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Getting Deals Done: Sales Management Strategy with John Boyens
My guest is John Boyens, who was a sales productivity expert. He spent 22 years as a sales executive leader, VPand SVP for a number of Fortune 1000 companies. He now runs the Boyens Group out of Nashville, Tennessee where he teaches executives and leaders how to have sales productivity. Welcome to the show, John.
Mark, thank you for having me.
It’s my delight to have you here. You’ve got an interesting book called Creating a Productive Selling Zone and it is full of fantastic ideas. You have nailed down not just the art of selling, it’s the science of selling in here.
The Productive Selling Zone is not a journey nor is it a destination. It is a state of effectiveness. I want to understand and have people understand that productivity only happens with the intersection of effort and then positive results. Being able to put that book in play is the backbone of one of our two-day workshops that has been very well received worldwide.
Let’s dig into what our audience wants to know about the most, which is how you manage a sales team. It’s interesting because when I talk to executives and I say, “What’s the thing you need to move your needle forward? What’s the major metric you want to effect?” they always say, “I could use one-word good sales guy.”
A lot of people are dressed up as salespeople but what they are account managers or client relationship people. They can nurture a relationship, cross-sell and upsell, but they don’t understand how to do business development, to go out and bring in new logos, to go up that mountain and hunt something and shoot it and bring it back down the mountain. Organizations, business owners, executives, to be able to source, onboard, and train salespeople so that they become productive quickly is the real key. That starts in the interview process. It’s going back in and asking the right kind of questions. Too often the managers or the leaders are asking questions about the resume or the job application. They’re not asking situational or behavioral questions and one of my favorite questions to ask is, “If I were to offer you the job now, what would you do in the first 30 days to build your pipeline?” How they answer that question will determine is that a business development person or is that an account manager? It’s starting at the beginning, being able to source, identify, and hire. The best way to do that is to look at successful business development people in the organization and find more that look like them. Employee referral programs are good ways to be able to source that talent.
What have you seen in these questions or responses to those questions that are red flags?
I’m not getting a book of business, you’re not providing leads for me. Those are certainly red flags or somebody that talks about what I would call basic blocking and tackling. “I’m going to go drive around. I’m going to go call on businesses. I’m going to go to industrial parks.” Those are not thoughtful ways of being able to do that. To have the person come back and say, “I want to understand what an ideal client looks like, what that profile looks like, and I want to go find more folks that look like that. I want to tap into my professional network. I want to be able to ask existing clients for referrals. I want to go win back former clients that stopped buying from us.” If I get those kinds of answers, now I know I’ve got somebody that can do the job.
It sounds like the difference between a hunter and a farmer in this particular case is the hunter has a strategy and a farmer has tactics. When you laid out those answers, they were either tactical or strategic. That was a nice blinding flash of the obvious here. It seems to me that if you’re willing to be a farmer, you don’t deserve commissions.
Maybe some other type of bonus structure, but you’re going to be heavily layered with being a salary plus bonus person because you’re doing tactical activities. To go out and hunt is a different game.
You need to get the best cut when you are hunting versus if you’re the farmer, you just fed regularly, that’s all. We start off by acquiring the right person. What are the things do you look at when you are out there looking for the best new person to bring onboard?
It’s having a written onboarding program at least 45 days, 60 days where there is a sequential process to onboard that person and get him or her up to speed quickly. You don’t start right away with quotas. You spend the beginning part of that process in terms of learning and development, learning the industry, learning the products, learning the competitive landscape, understanding that. They need to be able to give the person a realistic expectation of success and have a written plan. Often people just say, “There’s the coffee pot, there’s the restroom, go get something.”
They’re not into establishing a way to onboard. They don’t know who to call in the organization. They don’t know the key departments and what the key performance indicators are by department. They don’t know email addresses or phone numbers or extensions. Setting up structured conversations with people in the organization that they need to interact with, being able to test for competency, role plays or listening in on calls and things of that nature so they demonstrate the skill and the will to do the tasks at hand, those are important. Once I’ve sourced and interviewed and hired somebody, I need to onboard them, so they can get up to speed quickly.
That’s an interesting idea during that onboarding period of 45, 60 days. Don’t worry about quota. They don’t have the skills, they don’t have the talent, they don’t have the insights to go out there and have a meaningful conversation.
It’s important for your audience to hear this as well, is that the real hunter is going to try to push to get out earlier. You have to be the governor to them because if you go out half-cocked, what’s going to happen is you’re going to continue to fix things throughout their entire career with you. If you spend the time in the beginning, you’ll now have somebody that will be successful long-term. In most businesses, especially in the B2B space, it takes eighteen to 24 months until a salesperson becomes profitable anyhow. Investing two months on the frontend is money well spent.
That’s an important component because if a hunter goes out too soon, they can screw up the list.
Our research shows that they buy the salesperson first, they buy the company or brand second, and they buy the product, service or solution third. They’re buying the salesperson and if you’re not prepared or worse yet, ill-prepared or you misstate something, now you’ve shot yourself in the foot and you’re digging yourself out of the hole.
We don’t need to make it easier for our competitors to sell. Now that we have this person sourced and trained, what’s the next step to sales management?
Inspect what you expect. I didn’t start that. I’ve heard that forever in my 40 years selling career. What ends up happening is the owners, the executives, the sales leaders, they have a tendency to let that hunter go out on his or her own and they don’t inspect what’s going on. I don’t mean micromanage when I say to expect. I mean understanding and giving them success formulas. If they understand what their quota is monthly, if they understand what the average order size is, if they understand what their close rate is and if they understand what their sales cycle is, they’ll know how many opportunities or how many qualified prospects they need to uncover.
They need to know how many suspects that they’re going to have to call on to get to those qualified prospects. I call that an individual success formula. That is then supported by weekly activity levels. How many outbound calls are you making? How many outbound emails are you sending? How many face-to-face appointments do you have? How many networking or industry events do you go to? Inspecting what they expect is critically important because it keeps people on track. My kids are older now. They’re 34 and 31, but I remember when they were little, there’s a thing called bumper bowling. They put the inflatables in the alleyway so that they can throw a gutter ball. That individual success formula and that weekly activity level chart, those are the inflatables. It keeps the salesperson on track.
What do you see as being the appropriate level of inspection timing? Do we check on them once a week? Do we check on them every day? What do you see as being that inspects cycle?
It depends upon the sales cycle that they’re in. If they’re in the long sales cycle, every couple of weeks is a good thing. If it’s more transactional, lower dollar amount, weekly is more important. We have what we call a RAP session, a seven-step RAP. RAP stands for review and plan. There are seven questions and the difference the way we created this is the salesperson is reporting it to the management or the leadership team. The first four questions in the RAP are about the previous week or the previous two weeks and the questions are as follows. The first question is how much time did you spend dedicated to prospecting or business development in the last two weeks? The second question, how many appointments do you have? The third, how many new opportunities did you uncover? The fourth is how much business did you sell? That’s a look in the rearview mirror, those four.
The next three questions are looking forward. They’re looking at the next week or the next two weeks. How many appointments do you have in your schedule for the next two weeks? How much time do you have dedicated to prospecting or new business development activities in the next two weeks in your calendar, not in your head? How much business do you expect to close for the month? If you institutionalize our seven-step rap process, review and plan, you’re able to do that in a fifteen to twenty-minute cycle. You can put your finger on the pulse of that salesperson. If he or she is struggling, you can help them way in advance rather than wait until the end of the month and go, “You had a bad month.” They know that when they didn’t get a commission check. Helping them do it. That’s the inspection.
It is a very simple review and plan, trust and verify. It’s such a powerful way of doing this. It’s seven simple questions can make it easy to manage a sales team. This isn’t hard, it requires a system.
When you figure this out, engage accountable employees, they are always more productive and they have a tendency to stay longer. How do you get somebody engaged or how do you hold somebody accountable? It’s to inspect what you expect and be able to reward them for doing the right things. I have something that your audience will find humorous. I’ll leave it at that, but I had a boss very early in my sales career who said the following, “Your next raise will be effective when you are.” That is in sales, isn’t it? We’re the only position in sales that measures that on the scoreboard and if you want to make more money, sell more stuff.
What’s the next step? Once we have this inspect what you expect, we’ve got the seven-step rap process that we take our team through on a regular basis, what’s the next step to successful management?
It’s in parallel to that previous step, but that is to celebrate successes. Catch somebody doing something right and sometimes that’s hard for the leadership team if somebody is struggling with his or her numbers. Let’s say this particular week they uncovered five new opportunities. They didn’t close any business, but they uncovered five new opportunities. It’s important to celebrate. Say, “Mark, you did a great job this week. I know you didn’t close anything but if you keep that activity up, you’re going to have a great month, a great quarter or a great year.” It’s to celebrate those successes and to be able to amplify them in front of the other members of the team to show them how it can be done. What was the old Roger Bannister story about the four-minute mile in 1954? Until he did it, nobody believed it could be done. If you’re asking people to be able to do things in sales that haven’t been done before, it’s hard for people to see their way to that finish line. Once they see people doing it and being celebrated for it, it’s a lot easier to pick up the wind underneath the sales.
The one thing I love about Roger Bannister story is that Roger only trained during lunchtime. He broke the four-minute mile on not extraordinary effort but extraordinary belief. That’s an important thing for people to keep in mind. Celebrate those successes. I absolutely believe in the concept of celebrating in public and chastise in private. You can’t take apart these salespeople in front of other people because their egos are fragile.
Salespeople are the most insecure folks in the world. They’ve got a great bravado, but the insecurity is there. If a salesperson loses a deal, the first thing they think is, “Why don’t they like me?”
That’s a good thing because that’s what causes them to go out there and hunt. What’s the next step?
Going back and asking the person after three, four, or five months on the job, what do you know now that you wish you would’ve known when you onboarded? You’re constantly revisiting the onboarding process and the sales process to continue to refine and streamline. Nobody knows what would be better than the person that just went through it. For them to be able to give you constant feedback and for you to listen and take appropriate action nurtures that relationship. You show that you cherish that person as an employee and not as a number. I think success breeds success.
It’s one of those blinding flashes of the obvious. This is a question we ask our customers. This is something that we ask every one of our employees. This is one of those bits of information where what did we miss that would’ve made things much smoother for you at the beginning? What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?
I’ll give you a funnier side here. My older son, when he first graduated from college, he went to work for Dell computers in sales. The ironic piece was for the first two weeks he was there, he didn’t have a desk, a phone or a computer but his quota started day one. If anybody should have a computer, the Dell salesperson should have a computer on day one.
What did he do for those first two weeks?
He ended up spending a lot of time talking to people and trying to figure out what the job was all about. By the third quarter, he was the sales rep of the quarter. I’m very proud of him.
He used that time to become an expert. It saved him not having to hit the road in two weeks but just figure out what’s going on. What’s next for effective sales management? You’ve got some killer tips here. What you got next for us?
I’m going to go global for us for a second. Too often executives and business owners, sales and marketing leaders have a tendency to spend so much time working in their business, meaning the tactical steps of running the business that they don’t get strategic to work on the business. That’s why we’re talking about productivity and sales, etc. If you focus as a leader on growing your business versus running your business, it changes the dynamic. The culture changes. You bring people on board that can help you achieve that overall goal. I always say that in sales you don’t have to walk single file, but you do need to walk in the same general direction. That’s a big piece of the underpinning of the whole part of productivity is to have people buy into that process. You and I’ve been through the corporate world, we understand when we go back off in those mission statement, vision statement exercises where you spend two days arguing about, “Is it an a or a the?” I’m talking about how do you grow your business, what are those two mission-critical initiatives you’re going to undertake that will allow your business to reach its next level of success? If you set that in play, you’re going to be successful and then you bring people on board that can help you get there.
That’s the whole point that executives have wanted to think least in on their to-do least.
In your recent book, From MSP To BSP, that becomes another part of that where you’re talking about not being a managed services provider but being a business solutions provider. You changed the game, you changed the dynamic. Where now somebody is thinking about, “I’m no longer a vendor or a peddler, I’m your consultant. I’m your trusted adviser.” That was well done in that book.
The whole idea here is let’s help our customers beat their competition. One of my beliefs is I’m not worried about my competition, I’m worried about my customers’ competition because when I help them beat their competition, I help my competition. That’s a great way of doing it. That’s how I focused on growing my business. What else do we need to know here to put together this insight on how to better manage a sales team?
One thing that organizations can continue to do better is increased the visibility of their brand. This is not managing the salesperson, but it’s giving the salesperson marketing air cover and understanding what can you do. There are so many venues and so many avenues to be able to get your brand extended. Everything from social media to advertising to blog posts, to speaking engagements, but to have an organization thing, “What is the one thing I could do that would increase the visibility of my brand right away?”
I’ll give you one. If somebody is on a home services business or in hospitality or restaurants, things like that, did you know that a wrapped vehicle make 600 impressions a mile? When you’re in pest control, lawn care, bottled water, catering, restaurant, bar, it’s like a moving billboard. One of our client’s, Budget Blinds, uses their installers with those wrapped vehicles and when they’re on lunch break, guess where they park their vehicles? At Home Depot and Lowe’s parking lots. They were getting two and a half leads a day coming off of that just from somebody walking in and going, “Somebody else could do that for me. That’s great.” Understand to do the visibility. The direct marketing association indicates it takes seven to nine touches for someone to hear your message.
They ignore two out of three of the messages you send their way. That͛s what they did back in the ͚70s and ͚80s and still, it’s even worse. There’s so much noise.
If you don’t give the salesperson the air cover to be able to get that brand out there, now they’re having to be able to uncover a need, to be able to introduce a brand, and then make a sale. If I get somebody that has at least some level of interest that reaches out to me, that goes to our website, that attends an event, at least they’re showing some level of interest and now it becomes easier. That’s a big thing for organizations to be able to do. Leveraging technology and automating processes is a big part for the salespeople as well. Salespeople love to say the following, “Do you want me filling out paperwork or do you want me selling something?” Automate that and streamline the process.
Automate, streamline, simplify and eliminate. Every line on every one of those forms, is this something we all need? Automate everywhere you possibly can. Keep your salespeople after selling. The thing that I point out to people is that if you’re making your salespeople cold call, it means you have a broken marketing system. Marketing is designed to do one thing, to make your salespeople effective when they reach out to prospects and suspects. If you don’t have a program to do that, you don’t have a funded form of marketing program, you’re putting all that work in business development on the shoulders of your salespeople. That’s extremely expensive to do that. It’s expensive in lost sales and in lost opportunities. If your competitors have a better marketing plan, they win. That’s always true in sales and we sell in marketing. Part of our sales management is to provide the sales team with conversations that can lead to sales as rapidly as possible.
Your audience should ask themselves this question, “Is your sales compensation plan driving the kind of behavior and delivering the kind of results that you want?” If it is not, you need to be able to revisit that. A lot of times people will have a compensation plan where a dollar is a dollar. Whether it’s a renewal dollar, whether it’s a brand-new dollar, they pay them the same. If you’re trying to get people to go do new logo hunting, to find new customers, you need to inset them differently. It’s a lot easier to keep a customer than it is to go get a new one. It also needs to be simple. You talked about that earlier. If a salesperson doesn’t know when they make the sale, what they’re going to make on this one, they got to wait for their commission statements, your plan is too complicated.
Depending on the organization, but for our audience, they tend to sell expensive, complex things. They’re not selling simple one-sided things, they’re selling multi-sided types of situations. It’s what’s required when you sell into the disruptive. In those particular cases, I frequently talk to clients and they need to have a two-level sales force. They have the hunter level that gets the new logos and it gets paid extremely well for the first one. In fact, may take the entire amount of the first one. Then they need farmers, which are project managers to then facilitate the relationship. Hunters make money on the first meal and farmers are paid salary on the last of the months. That separation of behaviors to align with the business goals will make a massive difference in the number of new customers.
They have to make sure they do the handoff well. You have to build that process upfront so we know how that handoff. That that project manager or that account manager is brought in well before the handoff is done. Then it’s naturally set up that way so that they can pick it up. A lot of times they’re dependent upon what the CRM system has. If the salesperson didn’t fill in a lot of information and the project manager or account manager starts asking questions that should have already been known, you’ve done yourself a disservice.
You got to have the systems that support your sales process or better yet your customer’s buying process.
It’s a buy cycle versus sales cycle.
That’s the reason why I don’t call it a sales cycle anymore, I call it a consideration cycle. How long do they have to think about it before they say, “Yes, let’s go with it?” Our job is to reduce the perceived risk to make that consideration cycle as short as it can be. Lots of great insights here, John. It’s been such a delight to have this conversation with you. How do people get ahold of you? How do they get ahold of your book?
They can go to Boyens.com or they can go to BoyensUniversity.com and they’ll have access to all of our products, MP3 downloads, books, and things of that nature. If they want to call me, my direct dial 615-337-1504.
I enjoyed tapping into your deep experience over four decades of sales, leadership, and success. Thank you for being on the show.
Mark, it’s my pleasure. Thank you so much.
About John Boyens
John Boyens has dedicated his professional life to learning all he could about sales and the sales process. First as a salesperson, then as a sales manager, then as an executive sales leader and for the past twenty years as a business owner. Today his expertise extends to social media as well. John was named one of the top 100 Productivity Experts to Follow on Twitter.
John’s sales and sales leadership methodology are radically different. Unlike many sales coaches, John explains exactly what to say and how to say it, what to do and how to do it, and when to walk away. John is often referred to as the Sales Guru for his coaching skills that bring out the best in people and is known for his practical, street-savvy style. John’s fusion of real-life stories and his sales training techniques connect with his audience at a professional and individual level with great results.
John is an energetic presenter whose expertise in sales, sales leadership, and professional development is world renowned. He’s continually setting the standards of excellence while expanding his experience in those core areas as well as social media. He’s a sales training leader without peers. His takeaways are real-world and on the money! John gives his audiences tips, tools and techniques they can implement immediately to make money. John will help you achieve your personal and professional goals fast and easily.
John has consulted for more than 1,000 clients and addressed more than 30,000 people in 10,000 talks and workshops worldwide. As a Keynote speaker and seminar leader, he speaks to corporate and public audiences including the executives and staff of many of America’s largest corporations. His engaging talks and seminars on Sales, Sales Leadership and Business Strategy bring about immediate changes and long-term results.
John is the author of Real World Strategies that Work, Creating a Productive Selling Zone® and Sell Bigger Deals Faster which have been shared with folks from around the globe. He is the Executive-in-Residence for the Jones College of Business at Middle Tennessee State University, a member of the prestigious Forbes Coaches Council and a Vistage Speaker.
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