Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What Makes A Great Sales Organization?

During the course of my life, I have been a student, an observer and a practitioner of the fine art of making sales.

I have been successful, unsuccessful, frustrated and elated while attempting to create fabulous sales numbers for my companies. Although I do not have all of the answers to sales success, I have learned a few lessons along the way which I will share with you now.

The last company I worked for before starting my current consulting business was an international insurance firm with a large number of offices all over North America. I was the Vice President of Operations in my region and I was partnered with a Vice President of sales. We were responsible for approximately 160 employees in a dozen offices. We worked very well together because we accepted that both of us carried ominous responsibility for the success of our region and that if we did not work as team, we would surely fail.

Lesson number one: Accountability

The first thing we learned was that success requires hard work from everyone involved.

Whenever we lost focus and let up or reduced our drive for more sales our numbers would start to slide and our profitability would begin to wane. It was up to us as leaders to drive the bus and when we lost energy, the entire vehicle lost momentum.

We also learned that our sales-people responded best when we showed a great deal of interest in them, reminding them regularly that it was their responsibility to make a budgeted number of sales. We had to make it clear that just as we were accountable to our executive and shareholders, they were responsible to us and their co-workers to drive the company forward.

When we asked them for buy-in and helped them along the way they bought in but when we focussed on something other than sales effort, they took our lack of acknowledgement as a sign that the pressure was off and not surprisingly, sales dropped off. Holding sales people personally responsible for their sales effort is one of the most important elements of a successful sales organization.

Lesson number two: Support

One of the single most common reasons why people struggle to make sales budgets is a lack of personalized support.

In order to make sales, we learned that we had to accept that everyone needed a different technique when contacting and dealing with clients and that there is no single–best way to make a sale happen. We understood that each sales person naturally behaved differently than the others and that each was driven by different motivations.

We utilized specific assessment tools to understand how each of our sales people thought and we encouraged them to utilize their natural skills and talents to create their own brand of success.

We also learned to accept that everyone is not, and cannot be a superstar. We learned that as much as we had to set minimum goals that must be attained, we could not expect everyone to perform at the same level. Despite varying levels of skill and success everyone mattered. Most importantly, when one of our people was struggling, rather than finding fault or giving up on them, we offered coaching, encouragement and support to rejuvenate their enthusiasm and recharge their passion.

Lesson number three: Teamwork

Any group of people that is assembled for any purpose can only be successful if they operate as a team.

Just as this is true in athletics, it is true in the sales arena. Teams require leaders and leaders require loyal, devoted followers. A team must have a common vision that each member is able to buy into and each player must know his or her position.

We learned that as leaders, we had to reinforce the value of each member of the team from the reception people, to the accounting staff, to the administration department...because without them, the sales people would not survive. We reinforced the fact that without each member of the team paddling as fast as they could, the sales boat would not move forward. We asked them to treat each member of the team with respect all-the-while holding each other accountable for the team’s performance.

We taught them how harmful bad words and bad thoughts amongst team members could be and that intolerance would not be accepted. We let them know that every success was a team success to be shared by all members equally. We asked all team members to carry their weight as best they could and to help other team members when they stumbled. In short we helped them to understand that success was a team endeavour that required the unrelenting effort of each player.

Lesson number four: Lead by example

Leaders in great sales organizations work harder than every person on their team in order to maintain success.

There can be no room on any team for lazy, lacklustre, disengaged sales leaders or managers.Those who set the goals and enforce the activities that create the results must be fully involved and highly motivated. Their dedication to the process must be palpable and measurable. The time they put in to assist their sales force must be as great as, or preferably greater than the time each sales person and support-staff member puts in to make sales happen.

Great leaders work tirelessly and selflessly for the greater good of the team. Great leaders acknowledge that they are under the microscope and that everyone on their team is waiting for them to stumble. The best of them will be helped up by their team members when they fall...the worst will be left behind or kicked to the curb in disgust. They say that it is lonely at the top. As much as there is a smattering of truth to that statement, it can also be very rewarding and highly energizing up there. When you forget your own personal needs and wants, pushing those of your team members to the top, you will soon come to find that you have a second family that will support you and carry you on their shoulders to success.

The bottom line for leaders is that they must never give up, must always stay the course and must always work like their professional life depends on it...Because it does!

Lesson number five: Build your culture

Sales success can be sustainable or fleeting...it is your choice.

Success that is short-lived or sporadic is symptomatic of a weak sales-culture. If you have products or services to sell, you must always put sales activity at the top of your priority list. Let’s face it; you won’t need a receptionist, an accountant, or a human-resources professional if your products or services are not getting into the hands of buyers.

If you are unhappy with your current rate of sales stop what you are doing and regroup. Many leaders believe that if they just do more of what they are currently doing, great things will happen. That may or may not be true depending on the situation. However, if your sales machine is not printing money, there is a good chance it is broken or at the very least is need of a tune up.

The best way to find out why you are not as successful as you would like to be is to do an evaluation of your corporate culture to find out how your employees and your customers feel about it. Once you have communicated with a good sampling of them to find out where the weaknesses are, start building your culture from the ground up all over again.

During the rebuilding process, be honest with yourself and be willing to admit your failings. You must be willing to accept major changes if you want to succeed. Let everyone know that you want to build a powerful, sustainable culture where all of the stakeholders will share in the spoils and where everyone’s participation will be valued and acknowledged. Once the foundation is built, start bricking up the walls with solid, established business practices and employee engagement techniques. If you are not up to date on the practices of highly successful companies or simply do not know where to start, get help from outside professionals to guide you to a better path. Finally, you must be patient. Building a great corporate structure with fabulous sales results takes a lot of perseverance and a good deal of time.

Build your culture one brick at a time and watch your success grow right along with it.

All the Best!

Wayne Kehl


In the last issue of “Understanding DISC” we described the basic elements of DISC: Dominance, Influencing, Steadiness, and Compliance. If you do not have that article available you can find it on our website on this link: https://www.dlionline.ca/news.php?id=28.

In this issue, we want to delve further into the attributes of the various elements of DISC.

It is important to understand the basic emotions that are prominent to each element of the DISC.

· The primary emotion of a “High Dominant” is ANGER

· The primary emotion of a “High Influencer” is OPTIMISM/TRUST

· The primary emotion of a “High Steady” is NON-EMOTIONAL (emotions are hidden)

· The primary emotion of a “High Compliant” is FEAR

Note that when the scoring falls to the lower side of the scale in each of the examples given above, the emotions will be essentially the opposite of that shown. Hence, a “Lower D” will dictate patience and slowness to anger; a “Lower I” will tend to be pessimistic and lacking in trust; a “Lower S” will display more emotion; and the “Lower C” person will show little fear and take more risks.

Those basic emotions are only part of the story, however. Let’s look more closely at how the emotions of each element of DISC might manifest themselves in real life.

The High Dominant: You will generally find this person to be a director of action, a driver of activity and a courageous defender of their position. They never shirk from controversy and they are quick to take on any argument or fight that might come their way. They are quick to anger and will usually be the ones you find ranting and raving in a loud voice in any group of people. When they have a cause to promote, they will take on anyone and climb any mountain to make it happen. They are laser-focused on results and overwhelmed by a desire to be successful. High “D’s” often make good sales people, managers, athletes and captains of industry because they are competitive to a fault and never give up.

The High Influencer: High “I’s often smile a lot and talk too much. They are expressive, enthusiastic, fun, trusting, optimistic, charming, confident and usually popular. They love to be the centre of attention and they are constantly selling themselves to everyone they meet. They are fast talkers and whenever they hear silence they fill it with charming conversation. High “I’s” need to be loved and they spend a great deal of time chatting with everyone around them in order to earn the pats on the back that they crave. They are not keen on detailed work and will often use their charm to convince others to do a lot of their support work for them. They are the funny ones you will find in any crowd...quick to tell a joke and to make a joke out of a serious subject. Occasionally they misjudge their audience and provide humour at inappropriate times. High “I’s” often make good politicians, actors, comedians and salesmen because of their love of their own voices and their need to associate with other people.

The High Steady: These folks generally relate well to others and are amiable and friendly to all they meet. They are laid back, patient, sincere and appear to be stress-free. They are loyal to those they trust and they never quit a job until it is finished. They are aware of other people’s needs and they love to help and support their team. They tend to work slower than some others, but the work they do is unquestionably of the highest quality they are capable of producing. They don’t like to act on anything until they have the approval of people they trust and they do a lot of research to make sure they are on the right path. Because of their calm demeanour and selflessness, they make great support players for superstar High Dominants and High Influencers whose focus is mainly on themselves. They are often considered the “glue” that holds the team together. High Steady people make good assistant managers, athletes in defensive positions, nurses and teachers.

The High Compliant: The High “C” is analytical, methodical, restrained, diplomatic, accurate and precise. They like to put things into rows, columns and boxes. They thrive on planning and organization and they love rules and regulations for everything. The never fret over a mountain of minutia and they love to dot every I and cross every T. They will not make a decision without facts, figures and details. They want information in a format they can see so that they can analyse and verify it before acting on it. They have high standards and they turn in work that is as perfect as they can make it. The more complex the task, the more satisfaction they get out of doing it. Sometimes, they will slow a process down because they are not happy with the details or the amount of data they have on hand. Due mainly to their love of complexity and precision High “C’s” make good accountants, engineers, scientists and airplane pilots.

Note: When any of the DISC scores is on the lower end of the scale, you can expect behaviour opposite to that described above.

Adaptations: As much as these DISC elements can be very telling as to the behaviour you might expect from each person who possesses them, there are times when those people must “adapt” their behaviour in order to be successful and do a better job of fitting into general society. Here are some examples.

· When a High “D”, a High “I”, a Low “S” or a Low “C” goes to church, the environment will call for each of them to adapt their behaviour to the opposite of their natural style. If they are going to fit the church environment, they will have to adapt to become Lower “D”, Lower “I”, Higher “S” and Higher “C”.

· When a Low “C” is working on tax returns, he or she must adapt to higher “C”.

· A high “I” salesman must adapt his style to a lower “I” in order to get through the complex sales reporting systems that they must deal with.

· When training new employees, a High “D” might have to lower his or her natural dominance considerably in order to avoid intimidating them.

· When faced with deadlines and urgent situations, a High “S” might have to lower their steady style and speed up in order to finish on time.

Note that anyone can adapt their behaviour for short periods of time, but if they are forced to adapt to extreme levels for an extended period of time, they will ultimately become distressed, disengaged and in worst-case-scenarios might suffer from burnout. That is why it is important to match people to work that they are behaviourally suited to and put the right people into the right jobs!

In the next issue of “UNDERSTANDING DISC” we will explore how the elements of DISC blend with each other in each person.