What is your sales strategy missing?

Over the years in working with hundreds of clients, one important area I see neglected time and time again is Training/Learning.  Most all clients we have worked with have had a Sales and Marketing process, and the ability to track important metrics. The two big ones.  Of course, some do a better job than others, but most have something in place.  The biggest gap we have seen here is having that process documented in writing.  Once they have the process dialed in and in writing, we are generally off to the races!

That said, the one area I see most neglected or even nonexistent is ongoing training, coaching and learning.  Even the few who have these elements included tend to be much less disciplined around keeping up in these areas.  Just seems easy to put these “nonessential” elements off to the side while they focus on higher priority tasks.  ie. closing business.  Seems logical right?  Well, while it might make short-term sense, not being disciplined in these areas will have a dramatic effect on your ability to exceed quota long term.  You might not even know why things will just start to slip.  You might hire additional reps, fire low performers, or just start cracking the whip a bit more.  All of these approaches may be necessary regardless, however, I would suggest less so for a team which spends time in these critical areas.  

The fact is if you want to get better at something you need to practice.  People put countless hours into practicing what they love to do.  I happen to be an avid skier.  I have been skiing for more than 30 years, but I still practice, take lessons from superior skiers and read up on the latest techniques and equipment.  I practice because I love to ski and I enjoy the sport more as my skill level improves.  This concept applies to everything.  If you want to get better and enjoy what you are doing more you need to practice.  The best athletes in the world have coaches and practice relentlessly.

Why is it that so many in the business world view just showing up and doing the job as practice enough?  I’m at it 40+ hours per week, is that not enough?  My answer is no.  If you want to be the best you can be and beat your competition, you have to strive to improve and have a plan in place that combines, practice, coaching, and learning.  And, you have to have it built into your weekly routine.  Remember the old adage Practice Makes Perfect?  

Following are a few suggestions based on what has worked for me.  Remember, the key is to be disciplined.  A written plan is great, but if it is not followed with focus and commitment it's not worth the paper on which it is written.

  1. Practice.  Have a meeting once weekly where each team member presents to the entire team your product or service or role plays a critical skill or objection.  Discuss as a group and agree to work on that skill the following week, report back on results.

  2. Coaching.  As a sales leader, a critical part of your job is that of a coach.  Spend time each week one on one with your direct reports working on specific skill and areas identified as opportunities for improvement.  You will enjoy it, your team members will appreciate it, and your numbers will improve as a result.

  3. Learning.  This is an area that might be most neglected.  Many of us, particularly in Sales do not make the time to learn.  I understand in the past when we had to rely on books to absorb knowledge, but with e-books, audio books, Ted Talks, Webinars, online classes, blogs and more, there really is no excuse.  My team is required to read a book per quarter.  This year as a team we read, The Challenger Sale and Spin Selling.  So many great books available. I read every day for at least a half hour and encourage my team to do the same.  Funny the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know.

Thanks for reading.