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When I Was a Rep, I Did it This Way & Other Antiquated Sales Management Techniques

As long as most of us can remember, the "ride-along" event has represented an educational opportunity for sales managers to accompany reps on an in-person, phone- or web-based sales pitch. It is safe to assume that the supervisor—probably a high-performing player who was promoted to a leadership role—will generally have the ability to observe, diagnose, and coach their rep toward a stronger aptitude for, and delivery of effective sales conversations.

And yet, while the typical manager certainly has the best interests of their direct reports in mind, they are no less immune from subjectivity when pressured to deliver the team-wide sales number, nor to rely excessively on aging concepts of "when I carried the bag, here's how it was done."

The previous blog in this five-part series introduced key foundational technologies (360˚ customer view, accurate sales intelligence, mobility, predictive analytics) as must-have Sales Effectiveness platform strategies, and yet plenty of modern sales organizations still manage their human capital without leveraging the benefit of the voluminous data flow that these solutions offer. This is downright head-in-the-sand, 20th-century leadership that simply won't pay off.

We know from Aberdeen's Sales Training research that 68% of Best-in-Class companies find it "highly effective to apply analytics or 'big data' tools to historical sales activity, or the current sales pipeline, to better coach individual reps around the skills they need to improve." In other words, they learn from their past successes and failures regarding what tactics, messaging, and pricing approaches are most or least effective in winning deals.

When we slice the data from a different perspective, comparing the business results of all survey respondents adopting analytical sales coaching with those of other firms, the value of analytical coaching is clear:

This chart represents all three current-quota metrics that I measure in my research, and tells a clear story: if you want your quota numbers to improve by an average of 20%, stop using "the old days" as a reference point, re-read Moneyball and find a way to collect historical win/loss data to help today's reps and channel partners work smarter—not just harder.

Speaking of win/loss, we've got research that again showcases how not to manage your sellers based on emotional or anecdotal experience. Best-in-Class sales organizations are 53% more likely than Laggards to objectively evaluate their closed-won and closed-lost opportunities regularly; they recognize that asking a rep what influenced the outcome is far from realistic.

Moreover, companies that formally deploy homegrown or outsourced win/loss programs beat out non-adopters around all the same quota metrics as above, plus lead conversion rate (36% better), customer retention (25%), time-to-productivity (18%), and sales cycle (6% shorter). The results are not too shabby for simply asking a buyer for feedback.

Here are a few more Glengarry Glen Ross-era sales management lessons that should be un-learned:

  • Once you've got a perfect sales script, don't mess with it. Actually, Best-in-Class firms are 53% more likely than Laggards to "provide real-time coaching for specific deals, opportunities, or accounts." No one can predict how every sales conversation will progress, so take advantage of the data analytics we've been discussing to turn "ride-alongs" into "guide-alongs."
  • Keep all training in-house, and focus all your energy at the onboarding stage. Not! Again, top performers are more than twice as likely to seek external help for customized coaching assistance, personalized both for their company, and even for individual pipeline opportunities. And "post-training reinforcers" enjoy 34% higher first-year quota attainment, 15% better total-team quota attainment, and 8% stronger customer retention than non-adopters.
  • Don't bother collecting the "tribal knowledge" of your market-facing sellers. Folks, the days of "stay away from my territory" behavior are over. Today's sellers are digital-native collaborators who value user-generated content, and expect you to provide both formal technology platforms (preferably CRM-integrated) and environmental approval to share, post, pin, tweet, and ‘gram their way toward quota. They are also far more diverse, culturally aware, and demand a global-friendly solution. The Best-in-Class are 63% more likely than Laggards to deploy formal "social selling" collaborative platforms for their quota-carriers. Even more often provide external social access to collect the content created by prospects, buyers, and competitors, and support the lesson taught by Louis Pasteur: "Chance favors the prepared mind."

New blood can be threatening to the old guard, but the simplicity of sales performance metrics—am I going to make my number?—provides strong motivation to set aside those gut-driven, 20th-century approaches to sales management.

It's time to make room for, and take advantage of, data-driven selling in the modern era.

Next post: Show Me the Money!...But That's Not Enough

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