Do you ever wonder why your great sales recruits start fast, but then slow down in performance? At Walpole Partnership we know that consistent sales performance relies on a blend of technology (like CPQ), people and process, and that the ‘people’ factor cannot be underestimated. We’re delighted that leading sales trainer, Chris Ginnelly, has agreed to share his views on how to prevent your new sales people from stalling. Take a look and let us know what you think in the comments.
Accelerate new sales recruit performance - less is more.
When you’ve invested thousands of pounds in recruitment and your new sales recruit hits the territory you’ve given her, you’re relieved by the positive feedback from prospects, customers and internal staff. Your decision was a good one. You’re further buoyed by the fact that she has secured some business in the first 6 months despite not really having an in depth grasp of the product or services you offer. And then it happens…
Your salesperson moves into the wilderness period usually starting between 3 and 6 months. The organisation has typically by now put her through numerous awareness and training sessions that help her understand the depth and breadth of the offering. She has gone from knowing next to nothing to knowing pretty much everything. So why the stall in performance?
This common phenomenon is known and recognised as the Dummy Curve. When she first joined she didn’t know much about the offering so she asked questions. She asked questions that were focused on the prospect or client. She asked questions in order to clarify her understanding in order to go back and get the right answers. She was disarmingly honest at times. When asked what the delivery lead-time is she says “I’m not sure, I’ll have to check, what do you need it to be?” She asked questions because she felt safer if they were doing the talking. At this early stage in her development the prospect was typically doing 70% of the talking. She deliberately or otherwise found fantastically valuable information about their needs and emotional reasons for buying. She was making sales and everyone was happy.
The problem begins when her product or service training starts. She is now full of facts, figures and explanations of why what you do is faster, better or cheaper than the competition and how your features, advantages and benefits (provided by Product or Service Marketing teams if she’s lucky) are just what your customers need. And that’s the issue. She is now full of information and a new found confidence so instead of listening she begins telling. When asked what the delivery lead-time is she explains that JIT supply chain means that they can take the order and ship within 48 hours. She’s so proud of her new found expertise, she consistently misses opportunities to ask questions and really, deeply understand what the prospect needs and wants. Now she’s doing 70% of the talking and the customer is doing 30%.
So performance is arguably acceptable for her first year. You probably think a year is not really long enough for her to know her stuff so you give it another 6 months. If she can’t regain that natural inquisitiveness and your company does not invest in continuous sales training and development she’s likely to find herself as an under performer. At best she stays out of trouble and does enough to maintain her position but eventually you’ll run out of patience and take action resulting in further recruitment fees and an expensive compromise agreement if she makes it to two years.
Salespeople should acquire as much product or service knowledge as they can and use as little as is needed. Armed with this deep knowledge they need to ‘dummy up’. They need to become professional dummies. In the early days our salesperson asked questions; she was a dummy. Now she needs to become a professional dummy. Holding back on the temptation to share those amazing stats, facts and features, and develop questioning strategies and methodologies that dig deeper. She needs to re-address the ratio and ensure that the prospect talks for 70% of the time. This is the point at which performance accelerates.
In order to accelerate performance, companies need to acknowledge this performance risk and off set it with structured sales training and development that schools and hones questioning strategies in the context of a systematic sales process.
Chris Ginnelly is an award-winning sales and management trainer and the founder of Sandler Training