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A Champion Sales Team is Trained, Not Born

By: Tim Edwards


A couple with three young children walks into your car dealership. 

Will you lead them to the red Corvette or the gray minivan? 
Kind of a no-brainer, isn’t it? You’ve got the steps to this sale imprinted on your brain.
However, some salespeople rely on magic. They think, “Sales is an art. You can’t teach genius.”
Sales teams often don’t plan or reflect on their success. They don’t analyze strategies until deals fall apart. 
“The sales gods just weren’t with us,” cry the bewildered team members. They walk away feeling as though the situation was out of their control; to them, sales is an art that runs on talent, charm, and good mojo. 
Don’t Just Cross Your Fingers
The fact is that selling is a skill that can be learned. 
Do you think an NFL team reaches Super Sunday by hiring a high-priced quarterback and hoping for the best? Of course not. Every game is put under the microscope. Each play and player is scrutinized.
You’ve got to do the same. Huddle up. Let’s break this down:
  • Successful salespeople are trained. They may start with innate talent, but they hone that craft through preparation. Selling is not an inexplicable art form. Selling is a skill that you must develop.
  • Successful salespeople need tools. You need to replace spontaneous reactions to a customer’s actions with a consistent process. Great players are not just thrown into the fold—they build on the experience of veterans. Your people need a playbook. 
Reverse Engineer the Process
Look back at your closed deals and your lost deals. Reverse engineer those deals to understand what distinguished a win from a loss. Dig deep. Don’t be superficial or allow a sales rep to use old excuses to explain away a lost opportunity.
Reverse engineering the sales cycle is the only way to establish an accurate, repeatable process. Companies often outline their quotas but struggle when asked to justify their numbers. Sometimes, they don’t really understand their average sales cycle, sales price, lead flow, and conversion rates. 
For example, you may say your average sale price is $50,000. However, if the average for the last 10 buyers is $25,000, then you should be using that figure in your calculation of quotas and goals. It’s okay to hope for the $50,000 deals. It’s even OK to focus on them. Just don’t delude yourself into thinking they’ll happen every time. 
Steps to Success
Companies that succeed focus on four aspects:
  1. They create sales management. This is not management by committee. Every person has a place, but tough decisions and key opportunities often get lost in the shuffle with committees.
  2. They let the sales management establish a sales process. They keep it simple and trackable. They hold sales reps accountable for completing sales call notes.
  3. They build realistic goals. Winning is important to people. Hopes are not goals, though. Setting unrealistic goals sets people up for failure and will lead to failure. Goals should prompt success.
  4. They don’t stop. They don’t teach once and let it go. They drill constantly so it’s never forgotten. Just like those grueling two-a-day practices, sales training can be exhausting, but it gets results.
The Payoff of Best Practices
Successful companies consistently exhibit several characteristics that define their success:
  1. They understand the buyer. They let the customer talk — and they listen. They sell customers what they need.
  2. They know how to walk away. Activity is not productivity. Successful companies are able to walk away from non-buyers so they have time to look for buyers.
  3. They track. Sales reps might hate tracking their notes and updating their pipelines, but those processes are essential. Winning companies provide training that reflects real-time issues and patterns. This keeps them from drawing the wrong conclusions at critical times.
Champions don’t win due to luck. They win because they’re prepared and create opportunities. Start reverse engineering your winning strategy and developing your salespeople’s skills—instead of relying on talent and waiting for the stars to align. 
What have you done to boost your sales team’s effectiveness?
Published: March 4, 2014

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Tim Edwards

Tim Edwards is the CEO of NSR, a holding company that acquires underperforming or undervalued businesses, provides capital for fast-growing or high-potential startups, and creates holistic teams focused on strategy and execution in sales, operations, finance, and human resources. Tim is an entrepreneurial thought leader and an expert at acquiring, building, and turning around businesses. Connect with Tim on LinkedIn.

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