Sales Leader’s Question and Answer

By Dave Kahle

Q. I wanted to do some sales training last year, but it just wasn’t the right time for it.  We had too many things on our plate.  Looking at our calendar this year, I am coming to the same conclusion.  Am I ever going to have time to do sales training? Will it ever be the right time?

A.  Great question.  Probably the number one reason sales managers don’t provide sales training for their teams is “the timing just isn’t right.”

Why is it that some companies, regardless of the press of the urgent and the demands of the customers, find time to provide regular training and development opportunities for their sales force, and others, in the same industry, just can’t make the time?

The answer really does not lie in the ebb and flow of “things to do.” Nor does it lie in the open spaces of the calendar – if only you could find some empty days, you could slot in a sales training event. The answer does not lie in the world of stuff outside of ourselves that so occupies our time and attention.  Rather, the answer lies inside ourselves and our organizations – in our attitudes, our values and our corporate culture.

Let me lay some ground work with a bit of thinking about effective sales, in general and then circle around to address the question head on.

1.  I think everyone would agree with this statement:  Better sales people sell more than average sales people.

Better sales performance is not a matter of inheriting the best customer, or falling into a lucky deal.  Those things happen occasionally, but year in and year out, the best performing sales people are those who ‘sell better’ than the rest.  They do something, and usually a lot of things, better than their colleagues.  As a result, their customers respond more positively to them, and the sales people post better numbers.  They sell more because they act differently.  Not just differently – but better.

There is a direct relationship between what the sales person does and how much he sells.  Here’s a simple example.  One study found that 74 percent of purchasing agents said they would be “much more likely to buy from a sales person, if that person would just listen.” Doesn’t it follow, then, that those sales people who listen better sell more than those who don’t?  So, if you could help all of your sales people listen better, wouldn’t that result in more sales?  Of course it would. And listening is just one of a number of sales practices that are essential to better sales performance.

That’s my point.  What a sales person does directly and measurably impacts how much a sales person sells. And better sales people, because they do things better, sell more than average sales people.

2.  Most of my readers would also agree with this statement:  Almost every sales person can become better.

One of the things that I have most enjoyed about my career as a sales person has been the fact that I have never yet reached my potential.  I can always do better.  And, frankly, I’m a pretty good sales person.

I’m not perfect yet, even though I have tried to get there my whole life. Rarely does a day go by that I don’t find myself saying, “I should have done this or that better.”  Unfortunately, it is in the nature of sales that one is never as good as he can be.  Vince Lombardi aptly summed up the challenge of continuous improvement in a different area:

We will relentlessly pursue perfection, knowing full well that we will never attain it, because no one is perfect.  But, we will chase perfection, because in the process we will catch excellence.

Put these two paradigms together (#1 & #2 above) and you have a pretty good rationalization for continuous and immediate sales training.  If better sales practices bring in more money, and every sales person can become better, then investing in making them better will bring in more money.

How can you afford the luxury of not improving the practices of your sales team?

3.  But wait, some of you are saying, sales training doesn’t automatically mean better sales practices.

You’re right.  It doesn’t.  But it sure outperforms the alternative of not doing anything and expecting everyone will just automatically improve by trial and error. I’m going to make a radical statement here:  I believe that there is not an exceptional performer in any endeavor who is entirely self-taught (with the once in a generation exception for the occasional savant).  Tiger Woods, for example, has a swing coach.

The more sophisticated and challenging is the endeavor, the more likely that the exceptional performer has had multitude of coaches, mentors and trainers along the way. Sales is an incredibly sophisticated endeavor, where learning on your own can only take you so far.

Everyone who wants to improve, in every endeavor known to mankind, sooner or later puts himself in a situation where he/she learns from a coach, trainer or mentor – someone who has gone before and has a gift of being able to discern and communicate the intricacies and insights of the field. It takes someone outside of ourselves to help us see and realize our real potential.

The dedicated sales person, for example, buys all the books, gets the Ezines, listens to the podcasts, etc.  The sales manager who wants his team to perform well, constantly injects them into learning experiences.  He brings in the videos, distributes good articles, sends them to the seminars, etc.

And, like everything else, there are qualities of sales training.  You can bring in old Tom, for example, who is getting ready to retire and is looking for something less demanding than sales to do. Or, you can employ the local unemployed sales person who always wanted to be a trainer. The world is full of both types.

But, if you are going to invest your sales force’s valuable time and your hard-earned money, I’d recommend you invest it into a safe choice – professionals who have an understanding of how people learn and change, real life successful experience in sales, and years of proven experience in the profession of training.

4.  One more point.  Have you ever stopped to calculate the cost of maintaining the status quo?

Today — just this one day — how many opportunities did your sales people not uncover because they haven’t been trained in how to better uncover opportunities?  How many opportunities did they miss because they have not been trained to listen well?  How many new customers should have been developed this month, but weren’t because your sales people have never been instructed in how to develop a new customer?  How many high-potential customers languish in business-as-usual because your sales people have never been taught how to penetrate large accounts?

Just play around with those numbers and the conclusion will stagger you.  The greatest cost in most companies is one which never makes it on the P&L statement – the cost of opportunities lost, customers not created, and sales not made due to a sales force performing at far less than its potential.

Now that I’ve laid some ground work, let me go back and answer the question.  Is there ever a good time to do sales training?  It depends on your values, your attitude and your culture.

If you believe that your sales people can not become any better, then NO, do not make the time for sales training.

If you are perfectly content with the numbers your sales force is producing, then, NO, do not make the time for sales training.

If you think everyone will improve forever on their own, then NO, there will never be a good time for sales training.

If, on the other hand, you believe that just a small change in the behavior of a sales person can leverage into huge increases in sales and profits, then by all means make the time, as soon as possible.

Is there a good time to do sales training?  That really is the wrong question.  The question you should be asking instead is: How can you justify continuing to bear the costs of a sales team performing at less than optimum?  How can you justify the maintenance of the status quo?

Parenthetically, our Sales Resource Center provides a virtually unlimited number of sales development lessons, delivered to every sales person’s computer, 24/7, for one low monthly fee.

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales educators. He’s written nine books, presented in 47 states and seven countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations.  Sign up for his free weekly Ezine, and visit his blog.  For a limited time, receive $547 of free bonuses with the purchase of his latest book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime.

Commence CRM Gives Laser-Sharp Focus to Sales Teams With New Lead Scorer

Latest Addition to Award-Winning Customer Relationship Management Software Helps Companies Increase Sales Effectiveness

TINTON FALLS, NJ–(Marketwire – April 26, 2010) –  Commence Corporation, a leading provider of Customer Relationship Management software for small to mid-size enterprises, today announced the availability of Commence Lead Scorer, the latest addition to its suite of award-winning CRM solutions. Commence’s lead scoring feature moves beyond traditional CRM programs and enables increased sales effectiveness by targeting high potential customers.

Commence Corporation’s CEO, Larry Caretsky, remarked, “Most companies rely on the expertise of their individual sales representatives to qualify opportunities, which can be inefficient and costly due to a lack of consistency. The amount of time sales teams are spending following up on poorly qualified opportunities may be costing more than most businesses might think. With the addition of our Lead Scorer, companies will receive critical sales intelligence that can support measurable results.”

The Lead Scorer is an automated business process that ranks and scores leads based on a set of pre-defined criteria. The criteria consist of a series of customizable questions that are used to automatically provide a score for each lead based on the responses entered into the system. With a standardized set of qualifiers established by sales management, the process is no longer dependent on the varying experience levels of sales representatives resulting in a high level of consistency.

Combined with Commence’s suite of fully integrated applications for sales, marketing and customer support, the Lead Scorer will give sales teams a laser-sharp focus on the most qualified sales opportunities. By including an automated drip-marketing application that is directly tied to the lead qualification system, the solution nurtures each long-term lead with periodic mailings so the sales team can spend the most time on their most qualified opportunities.

“Commence has a long history of consistently providing added value to our customers. We’re the only CRM that delivers this unique lead scoring functionality at no additional charge to users,” added Caretsky. “By relying on Commence Lead Scorer, companies will shrink their sales cycles and improve their bottom-line results.”

The Commence CRM solution, which may be deployed on-premise or on-demand as a software-as-a-service (SaaS CRM), provides a consolidated system for all customer information, as well as powerful reporting and analytics and support for remote and mobile users. More information about Commence Lead Scorer can be accessed at www.commence.com.

About Commence Corporation
Founded in 1988, Commence develops and delivers a diverse suite of award-winning CRM products that integrate people, processes and technology. Delivered via the popular software-as-a-service (SaaS) model or implemented as on premise licensed software, Commence CRM solutions are used by thousands of companies to streamline sales and customer service front-end business processes. As a result, Commence clients increase workforce productivity, generate positive customer interactions, and reduce cost. More information about Commence can be accessed at Commence.com or at 1-877-COMMENCE.

Improve Business Performance With Commence CRM Analytics

CRM software provider Commence Corporation has taken their online CRM solution to the next level by incorporating real time analytics as a component of their CRM offering.  The analytics program is designed to provide senior management with a complete snapshot of business performance so that they can take a proactive approach to improve how they market, sell and provide service to their customers.

Designed for mid-size companies and small enterprises Commence CRM is a top rated CRM solution that is continuing to attract companies looking for a comprehensive easy to use affordable online CRM system.  Commence provides a suite of customer management software that automates the front office business processes that directly impact sales execution and customer service.   One of the areas that differentiate Commence CRM from competitive CRM offerings is the product’s multiple levels of reporting.   In addition to pre-built customer management reports Commence CRM also incorporates a report generator, similar to Crystal reports, that enables customers to create custom reports to address unique reporting requirements.   The addition of the analytics module makes the reporting capabilities of Commence CRM one of the best in the business.

The analytical reporting provides customers with a graphical analysis of key business metrics for lead management, sales pipeline management, marketing campaign management and customer service.  Designed specifically for executive level management the analytics reporting gives management the information they need to make informed business decisions and has shown to significantly impact the lead generation process and close ratios.

The analytics  identify how many leads were generated each month or quarter, what the source of the leads were, how many of the leads turned into sales opportunities, how many of the opportunities turned into new business and what was the value of that new business.

Commence-CRM-Marketing-Analytics

The CRM analytics program also provides real time sales pipeline data illustrating the sales opportunities by month by outcome, the top ten sales opportunities by revenue and by close date, as well as a corporate funnel by sales stage that enables sales management to manage the movement of each sales opportunity from introduction to closure.

commence crm analytics pipeline by month by outcome

Commence CRM also provides real time executive level reporting for customer service and displays information such as all open service tickets by representative, all open service tickets by age and more.  This enables management to ensure that they continue to provide world class service to their customers.

commence crm analytics open tickets by user

Commence continues to raise the bar in Customer Management software.  The addition of the analytical reporting component is just another differentiator between Commence CRM and alternative CRM solutions.

About Commence Corporation:

Commence is a leading provider of Customer Relationship Management software (CRM) for mid-size and small enterprises.  The company has been providing both desktop and web based CRM software for more than two decades.  Commence CRM is highly regarded for the products robust functionality, customizability and ease of use and is now delivered as a cloud based CRM offering.  To learn more about Commence CRM software, visit the company’s web site at www.commence.com.