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Nine Steps to Building a Winning Sales Organization
By Kevin Davis
Is your sales team performing far below potential?
Mine was. In my first sales manager's job almost 20 years ago, I inherited a 10-person sales team that was ranked
dead last out of 64 offices. Our only producer was an 18-year veteran with the company. None of the other nine
salespeople had more than one year of sales experience. Obviously, they/we were performing far below standards.
The attitude in the office was pitiful.
I heard a lot of excuses for poor performance like "lousy territory," and "our prices are too high."
But what salespeople really lacked was a success role model.
Eighteen months later the office had moved up to number five, having posted the biggest increase in sales of any
office in the company. Perhaps a few of the strategies I used will help you improve the performance of your sales
* STEP ONE: DO NOTHING When you first arrive on the scene of a sales office in distress, don't do anything. Take
the time to understand your organization's situation, gather information about the people involved, and...
* STEP TWO: ANALYZE YOUR PROBLEM(S) My main problem was my salespeople didn't believe in themselves. They hadn't
yet experienced success, and there was no role model, a salesperson of whom others could say, "there's somebody
like me who's successful."
You may be thinking, "Hey, isn't it my role as a sales manager to set a leadership example?" And, of
course, the answer is "yes." But the example you set for your people is not enough, because many salespeople
emulate the actions of their peers. Since many salespeople play "follow the leader," you've got to ask
yourself which salespeople do your less experienced salespeople look up to? And, what kind of example are these
You can get peak performance out of average producers if you can get average producers to emulate the success habits
demonstrated by a leading salesperson. Clearly, I needed to find a leader. Fast.
* STEP THREE: FIND YOUR SUCCESS ROLE MODEL In sports, when a player assumes a leadership role on a team, it's called
"stepping up." Hopefully, you already have a few players capable of stepping up. If so, talk to them.
Help them see the importance of their success example, and ask them to share more of their knowledge and experience
with less experienced salespeople.
Unfortunately, I had to recruit a new salesperson to be my success model because nobody else on my team was capable
of leadership. I knew that my next hire could play an important role in reversing the downward performance trend.
I had my new leader when I hired Bill Zeeb. I told Bill, "if you stick with me, do exactly as I teach you
to do, you will succeed." Bill knew that I was counting on him, and he didn't let me down. In his fourth month,
he produced 200 percent of quota.
Overnight, the attitude in the office changed, from one of making excuses for poor performance to "What's
that Bill Zeeb doing?" Bill's performance forced others to take a hard look in the mirror. That's the day
when they finally accepted responsibility for their own poor performance.
* STEP FOUR: DON'T TOLERATE MEDIOCRE SALES PERFORMANCE Far too often, poorly performing salespeople are allowed
to continue their lackluster ways. A manager may not want to face the hassle of recruiting a replacement, or may
want to avoid confrontation. This is a big mistake.
A successful sales manager doesn't tie the ship to a poor performer's anchor. Instead, successful managers take
a "hands- on" role by providing the coaching and training the poor performer needs to improve.
Your objective is to bring those that are lagging behind to "the intersection of choice." By that, I
mean poor performers must make a decision themselves to either a) recommit themselves to perform the necessary
behaviors and activities, or b) leave the company immediately.
As my manager once told me, "There's only one thing worse than somebody who quits and leaves - and that's
somebody who quits and stays." The key question is this: If you knew then what you know now, is there anybody
on your team you would not have hired? If so, get "hands-on" and escort that individual to his or her
intersection of choice.
* STEP FIVE: INSTALL PERFORMANCE STANDARDS You've got to communicate your expectations. So raise the BAR on everybody
with standards that consist of Behavior, Activity and Results.
A behavior standard, for example, could be to arrive in the office every morning before 8 a.m.. An activity standard
could be to make a minimum of 25 telephone prospecting calls every day. A result standard could be that a sales
rep with seven to nine months sales experience must sell a minimum of $50,000 per month.
On results standards, I recommend you set two standards. One, a lower "keep your job" standard. Salespeople
who fall below the minimum standard for a three-month period are placed on probation. If sales don't pick up in
the next quarter, that person must be "de-hired." Another standard performance is, of course, a higher
* STEP SIX: DE-HIRE THOSE BELOW MINIMUM STANDARDS Your salespeople will be wondering, "Do you really mean
it?" The first person you de-hire will send a loud and clear message - performance standards will be enforced.
If you don't enforce them, your standards are meaningless.
* STEP SEVEN: COACH, COACH AND COACH SOME MORE Don't be a "desk jockey." Get out and work with your salespeople.
It's the only way to grow your people and your business.
* STEP EIGHT: CULTIVATE A BETTER "QUALITY OF LIFE" Have more fun. We instituted a series of contests
that got everybody focused on a team goal. For example, if we hit our office goal, salespeople who achieved their
individual standards earned a round of golf with the others.
Then there were sales blitzes, where everyone would pair up and make a bunch of cold calls. The salespeople who
received the resulting leads had to repay the group with a comedic skit. Some of these skits were really creative!
* STEP NINE: KNOW WHAT EACH SALESPERSON WANTS Every person has his or her own personal motivators. Your job is
to find out what they are and help the salesperson toward achievement.
Sit down with each salesperson one on one. Try to learn something about each of them: what are their goals with
your company and beyond? What is their past like? How can you help them be, have and do more?
For example, one of my salespeople wanted to buy a house, while another wanted to play the top 10 golf courses
in the world. Two very different goals, but both could be achieved faster by the salesperson exceeding quota.
The results we experienced from all these steps: average sales per salesperson doubled, and turnover was reduced
by 45 percent.
About the author:
Kevin Davis is president of Kevin Davis Selling Systems and the author of the book "Getting Into Your Customer's
Head." For more information, visit www.customershead.com.
Tags: Sales and Marketing