In 1992 at the age of 22 I finished university; I am not sure which of those, or perhaps it was both, that lead me to the think I knew everything. It took me about three weeks in sales to realise that I knew nothing.
Thankfully, my managing director had the good sense to send me to a three day sales training course; this changed my life. I remember thinking at the time that I could not believe that people spent so much time at university learning (in lots of cases) useless information and something so important as practical interpersonal skills could be learned and applied with immediate effect.
The sales trainer became a lifelong mentor of mine and I recall him vividly saying that day, “there is a dearth of good sales people in Australia.” It was like he planted a seed in my brain and it became my life long journey to work out why.
It has taken a few years but I reckon I have it nailed. Mostly managers don’t do any of these as well as they could:
i.Recruit - They’ll look at someone and say “I’ve got a vacancy, he / she looks like a sales person, talks like a sales person, lets give them a job”. I appreciate it is not quite that simplistic but thorough processes including multiple face to face interviews, profiling and reference checks are available to all though are rarely used with any discipline. Additionally, I have worked in organisations where HR have got in the way and sabotaged the hire using “process” as an excuse for their ineffectiveness – please.
ii.Induct - Most induction programs go like this…. “here are your keys, here is a phone and customer list now off you go and sell.” Often this is called the sink or swim mentality but for me this is like throwing a brick to someone who is drowning. I did this many years ago and ruined some great possible careers in sales and it still sits with me poorly – at best this is incompetence and laziness and at worst it is disrespecting people’s careers and demonstrating a total lack of empathy.
iii.Training - Richard Branson said a few years back, “Train people so they can leave, lead them so they don’t want to.” Too many companies don’t train their people and the ones that do are most often ticking a box, spending what is in their budget regardless of the relevance or sending them on some generic cost-effective workshop (read ‘cheap’).
iv.Coaching - When an apprentice electrician is on site he has a foreman looking over his shoulder saying don’t touch the red & the blue wire because you will go “bang”. Likewise a graduate accountant has a finance manager overseeing them. A sales person goes out by him or herself from prospect to prospect hoping that someone will speak to them and be interested in what they have to offer. No cosy desk, no fridge to put your lunch in, no support from someone in the next cubicle when you have had a tough conversation; they just have to get on with their next call.
Many of the people I speak with these days struggle to get the balance of these activities where it needs to be. After many trials and tribulations of doing it for my employers, I now work specifically with organisations to build robust processes ensuring the performance and longevity of their sales teams.
**Charlie is an expert in developing external sales teams and people, particularly where relationships and solution selling are the key differentiators. Connect with Charlie on LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/charlie-pidcock-1694ab14/
It is important for the Right Things to be done at the Right Time (I’ve covered these earlier) in the Right Way, this can be broken into three parts – being Truthful, being Respectful and being Professional and these should be viewed from both the employer and the employee.
It is important to be Truthful when recruiting people which means being honest about what to expect in terms of culture, activities, results, start & finish times, travel etc…etc…,etc. The reality is the reality, you may as well start with your integrity intact; as Thought Leader Georgia Murch says “people will hear your content but smell your intent” so make sure yours is clean!
Both parties should be Respectful in undertaking due diligence. This means talking to as many people as you can to get an understanding of what to expect. There are many ways to research who people (organisations) are and how they have performed previously. Years ago I accepted a role where there had been two people before me and two after me, all of whom were “released” from the organisation. On a count back that is a total of five people who had their careers disrupted before the organisation did anything about the line manager. I would have found this out had I undertaken good due diligence and never would have taken the position. Whilst I learned a great deal from the experience, it was difficult for me at the time and I am sure the others, but the organisation paid the ultimate price with a toxic culture and huge staff turnover costs.
Any recruitment (finding) process should be Professional; there is nothing to be gained and too much to lose from lying to candidates about how many have applied, their fit or chances in a role; ditto on the candidates side. I have seen, and been on, the end of some horrendous processes including applying for an internal role and being told by the CEO that I would get an interview only receive, that same day, a letter from HR saying “thanks, but no thanks”. I had low expectations in the first place and my employer still failed to live up to them….
Regular feedback on what the individuals / teams are doing well and where they require improvements, whether in annual performance reviews or a conversation in the hallway, is important and management needs to recognise that. Likewise, if conduct is unbecoming of company culture it is best addressed with the individual(s) Truthfully & Respectfully.
Different people learn in different ways and at different times; being Professional means companies need to understand what the requirements for their individuals and teams are to develop into more effective employees / better people. There is nothing worse than an organisation putting their staff on a development program that is just ticking a box – ultimately these employees feel disengaged (at worst?) or end up leaving (at best?).
Most humans love to grow and learn and not all companies can accommodate this; likewise, employees aren’t always likely to relocate for career advancement. Being Truthful around this from both sides can improve outcomes for employers and employees alike. I find it both hilarious and disappointing when all of us can’t seem to be a little more honest with each other, particularly with the average tenure around three years.
A few years ago I had a high performing sales guy who had been with us three years and I knew he was struggling for motivation and momentum. I told him that it was most unlikely that we would be working together in 10 years’ time so we might as well have fun, make the most of the opportunities to learn and make money. This honesty shocked him initially but freed him up and he went even harder for another two years which was great for him, me and the company.
Another of my previous employees was hard wired for work but had a large, young family – I would never ring him before 9.00am because he was busy helping organise all his kids for school, but could always ring him between 6.00 – 7.00pm if need be. This Respectful approach to his work / life balance helped retain him longer than might otherwise been possible if I had been a little harder on start and finish times. I didn’t always have this approach but being a parent has helped me develop empathy and understand what this is all about.
With 60 – 70% of people leaving their jobs because of the relationship with their one up manager, it is crucial for all leaders to maintain relationships with their employees. Likewise, in an article published in HBR entitled “Managing Your Boss” authors John Gabarro & John Kotter talk about the importance of “….a compatible relationship with your superior is essential to being effective in your job”; in other words all parties have a great deal to gain by having positive and Professional relationships.
**Charlie is an expert in developing external sales teams and people, particularly where relationships and solution selling are the key differentiators. www.charliepidcock.com.au
Earlier in the year I wrote about the “Right things” when trying to Find, Develop & Keep great sales people.
The cost of employee turnover in Australia is claimed to be as much as 75% of annual salary and costs Australia about $83bn pa – ouch.
On the back of this, it is critical to ensure you and your organisation are doing the “Right Things” at the “Right Time” to ensure engagement, longevity and return on investment. Tommy Shaw, the American Musician, is claimed to have said “Timing is everything” and, as Willie Nelson so aptly put it, “The early bird gets the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese”.
The Right Time falls into three categories – Ready, Willing and Able.
Ready – Your business best have a good idea about what your needs are in terms of skills, experience and cultural fit to ensure you have a few possible candidates when challenges arise. A recent survey found 46% of new hires fail within the first 18 months, 89% of those are due to poor cultural fit and personality mismatches.
Willing - Recruiting is like any sales funnel; it is hugely valuable to know who may be worth talking to, where they are and what they are up to when “life happens”. A good friend of mine once said “I am always recruiting but only sometimes hiring”. Additionally, management best empower their teams so these decisions can be effected as quickly as possible to avoid any extra delays and transition costs.
Able – good companies (both large and small) need to respond to the rapid changes in the market place; if you are growing (or not) your culture needs to be “able” to be flexible and accommodating in terms of the people that join it. They quickly need to be understood and accepted as part of your team. I once worked in an organisation that was growing – we needed a better link between regional manufacturing and metropolitan marketing. We tried two strategies, i.e. production manager based in the factory and (after that failed) a sales director based close to the markets – neither were successful and not necessarily because of the individuals, but (maybe) because the organisation wasn’t ready for them. I feel for the two of them whose careers were disrupted by the poor decisions and actions of others.
Development is not a one size fits all approach – different people learn in different ways at different times.
Being Ready is about managing expectations – of employees and that of the company; this is the line managers job whose responsibility is to leverage other parts of the organisation to invest time, and in some cases money, to ensure their people are growing, challenged and engaged.
Organisations need to be Willing to invest; money is great but time and effort are more important. Development doesn’t necessarily mean putting your hand in your pocket, sometimes 30mins per month with a senior manager means more to an employee than a three day or six month leadership course that everyone knows is just ticking a box.
The company needs to (En)Able and facilitate these sorts of conversations within their teams to ensure they engage with all their staff - let’s face it the organisation has the most to gain.
Ready – The number one reason people leave their job is because of their relationship with their one up boss which should be seen as a challenge for anyone managing staff. The better, more inclusive, productive and respectful culture is the more chance an organisation has to retain their staff and the more they avoid the high costs of turnover.
Willing – This is mostly about awareness of individuals and the line managers, which is best realised through sound working relationships (see above). I love Richard Branson’s thoughts on this “Train people so they can leave, lead them so they don’t want to”.
Able – the size and scale of any organisation affects its capability to keep people. Growing organisations provide opportunities for their staff to manage projects, divisions, customers, geographies or products; shrinking or stagnant ones don’t.
The final piece is of course doing these “things” in the Right Way which I will cover in the future.
Many thanks for taking the time to read this, I hope you enjoyed it and please feel free to leave your comments.
**Charlie is an expert in developing external sales teams and people, particularly where relationships and solution selling are the key differentiators. www.charliepidcock.com.au/