The new year is right around the corner, and organizations all over the globe are preparing and planning to make 2022 a successful year. The more prepared you are going into the new year, the more likely you are to see growth. That planning is just one of the things which sets the top sales organizations apart.

Below, Kristin Anderson, Sales Enablement Expert at Baker Communications Inc., shares three things that world class sales organizations do when gearing up for the new year that should be on your radar, such as

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I met with a sales leader recently, whose B2B sales team includes about 75 sales professionals who serve in various capacities around the world. Business is good, and he is hoping to double his sales force in 2022.

As we talked through what that looked like, and discussed some of his challenges, he confessed, “Kristin… I’m worried that as we scale, we will lose effectiveness. I’m concerned that the systems and processes we have in place aren’t mature enough to handle double-digit growth.”

He seemed a bit despondent, and I could sense that he was realizing that their lack of maturity as a sales organization was going to be a problem. Their lack of maturity was going to make it challenging to scale and grow.

As I drove back to the office, I was inspired to write this article. In this piece, I’d like to discuss how to get a running start for 2022 and be prepared to hit the ground running. Three things are top of mind, and they are the three things world-class sales organizations do differently.

What to do in Q4

As you prepare to get a running start in 2022, you must first make sure there are no existing obstacles that will cause you problems come Q1 2022. After all, you don’t want to replicate any behaviors or processes that aren’t working.

First, make a list of any problems you may be experiencing. Are these problems the result of a systemic, or process-driven issue? Here are some ideas:

Are your sales trending up or down?

If down, then what’s at the root of the downward trend? Could it be related to lack of consultative selling or an ability to properly qualify opportunities? Are your salespeople spending too much time on unqualified prospects? Are your sales managers coaching their reps consistently and effectively?

Do you have sufficient pipeline to hit your target?

If not, why? Do you have the right ‘hunters’ on the team? What is preventing your hunters from hunting? Do they have underlying weaknesses preventing them from hunting? Are your managers holding their teams accountable for prospecting consistently?

Is your monthly forecast accurate?

If not, does your team follow a milestone-centric sales process? Perhaps deals that your team is expecting to close – but aren’t closing – are not at the right stage holding consistent pipeline update meetings?

Is your sales cycle the right length or is it trending longer?

If the sales cycle is longer, perhaps your team is not effectively utilizing CRM to manage their pipeline and follow up on opportunities. Perhaps your salesforce is subconsciously accepting put-offs and stalls instead of using them as an opportunity to build trust with your prospects.

Are your margins decreasing?

This could be a sign that your team is selling on price – not value.

If you are having any of these problems, then you should spend some time getting to the root of the issues before you attempt to build your world-class sales organization. Apply the “five why” method to drill down and uncover underlying issues.

Now that we have some of the hurdles out of the way, let’s talk about three things world-class sales organizations do differently.

#1: They have a strong sales culture and are continuously upgrading the salesforce

A world-class sales organization has a palpable desire and passion for success in sales. In years past, when sellers were at the office, you could walk through the bullpen and take stock of what’s happening on the sales floor, you could feel the excitement and energy in the air.

Today we are in a different environment – it's much harder to feel the energy but it's no less important to know that it's there. How can you create an environment where everyone is feeding off each other’s productivity and positivity in a virtual setting? How can we give virtual high-fives and fist-bumps?

A world-class sales organization has a palpable desire and passion for success in sales. This organization is committed to do whatever it takes (within moral and ethical boundaries, of course) to be successful in sales. It’s open to coaching and thirsty for success. Its grit and motivation are contagious. Drive and momentum propel it forward.

A world-class sales organization is continually working to raise the bar on its current level of success. A sales culture of this magnitude doesn’t happen by accident.

Here are three ways to build your own successful sales culture:

Identify and Upskill Your ‘B’ Players:

First, identify your ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ players. Move out your ‘C’ players – your weakest salespeople. A world-class sales organization has no room for mediocrity. You can move these ‘C’ players to another position in the company or perhaps put them on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), but they must be removed from your sales team.

Your ‘A’ players are already in good shape, let them keep doing what they do best. You will have the most to gain by identifying and upskilling your ‘B’ players and turning them into ‘A’ players. Do this with targeted coaching and training.

In a world-class sales organization, 100% of your salespeople need to be top performers. Why do you want only ‘A’ players? Because they overachieve and crash through quotas. They have the mindset, the ‘Sales DNA,’ and the commitment and motivation to do whatever it takes to be successful.

No excuses allowed:

You may not believe you have a culture of excuse-making, but if your salespeople regularly make excuses as to why they didn’t get a deal they forecasted, or if they rationalize why they lost a deal to a competitor or why they weren’t able to reach a decision maker, then you do in fact have a culture of excuse-making.

They may be telling you facts, but it doesn’t matter – they are still excuses. In the end, these salespeople weren’t good enough or effective enough to get the deal.

The only way to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself is to demand that these salespeople own these broken or unsuccessful deals by taking full responsibility, learning, and understanding what went wrong, and not making the same mistakes again!

Recruit and Retain Only “A” Players:

World-class sales organizations have mastered sales selection and can consistently identify, hire, onboard and retain only top performers.

Of the two million salespeople assessed by Objective Management Group, 74% are considered average-to-weak in sales capability. That means that only 26% of your applicants will have what it takes to be ‘A’ players. Find and hire those 26%!

Every candidate you hire must have better sales skills than your current group of top performers so that you are continually upgrading your sales organization. This requires you to use a world-class, sales-specific recruiting tool.

Objective Management Group research shows that 77% of the time, sales managers hire the wrong person for the job. Using an effective sales hiring candidate assessment is a must.

#2: They have sales managers who coach consistently, and coach a lot

According to Objective Management Group, coaching by the sales manager has the single biggest impact on sales growth. The science shows us that sales managers who devote at least 50% of their time to coaching have salespeople who have a sales effectiveness score 28% higher than those managers who devote little-to-no time coaching.

They say it starts from the top, and it’s true – effective coaching can:

  • Help sales managers impact the growth of their salespeople,
  • Improve the sufficiency and accuracy of the pipelines of salespeople within the organization,
  • Increase margins, and
  • Shorten sales cycles

Another outcome of effective coaching is that it enables sales managers to build a bench of talent to eventually replace themselves. A few things to think about as it relates to coaching:

Who to coach

Your biggest gain is to identify and coach your ‘B’ players. Your ‘A’ players are already doing great and don’t stand to improve as much as your ‘B’ players.

What to coach

Sales managers will have the most impact on their sales teams by coaching to the individual needs of each salesperson and by looking at patterns. When you look for and coach to patterns, you can fix root causes.

To have the most impact, your coaching conversations should target the hidden weaknesses that may not be obvious to your representatives, but the presence of such weaknesses is impacting their sales success.

For example, if a salesperson is not meeting their numbers because of low prospecting activity, the underlying cause may be a high ‘need for approval’ from their prospects. This makes it harder for your salesperson to pick up the phone and call a prospect out of the blue because he or she doesn’t want to annoy or interrupt the prospect.

Once this is uncovered as the real reason why prospecting isn’t happening, then coaching should involve eliminating your salesperson’s need for approval, not telling him or her to pick up the phone more.

Don’t assume your managers know how to coach

You must train your leaders on how to be good coaches, you must teach them what good looks like, what should be happening in coaching conversations, how often, and how you know it is working.

You may think that your managers are good sales coaches, but the reality is that if they don’t have the Sales Management DNA or possess the competency to effectively coach their salespeople, they are likely not approaching coaching correctly. What if they are coaching on the wrong behaviors? Perhaps they don’t know what they don’t know.

#3: They have a milestone-centric sales process, tied to a CRM, with a customer-focused approach:

To be world-class, you must develop a formal, milestone-centric sales process that is repeatable and scalable.

The sales process in its most basic form is a representation of a company’s sales process. It provides a framework and serves as a guideline so that everyone in the organization is operating from the same playbook

If an opportunity is in a qualification stage, then everyone from the CEO to the sales manager knows what that means and what needs to happen for the deal to advance.

When there is not a formal sales process, forecasts are inaccurate, sales cycles are longer and win rates decrease.

As published in Harvard Business Review, companies with a formal sales process have an 18% increase in revenue growth over companies that do not have one.

Within the framework of your sales process, your sales methodology or customer approach should be consultative and customer-focused.

The consultative approach allows for you to differentiate yourself from the competition and uncover the compelling reasons why the prospect will buy from you versus your competition. It will also give you enough data to get the right material into your proposal, allowing you to sell on value instead of price.

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