Here’s a typical story for you: Feeling slammed? Let me guess. You’re under intense pressure to meet your monthly numbers. It’s impossible to keep up with all the reports. You’ve got an open territory, your new hire is struggling and all this new technology is overwhelming.
Your customers are changing too. Getting on their calendar is increasingly difficult. They sometimes disappear into black holes for months on end. They’ve upped their expectations, yet seem fixated on the bottom line.
Plus your salespeople keep complaining that it’s virtually impossible to stay on top of it all – and you feel exactly the same way. Trapped in a never-ending cycle of increasing demands and constant change, you wonder if your team even has the capacity to be successful. Or if you do.
I read that story in a white paper entitled “5 Strategies For Leading A Quota-Busting Sales Team” by Jill Konrath. It’s not directly about the mortgage industry, but it sounded spot on to me. Technology vendors are looking to get the attention of lenders that are preoccupied with compliance and other matters. And lenders want to get in front of new borrowers that may not feel all warm and fuzzy about homeownership right now.
So, how do lenders and vendors alike succeed? Here are 5 tips from that white paper that I mentioned:
Turn Problems Into Challenges
Leading a sales team is tough. When the 15th of the month comes around and forecasted orders aren’t rolling in, you have a problem. When new competitors emerge – and you don’t know how to fight them – you have a problem. When your company has a bad 3rd quarter, that’s a problem too.
Your reps face their own personal sales problems as well. Unresponsive prospects, lost orders, service issues, to name a few. And it scares them – just like it scares you.
Unfortunately, whenever the brain sees something as a “problem,” it releases cortisol (a stress hormone) to help you deal with it. While cortisol may help you flee a wooly mammoth, it’s terrible for solving sales issues. Cortisol degrades your memory, shrinks your ability to come up with creative options and makes success feel like it’s out of your control. Not good!
Agile sellers tackle problems differently. They transform them into challenges – something your brain loves. This strategy works especially well if you pose the challenge in the form of questions. For example, you might say, “Closing more deals by the end of the month is going to be a real challenge. We’ve got some bright people on this team. Everyone of us has tackled other issues successfully in the past.”
Also, don’t just ask one question. To stimulate your team’s thinking, look at the challenge from a variety of perspectives.
Turn Failures into VLEs
When you and your sales team are learning new things, failure is virtually guaranteed. It’s a natural part of the learning process. But so many of your salespeople will do whatever they can to avoid it. New sales reps want you to feel like you’ve made a good decision by hiring them, so their standards are perfection – which is clearly unachievable. Some may be afraid to pick up the phone or make calls. They’re also afraid of failing in their new position – which would embarrass them.
Sometimes, your more experienced pros are the worst at dealing with failure. They don’t like the anxiety they experience. They dislike feeling like a rookie again. After one or two unsuccessful attempts at trying something new, they’ll often say: “It’s a dumb idea” or “It’ll never work for our customers.”
To lead a quota-busting sales team, it’s imperative to get your people to think like an agile seller. You want them to stretch and try new things – even if they don’t do well at first. To make that happen, you need to eliminate failure from your vocabulary.
Your reps can never fail! They can only have valuable learning experiences (VLEs). You need to imbue the idea in your sales team that failure is inevitable – and that how they react to it is the most important thing.
Set Getting Better Goals
Since your objective is to lead a quota-busting sales team, clearly you want your people to set big goals – ones that are a real stretch from where they are today. It’s tempting to challenge them to reach 165% of quota or earn 50% more this year.
Unfortunately, doing this often creates unintended negative consequences. Research shows that your salespeople are LESS likely to achieve performance-based goals, especially if they have to learn new things to reach them.
Why’s that? Because a salesperson’s self-worth gets tied up in achieving them. To protect their ego, reps will likely blame everything BUT themselves if they fail to meet their goals. You’ll hear excuses like pricing, lack of product/service capabilities, lousy lead generation or a crappy website.
Instead, what works is to get salespeople focused on “getting better” goals. This is especially important if they need to acquire new skills, master new situations and strengthen their confidence. According to psychologist Don VandeWalle, salespeople with “getting better” goals actually set higher sales targets, worked harder, planned better and achieved significantly more.
If you want to lead a quota-busting sales team, you need to keep your reps focused on improving one step at a time. Have heart-to-heart conversations with each of them. Rather than pushing them to achieve stupendous goals, discuss what they can do in the upcoming quarter.
Increase Digital Perceptivity
It’s highly likely that your sales force is having fewer in-person meetings today than ever before. If you are leading an inside sales team, your reps may conduct all their business via phone and online. Sometimes it’s tough to gauge a person’s interest or decide what to do next when you can’t see how they’re reacting.
Today’s quota-busting sales teams track digital body language to get invaluable insights about their prospects. There are numerous sales tools available today that can give you this kind of visibility. Some of my favorite ones let you know when a prospect has opened your e-mail, from what type of device, and how often. Others add on capabilities that let you know how prospects interacted with attached content such as PDFs or PowerPoint presentations. You can find out if they looked at it, which pages they spent the most time on, if they forwarded to others, and more.
Experiment A Lot
This is my favorite strategy because it encapsulates all previous ones. It’s all about creating a culture of experimentation with your team, with a continual focus on getting better.
Step 1. Identify a specific sales challenge to work on.
Step 2. Research the topic.
Step 3. Analyze your current practices.
Step 4. Decide on the experiment.
Step 5. Establish metrics.
Step 6. Run the sales lab.
I found these tips to be really helpful. I hope they help you as well.
About The Author
Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.