Newsletter follow-up: How would you coach these salespeople?

You gave your sales team a goal of selling $1 million this year but because you’re a great coach, you also asked the most important question, “What do you hope to achieve?” or “What do you want to do?”

That was the premise of my newsletter earlier this week, and I suggested that your team members may well have given you four different possible responses. Here they are:

1)      I’ll be happy if I can just make goal. I don’t want to fail at this.

2)      I know I can make this goal if I work hard and practice, and I will, but there’s a lot I need to learn.

3)      I’m confident I’m going to exceed this goal. I’ve always blown through my goals and I see this only as another challenge.

4)      What incentives are available to me if I surpass this goal. If I do $1.2 million, how much more will I make?

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedI asked you to comment on how you would coach each one differently, and I heard back from one very experienced sales manager, who had such useful insights from his own management experience, that I’m going to just quote what he said, a day off for me!

“The responses you suggested are very similar to what I would hear in one-on-ones at the beginning of every month. Countrywide [his former employer] lived by the motto, ‘if you’re not growing, you’re dying’, and while that constant drive to improve month-over-month burned some people out, it was also why coaching and goal-setting were so important.  I heard a lot of the 2, 3 and 4 answers. I loved working with the #2’s as I often hired people outside of the “box”—blank canvasses with a track record in another field, good attitude, intelligence and coachable because they were new to our business.

I’d sit them right by my side, or I’d spend hours in their cubicles with them on live calls, listening in, or having them listen to me, perfecting open-ended questions, listening skills and setting daily, weekly and monthly performance goals. That salesperson is telling you he wants to learn, and you have to invest your time.  You owe it to these people; they’ll be your superstars.

Your number 3 gives you an opportunity to incorporate some best practices.  If her sales results show a track record of blowing through goals, you can do two things. First is she needs a carrot. You can’t have a $2 million producer rewarded or deemed satisfactory for hitting $1 million, even though that’s the goal.

Do two things with her.  First empower her to facilitate learning among her peers. Certainly there are behaviors which have become habit for her that would be great to make uniform across your team. Identify them and give her an SME role on the team, and if possible try to create additional incentives for achieving a more difficult, advanced goal. I always had layered incentives beyond the standard bonus program to curb complacency and create some hierarchy, added rewards for the upper echelon that would give the newer, less talented or less motivated an additional level of incentive to achieve more.

The last guy has told you, ‘I can do the million but show me why I should do more. What’s in it for me?’ Your job as a coach is to keep this guy focused on levels of goals, and motivation is the number one key.  Right or wrong, I found my top producers reveled in their status of being in the top 3. I let them be big shots, and if handled correctly, they’ll refuse to give up that status while they help you coach the next tier up to their level.

It always comes down to knowing each salesperson, what makes him tick, knowing when to apply a hug, a kick or something else.  Common to all of them is to make them understand that you have a keen interest in their development by establishing a relationship of trust.  A good coach can say truthfully, ‘If you give me 100% of what I invest in you, you’ll get where you want to go.’”

Not only did this sales manager nail the answer and save me the job of writing, I also found it gratifying and a bit of a thrill that the email came from someone I love and respect very much, my own son.  Thanks for today’s input Garrison LaMothe. You’re a great sales manager.  Love, Dad

Think Like Your Customer

The Cutco Knife Story, or how to cut people who won’t sell

When my son Garrison was in college he had a hard time finding summer work, so he got a job selling Cutco knives.  If you aren’t familiar with the Cutco brand, go look them up.  They make the best knife you ever used.  They’re made in America (factory in Olean, NY), they cut beautifully, they come with a lifetime guarantee and free sharpening service.  Cutco knives are always sold directly to the customer by salespeople who go door to door, like Avon.

When Garrison signed on, he was given sales training by Vector Marketing, who has the exclusive marketing rights.  He learned how to be a professional salesman.  He put together a list of names, he asked those names for other names.  He made phone calls and booked appointments in the home to show the knives. He learned how to do a product demonstration and what questions to ask the prospect about how they use knives.  He learned how to close the sale.  The Vector people told him he didn’t have to do anything fancy or wow the customer with a brilliant presentation.  “Just follow the process,” they told him “and you will sell knives.”

So that’s what he did.  He scrupulously followed the process and he made a lot of money. As someone who trains people to sell, I have a lot of respect for Cutco. Today Garrison owns a mortgage brokerage and is one of the best salespeople I know. I am very proud of him.

Fast forward to this past summer. I ran a two-mile foot race against Billy Rodgers, four time winner of both the Boston and New York City Marathons.  While I was warming up for the race, I ran with a man about my age who is CEO of a big company here in Dallas.  He asked me what I do for a living and I told him.

He said, “I’ve hired a lot of salespeople over my career, and the one thing I look for is someone who has a process, a plan.  I don’t get fooled by a smooth-talking person. I want to hear how he goes about his business.  I guess I learned to think that way because when I got out of college, I couldn’t find a salaried job, so I sold Cutco knives.  You ever hear of them?”  I told him that I had indeed heard of them and related the story of my son.

(By the way, Billy Rodgers later beat me in the race by 30 seconds but that’s neither here nor there.)

Later I got thinking about that CEO’s comments and how he focused on process over communication skill.  Time after time I see that the best salespeople are the ones who have a process. They know how many leads they have to get and how many phone calls they have to make.  They know how many appointments they must get from those phone calls in order to meet their sales goals.  They are the winners.

I often do workshops in prospecting and we have the learners make live calls to prospects right from the workshop. I can tell in ten minutes which of the participants aren’t meeting their goals and why they’re in my workshop.  They really don’t want to pick up the phone.  They have no plan or process and they don’t like to sell.

Maybe you have people working for you who are like that.  My advice is that if you can’t coach them to succeed,  take a tip from Cutco and cut them.

Think Like Your Customer!