First Steps to Coaching a High Performance Sales Team

March 11, 2015 Leave a reply

So you have just started a new role or inherited a sales team what do you do? First you start with the who – the people, then the how – the sales process, and lastly the why – the metrics and targets they and you will in effect be measured by.

The Who

Like anything in life you need to sit down with each of them and understand why they are here, what was their journey to this point, and what is their destination or end goal.

Importantly what motivates them (money, status, job satisfaction, recognition), what about their role do they enjoy and what do they dislike, what do they do well, and where can they improve.

Your own ability at breaking the ice, building trust and demonstrating integrity will be crucial in them opening up and being honest with you. If you are able to demonstrate some of your own background, challenges and even past vulnerabilities that will help in levelling the conversation.

Once you understand their roles, where they fit in the company, their motivations and strengths and weaknesses this places you in a good position to understand the people aspect and how you can coach them to be the best.

The How

Next is looking at the sales process so what do they do, how a lead comes in to the business, how it is captured and nurtured and what systems and processes are in place to turn that lead if qualified in to a customer. That means analysing the sales lead workflow, marketing automation, CRM system, and data capture. How the team prepare for sales calls or meetings and the ever important follow-up. Key areas of focus should be pipeline management, forecasting and negotiation and close. Coaching all the team members across the sales process and refining their skills and ability in each area will be essential to have them all high performing.

The Why

Lastly reviewing the metrics and targets, these must be done together as one impacts the other. If your metrics are wrong then you’ll never over-achieve on your targets. By starting with the target you can work back on what metrics and activities you need to hit to get there. If you know the average sales value and the conversion rates for each team member then you can quickly identify how many sales calls or meetings need to be performed to reach target and by when. Also by having data and metrics about your ideal customers and those that convert the highest you can focus on the right customer segments.

When were the targets last hit is a really good question and there really is no point on having targets that no-one can hit. You then have a demotivated team and if there are winners in that team they’ll go elsewhere as no-one wants to be at 50% of target all year. You need to look behind the numbers and understand what is realistic based on historical data, where your product/service sits in the market right now and how you are driving more leads in to your sales funnel.

You’ll rarely have all the team performing at 100% or more but when the majority are above this line then you have momentum to really grow and a happy CEO and a happy sales team!

The 14 Sales Questions We Need to Ask

December 2, 2014 Leave a reply

1. Do you have a clear sales strategy and is it still relevant and appropriate for what you sell, who sells it and whom you sell it to?

2. What is your compelling sales proposition? What makes it unique or different and how does it match up to your competition?

3. Do you have a Sales and Marketing plan with clear vision and SMART objectives for your company and team?

4. Are the roles and responsibilities clear between team members, Sales and Marketing and Business Development?

5. Who is in charge of leadership, training, coaching and mentoring? Are your sales people improving? Do they know where and on what to focus their time/energy?

6. Does your sales team have achievable and communicated sales targets? Are your sales team members appropriately rewarded and incentivized to make sales and hit/exceed sales targets? How do you communicate and reward customer wins?

7. What is your target market? What are your different routes or channels to that market? Which ones are fastest or optimal?

8. What is your Buyer Profile? What problem does your product/service solve?

9. How do you generate leads? Where do you capture this and other prospect information? How do you analyse trends and report on the business success/failure?

10. What is the split that you need of existing versus new business? What is your client retention rate? What is your new business conversion rate?

11. Do you sell face to face or over the phone? How do your sales people sell? What methodology do they use? Does it matter? How many sales stages are there in your sales process? Is it different across the team? Why?

12. Do you sell products or services? What do you want to sell? Can you bundle your products into a service? Is that easier/more profitable?

13. Do you have/measure sales KPIs? Do you have a CRM system? Does your sales team submit sales forecasts? Do you have regular Sales Pipeline reviews? How often do you meet as a team? How do you share sales best practices? What tools do you/they use?

14. How often do you meet your Clients? Why is it important? Who do you meet? What do you discuss? How is this feedback communicated to the company?

When I meet Company Directors for the first time I try and ask most of these questions to get an understanding of what problems and challenges they are facing in their sales team. The answers are always interesting but more often than not they are very similar regardless of company size, industry or sales team complexity. We then start work on developing a high performing sales team of independent creative and entrepreneurial members yet also unafraid to ask for help!

Coaching Great Teams

November 10, 2014 Leave a reply

As I watch my North London football team capitulate again and England narrowly lose to New Zealand in both forms of Rugby I think about leadership and team coaching.

As members of a team whether that is sporting, I coach an under-15 rugby union team in my spare time, or in business we all make decisions and judgements that affect the outcome. Many times these are snap or quick decisions and therefore we need a toolkit and to know what options we have. These can often be taught or are learnt from making mistakes. Our coaches and leaders help us to make the right decisions.

Yes we also need Managers to help us but far better if they don’t just manage but also coach, mentor, inspire and lead us and then we can really look up to them. We are not automatons and therefore we need constant motivation, inspiration and desire to improve all aspects of our job whether that is as a sports person or as a sales person.

Coaching helps us focus on aspects of our role and step back and look at what we do and think positively about what we can do to improve rather than just negative criticism. After all no-one really likes criticism.

A coach who has been in our situation is more respected than one who hasn’t (armchair critic) and it is the same with sales. An experienced Sales Director can effectively coach, mentor, inspire and develop your sales people to improve what they do by discussing real world scenarios and providing proven tools, processes and tactics. A winning mentality is infectious and of course no-one likes losing…

Jefferson Sales has been leading and coaching sales people and creating high performing sales teams in companies since 2005.

Sales Heavy Hitters vs Sales Leaders

November 10, 2014 Leave a reply

During the last few years of downturn there has been much discussion about leadership, or lack of, and how this is impacting not only local markets but the global economy.

What are you doing in your SMB (Small Medium Business) about sales and marketing leadership? Is your sales and marketing strategy and plan clear to your people?

When you started your business you probably did all the sales and marketing yourself. This then evolved into you hiring a dedicated sales person and perhaps using a marketing agency or marketing part-timer. The sales team grew but still there was no need for any robust “management” as it could be handled with the odd catch up phone call or meeting.

Now, however, there is a small dedicated sales team, they need direction and attention and you are too busy running a larger more sophisticated business. What do you do?

One situation we come upon quite regularly is that SMB Owners promote their best sales person into a sales management role. This follows a number of assumptions; 1) that their sales ability will rub off on those in the team; 2) that they will coach them all to be heavy hitters; 3) that they are also strong sales leaders and managers; 4) that promoting them will mean that they are more likely to stay and increase company loyalty; 5) that they can get two for the price of one. Wrong…

You just took your best sales person out of a direct selling role into a more administrative/management role which will either mean that they’ll get bogged down in non-selling related tasks and become frustrated that they aren’t selling anymore or remain totally involved in selling and feel they’ve failed to properly lead and manage the sales team. Your sales figures will most likely become impacted, you’ll return the sales heavy hitter back to selling and they’ll feel and be perceived as being demoted that “it didn’t work out” or that they failed.

Is this a risk that you want to take particularly at this time?

The reality is that at some time in the evolution of your sales and marketing team it will make sense to hire a professional Sales Leader and Manager in your business full-time but what can you do in the meantime to make sure that your sales team have leadership. Hire a Part Timer…

A part-time experienced and professional Sales Leader brings an established tool kit and way of working that is cost effective, resource effective and time effective. It may only need 1 or 2 days per week to rally the troops, agree the sales forecast, advise on the sales pipeline, agree tactics to close more business sooner, evaluate any sales development gaps, and coach and mentor the sales team to be the very best.

Jefferson Sales has been providing part-time sales management services to SMB Owners since 2005.

Sales Under-Performance – Don’t leave it too long!

November 7, 2014 Leave a reply

The truth is that once a Managing Director decides to hire an external sales consultant to review their sales team or sales department they have often left it too long.

The company has been in sales growth decline for at least 6 months, some sales team members have been behind their sales targets for 12 months or more and never got a sales forecast correct. This has demotivated other members of the team and has created a culture of “it’s okay to under-perform”.

The truth is that it is okay to have a bad quarter but two in a row or more and questions need to be asked. But where does the fault lie if you’ve created the culture where this is acceptable?

For many companies they are in decline, their product or service used to be competitive and lead the market but they stopped innovating and lost their agility and flexibility. They stopped listening to the market-place and went into their shells. Some sales team members became lazy and complacent and there is little new blood coming in to shake up the hierarchy.

As their competitors adopted sales tools and improved their sales processes and moved from transactional to consultative and value-based selling they were able to steal a march. Using CRM and business intelligence from their marketing departments and deeper understanding of client needs they were able to build better relationships and predict future needs. They were also able to innovate their products and services to better align with these needs and structure their sales teams better around these customers.

The market for your products or services is constantly changing and your sales structure and team need to be able to adapt to these changes. The old way of selling won’t work any more and if you are the Managing Director you need to act sooner rather than later before it becomes harder to implement change.

Getting an external perspective or performing an independent sales and marketing audit of your department might be one good approach.

Jefferson Sales provides independent sales management consultancy and interim sales services to Managing Directors and can be contacted on:

T: +44 (0)20 7096 2005



Why hire a part-time Sales Manager?

November 15, 2011 Leave a reply

In today’s economic climate it is even more important to keep your focus on sales and the steady growth of your business. As competitors find it difficult and scale back there will be more opportunities for you, if they don’t make it then there will be more customers for you. As the saying goes “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”.

For many businesses they don’t have the need, the budget, or the desire to take the risk of hiring a full-time Sales Director or Manager to manage the Sales team. The reality is that your best Sales person is not necessarily the best person to move into this role as the Sales team gets bigger or more geographically dispersed. After all inevitably he or she will be spending less time “selling” and more time “managing”. This is not good news when Sales are harder.

What we have been doing over the last three years is providing interim and part time Sales Directors to performance manage the Sales teams in client companies and we really believe this is a long term solution for companies not able to hire full time Sales Management. The benefits are numerous:

  • More cost effective paying for 1-2 days per week rather than 5 days
  • Less intrusive for the Sales team so they become more independent
  • Reduce the need for management to get involved in Sales performance
  • Real experience of managing, developing, building and motivating successful sales people
  • Flexible resource that can be turned on or off as needed
  • Sales team learn new skills from experienced Sales Directors
  • Consolidate and streamline Sales reporting and pipeline management
  • Meeting and call shadowing to improve presentation, communication, and negotiation skills
  • Proper coaching and mentoring of Sales team
  • Assistance in identifying poor performers and Sales people in the wrong job
  • Making sure that motivation and incentives reflect the Sales market-place
  • Helping with strategic direction of company and growth objectives
  • Using executive Global 500 network to assist with Sales

We have helped all sorts of Business to Business companies; some on a project basis getting them in better shape for sale or merger; some to assist the Managing Director start a new business or reorganise a function; some with start up funding but no Sales management structure, and many others to improve Sales systems, Sales processes and the performance of their Sales People.

Please call us to discuss your challenge, it is more than likely that we have heard it all before and have examples of solutions we have provided to reassure you that we can help.

Sales Outsourcing

October 25, 2011 Leave a reply

Sections published in Independent Business – June 2006 Hertfordshire Edition

This article briefly explores the question of whether companies should outsource their sales function and/or look outside their organisation for support with sales.

There is definitely a lack of flexible and shared-cost sales expertise for small and medium sized businesses. If we need an accountant, solicitor, or IT specialist we are generally spoilt for choice, and can engage them usually on either an hourly or retention basis. With sales resource there is generally only the option to employ a sales person full-time or use a telemarketing/telesales operation.

Sales outsourcing is still relatively new but it is catching on as a flexible, pay-as-you-need, service. After all, if you feel comfortable outsourcing your finance function why wouldn’t you feel the same about outsourcing sales. The issues for both come down to “perceived control” and of course “trust”.

As many of you know, hiring sales people is not enough, they need to be managed and their activity and results properly monitored. (Some people can work independently and get on with it, others cannot, and you may not always find an individual who can sell and also be independent). If you’ve managed a large diverse sales team then you’re in a better position to do this than for example an already very busy Managing Director.

So why would you look outside your organisation or hire someone part-time? External perspectives on your business are valued, and introducing tried and tested methodologies can work for most business types, after all where would “management consultancy” be if this wasn’t true. However, there are a number of additional reasons why using an external sales consultant or “interim” makes sense:

  •           Broader industry/sector experience and executive network
  •           Independence and objectivity
  •           External perspective on your sales and marketing proposition
  •           Sales process methodologies
  •           Understanding of sales key performance metrics
  •           Been there, got the t-shirt in the sales discipline
  •           Clearer focus, enthusiasm and motivation – vested interest in performing well
  •           More senior sales expertise than you could afford full-time
  •           Cost – no fixed costs
  •           Flexibility – on a need basis

Generally sales people stick to one industry or sector and have a specialism and network that reflects this. Many sales management consultants have deliberately worked across industries and sectors to build up a more varied and layered experience which provides “out of the box” thinking and means they can work for different sorts of businesses. Independence and objectivity enable the consultant to make apolitical decisions and see things more clearly without historical factors or being caught in a silo. They can also be more critical about your sales and marketing proposition to customers and help you differentiate from competitors (what makes you different, what are you offering, why would I buy from your company?).

Sales process follows a defined set of stages within the qualification and close of a sale and can be implemented in any business with minimal tweaking. If you are not selling effectively it usually means there is a gap or breakdown in the sales process within your company. Do you have the right sales structures in place, do your sales people have the tools to be most effective, what customer relationship management system is used, how accurately do they forecast business coming in, how are they incentivised and motivated?

In many businesses the sales people are hired by the Managing Director and he or she does not know what sales people should do, how they should approach the sale or the customer, what are appropriate activity levels, what are the benchmarks, after all he or she just want them to “sell”. Often the sales people moved into a sales position from another area of the business and have had no formal sales training. By introducing key performance metrics and even formal sales reporting the Managing Director will be able to “performance manage” the sales function.

We all know we get a bit stale when we do the same thing day in day out. Also sales people do “burn out” and usually have 2-3 years of success before their sales dwindle. A fresh approach is needed and someone who works in your business for a fixed or ongoing part-time basis brings enthusiasm to the role and a clear focus. Consultants don’t take lunch breaks! Their attitude is very different from that of a full-time member of staff. If they don’t perform well you won’t ask them back and you won’t recommend them to other companies.

Many companies would prefer to have a great sales person 2 days a week than a mediocre one 5 days a week, and if we could afford them full-time all the better. However, the likelihood is that we might find it hard to handle that much business, and therefore a part-time “heavy hitter” works well.

So how much is it going to cost, and won’t it be more expensive than hiring someone full-time? The daily rate will certainly be more expensive than the cost of employing someone at first glance if you annualise it. However, did you factor in the following; pay as you need, no bonus to pay, no pension costs, no car costs, no training costs, no health cover, no computer, no mobile phone, no expense account, no recruitment or redundancy costs, no office space, no employer’s National Insurance (12.8%), and you don’t need to pay them for 30 days paid holiday and 10 days of average sick pay per year. You’ve probably worked it out for yourself!

Matt Jefferson is Managing Director of Jefferson Sales based in Hertfordshire and can be contacted by phone on 020 7096 2005. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management.

By providing an objective and independent view of your sales proposition and strategy for growth, sales processes and management systems, sales peoples’ ability and performance, business development and customer acquisition strategies, Jefferson Sales are able to see things clearly and ensure that you get the results you need.

The Interim Sales Director Answer

October 21, 2011 1 Comment

As companies move out of survival mode into recovery some more forward thinking company executives are realising that they need to invest quickly in sales again to stem competition and get ahead of the recovery curve. How many salespeople are pointing to the recession and blaming this for lack of sales, and more importantly how long after the downturn will it take them to move out of this mental state?

There is a current upsurge in companies looking down the Interim Sales Director route as a quick and flexible way to rapidly grow sales and increase existing sales team performance. An Interim Sales Director can join the team almost immediately, is adept at jumping in at the deep end, learning the ropes quickly and using their skills and experience at gaining significant sales results.

The Interim Sales Director can work in your business full or part-time based upon budgets and needs and brings with them a KPI tool kit to increase sales activity, effectiveness and results at a time when the existing sales team is suffering from “sales decision inertia” from prospects and clients alike. Many an Interim Sales Director brings an executive network of groomed contacts and decision makers that will prove invaluable in gaining new sales.

Recent Projects:

Interim Sales Director Hertfordshire Software Development Company
Interim Sales Director London Leadership Development Consultancy

For an understanding of how an Interim Sales Director could have a positive impact on your business right now please contact Jefferson Sales on 020 7096 2005!

Business Link Hertfordshire News Item

4 Tec Security Ltd was established in 1992 by Managing Director, Ralph Sherriff, to provide bespoke, high-tech security systems. They have become one of Britain’s leading independent high quality security installation companies and now employ 20 staff.

The problem
Ralph explains “Despite having a small sales team, I had been the top salesman in the company and knew this situation had to change. I wanted simultaneously to grow sales, develop the sales department and to step away from managing the sales team so that I could focus my efforts on the overall management of the business – the bigger picture.

“I tried several approaches with varying degrees of success, but in February 2006 my general manager suggested bringing in someone to ‘interim-manage’ the sales team and develop their skills and capability. I decided to approach Business Link because I knew that I would get impartial, appropriate and objective advice.

The solution
Gill Targett-Adams, Business Adviser at Business Link, worked with Ralph to identify where he needed help and to develop a solution which would take his business forward. She helped Ralph to re-benchmark 4 Tec Security’s business performance using the Business Performance Diagnostic, which confirmed Ralph’s belief that sales growth was lagging behind that of their competitors.

Ralph and Gill discussed the type of support which Ralph wanted, especially the outcomes which he wanted the project to generate. Using Business Link’s Supplier Matching Service, which uses a database of approved consultants and suppliers of business services, Gill sourced three potential suppliers who could take on the interim sales management role. Ralph met two of the potential suppliers and selected Matt Jefferson of Jefferson Sales, the supplier he believed would be the best ‘fit’ for his project.

The outcome
Matt worked with 4 Tec Security’s sales team over three months and significant increases in the sales capacity of the sales team members were achieved during that period. As Ralph says “It was important to make sure that the project was on-track and evaluate performance as it progressed. I am very pleased with the way that the department has developed and continues to do so. The project was completed on budget and within the planned timescale.”

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