Think of sales performance as a three-legged stool. When all three legs are strong, there is nothing sturdier. But if one of the legs isn’t holding up its weight, the stool can no longer do its job. Just as you need all three legs on that stool, so too must a sales organization have three solid legs to carry the weight of the expectations placed on it.
In sales organizations, the three legs are Talent, Training, and Tactics.
Let’s start our conversation with talent because, in fact, organizational success starts with talent. You know that you cannot pull the average Joe off the street, teach him the business, and expect him to be successful in sales. It takes sales talent to be successful in a sales role—and not everyone has the talents required for sales. As with athletic or musical talent, in order to be great, you have to have that certain something in you to begin with. Otherwise, all the practice in the world will just make you average. That “certain something” is what we call talent.
Clearly, spotting talent is key for a hiring manager. There is an entire industry of researchers, interviewers, and talent analysts dedicated to helping managers get it right. Find a talent interview that accurately identifies the specific talents you need for success in the jobs for which you are hiring. A strong talent assessment system will go beyond just identifying talent and will provide you with specific coaching strategies for each individual, so you can help them maximize their strengths and develop those talents into productive skills.
With talent on board, the next “T” is training. Business, ever evolving, is different today than it was even a couple of years ago. If we are still selling and managing the same way we did then, then we are behind. So, it makes sense that our salespeople will need frequent opportunities to learn and to practice in order to stay current, relevant, and responsive to the changing needs of the businesses on which they call.
Training is not unusual in most professions. Every great athlete, musician, actor, doctor, and firefighter will tell you that it is all about continuing education and practice. Sales training should be no different.
But how? And how often? I recommend that you lead a sales training session at least once a week, but don’t stop there. Even more important is to go out in the field with your sellers; watch them in action in real-time, real-client situations so you can tailor your coaching to their needs and strengths. There is only so much development that can be done without watching someone perform and taking note. Finally, I encourage you to create an individualized development plan for each person whose professional development is important; refer to it regularly.
So now we have hired talented people and we have developed their talents by training them well. There’s one more step to achieve true sales performance.
We still need the final “T” of our three-legged stool, tactics. I have seen many sales organizations that have a high-level sales strategy to meet and exceed their budgets but fail to employ the tactics necessary to make it happen. I have also seen organizations that are nearly the opposite; they’re all tactics, and they’re even less successful. These organizations continually focus on the flavor-of-the-week promotion or initiative or contest or incentive, but they fail to put a cohesive sales strategy in place that these tactics can support. For this to work, you must have an overarching strategy as well as a specific tactics that support that strategy.
How To Do Tactics Right
A sales organization of ten salespeople may use an account list management strategy to delineate their key accounts (their best customers) and their target accounts (their best prospects). With this strategy in place, they can also employ a specific tactic designed to focus the salespeople on converting a specified number of target accounts to key accounts in, say, the third quarter. Or, they might develop a tactic to grow their key accounts year-over-year by tracking client results, ensuring ROI, and seeking renewals. Tactics are what you do to implement the strategy and make it come alive, and they’re often critical for reaching sales goals.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published July 31, 2014 and has been updated.