During the last 12 months, I have had the opportunity to speak to and listen to some amazing sales leaders, business owners, international sports people and probably the most successful All Blacks coaches ever, Sir Graham Henry. I have learnt so much from these individuals which applies to creating high performing sales teams.
So what are some of the learns?…
Having clear written down personal goals.
The research from Objective Management Group shows that many salespeople, sales managers and sales leaders don’t have personal goals and for those that do, they aren’t written down. In the 1970’s Sir Graham wrote down a goal that one day he would become the All Blacks coach, a goal which he achieved nearly 30 years later, becoming the All Blacks coach in 2004.
Goals need to be stretching.
Goals need to be stretching and whilst there is a lot of discussion about goals being realistic, without stretch, none of us grow. If you are a sales leader, do you know the personal goals of your team and have you written down your own too? Goals can be related to budgets and targets, but what are the stretch targets? Ask yourself do you targets stretch yourself?
If it is too easy to achieve your goals, then remember that the only things that grow in a comfort zone are mediocrity and complacency. To consistently get better, you need to become “comfortable with being uncomfortable” It was Jamie Peacock who said that you must always strive to be better than your last performance.
Having a clear purpose for your goal.
Sir Graham Henry discussed the importance of setting the purpose. When he was coach, the initial purpose he set was to be the best rugby team in the world, which was subsequently changed to be “the best sporting team in the world”. Having a clear purpose is essential and also sharing it with your team is important. If you are a sales leader or a sales manager, ask yourself; do you have a clear purpose and have you set the purpose for your team? Purpose is much more than setting budgets. The purpose allows you to have everyone aligned and working towards the same objectives. It sets the benchmark for high performance.
Having individual as well as collective purpose is like having your own personal game plan. If you have purpose both professionally and personally, it is much easier to work through those challenging times.
Having a team driven culture.
Sir Graham discussed the importance of having a team driven culture. Sports matches can often be won by a moment of individual brilliance. However, it is the team that creates the opportunity for an individual to deliver that moment of brilliance. Some people say that sales is an individual sport. I would disagree as sales is actually a team sport. If your role is a hunter, you will still need a team of people to help support the sale.
There is no one person who can claim the glory when winning a team sports match. Every player is part of the team. In sales, there could be one person who ultimately closes the deal. The deal couldn’t be achieved without the team. In rugby it is often the wingers who take the glory for scoring spectacular tries. Yet how often as fans do we forget the “grunt work” that the forwards have done to produce the space and field position for the backs to exploit to create the opportunity for the winger scoring the try?
Importance of Coaching and Practice
This is where coaching comes in. If you are a sales leader or sales manager, then you have to coach both the individuals and the team so that they can achieve consistent levels of high performance.
Sir Graham discussed the importance of practicing and not paying lip service to practice. One of the guiding principles of the All Blacks is “Train to win”. This means practicing under pressure.
Commentators say the difference between the All Blacks and other teams is their ability to perform under pressure. Training lays the foundations of success but there is always a balance to be struck in training between skill development and pressurised game scenarios.
So how does this learn apply to the world of sales?
Most sales people are showing up to discovery meetings and presentation meetings leaving the outcome to chance and not practicing. Often the reason cited is because role plays and practice don’t mirror what happens in the real world. To be successful at anything, you have to practice. If all your role plays are tougher than the actual meeting with a client or prospect then the actual meeting will be easier.
Imagine the All Blacks turning up for a major tournament not having practiced. It would be disastrous.
I remember asking Jamie Peacock during the podcast why he thinks salespeople won’t practice and his response was insightful. He said that salespeople would practice if they knew that there sales meetings would be televised and also they would have to conduct those sales meetings in front of upwards of 15,000 screaming fans every week.
Whilst salespeople have a responsibility for doing role plays, the people who are also responsible are sales managers and sales leaders, who allow this to happen. Sales managers and sales leaders are the coaches of the sales team. Yet in many cases, they are allowing their salespeople enter into a meeting with a prospect or client with no “match preparation”. In professional sports such as rugby union or rugby league, teams are consistently coached on the game plan and regularly practice moves.
We often hear excuses like “we haven’t got time” or “role plays don’t bring any value”. If as sales leaders you are not creating an environment where practice is important, then hitting your sales target or budget isn’t important. Creating a high performance team culture or high performance sales culture, requires on-going coaching and development of the skills and mindset of your players, meaning your salespeople.
So if you are a salesperson, sales manager or sales leader, do the extra work to make the difference.
We all need coaching to provide us with critical feedback on how we can improve and identify ways we can improve. If you are a sales leader or business owner who is looking to improve the performance of their sales teams, a really good place to start is with coaching.