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The Hardest Job?

Sales Training Article: The Hardest Job?

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company

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Image courtesy of Vlado at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

sales training companyThose that don’t sell for a living have no idea how difficult it is to be successful at sales. Sellers have influence without authority as buyers or even more challenging, committees, decide whether or not to buy and from whom. Companies that fail to codify how offerings should be positioned make the learning curve steeper. Most pay the price with the resultant slower ramp up times and higher failure rates of new hires.

After accepting a promotion to my first sales management position, it was eye opening to sit on the other side of the desk. Underperformers always had a long list of prospects in their pipelines and stories of why opportunities had slipped, but were still going to close. I concluded two things early on:

1. The more time sellers spent discussing opportunities, the less confident I became that they were viable.

2. If B Players could sell as well to clients as they were selling me on how good opportunities were, they wouldn’t be 50% of quota!

For growing organizations, onboarding new hires falls mostly on first level sales managers. Companies that don’t provide a standard approach and skill sets for their sellers, place a huge burden on sales managers. Beyond strategizing opportunities and making calls with new hires, it’s difficult to get new people up to speed. I’d like to share an analogy to describe this challenge.

Let’s say you’re an average golfer and travel to Hilton Head with 3 friends for a week of golf. On the first day, you have a terrible round in consistently slicing everything except putts. It gets to the point where the other members of your foursome avoid eye contact and just try to stay out of your way. Everyone’s concern deepens when things are even worse the second day.

Assume that one of your friends has a personal relationship with David Leadbetter, widely acclaimed as the best teaching pro in the world. He offers to call David and let you describe what was going on with your swing. Imagine David asking what’s wrong and you saying that your slice was bad yesterday and worse today. Never having seen your swing, the best teacher in the world will have a hard time giving meaningful advice.

If you were taking lessons from a pro at a local driving range, you’d have a far better chance of getting squared away by calling him or her. Why? The pro would have an idea of how you swing a club (your skill set) and could offer you some changes to make that would be likely to lessen, if not eliminate the flaw or flaws in your swing.

Companies without a sales process make a first level manager’s job extremely challenging given the 2 types of sellers that report to them:

  • A Players are artists. Give them a blank canvas and they’ll paint beautiful pictures. Smart managers leave them alone and hope they bring in what they forecast.
  • B Players struggle. Without understanding how they’re making calls (being familiar with their “swings”) managers often tell them what to do (call high, establish values; don’t lead with product, etc.). The elephant in the room is that they don’t have the requisite skills set to do these things.

Companies that merely provide product training and allow all sellers to position offerings may prosper because early on they can attract A Players. Speed bumps await as they grow if they fail to codify A Player behavior in a process that can help B Players make better calls. Doing so gives sales managers a much better chance of getting the needed production from their sellers.


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