EVERYTHING IS EASY WHEN YOU KNOW
Most people fail because they have no structure. While we were going through major product development issues, we needed to prepare the company for the next step and focused on adding structure to our organization. At the time (2000), we were learning by doing. Now, we adopted the motto: “you can only change what you can measure” and started measuring everything! We hired someone to document every single process of the company as if we were going for the ISO 9000 certification and started structuring everything. It brought clarity to our employees defining roles, responsibilities, and most importantly…expectations.
As we grew, it was natural to offer our best employees management or team leader positions. They had the right knowledge and experience, and we thought they would be able to develop an all star team under them. So we took our best sales guy and made him the Sales Manager. It was the biggest mistake. He didn’t have the right leadership skills, so not only was he a bad manager, but we lost our best sales guy. We learned an important lesson the hard way: Putting good people in the wrong position is a huge mistake.
A PASSION FOR SALES
BUILDING THE BEST SALES TEAM IN THE MARKET
We started sales training and put so much effort to give them the possibility to be better. We expect that if we provide them with the training, they would be willing to learn and change.
They were not willing to learn. They listened and just went back to the same old tactics. We did everything we could think of. We got them the best trainers (for $7,000/day) and even invested in speech pattern training called Neuro Linguistic Speech Training.
One day, we created a sales training dvd and told them they had to watch it, so we could go over it the following week. In the middle of the video, I came out asking them to send me an email once they watched the video. Not one person sent the email. No one watched the video! This was very frustrating and disappointing to me. I found that people are generally lazy and just giving them the opportunity was not enough…you have to force them to learn it.
In my experience, I found that if you trust blindly, you will always be disappointed. People will lie to you, but once you go deeper, you know they are lying. You can’t just believe. You have to always check it yourself, and they have to know you are checking.
One sales meeting, I asked a question, and the guy was lying for more than 20 minutes. I dug deeper and deeper in front of the entire team until it became obvious to everyone that he was lying. I grabbed my Sony Notebook and crashed it into the wall behind him. I admit, it was extreme, but everyone knew lying would not be tolerated and they better know their sh..stuff. People can do better, but you have to force them to do better.
I can’t stress enough how important data is. I once fired 20 people because the data was incorrect. When we started measuring everything, we paid particular attention to the Sales Funnel. We measured every step of the funnel by agent by day/week/month: How many cold calls we made, how long was the call, how many appointments resulted, how many estimates, how many closings, etc. It was challenging to get the right data, but over time, you know exactly what’s going on. We were able to identify the problems and train them where they were weak. Some were good on the phone and getting appointments but bad at closing, while others were terrible on the phone but were closing machines.
THE WINNING FORMULA
Once we had the data, we could see how the top performers were doing it, model it and then copy it. We recorded calls, and learned from the best. We stopped talking about “why you can’t sell it”, to what was your best sales experience and transferred the knowledge to the rest of the team.
We would have everyone write down their goals (in permanent marker) for how many calls, appointments and closed sales they would achieve by week/month/quarter and published the Actual performance vs the Goal for everyone to see. We even started projecting stats on the wall — You didn’t want to be at the bottom. It was important to have transparency with everybody, not just among the sales team. Non-salespeople can be jealous, because sales agents get paid lots of money, but now they could see why the sales team was so important.
We had several offices with many people working outside the headquarters, which made it difficult to manage. So we made EVERYONE come in EVERY Friday, not matter from where and we did it together.
We created friendly competition within the sales team and played sales games to force everyone to perform within the group. We had everyone post their goals on the wall of how many calls they would do in 5 hours and measured Actual vs the Goal for everyone to see.
One week, we played a simple game and asked each agent how many appointments they will get today? We put a clear glass cylinder in front of each sales agent, and every time they got an appointment, they would put a tennis ball in the cylinder. It created a great visual impact for everyone to see how many sales each agent had done.
Another week, I asked each person to send me their three best calls they had and we reviewed them together. There were some terrible calls! Doing it in front of the group applied the right pressure to force people to do better. We saw immediate improvements.
Sales are at the heart of any organization, and it doesn’t stop once the product has sold. In fact, it’s when the real selling begins. One customer is an opportunity to upsell features and upgrades, to cross sell other products as well as get referrals. We established a mentality for sales that permeated throughout the entire organization. The service and support teams are not sales guys, but they have direct contact with the customer. Just getting them to learn one sentence: “do you know someone else that would like this software?”, turned them into qualified lead generators for the sales team and they shared in the commission.
It took us 2 to 3 years, but it was worth it. We had the best sales team in the industry, captured 60% market share and more than doubled the revenue with this model. We brought up the mid-level agents and created a cohesive TEAM. Once we defined the sales process, we forced new sales agents to adopt OUR sales process.