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What Happened at the End of a Sales Workshop

There was an interesting outcome at the end of a two-day sales management training workshop last week.

We discussed the role of sales management and what strategies sales managers can take, and focused on the execution of sales management tactics. Ten people went through the program, all from one client but from five different offices. While it was personalized to their specific requirements, we did cover the following topics:

  • Building a high-performance sales culture
  • Recruiting and hiring sales teams
  • Leading and managing your sales team
    • Seven styles of leadership
    • Five styles of management
  • Building predictable revenue using management systems
    • How to run a sales meeting
    • Developing sales training meetings
    • Developing appropriate sales dashboards to analyze activity and pipeline levels
  • Coaching and building salesperson development plans

Most of the session was focused on creating standardized sales management systems between the five offices and getting by-in. But when I went around the table asking each participant what the most important thing they learned during both days was, everyone seemed to focus around the need for "creating a culture of belief." The interesting thing is that area or responsibility is often the most overlooked by sales leadership.

Sales teams run on emotion -- personal emotion powered by belief in themselves, the products/services they deliver (and their results for their clients), and the ability of the company to execute effectively. Therefore, successful sales management must build into their plan ideas and methods to reinforce and build belief.

I like to recommend a few ideas on building culture from my book on Leading High Performance Sales Teams.

  • Storytelling: People from different cultures and generations pass along stories about their ancestries, traditions and lore. Companies need to take a similar approach to capturing and preserving their histories. To do so, write down customer success stories when they occur. Put together detailed descriptions of your company's role in helping customers implement new technologies, launch or salvage important projects or earn recognition from your vendors. Then share these stories at sales meetings and other employee events. You can also use the best stories to recruit top performers and help orient new employees.

  • Monthly Meetings: When a company launches, its first employees typically feel that they share a mission. Everyone knows everything that's happening and what's needed to succeed. But when the staff grows beyond about 15 people, that sense of mission -- along with clearly defined expectations and common beliefs -- can be difficult to maintain.

    We believe that monthly employee meetings are crucial for keeping everyone engaged and informed. (Larger organizations and those with remote offices may want to opt for quarterly day-long events instead.) Such gatherings give you a chance to remind your staff about your business philosophies, plans and expectations. You can also use them to recognize outstanding employees, perhaps honoring a Most Valuable Player chosen by the team at each session. Remember to make the meetings fun, as well. Consider sponsoring games offering door prizes. One company meeting I attended featured a surprise visit from an Elvis impersonator, who sang several songs.

  • Customer Visits: Each quarter, have your entire sales team visit a customer company that's successfully implemented your solutions. Ask the customer's executives to describe the impact your company has had on their competitive position or to review the savings they've gained from your products and services. You might also invite customers to share their experiences at some of your monthly meetings.

  • Reference Letters: Ask your best customers for testimonials. While such letters are, of course, highly useful as tools for future sales presentations, they're also valuable for building belief in-house. Frame the letters and display them in your lobby or sales presentation area. Have new employees read them as part of the orientation process.  Or try to record a testimonial using a quality camera and replay them at your company meetings and post on your Web site.

In our business, it's all too easy to get bogged down with lost sales, missed project dates, data reports and other problems. Regularly reinforcing the positives goes a long way toward keeping everyone's belief and passion strong and moving in the right direction.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on September 21, 2015


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