Grooming Your Sales Stars

Wednesday, June 1 2011

Every business needs at least one sales star; someone who sets the pace, establishes what’s possible and inspires others to grow and achieve.SalesStars

You’ve seen them, or maybe if you’re reading this article, you are one. They are the ones who sell two or three times as much as the next best salesperson. They are lifelong learners. They have big imaginations, big dreams and big egos.

They see opportunities where others see problems. They are disciplined, work hard, and more importantly, they work smart. They aren’t scared off by rejection, but take objections and obstacles as a reason to be persistent. They are self-motivated, goal-oriented and driven to succeed.

They can be outgoing and gregarious or quiet and reserved, but they know how to make the customer feel good. They ask insightful questions and listen carefully to what the customer tells them. They are organized, punctual and professional in their approach. They do what they say they will do. They have integrity and are able to build trust.

To be fair, they aren’t perfect. They have flaws. They may ask for what seems like an unreasonable bonus or salary. They may treat their own office staff or delivery people harshly because they are committed to making the customer happy at any cost. I remember one top salesperson on our team who was uniformly loved by his customers and hated by head office. Not an ideal situation, but sometimes you’ll find your most productive salespeople are primadonnas. They won’t be universally liked or appreciated and they can engender jealousy in other salespeople.

Grooming your sales stars is not a one-size fits all approach. Some will be open to encouragement and coaching and some will be offended by any attempt to improve them. Here are some general suggestions that will help you to think about how to groom your stars.

First, you have to find them. When it comes to sales, you can’t turn cabbages into oak trees. Select and hire the best people you can based on a combination of:

Good interview results. They are able to give you examples of past behaviour that indicates they will be successful in your sales job. Their answers are consistent from one interview to the next.

They have a history of success. It may or may not be academic, but they’ve been successful in sports or games, or previous jobs that demonstrate they have the characteristics we described above.

Their personality and mental abilities are a good fit with the job. There are many assessment tools that will help to dig below the surface and gain information that you wouldn’t normally get until the person has been on the job for several months; characteristics that are easy to lie about or exaggerate but are critical to success. I like the Prevue® assessment because of its integrity and success in predicting future behaviours. I never hire anyone without using it.

Learn what motivates them. Is it money, recognition, competition or ambition to be the best? Then set win-win goals that will help you to get what you want while they get what they want.

Be prepared to bend the rules. Not in a way that is illegal or immoral, but that enables them to shine. You may not be able to treat them the same as everyone else.

Set high expectations. If you see they have the right stuff, don’t let them off with average goals and targets. Encourage them to set goals that would seem unrealistic to others.

They are probably motivated by recognition. Reward them publicly. Give them prizes. Send them notes of thanks and praise.

Give them learning opportunities that will take them even higher.

Regardless of where they are in their career, they will benefit from sales training and coaching as long as they can learn new ideas or new ways to be better.

Remove barriers that prevent them from doing what they do best.

If they are great in the sales call but poor at paperwork, give find them administrative assistance. Get someone else to make their appointments. Don’t bog them down with paperwork and reports. Find ways to make it easy for them to spend more time face-to-face with their customers.

Top sales stars aren’t easy to find, nor are they easy to keep for a long time. But their presence on your team helps to set new standards for what is possible. They are worth the effort.