Have you ever heard someone say “I’m a really great salesperson”, but once you have hired or partnered up (business wise) with that wonderful person, you only become disappointed. As it happens, contrary to what he or she (from this point on, I will only use “he”) promised, the self-proclaimed top salesperson repeatedly fails brining in the deals and numbers, but instead comes with excuses for why the intended deals didn’t materialize or why he wasn’t able to do this or that. It may also happen that the person tells you “next time things will work out”, “from now on I will really do better” or something along those lines. And, being the nice person that you are, you want to believe what he says. After all, he’s a nice person who is great at talking and you feel that there is a connection between you. So, you give him another chance, only to see that things don’t get better. In the end, you have to let the person go.
Have you experienced the above? I have, unfortunately, which is why I recorded this brief video and want to talk about this problem.
Before I let you jump in to the below brief video, let me say a few more words.
Sales management problem
The problem isn’t really that there are self-proclaimed top sales persons (or, God forbid, “sales gurus”) out there. In my view, failing to recognize real talent from faux is the real problem. It really is a management problem, not a self-procaliming-salesperson problem. It is about failing to focus on the essential things we as executives need for building a world-class successful business when recruiting or partnering up with a salesperson. Let me explain more in detail.
What numbers you should look at
First, what makes a great salesperson? Sales (revenue) numbers? Yes, partly. “What other numbers are there that are relevant in sales?” some may ask. Well, for example, numbers that measure and reveal something about our customers’ experiences related to dealing with us, such as, for example the NPS – Net Promoter Score number. (Note: I am not a big promotor for NPS, more on the reasons for that at another time, but it is fairly know, which is why I use it here as an example.) Or–as flashback from the 90’s–customer satisfaction survey results or numbers. (Please note: I’m not a big fan of them either, because they are often poorly conducted, but more on that too at another time.). Anyway, just to keep it short, my point is that the sales numbers are not enough, at least not if you want to focus on building a successful business that is based on generating value for your customers.
Why value-creation for customers matters
Why is generating value for your customers important? Because if customers don’t consider what they buy from us being valuable for them, they are unlikely to buy from us again or recommend us to others. In a B2C situation it might be enough to just sell once, but even in B2C, without positive feedback, recommendations and social media exposure and buzz, your business is unlikely to fly very far. In a B2B sales context, it’s even more straight forward: we usually need repeat purchases from our customers to become successful.
The reason for this is quite simple: there are not so many B2B customers out there as there are consumers in a B2C situations. So, we in B2B we really need customers who want to come back to us (i.e. repeat purchases). If our B2B customers are happy with us and our salesperson, they want to come back. If they dislike the salesperson, our products/services or the way we do business, they start looking for an alternative source to buy from. Simple. So, customer value creation really is important.
What makes a great salesperson
Against this backdrop, there are a number of things that we want our salesperson to have. A great B2B salesperson should be able to:
- Create, grow, nurture, and sometimes downgrade or even terminate relationships.
- Know his products and services and those of his competitors.
- Discover and point out needs and dreams that his customers have.
- Transform product/service knowledge into value for his customers – and vice versa.
- Manage the selling process and sales supportive resources and take responsibility for the situation.
- Show professionalism and taking responsibility throughout the buying-selling processes.
- Bringing in the sales figures and contributing to a positive customer experience.
In sum, if we as executives want to avoid hiring or partnering up with salespersons who aren’t up to the task, we should focus on validating that the person meets the above list of criteria for a B2B salesperson.
Verify the person before hiring or partnering up
Before hiring a salesperson or partnering up someone to sell your products/services, you want to make sure–i.e. verify–that the person is able to bring in the sales figures (past performance, track record) and generate value for customers (look at e.g. NPS for customers he has managed, what customers say about him, average customer relationship length, repeat business/sales). This should give you a fairly good picture of is he is what he claims to be.
Solve the problem, don’t let it linger
Lastly, if your already not-so-newly-recruited salesperson or partner repeatedly gives you warning signs that he’s not up to the task, do yourself a favor and discuss the problem with him. If he, despite your help and support, doesn’t perform, then do what you as an executive have to do, consider it a learning experience, and move on – now hopefully better prepared for similar situation in future.
Hope this helps you better succeed in building your dream team sales force who will contribute to your company becoming a world-class business.