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Moving Sales Leaders from Safe to Brave

Most sales leaders at some time get stuck trying to fix things with more of the same, and not doing different things.

Typical reasons:

  • Fear of “sticking their heads above the parapet”(again)
  • Not trusting their bosses, peers or their people
  • Not trusting the new and different (aka “not invented here”)
  • Believing that previous success is an indicator of future glory!

Here’s a test to see how far you can Move from Safe to Brave to create greater competitive distinction

1:  Integrating Sales Tactics and Strategies     

Keeping focused on sales strategies is a special mindset.  It’s that ability to keep asking, “How is this helping us reach our strategic goals?” while restraining the temptation to just ask for more activity.  It’s about getting people to link and articulate their sales tactics to a competitive sales strategy before engaging a customer.

Questions:

  • How can you engage sellers to manage their competitive vulnerabilities?
  • How can you transfer field experience into helping people realize what it takes to sell competitively?
  • What do you need to make sure that the right sales tactics are used with the right sales strategies?
  • How do you give credit to and learn from those who show these capabilities?

2:  Discovering & Delivering Value    

It’s easy to focus on feature-functionality rather than validating different customer’s value.  You’ll know how comfortable you have become if you recognize:

  • Advocating value proposition creation but not really helping salespeople in “how to discover” differentiable value.
  • Focusing on product training without customer application
  • Not leading people to define and continually confirm the value each customer values 

Questions

  • What can you do to reinforce customized value propositions throughout their organization?
  • How do you coach people to seek out each customer’s “value priorities”?
  • How can you show to people how to behave differently when needed?

3:  Competing:

 While many sellers say they are competitive, it is not always seen in their behavior. Too often there’s little recognition that competing requires articulating and quantifying value differentiators to win.  It’s not the easiest path to focus people on seeking out quantified differentiators and then coaching them how to use them in competitively unpredictable ways. It is even tougher to get marketing to provide examples and proof of their existence.

 Questions

  • How can you focus on reducing competitive vulnerabilities in product development and production?
  • How can you coach people to find competitive positions and exploit them in unpredictable ways?
  • How can you help cross-functional networks focus on building and validating existing differentiators?

4:  Integrating Products & Applications

Too often, existing products, new products and customer variants drift apart. Being vigilant to develop and keep coherent, customer value-based product packages is not easy. Yet, these “packages” establish a distinct brand image and stimulate on-going customer relationships.

Questions:

  • How can you show that integrated value-based product packages increase customer loyalty?
  • How can you make sure that product development is actively linked to sales strengths and processes?
  • How can you champion integrated products with the sales force and customers?

5:  Selling Activity & Competence

Expediency often leads to replacing sales people, processes and protocols. If it doesn’t work (apparently) it is easier to recruit and replace sales tools (like CRM’s) and sales training. A brave leader soon realizes it’s not the tool, method etc. It is their people’s commitment to using such tools to win more business. Leaders shift focus from fiddling with process to focusing on developing competence.

Questions:

  • How can you focus on 3 or 4 key behaviors that lift sales performance?
  • How can you stop telling the sales force what not to do and show what they need do?
  • How do you lead people to simplify sales processes, support functions, and focus your sales management on what works?                                                                                                                                                                                                   

6:  Repeating Success   

It is counter-cultural to build a “training” department that does more than just “training.”  It takes great bravery to create an effective training function that expects different behaviors from a sales force.  It is brave to create a “coaching cascade” that is dedicated to changing behaviors – sales AND management behaviors.  It is brave to compensate and reward those who get it.  And then, of course, it is brave to STOP rewarding those who reap the easy sales that have nothing to do with competence, but rather with territory placement.  Brave leaders work to repeat success, not just accept it when it comes along.

Questions:                                                      

  • How will you tie behaviors to success, and reward those who put the two together?
  • How will managers take advantage of “leading indicators” in measuring sales progress and not rely on culturally acceptable “lagging indicators?”
  • What will managers do to make sure that the “language of the leaders” can define replicable behavior and actions?

7:  Managing Sales Opportunities                                                                                                                    

It is counter-cultural to say, “STOP engaging in every opportunity and focus on selective deals that you can win”. It’s safe to chase everything that moves and not say “No!”  Saying “NO” takes guts.  It is counter-cultural to recognize that creating demand is not just about the product you sell.  It is equally about how your sales organization entices the market to “want the product.”  Bravery is all about helping people expose and exploit demand issues. Bravery is funding the professional development of competent sales people who can learn to and carry out this philosophy.

Questions                                                                                                                                                          

  • How do you hire, create and keep qualified sales people that “have the knack” of creating demand?
  • How will you promote working on select opportunities?
  • How will you create a select group of strategic customers that can advance your goals?

Where does a Brave Executive go from here? 

At its core bravery is a passion for being competitively unpredictable and so “doing different things”. This is not an easy transition.  In fact, it can be down-right painful!  A brave sales leader must be comfortably uncomfortable in changing their attitude and behavior.  You must expect different things for different things to happen and that means constant and consistent communication.

  • Measure Differently: Include competence as a measure of success.
  • Talk Differently: Clean up and simplify the sales language, tools and processes so that everyone can use them.
  • Act Differently: Integrate a “coaching cascade” that makes coaching a “way of doing business” up and down the entire sales organizational ladder
  • Challenge the Organization – Ask your people to coach one another so that success is replicated. Be a coach yourself as an example to get others to see the value!
  • Protect what works – Talk to the troops about why things worked, so that they do it again and again.
  • Stop Relying on Change for Change’s Sake – It doesn’t do anything but interfere with productivity. Realize that there are good things happening, but that they need improving.