Deb Calvert is the president of People First Productivity Solutions and the Co-Author of Stop Selling And Start Leading: How to Make Extraordinary Sales Happen. She is a certified Master of Sales Coach and Master Trainer. There is just nothing this woman does not do. As one of the best sales trainers and sales leadership trainers in the world today, she is full of actionable wisdom. In this article, I will share Deb’s extraordinary knowledge as it relates to the following:
- Enabling Others to Act
- Behaviors involved in enabling others to act
- The impact technology has on the buying process
- How to be effective leaders
- What to look for in sellers
- Leading people vs. managing work
- Advice for sales managers
- What to do if you don’t have the right resources
- Reasons people leave
If you were to explore what would happen if sellers adopted the behaviors proven for leaders to cause others to want to follow them, you would find 30 behaviors with stronger followership. In a study conducted on those 30 behaviors with 530 B2B buyers, buyers were asked, “Would you be more likely to buy from or be more likely to meet with buyers who demonstrated these behaviors more frequently?”
All buyers in the study, regarding all 30 behaviors, emphatically said yes they would like to see more of these behaviors than they currently do from the sellers. These particular behaviors are behaviors most sellers and business owners would not identify readily as things their sellers should be doing.
The 30 behaviors are grouped into five practices. One of the practices is called Enable Others to Act, the one I’m going to focus on today. These behaviors, under the practice Enable Others to Act, are the behaviors buyers want to see. Above all else, these behaviors impact them the most. Enabling Others to Act includes things like:
- Answering questions in relevant and timely manner – This includes the price question.
- Conducting two-way dialogue – Don’t qualify the buyer and make them feel as if you are giving them a survey. They want a two-way conversation where they get to participate in creating what they want. They want to have a voice and an opportunity to put their imprint on the solution. The more you engage them, the more they are buying in before you ask them to buy.
Being Human to Human with Buyers
In the study conducted, buyers revealed they sometimes feel sellers aren’t human to human with them because the technology is a barrier.
When going into a call, don’t forget it is another human being on the other end of the phone who makes decisions just like you and I do. Remember to put on your human hat instead of your sales hat.
Enabling Others to Act
As previously mentioned, Enabling Others to Act when selling is significant. Buyers want to be enabled. They want the ideas they already have to be dignified, and they want sellers to align with them where they already are. However, buyers often don’t know what they don’t know.
Buyers have probably done a lot of research, but it comes down to making a decision. An extraordinary seller will:
- Use that two dialogue to open the conversation back up
- Shine a light on what the buyer didn’t already know
- Engage them without taking away the work they have already done or dismissing what they are already thinking
- Come alongside what they already know and are thinking to open up the pieces the buyer hasn’t seen yet
Sellers who stand out and make excellent sales listen to buyers carefully and give them the missing ingredients.
Managing a Team of Leaders Who Are Selling
The person managing the sellers, whether that be the business owner or someone else, will need to be a leader, not just a manager. A leader inspires others, challenges and encourages others as well as models what they want to see from them. Buyers have raised the bar for sellers, which means the bar has been raised for the person managing the sellers. As a manager, you must think of yourself as a leader, not just a manager.
“You lead people; you manage work.” – Deb Calvert
Managing vs. Leading
Managing is a science that involves a formula around how to manage. The word manage comes from mano, which means “hand” in Spanish. You are handling the work, often through other people. By nature, it has a short-term focus on getting the work done today.
Leading, on the other hand, is something different. Leader comes from laden, middle french, which is “to guide.” Leaders guide people. If you are going to guide someone, that suggests you are taking them to a place they have never been before; otherwise, they wouldn’t need a guide. People follow you because they trust you and will go with you.
Flaws of Sales Managers
Sales managers have one of the hardest jobs out there. That’s because they take on more than is truly their role. Many sales managers end up doing a lot of recruiting and interviewing because they don’t have an HR person they trust to do that work. They are out there selling because they have to make that number today. They are running interference internally with finance, credit, and production to get everything just right. They are doing all kinds of paperwork, dashboards, and forecasts to make sure they get everything just right and know where they are going.
What sales managers are not doing is spending time with their sellers, observing them and coaching them to help them to become stronger in their own right, so the sales manager doesn’t have to do that work.
“The more the sales manager does the front line work, the less the sellers are capable of doing it.” – Deb Calvert
Many times larger companies have the resources available; they just aren’t being utilized.
“The sales managers have always been rewarded for and expected to do things on their own, so they don’t know how to delegate and trust others and collaborate to say teach the HR person what it looks like to select the right candidate in sales and then that work is off your plate.” – Deb Calvert
If you don’t have access to the right resources, you need to spotlight why those resources are a crucial necessity.
“You have to start showing the downside. The downside is, and it’s always there, we’re not making numbers, or we are making numbers at the very last minute. We are never going to get ahead this way. And there is some serious ROI and lost opportunity costs that come with that. You got to run the numbers and make the business case for being able to staff up appropriately.” – Deb Calvert
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“Softness” in Selling
In some industries or markets, it is pretty tough to recruit. People are afraid of their sales team leaving. A vacant chair scares sales managers more than underperformance. Many sales managers cater to salespeople and barely hold them to quota standards.
Softness also comes when you don’t understand what people are looking for. The top four reasons people leave a company have nothing to do with pay but everything to do with the manager giving them candid feedback and helping them improve. People want to see a pathway to success. But managers, especially if they have never been trained, think people want a soft answer instead of the hard truth. People are being protected from the fact which means they aren’t improving and eventually go somewhere else because they feel they are in a place without opportunity for growth.
Reasons People Leave a Company
- Has nothing to do with pay
- Managers aren’t giving them genuine feedback
- They aren’t able to see a pathway to success
- They are receiving soft answers instead of the hard truth
- They leave to go somewhere else where they feel they will grow
It’s not the salespeople that are soft; it’s the way sale people are being managed that has gotten soft.
Many sales managers are also not great at setting crystal clear expectations for their teams. They don’t have training many times, and they think the goal or quota is the expectation and the leave it at that. Then if they have activity standards, they put those on the backburner, unless the numbers are being made. Then it feels like an ambush to the salesperson when the activity standards get taken out. Some sales managers also don’t have expectations around how. The sales manager should also be showing the salesperson the right way.
Should You Bring in Outside Help?
If it’s going to be by the sales manager, get that person trained as an instructional designer in adult learning principles so they can do true knowledge transfer. These are separate skills from everything else in management. These aren’t presentation skills.
If you don’t want to get trained as an instructional designer because it’s time-consuming or you aren’t wired for it, then go ahead and bring in an outside resource. This should be someone who aligns with your organizational goals, not just something off the shelf. This should be someone well versed in how to train, coach and impart knowledge in a way people can take it and apply it immediately.
Catering to Each Learner
It’s important to remember each person learns differently. Some people still want to learn in an interactive environment. To be able to include all preferences of adults in a learning situation with different modalities is ideally what you want from a training partner.
What to Look for in Sellers
It’s important to hire the right salesperson to do the job adequately. When hiring sellers, consider the following. Find people who have:
- The ability to inspire
- Great critically thinking skills
- Ability to challenge processes and innovate
- Simply follow through on their promises and commitments
All of these attributes are critical to the success of the seller and will appeal to the buyer.
The stereotype of Seller Persona
There is a stereotype out there of the seller persona. Wrong hires are often made when the hiring decision is built off of this stereotype. This stereotype is of someone who is extroverted, high energy and extremely motivated. That person may or may not have the ability to get the job done. Anyone can turn on that high energy vibe in an interview. There is going to have to be more. You need to make sure the person is able to
- Ask questions
- Listen carefully
- Ask follow up questions
- Be curious
- Facilitate two-way dialogue
Leadership in The Military
The military requires commanding officers to have a leadership philosophy. In the Army, there is a semester-long course you take on developing your philosophy of leadership. This forces commanding officers to think of themselves as leaders, to know what their values and principles are, to know what they stand for and what their actions are going to look like to reflect those values.
The reason the military does this is because people have to know what their leader stands for. If you are going to ask someone to follow you into battle and put their life and limb at risk, that person following better understand what their leader stands for.
The leadership philosophy is an exercise any leader can do, and it’s powerful. Many leaders transform through this process.
Advice for College-Age Individuals
Think about your skills and what you are good at first. Know yourself well enough to leverage your capabilities and don’t limit yourself to a job title that seems attractive.
“Be flexible. The world is changing so fast. So instead of deciding on a job or a title, think about the skills, your natural abilities. If you are good and enjoy public speaking, think about all the options you have and keep an open mind to pursuing that passion using that skill.” – Deb Calvert
Enabling Others to Act is extremely important. Buyers want to be enabled. They want the ideas they already have to be dignified, and they want sellers to align with them where they already are. Behaviors involved in Enabling Others to Act include answering questions in a relevant and timely manner, conducting two-way dialogue, etc. It’s also important to be aware of the impact of technology on the buying process. Make sure you are emphasizing the human aspects of the selling process. As a manager, you are also a leader. It’s important to learn how to be an effective leader. There is a difference between managing and leading.
In this article, I also shared what to look for when hiring salespeople, why people leave, advice for sales managers, and what to do if you don’t have the right resources. When hiring salespeople look for the ability to inspire, great critically thinking skills, the curiosity to challenge processes and innovate and the innate desire to simply follow through on promises and commitments. People most commonly leave a company for reasons related to management, not salary. Many times managers aren’t giving genuine feedback, the employee isn’t able to see a pathway to success, the employee is receiving soft answers instead of the hard truth and the employee leaves to go somewhere they feel they will grow. As a sales manager, you must delegate well, set crystal clear expectations and learn to lead as well as manage. If you don’t have the right resources to accomplish everything you want, you must stress the significance of these resources to your company with ROI and the importance of these resources in mind.