Today's guest post is by Jason Jordan, partner of Vantage Point Performance and coauthor of Cracking the Sales Management Code: The Secrets to Measuring and Managing Sales Performance.
Here’s the situation. Several years ago, your sales force deployed a particular sales methodology. Since then, though, sales results have not improved the way you expected. You decide to conduct refresher training for the sales reps. One year has gone by … still no results. What do you do now to improve your sales performance? Refresh the training again?
At this point, many companies decide to invest in a new methodology. Makes sense, right? Maybe – but maybe not.
As it happens, we recently talked with a company that wanted us to develop a new sales methodology for them. The conversation went something like this:
Vantage Point Performance (VPP): “What’s wrong with your existing methodology?”
Company: “Nothing, really. Except we’re not getting the results we want.”
VPP: “Do the sales reps like the methodology?”
Company: “Sure, they like it well enough. And it provides us with a common language.”
VPP: “Then why do you want to replace it?”
Company: “Because we’re not getting the results we need.”
VPP: “Did you have a methodology before this one?”
Company: “Of course. We’ve had several.”
VPP: “So why do you think another methodology is going to be any better?”
Company: “Well, this one’s not working, so what else can we do?”
Why Is Your Sales Methodology Failing You?
An existing sales methodology is rarely to blame for poor sales performance. Any sales methodology that is carefully selected and makes sense for the sales force should be capable of boosting sales.
Failure occurs when sales managers are not equipped to manage this change after the training event. Perhaps they’ve been trained along with the sales reps (though not always). And perhaps they’ve been trained on how to coach to the methodology (though not always). Our observation is that sales managers are typically – by an order of magnitude – underprepared to manage substantial change. If the front-line sales managers aren’t equipped to make change happen, then it will never happen. Ever. Period.
When a new methodology is deployed, it should be accompanied by a full-on change-management effort, including:
- New processes
- Supporting tools
- Continued coaching
- Extensive measurement
- Constant course correction
A new methodology must be exercised and practiced and worked at until it becomes a muscle reflex. While this improvement can’t be accomplished in a few days, it certainly shouldn’t take years. With methodical reinforcement, you can hope to see altered behaviors and improved performance in a matter of a few months.
In the case of our client company, they liked their sales methodology and it was embedded in their culture. It just wasn’t getting results. We advised leaving the methodology in place and examining how sales managers can more effectively manage and reinforce it.
The results? Managers are now maximizing the potential of their existing methodology, and the company has been spared the expense and disruption of switching to a new one.
Why Sales Managers Are So Important to ROI
The lesson in this true story is that sales managers are often overlooked as the key change agent in every sales force. Consequently, they are usually unprepared to manage the change they are expected to enact. Salespeople have been trained and retrained for more than a century, but sales managers (by and large) have not been taught how to manage. We can give you example after example where we helped our clients improve their sales performance without ever training a single salesperson. It all comes down to the manager.
So, if you are struggling to improve sales performance, we would encourage you to not re-think your sales methodology until you truly examine it. A far less expensive and disruptive path may lead you to the promised land.