These days, you can find a quick fix for almost anything. There’s the 21-day fad diet, the 3-step skin care plan, and the 24-hour credit repair. We’re impatient by nature, and we want the kind of solution that turns everything around now. While some of these quick fixes may work in the short-run, most are not sustainable and they leave you in worse shape than you were before.
Ironically, the quick fix delayed the real solution.
The best sales performance solutions combine a jump-start plan to deliver immediate results together with a long-term plan to assure sustainability. And, the long-term plan must include three fundamentals:
Talent + Training + Tactics
Think of sales performance as a three-legged stool. When all of the legs are strong, there is nothing sturdier, but if one leg weakens, the stool crashes to the floor. Your Talent, Training, and Tactics must all be strong, and I will show you how to accomplish this.
Let’s launch our discussion of the three Ts with “Talent” because that is where organizational success begins. You can’t pull the average Joe or Jill off the street, teach him or her the business, and expect the person to be wildly successful in sales. It takes talent to be successful—and, as with athletic or musical talent, not everyone has the talent to succeed in sales. To be great, you must have certain innate characteristics. And without talent, neither instruction, nor practice, nor mentoring, nor a refined sales process will produce the level of performance everyone needs.
When hiring, you need to be able to spot talent, and there is an entire industry of researchers, interviewers, and talent analysts available to help you do that. I recommend that you find a company that specializes in administering standardized talent interviews and has a sales interview that is a strong match for the specific talents you need. Be sure their service goes beyond just identifying talent to provide you with specific coaching strategies you can use to maximize that person’s strengths and work around non-strengths.
With Talent on board, we turn our focus to the next T, Training. Business, ever-evolving, is different today than it was even a couple of years ago. If you are still selling the same way you did then, you are falling behind. Salespeople need frequent opportunities to learn and practice in order to stay current, relevant, and responsive to the needs of the businesses on which they call.
In most professions, training—or practice—is considered part of the job. Every great athlete, pilot, musician, actor, and surgeon will tell you that it is all about the practice. Training allows us to build good habits, break bad habits, and polish our craft. A strong training program for salespeople should give them strategies and techniques to turn “why to buy” pitches into more productive “how to use” solutions.
But how should you train? And how often? I recommend that you lead a sales training session at least once a week, but don’t stop at a weekly meeting. Even more important is to accompany your salespeople and observe them in action. You can’t be a coach while holed up in the office any more than a football coach can develop the talents of his team if he just hangs out in the locker room. Real-time observation, rather than hearsay, allows you to pinpoint each individual’s needs and help him or her grow. Each person on your staff has unique strengths and shortcomings, so create an individualized development plan for each one.
So, you have hired talented people and developed those talents through training—a great foundation. But it’s still not enough to achieve the sustainable sales performance you need.
We still need the final T of our three-legged stool, Tactics. A sales organization with a high-level strategy to meet and exceed their budgets may still fail without employing the right tactics to reach ambitious goals in a competitive marketplace. The best organizations are both strategic and tactical. They build an overarching sales strategy and integrate specific tactics that support and enhance the strategy.
They might use an account list management strategy to delineate their Key Accounts (best customers) and their Target Accounts (best prospects) and then add a tactic to focus salespeople on converting Targets to Keys or to incentivize them to grow revenue from Key Account.
So, there it is: the holy grail of long-term, sustainable sales performance. Talent + Training + Tactics. Don’t be enticed by promises of a quick fix. They’re as short-lived and damaging as a quick hit for a drug addict. Eventually, you have to do it right and make it real.