Business Works Consulting

Business Works Consulting president Rob Malec breaks down the myths behind sales training methods

One of the biggest misconceptions associated with sales is simply that it’s easy. Whether you’re selling a seven-figure software solution to a global organization that is spread out over multiple time zones or selling to a local small business, the realities are more or less the same—it’s tough and can often lead to much frustration. Rob Malec, president of Business Works Consulting, dispels some of the fallacies behind sales training and gives tips on how to keep your sales team motivated.

When a sales department is not achieving its goals, what is one of the biggest mistakes management makes when trying to get the team back on track?
In general, the biggest mistake they make is thinking, “Oh this must be a sales methodology issue—if we get more effective in front of the customer, we’ll sell more.” Imagine there is a pyramid, and at the top of the pyramid is a dollar sign. The first layer below the dollar sign says sales methodology, followed by a layer that says support, and completed by two additional layers that say sales management and sales creation.

Leaders often think that in order to get results, they should drill down from the top of the pyramid and therefore focus on sales method. So, if we have a better sales method, we can convert more. The fallacy there is the belief that sales success occurs in front of a customer. In fact, sales success occurs at about 75 per cent, to a degree, when a salesperson is prepared before they pick up the phone or leave their desk to meet with anybody.

Is sales a numbers game? In other words, does doing more give better results?
It would be a fallacy to say that if we just do more of what we are doing, we’ll get better results. You may get more results relative to the effort you put in, but you won’t be satisfied. And you can’t sustain it because you will have people running the treadmill much too hard—I’ll call that emotional capital. And in sales, that’s the emotional part people don’t see. If you burn through emotional capital quickly, you’ll have people who will quit, your sales results will be low and your sales team will be unstable.

Does the 80/20 rule work?
The 80/20 rule is when 20 per cent of a business’s customers produce 80 per cent of sales for said business. The salesperson’s challenge is to find who is going to be that next 20 per cent person. What might be your top 20 per cent today, may not be your top 20 next quarter because their business could shift, their needs could change. If we use the 80/20 rule and we rest on that, pretty soon it becomes 90/10. It’s important to understand the 80/20 rule, but it’s also important to understand that it can quickly become 90/10 or 95/5 if left unattended.

At what stage should a company be at before it begins to look for practical sales advice or mentorship?
A common mistake that companies make is that they don’t ask for any practical advice around sales process. They get to a certain stage and (a) growth is curtailed because they don’t have process and reach a plateau or (b) revenue starts to decline because they don’t have people doing things in a best practices way or (c) worse, two or three sales people leave, all of a sudden the sales department is empty and the company is really scrambling. The sooner a company gets clear on what the best practice sales process is for them, the better prepared it will be to weather whatever might happen in the marketplace.

What are some effective ways to keep a sales team motivated?
There are two ways to keep salespeople motivated. First, ensure that their compensation plan has the right mix of base salary and commission earnings. In my experience the higher the base salary portion, the lower the motivation for a salesperson to sell hard and overachieve their sales plan. Also, uncapped plans work the best, meaning, the more a person sells the more money they can make. The second motivational approach is simple but deceivingly powerful. Underneath the paycheque is a person that needs to feel valued, and needs to understand how what they do contributes to the big picture. Even if that person had a big sales win, they still need someone to pat them on the back and say, “You did a good job.” As far as keeping sales people motivated, that’s the number one easiest thing to do which sales managers often forget.

Different sales people are motivated by different things, so cash rewards are only one way to motivate them. Some people want recognition, which is why many companies have president clubs and sales awards and sales person of the month. Some people are very motivated by time off. You may want to give a mix of days off or an extra week of vacation if someone achieves certain benchmarks.

To motivate sales people you need to start off by recognizing each of your team members and then put together some sort of compensation plan that feeds their core motivators.