March 1

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How to improve sales force performance

By Ralph Varcoe

March 1, 2021


When I sit down to watch a film I often choose a boardroom or legal drama. I just love the cut and thrust of people striving to make a success of what they do for a living. In many of these films, there is a scene where a salesman is pumping himself up for a meeting.

It’s often set in the washroom. The salesman looks at himself in the mirror and gives himself a pep talk. This moves to fist-clenching, chest-thumping and near shouting as he builds himself into a frenzy for the important meeting. Eventually, a stranger walks in and stares aghast at the salesperson’s solo performance. He realises he’s gone too far and splashes some water on his face to cool down and heads to his meeting.

Now, if I was sitting preparing for this meeting and the salesperson walked in looking as if his head was about to explode I’d be worried. Motivation to make a sale is an important attribute; desperation is not. Someone motivated and excited about the product or service he has come to sell makes me motivated and excited. When I am motivated and excited it makes me more likely to buy.

So how do you make sure you get your sales force in the right frame of mind for every meeting? How do you ensure they are prepared and trained not only for this aspect of selling but for every step of the process? Getting this right is the key to how to improve sales force performance from your team. This is how to get higher revenues for your company.

Assessing your current sales force

The first step in improving sales force performance is to evaluate what you’ve already got. Sales team evaluations let you make the right decisions about your team. Are the right people in the right roles? Are the best people in the roles that make the most difference? Do the team know how to carry out the sales plan you have in place? Do you have anyone who really should not be in sales after all?

As a business partner of the Objective Management Group (OMG), the pioneer and industry leader in sales force evaluations and sales candidate screening, I know this stage is crucial. We all know a square peg doesn’t go into a round hole, but do you sometimes keep trying to prove otherwise with some members of your team? More importantly, are you even aware that you have any square pegs in your sales force?

I evaluate sales staff using the 21 core sales competencies people need to sell, which were identified by OMG in 1994 and have proved highly effective in understanding sales forces all over the world. Personality tests used by other industry sectors, even ones adapted to sales, are frankly a waste of time for evaluating sales forces.

Recruiting the right people

I have a friend who can run faster than me and is taller than me. I can do something about the speed thing: I can get a personal trainer who can teach me techniques and skills to run faster and exercises to get fitter. I can improve how fast I run and even start running faster than my friend with some concerted effort. But there is nothing I can do about him being taller than me. He’s taller because of his DNA. It’s the same when it comes to selling.

There are many attributes someone needs to be an A-list seller but six of the key ones are identified as being in a person’s DNA, including being rejection proof and being able to control emotions. We don’t want any movie washroom dramas here. I’ve been helping companies recruit the right people for 30 years and use the 21 core sales competencies to ensure the new people are round pegs from day one.

Getting the best from the sales force you already have

When you need to get somewhere you don’t just jump in your car and head off. You decide where you are going and work out the best way to get there. Getting there is a series of steps: head south, turn left here, turn right there. Selling is the same. From identifying a lead to closing a deal is a process, and the sales force needs to understand (and excel at) every single step.

Quality coaching is another part of how to improve sales force performance. Using the 21 core competencies, I coach individuals on a one-to-one basis and the sales team as a whole so their skills at each step are developed and the team’s overall performance improves. I also work with managers to ensure that training becomes a continual process. Most sales managers spend just six per cent of their time coaching their staff when they should be devoting 60–80% of their time doing it. Training is something that needs to keep happening so that your sales force become the best sellers possible.

How to improve sales force performance

When I talk at sales conferences and to sales associations, the one thing everyone wants to know is: “how do I get to ‘yes’ quicker?” The simple answer as to how to get there quicker, indeed, how to get to “yes” at all, is using the power of influence. Here’s the good bit. Unlike the powers of the superheroes in the Marvel comics, the power of influence can be learnt over time. Combining the effective method of evaluation I outlined earlier with an accurate and predictive recruiting method, plus coaching the whole team in the core competencies, you can deliver the power of influence. That is how you can help every member of your sales force to get to “yes” quicker.

Contact me at Accelerate Performance today and learn how to improve sales force performance for your company.

Ralph Varcoe

About the author

For over 20 years, Ralph has run sales and marketing teams across large enterprises and smaller start-ups, at companies such as Orange, Tata Communications, Virgin Media, Spirit Ai and others. He brings a wealth of experience in personal and professional development with a laser focus on enabling people to achieve more than they thought possible. He's a published author and musician with a passion for creating - be that change, the right solution, exciting campaigns, the right environment for customers to succeed, or podcasts, videos and written content.

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