There are certain traits that elevate a salesperson’s success. In fact, through years of conducting personality assessments, The Omnia Group’s data points to 17 distinct types of salespeople made up of various personality traits. Given today’s environment, though, one characteristic stands out above all others, and that’s courage.
Sales has never been an easy job, and I think it is fair to say it’s even more challenging today. Let’s face it; many of us relied on face-to-face, in-person meetings to build rapport with key decision-makers. The conversations that occurred before and after the formal meeting, over drinks and dinner and the people you could connect with just walking down a hallway of your client’s headquarters helped form a deeper understanding of the client’s culture, their daily norms. You were able to use that to forge deeper relationships that ultimately helped larger deals and client longevity.
In today’s environment, with no in-person meetings and limited networking opportunities, it’s feeling almost impossible to form these deeper connections. After all – how deep and wide can you go on a 60-minute call when we’re limited by bandwidth, attention spans, and home distractions. Based on the latest research though, our clients don’t want this from us anyway. According to a recent McKinsey report, more than three quarters of buyers and sellers say they now prefer digital self-serve and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions — a sentiment that has steadily intensified even after lockdowns have ended. Safety is one reason, of course. But self-serve and remote interactions have made it easier for buyers to get information, place orders, and arrange service. Customers have enjoyed that speed and convenience. Only about 20 percent of B2B buyers say they hope to return to in-person sales, even in sectors where field-sales models have traditionally dominated, such as pharma and medical products.
So why courage? Because committing to a career in sales has never been for the faint-hearted. And being a success in today’s environment is even harder. Let’s look at some of the realities:
Consider these stats:
So, our company and our families rely on us, we’ve placed a good share of our income at risk, and our buyers are more difficult to reach and connect with than ever before. Clients expect us to show up steeped in knowledge about their business and industry. They need us to be well versed in how our product will help them reach their goals. That’s always been what’s hard about sales. Couple with today’s changing sales environment where we must find ways to do all of this differently and creatively. We’re using new technologies every day – because after all, we need to meet our customers where they are. If they want to use Microsoft Teams, Zoom, email, text, online chat, or any other modality, we must be prepared to navigate it instantly.
A career in sales can be lucrative and very rewarding – that’s probably why 1 in 10 of us across the world have committed to this career. Succeeding in sales in today’s business environment takes a new level of persistence, innovation, and endurance. It’s daunting and more difficult to do day in and day out when the odds feel stacked against us, as proven by the statistics above. To get up every day and try new things and push through the obstacles – to put our necks on the line for our companies, our families, and ourselves takes courage.
Admittedly, it is often easier to draw on our courage when proven sales traits are also present. That’s where an assessment can help. Courageous salespeople understand how to tap into their competitive drive, natural resilience, and bold tenacity to navigate the new sales landscape before us.
Dictionary.com defines courage as the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear, bravery.
I’m inspired by and like to combine that definition with what Franklin D. Roosevelt said about courage many years ago - “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” For me, helping a customer make better hiring decisions and increase their engagement and retention is worth pushing through the obstacles facing us today. That’s more important than the fear of rejection or having to struggle with new technologies.
I hope you’ll join me in courageously pressing through.
Fifty-five percent of the people making their living in sales do not have the right skills to be successful. Let that number sink in … over half need more coaching. How many are on your sales team? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 14.3 million people are working in sales and related revenue-generating occupations, so that means only 6.5 million of them will be successful. Can you imagine how many unhappy, dissatisfied salespeople are frustrated that they’re not hitting their numbers and are miserable going to work each day?
When I came across this study, I was genuinely alarmed. In fact, the article was called “21 Mind-Blowing Sales Stats”. And blow my mind they did. It was a stop what I’m doing and take a huge gulp moment. And I truly believe it doesn’t have to be this way. These are numbers that can be improved. When people are aligned to a role that best fits their unique personality traits and strengths and are supported by a leader committed to coaching and developing them along the way, they can be successful. Mindtickle recently published a study that says effective sales coaching can improve sales reps’ performance by 20%.
First, we must embrace the reality that coaching is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor, which might explain why it often falls to the wayside. A sales leader must understand the unique traits, strengths, challenges, and motivational drivers for their individual sales reps to coach effectively. The good news is, there is an easy way to enable and coach different personality styles that actually works. Employee behavioral assessments promote a deeper understanding of your sales reps' personality traits. All it takes is ten minutes of your employee's time and a willingness to use the information to modify coaching and leadership techniques based on personality styles.
Once you know the innate individual traits among your team members, you can design action plans for coaching and development. This data also provides helpful insight into how best to motivate individuals and, better yet, avoid de-motivating them. Let’s look at some examples across a few primary sales personality traits The Omnia Group measures.
Level of Assertiveness: If you’ve got individuals on your team who have an extremely high level of assertiveness, and hopefully you do, you can be comfortable knowing they are typically self-driven with a strong need to win. It’s likely that these individuals don’t need coaching to make enough calls, get to the decision-makers, and ask for the business. On the flip side, though, sales reps with this trait can come across as overly aggressive and may have difficulty backing down from deals that aren’t going to happen. To coach this style effectively, take time to observe their sales calls and watch for an overly forceful tone. Listen to how their buyers react to this style. Use these observations to bring awareness to your sales rep on the impact their behaviors may have on winning over the prospect and getting the deal.
Professionals with a high level of assertiveness are motivated by individual goals and knowing their progress toward those goals. They love seeing their achievements posted on weekly sales standings. They’re likely to be de-motivated by an overly zealous sales leader who wants to be on every call with them – these folks like to run their own show. So when you go on calls with them, you need to bring your A-game and make sure you’re adding value to the call.
Another important personality trait to understand is the individual’s communication style. Some salespeople are highly motivated by being around people and are natural rapport builders. While they can win people over easily with their enthusiasm, they may not be listening closely enough to discern the client’s true need for your solution or identifying the concern that keeps them from buying. When going over a deal review, make sure you ask these individuals for details regarding the client’s needs and their true concerns. Actively engage in brainstorming on how to best follow through to keep the deal moving forward. Also, be sure they have identified the true decision-maker and aren’t just relying on a single relationship to get the deal.
Individuals who are highly communicative and people-oriented may be struggling the most with not being able to make face-to-face appointments right now, and they likely miss collaboration with their teams. Ensure they have the support to attend virtual networking events and offer up multiple ways to connect with colleagues across the organization. While a lot of the world is “Zoomed out,” sales reps with this personality trait will likely be energized by virtual happy hour and ice breaker activities.
Another concerning statistic is this one: Over 60% of salespeople are more likely to leave their job if their manager is a poor coach. Coaching, like most skills, requires practice and focused attention. It’s a good bet that the manager didn’t have effective coaching skills or wasn’t hitting the right mark in coaching the sales rep based on individual needs. This leads me to another key sales trait…
The Need for Autonomy vs. Structure: Sales professionals with a high need for autonomy could have a visceral reaction to a sales leader who micro-manages their activities or a finance department that buries them knee-deep in the weeds of contract terms and conditions. These sales individuals are not naturally focused on details and resist getting bogged down in them. And yet we know as sales leaders that these details can make or break a deal. It’s best to arm a big-picture salesperson with a strong support system to proofread their proposals or go over product details with their clients. They thrive when they have a strong sales engineer, solution architect, or client advisor supporting them and the client through the sales cycle. They’ll be indebted to the sales leader who gets them these resources, and the deals they bring in will make it worth the investment.
It’s also super important to be consistent in coaching and development across your sales team. Nobody is motivated when they’re held to a different standard, perceive they have less support, or feel they don’t have the resources to effectively do their job. Here are some key questions to ask ourselves when it comes to making sure we’ve set up our team for success:
Have I clearly defined expectations? It’s important that everyone has a clear understanding of what success looks like and what key behaviors and activities are expected across the team. Then, be sure you hold everyone accountable. People notice when someone else is getting away with something they’re not and de-motivated when others don’t do their share.
Have I provided sufficient training? Every salesperson comes with different experiences and skillsets. Conduct a gap analysis and clearly identify what skills need to be developed at an individual level, then provide the training needed to get them there. High-performing sales organizations are twice as likely to provide ongoing training as low-performing ones. (75 Key Sales Statistics That'll Help You Sell Smarter in 2020)
Have I “inspected what I expect”? – Once you’ve laid out expectations, it’s critical to review and make sure the actions are taking place. Provide on-going recognition and praise for the people who are doing what you expect; highlight how these actions led to wins and successes. For those not doing what you expect – double down on the coaching and explore why it’s not happening. It may be that more training is needed, or it may be that this person is not up for the job.
Am I adapting to changing circumstances? – Clearly, the goals we set in January 2020 may not be realistic for where we are today. The best organizations and leaders are agile and adaptive to changing circumstances. Salespeople are motivated by wins. Make sure you’re adjusting your goals, expectations, and leadership approach to current times.
And finally – Have I asked for feedback? Let’s face it, we don’t have all the answers, and we don’t always get it right. Take time to ask your salespeople what it is that you can do to better support their success. There may be things you’re doing that you’re not aware of that are de-motivating and having unintended consequences on their productivity. This can be a tough thing to do. Put your ego aside, listen to what they have to say, look for trends and consistent themes, and, most importantly, act on what you heard.
As sales leaders, we have a responsibility to our business to bring the revenue in, and the only way we can do that is through an engaged, productive, and successful sales team. When we take the time to understand what makes our teammates tick, what motivates and demotivates them, and what they need for development, we can provide the specific coaching they need to hit that success. Just think, we can contribute to millions of people going to bed each night knowing they have what it takes to succeed and happier in their jobs. Let’s get to it.
Not everyone loves hiring. Does anyone love hiring? Does anyone like hiring? Some parts of it can be fun: the excitement of bringing in new people and new ideas, imagining the possibilities, the hilarious typos on the resumes. But it can be a slog. Especially right now, many job postings will lead to a flood of resumes and applications. That’s a good thing, right? Well, not exactly. According to Barry Schwartz, the author of The Paradox of Choice, having too many options makes us humans pretty unhappy. We suffer from fear of missing out and agonize over the best choice. Of course, having too many choices as a hiring manager means a LOT more work. You want to do it because you want to find the best person for your sales team, but you also have other things to do.
What if you didn’t have to start from zero every time you hire? What if -- instead of dealing with job postings, sifting through the virtual stacks of resumes, making the calls, and struggling with the anxiety – you just picked up the phone and made a call to the right person, and a couple of weeks later, they just started?
There is a way. Creating a talent pipeline can save yourself a lot of work, uncertainty, and, yes, even unhappiness!
What is this magical time saver?
According to HR (Human Resources) Technologist, “A talent pipeline is defined as a ready pool of potential candidates who are qualified and prepared to step up and fill relevant key roles within the organization as soon as they fall vacant.”
In other words, you have a waiting and willing list of people you can call on as soon as you have an opening. Ideally, they would be clamoring to join your team, they will have been moderately vetted in advance, and they have the skills, experience, or attitude (or all three!) you want.
Here are 5 steps to building your very own talent pipeline.
There are steps you can take to start building your talent pipeline right now. The sooner, the better. Because let’s be honest, a lot of people have baked a lot of sourdough bread these past few months. There are going to be some award winners out there.
In organizations, we celebrate the sales team for bringing new business to the firm. After all, a company can’t survive for long without revenue. But, on the other side of many org charts sits the isolated, often forgotten, customer service team. This department is usually regarded as a cost center, rather than a company asset.
If you’re considering customer service as a money pit, think again. According to American Express, 90% of Americans use customer service as a factor in deciding whether to do business with a company. Quality customer support is imperative for sales.
If your company sees service as a weight, you’re likely leaving revenue on the table and alienating customers. Invesp notes that investing in new customers is between 5 and 25 times more expensive than retaining existing ones. In fact, in 2019 nine percent of American consumers switched companies due to poor customer service, says New Voice Media.
For best results, both sales and service need to work in tandem to provide the best-in-class experience your customers deserve. Let’s explore how to foster a winning dynamic between the two teams.
Before we dive into strategy, let’s examine the true significance of your company’s customer service department. Although the perception often is that this team exists solely to put out complaint fires and appease customers, the reality is that they do so much more. Did you know, 73% of customers fall in love with a brand and remain loyal because of friendly customer service reps, reports RightNow.
Customer service is the front line for your business. They make or break the customer experience. Want more proof? New Voice Media also reports that the #1 reason customers switch to a new brand is that they feel unappreciated, while 78% of customers have backed out of a purchase due to poor customer experience.
Starting to see how customer service impacts sales? If you need more convincing, consider that consumers are willing to spend 17% more on a company with outstanding customer service, reports American Express, and 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies who offer excellent customer service, according to HubSpot Research.
When the customer service team is operating at peak efficiency, they do much more than resolve issues. They foster relationships with customers. They put smiles on their faces. And they leave a favorable lasting impression of your brand in their minds. All of this equals a high customer retention rate, which means higher revenues. Bain & Company quantified this in a recent report stating that increasing customer retention rates (i.e. keeping customers happy) by just 5% can increase profits between 25% and 95%!
And, if they have the right skill set, personality, and training, your customer service team can actually bring in new business, too. They’ll nimbly move from problem solver to cross-seller or upseller, which increases customer satisfaction -- and your profits. Essentially, they’ll become an extension of your sales team.
In short, the department is absolutely vital to your company’s longevity and growth.
It’s tough for customer service to shine when they’re in conflict with the sales department. And you want them to shine, because as many as 49% of buyers have made impulse purchases after receiving a more personalized experience, according to a Segment Survey. Often selling on commission, your sales team is typically concerned with one thing and one thing only: closing the deal. This revenue-oriented drive can lead them to over-promise things to your customers. And, when the company can’t deliver, customer service is left holding the bag.
Over promising and under delivering comes with a whole host of problems for your customer service department. Those issues include:
And -- the detrimental impact to your customers can’t be overstated. When your company fails to serve them as promised, they’ll rightfully become angry and distrustful. Even worse, you’re likely to lose repeat business and, according to American Express, angry American customers are likely to share their negative experiences with about 15 people.
So, when sales and service are at odds, interdepartmental communication will be poor, job satisfaction will plummet, customer retention will worsen, and the company’s bottom line will suffer. If you can get them in sync, though, you’ll have a happy, tight-knit workforce that closes more deals and delights customers. So, how can you get the two departments on the same page?
As a leader, there are four key things you need to do to improve the interdepartmental dynamic:
Let’s look at each in turn.
The first place to look is your scorecard and your company metrics for success. Do sales and service match up? Are they working towards the same established goals? And, more importantly, do employee behaviors align with those stated success indicators?
For example, if customer service has a goal of responding to all inquiries within two business days, the sales team shouldn’t promise a same-day response. The two teams must act as one and present a clear and consistent message to customers. After all, they are both working towards the same ultimate goal of making the company successful.
Your company needs to make collaboration a normal, celebrated part of doing business that gets prioritized. Ideas and data should flow freely between the two departments. And everyone in the firm, including the sales team, should adopt the mantra that customer service is a mindset, not just a department. Bottom line: the lines of communication must stay open, and the once near-adversarial relationship should become more team-oriented.
To promote unity between the two groups, offer ample opportunities for team building. When sales and service get together in an informal but planned way, they’ll get to know each other as people and gain empathy for one another’s perspective. Sales may think twice about promising the moon to a customer just to make a sale when they know service could have to deal with customer disappointment down the line.
In addition, seeing each other perform their respective roles can be eye-opening. They’ll understand the other department’s challenges and gain respect for everything that goes into being successful in that position. Consider arranging cross-department job shadowing between sales and service at the time of hire - and on an ongoing basis to cement these new perspectives.
And, if appropriate, consider job swapping. An extroverted customer service representative with a competitive streak might enjoy being in sales for a day or two. And a detail-oriented sales associate may benefit from taking on a temporary customer service role. Just be sure you’re not setting your employees up to fail. If their personality doesn’t lend itself to the opposite role, this strategy isn’t a good fit for them - or your unsuspecting customers.
The best philosophies and attitudes don’t mean a thing if the actual company structure and business processes don’t support them. As a leader, you must provide the structure, tools, and resources your teams require to perform at their best. That could mean ensuring adequate communication systems exist (think interoffice messaging) or physically situating the departments closer together in the office to facilitate more face-to-face conversations. The key is to make collaboration as easy as possible.
If you want to better understand your team members and discover ways to help them function as a cohesive group, a Team Dynamic Report can help. Based on the results of our signature behavioral assessment, this report shows how likely each team member is to communicate with each other and reveals deeper insight into their individual strengths and weaknesses. The report will give you an action plan to facilitate collaboration, improve communication, and unify your team.
The report can be customized to fit your firm’s unique circumstances. Getting one is easy. Simply fill out a questionnaire and hop on a quick call with us, and we’ll do the rest!
Sales and service have long been at odds. But, the truth is -- they’re both playing for the same team! Sometimes, employees just need to be reminded of that. As a leader, you have the power and responsibility to foster a winning dynamic between the two groups. When you do, you’ll have an unstoppable, connected workforce that wows your customers and positions your company for long-term success.
What to do when you want your customer service team to make sales?
There is a push to get service people to sell. It makes sense: They have a captive audience and constant contact with potential buyers. Since sales generally come with financial incentives, why don't more service people naturally take advantage of selling opportunities? Here are some things to ponder when considering having your service or operations try their hand at selling.
I have what could be considered a typical service personality (cautious, reserved, systematic, detail-oriented), and when faced with the possibility of selling, my thoughts take a very rational course. I think, "If I hide under my desk, maybe they'll think I am invisible, and I won't have to do this." Yes, it's that hard for me to contemplate. Once in my rash youth, I took a job going door to door soliciting donations for a nonprofit. I needed the job desperately, and the pay was pretty good. I lasted one day. (Technically, you couldn't even call it one day since I spent much of the time shuffling around my assigned neighborhood, wishing I could sprain my ankle so I'd have an excuse for my miserable results.)
Possibly, it comes down to fight or flight. When faced with a potential competitor, natural-born salespeople do whatever they can to win (fight). Natural service people tend to back away (flight). I turn tail and run like a small rodent from an angry badger (super-flight).
If you ask me why it's so scary, I can't really tell you. Of course, there is the fear of rejection, fear of hostility, fear of disappointing my manager, and losing my job! Well, ok. That's plenty. The thing is, I know intellectually I am in no actual danger, but that doesn't stop me from having the kind of visceral, physical reaction one would expect to see in someone facing (possibly for the first time) a battle against a horde of the walking undead.
If I evaluate myself honestly, I think I could sell if I had to. I believe most people could do any job for a while. However, the incentives would have to be right, and the pressure would have to be low. (Trust me; people like me put enough internal pressure on themselves without needing much pushing from the outside.)
Also Popular: How to Foster a Winning Dynamic Between Sales and ServiceSo, what can you do to help your customer service team make sales?
The plus side is the very thing that makes service people terrified of sales makes them great at service. They need to be helpful, work well with other people, put customers' needs first, listen patiently, take feedback to heart, and do what is necessary to exceed expectations. These people can make your customers happy you hired them.
As a sales manager, dealing with the unexpected is expected. Change is a certainty. No matter how well your producers get along with their customers, there are no guarantees they’ll renew each year. This is especially true when an old contact leaves the company, and a new contact arrives. While a new regime doesn’t automatically herald a change in all business relationships, making too many assumptions could lose the customer for good. As you coach your sales team, here’s some advice to help them avoid common mistakes.
New players create new dynamics. You and your producer may have worked with this company for years, but that’s not the same as working with a particular individual for years. That means rebuilding trust and credibility from the ground up, which will take time and a willingness to learn the likes, dislikes, preferences, and goals of the new contact.
On the bright side, this mission is more than doable. Ask the customer what he or she values in a producer. Inquire about any past experiences that may have influenced her perception of your agency. Reveal what you know about the company’s pain points and how your risk management strategy has helped to eliminate them, and invite feedback. Sales is about relationships, after all.
This warning is particularly crucial when it comes to the new contact’s level of expertise. It could be that the previous decision-maker knew almost nothing about insurance and was happy to keep it that way by relying exclusively on the producer’s knowledge. Still, this new decision-maker could be cut from a different cloth. He could know quite a lot and even begin to dislike questions and statements that seem to imply otherwise.
On the other hand, the new decision-maker could consider insurance talk less than scintillating and become annoyed by efforts to engage in the details that the predecessor relished.
However, the wind blows, avoid finding out the hard way with a little research.
Every leader has a distinct style of delegation, and that’ll be important as you get to know your new contact.
For example, you may have worked directly with your previous contact, but this new decision-maker prefers you to interact with the head of HR. Don’t resist, or you’ll have two people annoyed with you who now have good reason to wonder whether you’re the best producer for them. Sure, every salesperson wants to get as close to the key decision-makers as possible, but respectfully engaging with every member of the company will earn the kind of longevity that usurping the chain never could.
Just as we can take our personal relationships for granted, we can sometimes take our work relationships for granted, making it easy for our competitors to lure our customers away. Defend your turf by keeping your relationship fresh. Stay in touch with monthly e-blasts or short e-newsletters. Be available to answer questions and solve problems. Know your products inside and out to quickly point out the benefits your customers may be unaware of. Develop and offer related services. Be thorough and diligent; these qualities are precious in the complex, small-print world of insurance.
This seems obvious, but many fail to do it. Nothing is more frustrating for a customer than to request a specific policy with certain features, be told he can get it, and then be presented, without explanation, with something that doesn’t fit the bill. At best, the customer will conclude you’re a poor listener. At worst, she may determine you’re arrogant and careless. It goes without saying that neither of these characterizations is desirable.
A reasonable customer is open to hearing why something isn’t possible and will respect you for taking the time to explain it.
Self-awareness is often the difference between success and failure. When we have insight into our own sales style, it helps us connect better with others, including the new contact. Are you verbose or straightforward? Fast-paced or methodical? Thorough or light on the details? Knowing who you are as a salesperson is the best tool for effectively modifying your approach to meet your audience's demands. A behavioral assessment geared specifically to sales in a non-threatening, helpful format is a great way to build self-awareness in a sales team and even improve the sales manager’s ability to coach each producer.
Steven Covey popularized the concept of an emotional bank account in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Just like a financial institution, our emotional banks are subject to deposits and withdrawals. Acts that increase trust (telling the truth, apologizing for errors, and keeping promises) are deposits into the emotional bank; acts that decrease trust (failing to keep commitments and showing unkindness) are withdrawals. Too many withdrawals and not enough deposits make for damaged relationships.
Closing the deal feels great, but maintaining the business feels better. Follow these tips, and your customers’ personnel changes don’t have to mean big changes for your agency and producers.