Sales Management By Sitting Around: More Discovery Calls That Buy Will Get You Moving

Inspect what you expect.

You need to observe what your reps are saying on the phone and out in the field. Too often, time and money are spent to develop systems and messaging that conveys credibility and benefits, and it is not used on the phone or in the field.

Management sets the standard. People are less likely to steal from you if they think they are going to get caught. Your reps are less likely to be unprepared, guessing and winging it out in the field if they know that at some point, you will be listening or observing. When reps are unprepared and winging it, you are losing opportunities. For every step and common scenario where their behavior is below standards, you are losing momentum and opportunities — slice, slice, slice. Every behavior of your reps that is subpar is moving you away from a close.

I love to sit among a group of callers and roll up and down the aisles to listen to what is happening on calls and to see how they move around the CRM. Do the reps seem prepared? Are they ready to handle the common scenarios they know they will encounter? Is there consistency as to how they handle repetitive situations? Do they sound confident? These are things you need to know.

There is absolutely no excuse, none, for reps not to be prepared to respond to questions and statements they hear over and over again. Does your rep have 20 different ways to start discussions? If so they are unprepared, guessing and winging it. Do they hem and haw, pause, seem uncertain as to what to say when they hear “send me some information” or “We are all set?” Absolutely inexcusable.

If this is happening, I blame management more than I blame the reps. You have created a culture where standards are ignored, and reps can go through the motions using behaviors that are not best. Behaviors that do not do the most to move toward a sale.

Assuming you have created a system and educated the reps as to the behaviors that are most likely to move them to a close, you should expect them to use them. You should inspect to make sure they are.

Your Reps Are Human

This may come off as negative. I don’t mean it to be, but it is a reality.

Without proper management, supervision, and coaching, your reps will:

  • Do what is most comfortable for them, not what works best.
  • Drift down to the lowest common denominator of performance and behavior.
  • Resist accountability.

Your top performers are more self-motivated, approach selling or prospecting as a craft and seek to improve constantly; they are pro-active about improvement, keep score and practice.

Your average and less than average performers, not so much.

Your greatest challenge as a manager is this: change.

People resist change. The poorest performers are those that resist change most strenuously. Among all the projects I have done, the teams that were the worst performers, had the most antiquated systems, had no standards for messaging, were by far the most inefficient, those are the teams that resist changing the hardest. The poorest performers are the ones that scream and yelp the hardest about even basic common sense improvements.

This is a lesson for management. The more your team has moved away from the best behaviors, the harder it will be to get them back on track. Management has been absent. Management has let the team get away with being unprepared and virtually winging it and not holding them accountable. Management has many times taught teams that if they scream and resist enough, they won’t have to change.

This is a call that comes in too often. Teams retool and lift performance, and all is right and well in prospecting land. A year later I get the call. “Scott, we don’t know why but results are not what they used to be. We can’t figure it out.” A little investigation determines that management and the team have drifted away from the behaviors that lead to improved performance. List criteria were loosened up, so more lower-probability suspects are being called. That great call process and touch system that was working are no longer being implemented consistently. That great messaging that conveyed credibility and benefits so succinctly have been watered down.

The lesson here is that left alone and not properly supervised and managed; teams will drift away from what works best, to what is most comfortable for them and the lowest common denominator.

Management must set the standards, educate and expect certain behaviors will be used, and check under the covers to be sure it is being done.

Sales Leaders Don’t Let Sales Team Call Crap

I beat this point to death but due to its importance, choose to reemphasize it here.

There is no greater impact on results than the targets you or your team choose to call or interact with. No other factors come close. If you get this right and your team is mediocre or screwing up on other things you can still make money. If you get this wrong, no matter what else your team does right, you are doomed.

Management has access to better information about whom to target than the callers. Management provides the list. Management should tightly define the prospecting bullseye based upon past and current buyers with a tight profile of SIC and/or NAICS code range, revenue ranges and employee size ranges. Depending upon your industry and what provides clues to potential worth, other factors in your bullseye profile might be square footage, whether they currently have a vendor for your service, their level of spending on something, whether they use a certain marketing channel, the list goes on.

Management frequently assumes too much and does not spend the very few hours it takes to develop a finely tuned bullseye profile. Therefore your reps are doomed to waste 50% to 90%+ of their time (no exaggeration) calling or interacting with less probable suspects or total crap.

If your team is searching the internet trying to make educated guesses as to whom to call next management has to take control.