What are the qualities that define a sales best practice, and what can trainers and sales managers do to develop their own? Steve Gielda, a franchise partner with Tiburon, Calif.-based Advantage Performance Group, answers these and other questions in a new research report entitled “World-Class Sales Force Best Practices.”
According to Gielda’s report, those who attempt to identify the best practices of their sales force’s top performers often fail to achieve measurable results because they tend to look in the wrong place for best practices—focusing on their top performers’ personal characteristics (such as personality or attitude) instead of on those outward behaviors that are actually imitable by others. Yet another mistake organizations make when conducting best-practice analyses, Gielda says, is relying solely on surveys of either their sales forces or their sales leaders to determine best practices. “Surveys [that] ask someone what he does to succeed lead to one insuperable problem: People are frequently wrong and they sometimes lie.” Simply observe one of your top performers in the field, he says, and you’re likely to find that the individual’s statements about his behaviors don’t always align with the behaviors themselves. “And thus it is with surveys about sales best practices. How can you be sure that what someone says he does is actually what he does?”
So what’s a training department to do? If you’ve decided to go the best-practices route, here’s a sampling of Gielda’s advice for identifying the right best-practice behaviors to meet your needs:
Understand your company's goals
Before you identify a best practice or design training of any kind, determine the “critical strategic intent of your organization,” what it needs from its sales team to help it achieve its goals, and the “objective behaviors” sales reps must possess in order to accomplish them. “The fundamental design question is not one related to selecting whether this skill or that skill should be the focus for the program; that is, whether we emphasize strategy skills or call-execution skills,” Gielda says. “Instead, the foundation for any effective program is established by first identifying the fundamental business challenges that are preventing your sales team from driving revenue and market share. That’s what the program needs to be about. And then one addresses whatever skill sets are required to drive that objective. It is a simple matter of a ruthless focus on driving performance that makes a difference—not training for training’s sake.”
Determine what constitutes success
When identifying best-practice behaviors, keep in mind that they might not always come from the highest revenue producers on your sales team. “You have to look at what constitutes success—in terms of the goals of your organization and what it needs its sales team to do to in order to achieve them—when you look at top performance,” Gielda says. “Are you basing top performance, for example, on financial success? On the number of new client accounts opened in the past 12 months? On the ability to enter a new market successfully? On the ability to increase margins? Or on the ability to sell a new product to an existing client base?”
Survey your top performers
Find out what the best of the best—in terms of meeting your criteria for success—are doing in the field. “Talk to those folks and try to identify those behaviors that are…”
Steve Gielda is a partner with Advantage Performance Group ( www.advantageperformance.com.
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