I’ve been watching more football this season than ever before. I’m not sure why, but I’m enjoying it more than I have in the past. I watch the players come out on the field with a game-ready mindset, with all their protective gear and plays in their head. More than likely they’ve watched hours of video and practiced their strategies, as well as basic plays over and over to get them game-ready.
And, yet in spite of all that readiness, someone doesn’t execute on a play as they did in practice. And then another does the same thing, and before you know it the opposing team scores. And, four quarters later, one team wins, and one loses.
Let me draw an analogy to sales.
It’s no more likely that a single salesperson makes or breaks a quarter or a year than it is likely a single football player makes or breaks a season for their team. Each contributor’s consistent sales readiness and effectiveness will impact the “score” at the end of the game.
Let’s look at the three most significant components necessary for sales success.
The Top Three Components to Sales Success
1. Success Mindset
The most important component is sales mindset. Sales mindset is a reflection of someone’s will to sell (or not). And you cannot teach “will”. It’s about having an intrinsically high desire to succeed in sales. It’s about being “goal-oriented.” It’s being highly committed to doing whatever it takes, morally and ethically, to achieve those goals, and it’s about being highly motivated to win. In other words, you have grit. And you’re willing to be coached and to change the things that aren’t helping you win more business.
Let’s go back to football. As a Chicagoan, I can’t help but mention Cody Parkey (Chicago Bears kicker). He’s been beaten up verbally by fans and media for losing the playoff game for the Bears, for missing what would have been a game-winning field goal. My position is that Cody didn’t cost them the game – it was all the individual plays, execution and coaching that put them in the win/lose position in the last seconds of the fourth quarter. Nonetheless, Cody Parkey is now notorious for that game’s loss as well as his remarkable ability to hit the upright goal post four times in one game! Statistics suggest that he could have been offered 100 tries to hit the upright goal post four times in one game, and he probably couldn’t do it… yet he did!
Is it skill set or mindset?
In sales, mindset trumps skill set because, in spite of having great skills or knowledge, one’s mindset has the ability to sabotage even the best.
2. Sales Skill Set
Skill set is the second critical component to sales success. If a salesperson hasn’t mastered consultative selling, it’s highly likely that the majority of their wins/losses were due to price. Without this critical competency in today’s competitive, global and informed buying environment, it’s almost impossible to sell value. And, if that is the case, and if closing skills haven’t been mastered, it’s equally likely that you’re losing more than winning. In other words, your sales conversion is low.
If your sales team hasn’t mastered closing skills, it’s equally likely that you’re losing more than winning.
Another critically important skill that today’s salespeople need to sharpen is knowing how to effectively qualify opportunities.
Most salespeople know how to qualify based upon their company’s criteria, but what about qualifying based upon how the customer buys? It’s called a mutually qualified opportunity. If a salesperson does not ask the right questions at the right time and of the right people to understand how the customer is buying and qualifying their solution, they’ve only covered half of what it takes to have a truly qualified opportunity. This often leads to lost sales, longer sales cycles, and stalled opportunities.
3. Effective Sales Management
Finally, let’s look at how sales management or leadership impacts sales effectiveness and the win/loss ratio.
Sales management needs to be coaching, motivating and holding salespeople proactively accountable – consistently.
The majority of a manager’s time should be spent on coaching. In fact, if you or your managers are not spending close to 50% of their time coaching, you are missing the biggest opportunity to impact sales effectiveness. This means you are asking great questions more than you are telling. One of the common questions that sales managers ask in debriefing a sales meeting with a rep is, “How did it go?”. And, typically you hear something like, “It went great!”. Instead, the golden question I learned to ask from my mentor, Dave Kurlan (Objective Management Group), is “How did it END?”. Now we can backtrack from how it ended to where the quality of the conversation could have been improved. This is an example of effective coaching.
The majority of a manager’s time should be spent on coaching.
Some managers do not see the value in spending time motivating salespeople. Often times it’s because they do not believe that salespeople should need motivation. This is a belief that prevents managers from getting higher levels of performance from their team.
The key is to know how the sales team members are individually motivated.
Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation
Some people are extrinsically motivated, which means you can use traditional methods to motivate them – bonuses, extra commission, etc. However, others are intrinsically motivated. This means they are motivated by things that are not tangible in nature. Thus, using methods like recognition – calling out their spectacular win, sending them a note, or most importantly, reminding them of their personal goals and helping them achieve them. These are all ways in which a manager can motivate their team. The key is that this is not a cookie-cutter approach.
Lastly, a manager needs to hold the team accountable. This is probably the single biggest area of weakness in organizations. Unfortunately, this happens because either managers/leaders are not holding people accountable, or they do hold people accountable but only when something goes wrong.
Holding people proactively accountable means before we have a result. This happens by having regular communication and accounting for the daily activities necessary to have the results desired. This is achieved through weekly meetings but also more effectively with daily (quick) huddles. It’s using leading indicators in accountability, not just lagging.
Whether we are talking about the results of an NFL football game or the results of your business, everything begins with game readiness. Having the winning mindset, skill set, the right strategies and execution, coaching and motivation, supported by proactive accountability lead to your winning percentage. Level up your playbook in each of these areas and you will score more than your competition.
The top 3 Components of Sales Success: The right mindset, the right skill set and effective sales management.
– Jennifer Hines