sell you electric service says she is too busy to come by and pick up your old electric bills to give you a rate comparison and wants you to fax them to her to save her a trip.

I’m certainly not trying to condemn all sellers.  There are many great dedicated sellers out there.  But especially on the retail side—and increasingly on the business side—customer service isn’t dying, it’s dead.  Those who are simply there to get a paycheck now far outweigh those great sellers who are dedicated to their job.

What is the root of this change?  Is it a breakdown of society?  Of family?  Are employers to blame for not training and insisting on a high level of service?  Or are buyers to blame for not demanding respect and service?

More than likely it is a combination of all of the above.

Will we ever see a return to high customer service levels with attentive, well informed and committed employees as the norm rather than the exception?

I don’t know the answer—but I’m afraid it’s a resounding “NO.”

Now, am I simply an old codger who is missing all the great customer service out there?  What has been your experience lately?

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September 18, 2012

Guest Article: “3 Detrimental Sales Coaching Mistakes,” by Sean McPheat

3 Detrimental Sales Coaching Mistakes
by Sean McPheat

Great sales coaching will not only inspire sales people and generate more sales revenue, but also increase market share, reduce employee turnover, increase customer loyalty and much more.  Successful sales coaching strategies can be the foundation on which your sales team thrives. Conversely, negative coaching, consisting of poorly planned and executed sales meetings and de-motivational management concepts, will cost your organisation in ways that you may not be able to recognise or quantify.

While there are tons of motivational tips and tricks on what to do for positive coaching results, here are a few things you need to try to avoid at all costs.

Sales Coaching Mistake #1 – Intimidation
Some managers actually believe in negative motivation, and some exude such thoughts accidently.  However, you want to be careful not to intimidate or use scare tactics to motivate people.

While it’s true that fear can get people to do things they might not otherwise do, unfortunately that includes the bad things as well as the good.  In addition, when you intimidate a team member in front of the group, the negative affects spread throughout the group.

Be aware that you can intimidate people without actual threats.  Challenges and goals that are beyond the sales person’s belief or imagination can intimidate and frighten the sales person, sending them into a counter-productive shell.

Sales Coaching Mistake #2 – Harsh Or Public Criticism
While you may never deliberately try to degrade a sales person, be aware that you can do this unintentionally.  When a sales person has a problem, or is not performing well, it is easy to use that person’s situation as an example.  Never point out someone’s shortcomings in a group sales meeting. Always discuss a sales person’s negative issues in private.  Also, keep in mind that a sales person’s failures…are actually YOUR fault, anyway.

Sales Coaching Mistake #3 – Ridged Control
Be careful not to overpower your sales team. The philosophy of many salescoachesis to “Rule with an iron fist…,” doing more demanding than managing.  To force people to follow you is not leading, it is subjugating.

You never want to demand the team do things that you cannot, have not, or would not do yourself.  However, if you have done those things, you also want to remain humble and not glorify your experience.  Lift the team up instead. In sales meetings, be careful not to issue orders or commands.  Instead, offer objectives and action plans to reach those objectives.

In short, as a sales coach: do not, intimidate, berate or subjugate!

 Managing Director of MTD Sales Training, Sean McPheat is regarded as a thought leader on modern day selling. Sean has been featured on CNN, ITV, BBC, SKY, Forbes, Arena Magazine and has over 250 other media credits to his name. Sean’s Sales Blog is visited by 5,000 people every week and his 6 Sales Training Audios are free to download

August 31, 2012

Guest Article: “Sales Force (Mis)Alignment,” by Tibor Shanto

Sales Force (Mis)Alignment
by Tibor Shanto

By now everyone is aware of the increasing talk of the need for alignment between marketing and sales, with some organizations realizing that it is healthier to look at the entire Client Life Cycle as one function rather than two. Some organization have acted on their commitment by creating the role of Chief Revenue Officer, having both functions coalesce behind a singular purpose, function and execution.

This indeed is a step forward as it aligns and consolidates the organization’s resource to better serve the most important element in selling, the customer. While it may seem basic and fundamental to mention the buyer, but they, the customer, are often absent from the discussion, and are instead represented by their common proxy, revenue. But revenue does not act on its own, it is a by product of a decision made by a buyer, which is why the key alignment many organizations should put greater focus on is aligning their sales people with the buyer, not just marketing. A key component of this alignment is ensuring you have the right assets and resources deployed at the specific and right buyer groups.

First let’s define the buyer groups in question, to keep it simple and familiar, lets divide them in to three common groups:

Status Quo – this group is content with their current situation, this is not to say that they are doing what is optimal, just that they are content with their current state. What some have called happy now, and not looking for alternatives, or enhancements to what they have in place. Many sales professionals you talk to call this group complacent, which is a nice way to express their frustration at their inability to engage with this group. Based on which surveys or studies you look at this group makes up about 65% – 75% of the B2B buyer population, let’s keep things simple for the rest of this piece and call it 70%

Passive – The key differentiator between this group and the Status Quo is that while they are not actively looking for alternatives to the way they are doing things, they have either acknowledged to themselves, or are beginning to see that they cannot be content with the current situation for long. This is why they are labelled Passive; to continue the definition from the above point, they are no longer 100% happy or content, but are not actively looking; they are open to suggestion, but on they are not ready to act yet. Again, based on various sources, this group represent roughly 15% of B2B buyers.

Active – The most straight forward group for most in sales, these people are actively looking for alternatives to their current situation, some have called this group as “in the market”. Not happy, and actively looking for alternatives. Every sales person’s dream, so long as they haven’t made up their mind on a provider, and are just using you as “column fodder”. This group makes up the remaining 15% of B2B buyers.

What you have is 70% of B2B buyers are cocooned in their current reality, not looking, not thinking of looking, and ready to torpedo any sales person looking to engage with them using conventional means, and if nothing else, most sales people are conventional. Then there is 30% that are in various states of readiness, while not all have the big neon light over the door saying “ready to talk”, they are all open to a meaningful discussion with knowledgeable sales people using conventional means of engaging and selling.

Now let’s look at sales people based on attributes and capabilities, they too can be placed in three general groups.

Demand Gatherers – as the name implies, these people do best with Active buyers, buyers who have declared their desire to engage and buy. While we can dissect this, the reality is that for the most part in a B2B environment these are order takers. They may be good at managing relationships, and safeguard existing revenue, but when it comes to new revenue, the buyer practically has to throw it at them. I am not being condescending here; time and time again in workshops these people will use the expression “when I can get the buyer to throw me a bone.”

Leverage Demand – these are the reps that can recognize those who are Passive buyers, they understand the signs of someone who is not looking, but not longer fully believes in the solution in place now. They are great at managing and growing accounts beyond what the buyer will throw at them. But, on their own will not or cannot engage with those buyers that make up the Status Quo group.

Demand Creators – This are the traditional hunter, the money players, the ones able to stir and agitate the right way and in the right measures to create demand and opportunities in buyers that Gatherers and those who Leverage Demand, will miss, overlook, and in the process concede the potential revenue to your competitors. Think of these people, as the sellers who know how to be the irritating grain of sand that becomes a pearl.

Here is the challenge, most sales forces are composed primarily of Gatherers and those who Leverage Demand, and few if any at times of Demand Creators. While I am sure the number is not exact, but when you talk to many sales VP’s, they will tell you without much shame, that their teams conform to the 80/20 rule, 80% those who Leverage and Gather; 20% Creators.    

Almost the exact opposite to the makeup of the buyer group. Can there be a more glaring, and costly example of misalignment, misspent and miss-focused assets and resources.

Most of your resources and efforts aimed at the smallest part of the market, and only 20% aimed at the largest buyer group. Add to that, much of the alignment between marketing and sales is focused on the Passive and Active groups. Makes you wonder how much opportunity is being abdicated to those competitors who have realised that you can with the right people, resources and message Create great success with that 70% of the market that 80% of your sales force will ignore or not be equipped to exploit.

It is always easier moving the small things around and harder to take action on the BIG and IMPORTANT things, especially when it involves changing personnel. Change that involves your people can come in one of two forms, you can either change the skills and habits of the people you have on board; or change those you have on board.

Let’s look at the latter, many of the same leaders who tell you that 80% of their team are either Gatherers or those who Leverage, will in the same breath tell you that 80% of their revenue is generated by the 20% Creators. What that tells me is that they could fire half their team, and realize great savings without tangible negative impact on revenue or client satisfaction. In fact, some will tell you that those two measures will improve when you get rid of the fat. An early indicator of this is the number of companies who have succeeded in migrating revenue from outside sales teams to inside sales team. They often experience a rise in coverage, revenues, and margins. In addition, these same organizations will be the first to realign their assets and resources and take more of your revenue. Mostly because there are more cost effective and efficient ways to ensure client satisfaction, and since the 80% are for the most part taking orders from demand generated by marketing, there is a savings to be had.

Changing the skills and habits is also difficult, both in terms of effort required, and costs; and in reality will likely involve in some change of people, especially among front line managers. Changing habits is an evolving process, and in these days of short-term expectations, it seems many sales organization are willing to live with the pain of underperformance vs. the pain of changing team members.

In some cases, it is less about reducing the size of the sales force, and more about the right talent not being available to match the market. Many have difficulty finding Creators, while there is an abundance of Gatherers and those who Leverage demand, usually at a lower investment than the Creators. Which is why in the end, it is more likely that you will have to both reduce the number of also-rans, and invest in developing Creators internally. This takes time and effort, but not more than dealing with the drag on the process the current reality creates.

One concern many leaders raise is what happens “if I train them and they leave?” Two answers, the first borrowed from a sales leader I met at a conference, whhe asked by his boss, he responded: “what happens if you don’t train them, and they stay?” The other is that A type Creators, know a good thing when they see it, that is what makes them successful, they want to be where they can win, which is exactly the environment you would be creating.

As stated at the start, it is about alignment. Aligning sales and marketing is a good thing, should be encouraged and continued. But without aligning the right sellers with the right type of buyer, much of the effort in aligning internal resources will be limited and diminished. In many ways it is trading in ongoing pain, for short term upheaval – but – long –term gain.



Tibor Shanto – Principal – Renbor Sales Solutions Inc., is a recognized speaker, author of award winning book Shift!: Harness The Trigger Events That Turn Prospects Into Customers, and sought after trainer; his work has appeared in numerous publications and leading websites. You can read our blog, The Pipeline with new material three times a week.

August 29, 2012

7 Signs There is a Cancer Growing in Your Sales Team

Is your sales team healthy?

Are they performing to the level you want them?

Is there a cancer growing within your team that you’re not aware of?

Do you have underlying issues within your team that is destroying productivity, creating turnover, and maybe even driving away existing clients?

Here are 7 signs that indicate you may have serious problems within your team:

1. Meetings start late because team members wander in when they want.  Is this a sign of a lack of discipline within the team or a sign that the team members don’t care?

2. Meetings are manager monologues because team members only speak when forced.  Are team members afraid to voice their opinions?  Are they disassociated and don’t care?  Do they feel that their views won’t be seriously considered?  If any of these are the root cause, you’ve got serious problems to deal with.

3. Your team experiences a significant decrease in sales in a stable or growing market.  A sudden and significant decline in sales in a stable or growing market demands immediate action—but not the shouting, the threats, and the demands for sales which are the actions most managers take.  Instead of ratcheting up the pressure, take a step back and dig for the root cause—which may very well be within management, not the team members.

4. Cliques and rivalries within the team become more intense.  Small cliques and rivalries occur naturally in every group.  Although we might wish these things didn’t happen, it’s natural for some people to be drawn together while others are drawn into close relationships with other people.  Some individuals prefer to go it alone.  It’s also common for some individuals or groups to develop good natured rivalries with each other.   But when serious issues arise within the team, the cliques become more isolated and the rivalries become more intense, the backstabbing and blaming tends to be more open, and a feeling of hostility pervades the office.

5. Conversations are short and business oriented only.  When your team members are “too busy” to speak with you other than when necessary but production isn’t increasing, you have issues to deal with.  Unless you are seeing real growth in production to accompany the too busy to talk claims, your team members are telling you they have such serious issues with you that they simply refuse to interact with you unless absolutely necessary.

6. Team members show little or no respect for company rules and regulations.  As with #1 above, you may simply have chosen not to instill discipline in your team (you’re just asking for big problems down the road but many managers believe they’re making the workplace “fun” and “creative” by running a lunatic asylum).  More likely, you have a team in rebellion and that no longer cares what management thinks.

7. You need an ice pick to chisel your way through the pack ice to get to your office.  Hard as it may be to believe, some managers don’t even recognize they have serious issues even when the ice in the office is so thick they can’t break through it no matter what.  If your office is coated in permafrost you have a dysfunctional sales team.

Problems don’t arise in the sales team from nowhere.  There is always a root cause—often more than a single cause.  From a dissatisfied, disruptive, corrosive salesperson to new restrictive office rules and regulations to changes in compensation to a dictatorial manager, there is always a catalyst.  But once the disease catches hold, time becomes its ally, making it increasingly more difficult to eradicate the longer it festers.

I’ve worked with sales leaders who have ignored the above signs.  Others have argued that these were nothing more than idiosyncrasies within their team.  In virtually every case they have eventually had to deal with a seriously dysfunctional sales team.

What about your team?  Are any of these signs beginning to appear?  If so, before you do anything, make a close examination searching for root causes.  But whatever you do, don’t ignore them as they become more destructive the longer and deeper they work their way into the heart of the sales team.


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August 22, 2012

Guest Article: “The Five Golden Rules of Boosting Sales Rep Productivity,” by Nancy Nardin

Five Golden Rules for Boosting Sales Rep Productivity
by Nancy Nardin

Sales software tools can transform the means and methods by which a sales rep’s productivity is not only measured, but calibrated. However, sales leaders should not be quick to take hold of the misguided notion that tools alone will provide all the right answers. A paradigm shift in thinking, and a modification in behavior, must also be considered.

The focal point of this article is not to examine or suggest possible changes that reps must make. My purpose is to zero-in on the changes that sales leaders must make to ensure that productivity gains from tools are not negated by pursuing issues that are off-target. If you want to ignite your sales rep productivity, and subsequently drive it right off the charts, consider these five golden rules.

1. Don’t misuse their valuable time, or yours

Every minute you spend “following up” with, or giving directives to your reps, equates to time they won’t have to talk to a prospect or to execute on their sales objectives (let alone close deals). Carefully analyze the reasons ‘why’ you check in with reps, and the critical ‘nature’ of its purpose. Perhaps you’re anxious to hear how a deal is progressing, or to get a general reading on what’s happening in the field. Those are indeed legitimate intentions. As an alternative to ‘checking in’ with reps, why not use a reporting tool such as Front Row Solutions that provides a rapid and effortless technique for reps to periodically update the system with their activity and progress throughout the day? The question you should be asking is this; “Can you get the vital information you require without doing so at the expense of a rep’s productivity or tasking focus?”

2. Only request what is truly important

Just like everyone else, when managers lock onto an idea or inspiration, they naturally want to act on it without delay. This often means picking up the phone, and asking a rep to provide the desired information. Though the request may be important in general terms, in reality the interruption means the rep must now redirect their time and focus. If it’s truly an important request, take a moment to think it through within a framework of efficiency. Determine whether the idea can be integrated into a current initiative, or whether someone else be delegated to perform or initiate the task. Is it really necessary for them to divide their current focus or objective that very minute (or ever), to briefly re-align themselves with your spur-of-the-moment idea or insight.

3. Evaluate what you want versus what your reps need

There is one question I hated to deal with when I was selling: “How’s it going?” Another version of the same pointless question is “What’s going on?” If you thought about it critically, where would you begin if you were a rep and were asked not only to endure but respond to those ambiguous questions? The truly important pieces of information are; is the rep’s forecast on track, are there any red flags, or will deals come in as predicted. What a rep needs is to focus time executing on the processes that will bring a deal to a close. Consider using a tool like Cloud9 Analytics that allows you direct and invaluable insight into the pipeline, as well as enhanced predictive performance analysis.

4. Conduct an audit for performance assessment

What are the primary obstacles to improving or streamlining productivity levels? The shoot-from-the-hip response is undoubtedly, that reps just need to kick it up a few notches. That’s because we generally evaluate performance and motivation from the standard thresholds of ‘attitude’, or ‘commitment’, or the degree of ‘hunger’ a rep happens to exhibit. My suggestion is to take it up a notch on their behalf. Have a neutral party spend a few days with several reps to observe and audit their day-to-day performance and activity. The idea is not to focus on incorrect behavior, but to investigate and ultimately reveal those particular tasks that can be streamlined. This includes evaluating the time required for a rep to create a complex proposal, or respond to an RFP. Do performance obstacles arise because the rep must search for the appropriate marketing content, must write or re-write content, or spend inordinate amounts of time formatting or enhancing the document in a captivating manner?

5. Eliminate the productivity-killers

Once the audit is complete and available for review, analyze the productivity-killers to formulate your plan of attack. First eliminate or improve on the processes that are the easiest and quickest to resolve. Then, attack those elements that needlessly rack-up the most time and keep your reps from interacting with prospects. If responding to proposals and RFPs devours too much valuable time, consider a tool such as Qvidian’s Proposal Automation, which streamlines the proposal-generating process to nearly half the time – on average – resulting in more professional, and highly effective proposals. If your reps are wasting valuable time researching for the right contact for prospecting purposes, you should definitely consider a tool like iSell by OneSource.


Consider these five golden rules of sales rep productivity, and free your reps from the time-killing obstacles that you may be guilty of imposing on them, without even realizing it. Eliminate roadblocks that stand in the way of optimum sales performance. You’ll not only lead your team to quota faster, but you’ll enjoy a much smoother ride in the process.

Nancy Nardin is a nationally recognized thought leader on sales and marketing productivity tools. Her firm, Smart Selling Tools – of which she is the founder and President – is dedicated to helping marketers and sellers apply process and technology to drive revenue.  Get more from Nancy at Smart Selling Tools Blog.

July 23, 2012

Sorry, Buddy, But Your Best Just Isn’t Good Enough

Filed under: sales,selling,team development — Paul McCord @ 10:05 am
Tags: , ,

I have received several email responses to my recent The Value of Fear post that have been very critical of my position that fear not only is a great motivator but that sellers need to experience failure in order to learn to fear it.

A good many of the emails chastised me for suggesting that sales leaders should allow sellers to experience failure.  Rather their position is that the sales leader should be doing everything possible to help sellers avoid failure in order to help them grow their self-confidence and that they should never criticize a seller’s failure but in all cases be encouraging and supportive.

The implication is that if one criticizes then by definition they are not supporting the seller.

That position, I believe, has more to do with Political Correctness than reality—and does far more to destroy the seller, the sales leader, and the company than whatever good some mushy soft hearted encouragement in the face of failure can ever do.

I’m not saying encouragement is bad.

I’m not saying that helping a seller to find some positive in failure is bad.

What I am saying is that protecting sellers from the consequences of their failure is bad.

Sellers need to feel the pain of failure and if we try to soft-pedal their failures into some weak, fictional success we’re setting them up for even more profound failures in the future.

Worse, we could be setting them up for the ultimate failure of getting hit out of left field with the disturbing news that they no longer have a job.

Let me relate a brief email exchange from the past week:

Me (to a sales leader who had emailed me with his disagreement with my post on fear): So all of your conversations with you salespeople are 100% positive even when they have failed?

Sales Leader: You misunderstand.  They never fail.  When they don’t succeed they learn something.  There is no such thing as failure.

Me:  How can you not discuss their failure with them so that they understand the real meaning of it, that is, that it is more than a learning opportunity, it is a missed sale that hurts them, the company, and even the prospect?

Sales Leader:  It is never about failure.  It is never about pain or hurt or missed opportunity.  It is about a positive experience—they saw a prospect; they made a presentation; they learned something new.  Talk of fear and failure and pain and missed opportunities kills the spirit and I want my people to experience nothing but good, to feel good about themselves and what they are doing.

Me:  What happens to those salespeople who don’t have enough successes to meet quota?  What do you do with them after they’ve missed quota time after time?

Sales Leader:  Well, certainly there are some that we have to part ways with, but that’s just one of the unfortunate parts of business.

Me:  So you’re giving these people positive feedback, telling them to continue doing their best and all will be good, never letting them know failure, and then out of the clear blue one day you say, “Hey, buddy, your best isn’t good enough.  We have to let you go?”  Is that fair to the seller?

I haven’t received a response yet from the sales leader.

Sellers need to experience the consequences of their actions—both positive and negative. 

Sales leaders need to communicate honestly with their charges and that includes letting them know when they failed, why they failed, and what their failure means.  Trying to sugar coat failure, trying to protect the delicate feelings of sellers will eventually do far more harm than good.

We grow through our experiences–all of our experiences, good and bad, success and failure, those we are proud of and those we aren’t.

Overly protective sales leaders need to learn to let go and let their salespeople know the real pain of their actions, as well as the success. 

And ultimately maybe the desire to protect sellers from experiencing the consequences of their failure says more about the sales leader than the seller.
Connect with me on Twitter: @paul_mccord


April 2, 2012

The Bittersweet Necessity of Tension and Conflict in Your Organization

“Donna, I’ve sat through three of your team’s executive meetings, one board meeting, and a couple of regional meetings.  One of your company’s biggest problems is there’s no conflict.  No one is challenging anything in the company.  Everyone gets along just fine, but it seems that everyone has taken getting along to the point that your team and your company are stagnant.  If you really want to see your team and your company grow, get some tension and conflict going.”

I believe that at first Donna, the CEO of a mid-sized financial services company was so surprised and disturbed by my statement that I thought she was going to throw me out of her office.

Then she slowly said, “Paul, I trust you so I’m assuming you have a good reason for saying something that I’d take as a pretty stupid thing to say normally.  Before I determine you’re not the consultant for us that I thought you were, explain that statement to me.”

I did–and now her company is happily engulfed in conflict.

If you want your company or sales team to grow, mature, and become strong, encourage conflict.  In fact, if you want to develop a company or sales team that dominates its market you’ll go out of your way to nurture and fan the flames of conflict whenever they arise.

Now, what comes to mind when you hear the word “conflict?”  Do you think anger?  Do you think arguments about personal territory and personal preferences?  Do you think jealousy, suspicion, and resentment?  Do you think of toes getting stepped on and egos getting smashed?

Those are certainly some things that are rightfully referred to as conflict.  And unfortunately those things arise in every business organizations—and those things have and will continue to destroy organizations.

But those aren’t the conflicts I’m talking about that are good, necessary, and helpful to your organization.

What conflict is good?  That which brings about strong, enduring, positive change to the organization and the members of the team.

Not to get religious on you, but let me begin by quoting a section of Proverbs 27: “just as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”  Iron sharpens iron through conflict and tension, through one piece of iron striking another.  And as with iron, tension and conflict can and will sharpen our organization and team members.

How does conflict bring about positive change?  Positive change comes from challenging the status quo and tradition; it comes when men and women have the courage to question how the organization is conducting its business and how it is treating its customers, employees, and vendors; and when the lower ranks within the organization challenge the decisions from on high based on the reality they encounter in the real world that is often far removed from the executive suite.

For an organization to grow and mature there must be tension and that tension must be generated by conflict—the conflict of honest men and women seeking to improve the organization as a whole.

“Seeking to improve the organization” is the rub—most conflict tends to be “me” oriented in some fashion and, thus, destructive.  Consequently many organizations try desperately to eliminate all conflict.  They have conflict resolution specialists come in and present seminars and maybe even do one-on-one counseling.  They put up posters exhorting everyone to put aside differences.  Like Rodney King, the theme is “can’t we all just get along?”

Yes, on a petty, personal level conflict and its accompanying tension is very undesirable and destructive.  But in regards to business and organizational growth there must be some constructive tension and conflict.  Unfortunately that constructive conflict can easily get discouraged in the general atmosphere of trying to eliminate personal conflict and to generate harmony with the hope that everyone will sit around toasting marshmallows and singing Kumbaya. 

Yet the reality is that if no one is questioning no change or improvement is possible.  When people question, there will be others defending the status quo and tradition, and that is when significant growth and maturity can take place.

When policies, procedures, rules, regulations, old ways of doing things, and traditional perspectives are questioned good things happen.  Sometimes those existing items are determined to be right and good; at other times they are determined to be in need of change, whether just a mild adjustment or a radical tearing down and rebuilding.

Whether or not change is needed, the very act of questioning, of arguing, or looking at alternatives is constructive and profitable for forces the organization to evaluate who it is, what it does, and how it does it. 

Frankly sometimes the tension and conflict is uncomfortable.  And on top of as unfortunate as it is, with human nature being what it is, there will be times when egos and feelings get in the way and complicate matters even more.

As regrettable as it may be that people get the ego or feeling stepped on, you cannot afford to let that possibility stop the organization from benefiting from tension and conflict.

How can destructive ego and personal feeling issues be avoided?  There really is no way to keep them out of the mix entirely.  However, there are courses, seminars, and coaches that can help teach team members how to keep the conflict on a professional level, seeking the best for the company, and keeping their personal feelings and ego out—or at least to a minimum.

There is no way around the fact that tension and conflict is bittersweet.  Few actually like conflict and the tension that naturally comes with it; but the tremendous positive results that come from good, positive, constructive conflict are worth stretching the team and getting out of the company comfort zone.

I’m not advocating that your organization become a corporate version of the Golden Gloves, but if your organization doesn’t have some tension and conflict going on, then your stagnating and soon you’ll get left behind by competitors who are willing to raise, discuss, and argue those uncomfortable questions.


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