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Knowing who should be promoted or moved laterally within an organization – and where and when – is why succession planning is so important to keeping companies growing and successful. The conundrum is what to do with top salespeople – do you promote them to sales managers, or do you keep them doing what they do best, which is selling? Time and again companies find that great sales don’t translate into great managers.
Whether your individual salespeople express interest in wanting to manage or move internally, or the sales manager and human resources works together to identify and maintain bench strength on the sales team internally and externally, especially since many organizations experience regular churn. Regardless of the method, two-way communication is always key when managing your people. This includes the traditional performance review and career path interviews with HR and managers that cover short and long-term goals.
Sales succession planning and managerial promotion are highly critical to the business’s overall success and increases the availability of experienced and capable employees that are prepared to assume these key roles as they become available.
In this CPSA Recruitment and Talent podcast episode, host Kevin W. Grossman talks with Lori Richardson about how to conduct a sales compensation audit.
Lori Richardson is founder and CEO of Score More Sales. Lori lead efforts for B2B front-line sales growth and work with (or in conjunction with) technology brands worldwide. Lori’s a people person, a “super-connector” and she gets great joy in helping newer SDRs and other sales reps learn ways to grow net-new revenues.
Bench Strength: The Importance of Sales Succession Planning with Lori Richardson
Kevin: Lori, thank you so much for being on the CPSA Recruitment and Talent Podcast. Before we dive into the rest of the show, why don't you tell us a little bit more about who you are and what you do today.
Lori: Thank you, Kevin, it's great to be here. I guess the best thing I can say is that I consider myself a lifelong sales enthusiast and a student of sales. I started young, I got into Technology Sales in my early twenties after realizing that being a teacher wasn't going to allow me to support my family. I was a single mom so I was going for the bigger dollars and that's how I got into Technology Sales. I progressed to Sales Leadership, I built sales teams and helped everyone in the company to improve professionally. Then I started by consulting business 15 years ago. I have strong background in project management systems but I also have an artistic side which I think really gets to shine through working with sales professionals.
Kevin: That's great, Lori, thank you so much for sharing that. Speaking of sales leadership, in transitioning into those roles in your previous incarnations that you just explained to us, you know better than anybody that succession planning is so important today. To keep companies growing and successful, even more so with sales people, right? What are the initial considerations for human resources and sales managers in determining their bench strength and replacing the churn and the turnover that some companies will have in their sales teams?
Lori: There's a shorter answer and a longer answer. The shorter answer is that HR needs to understand that sales is a little different beast than the rest of the company. Sales managers need to be involved in the hiring of sales team. It's not a coincidence that I named my company Score More Sales. It's kind of a tip of the hat, if you will, to the parallel between sports and professional selling. There are lots of similarities including the idea of having a strong sales bench ready to go. Whether you're playing baseball or football or my favorite sport which is hockey, there's no question that you must always be thinking about your bench and building it so you're always putting players out there who not only can play but they want to play. Think of sports teams, for themselves and for your team.
In business it's the same way. We need salespeople who are not only skilled but they play hard for themselves and the company. If they don't, you know what, you get different salespeople involved.
Kevin:Lori, that's right on the money. I know a guest that I had recently on another part of this podcast series, she had used the phrase to me, "The salespeople that you hire, they have to want it more than you want it," meaning to be successful, to help grow the business, and to also reap the benefits of that. I think that kind of echoes what you're just saying right now, they really do have to want it more than you want it. That said, that not all top sales people, they don't always translate into good managers though, right?
Kevin: Yes, exactly. How do you recommend companies evaluate managerial abilities versus sales acumen?
Lori: First of all, salespeople can be evaluated for their, what we consider sales DNA. Sales managers, by the same token, they have certain traits and characteristics that we're looking for. It's so funny that for years we've been promoting top sales people and the managers as if there are a lot of similarities but they're really aren't. I mean, a lot of us know that a good parent is closer to what you need as a good sales leader than what a sales rep typically brings. When I was in my sales career I was pretty self-focused, working on my own for my goal, bringing in others only as I needed. Bottom line, it was all about me.
Sales leadership is very much the opposite. There's a management piece, you need high emotional intelligence, empathy, teamwork skills, great communication, and high desire and commitment just like you do in sales. It's a desire and commitment for what you're doing in terms of being successful in sales management. It's a little different beast and it doesn't match up for everybody going from one role to the other.
Kevin: In your previous experience, how do you discern that? Meaning, how are you discerning not only the sales DNA but the traits that you just outlined for leadership positions, right? Prior to either when you're trying to bring somebody from the outside in and/or those that are already on staff, what are some of the evaluation methods that you use?
Lori: In the beginning, I did it by gut, which I think a lot of people have tried. That doesn't work very well. I never got better than 50% success when I hired by gut.
Lori: I don't know many people that do much better than that. Over time, I found tools to help do that. Now we use tools that help evaluate a sales team's performance and also help tell who would be a good fit coming into a company in a sales role. Again, it's different for any other time and assessment that might go on for other roles in a company. Sales is really a different area and people need to understand that.
Kevin: What's fascinating to me is that modern Neuroscience and the related research around that have pretty well established that we're horrible decision makers as human beings.
Kevin: I mean, it's true again and again. There's a whole body of knowledge and research now around behavioral economics which I'm just fascinated by which we could talk about it in a whole other podcast.
Kevin:That said, that's something that HR, especially recruiting professionals, and I work closely with a lot of them, we struggle with that, right? We don't want to be told that we don't do a very good job at selecting. Another way though, besides the assessments and tools that maybe you use, there's also the actual performance reviews that need to be conducted on a regular basis. Which can be somewhat subjective but they're important still. I know there's been a whole bunch of discussion about some companies are throwing them out the window, no more performance reviews. I don't know. What do you think? How often should they be conducted, if they should be conducted, and what should they entail?
Lori: Performance reviews, I know that opens a big can of worms. I would say generally that a standard performance review does not work well for the Sales Department just like standard recruiting of non-sales positions does not work well for the Sales Department. I'm a believer in a no surprises management style. What that means is, if I have a rep and they don't have a clue that they're not performing I'm not doing my job right.
Lori: People need feedback all the time in sales. That's a big issue for managers is that ... I've worked with companies where sales manager thinks a rep isn't doing their job and they just stop talking to them. He was like, "Well, they don't listen to me so I don't talk to them anymore." I mean, you just can't do that. Reps should always know what they need to work on in order to improve and reps and managers meet frequently so you don't need a three month mark or a six months review or a one year review to figure out where you stand. I mean, the thing about sales is that we have a pulse on the pipeline, and the team, and the process all the time. It needs to be real time.
One aspect for most roles is an agreed upon amount of quality conversations, for example, rather than how many dials did you make today. That's an old way of thinking but how much are you actually engaging with buyers? Those are really valuable things to measure and I don't often see those in standard performance review. That's an example of what we need in sales. We know that many reps have fewer conversations than they need to in order to be successful. We should gear our performance expectations around what they really need to succeed.
Kevin: I agree with you, because especially if you've got numbers that you need to meet, right? On a monthly and quarterly basis, it does not make sense to do the semi-annual or annual performance review, especially for sales people or anybody that's related peripherally to sales, right? Account managers ...
Kevin: Anybody that's responsible for renewals as well as net new, they need to be ...
Lori: Yeah, that's too long down the road. Six months or a year is just too late.
Kevin: What's the recommendation then? Is it a weekly call? Is it a daily check-in, is that too much? Is it a one-on-one weekly call and then, like, a group by-weekly or monthly? What do you recommend?
Lori: You know, different teams do different things. What I have found in all sorts of different companies and industries, what I think works best is a quick, very quick daily check-in. I mean, five, ten minutes, that's it, with everybody on the team. If you have a large team it's broken down into a smaller team, and it's very quick. Then there's at least weekly coaching, if not more. I believe in more coaching than that. At a minimum there should be weekly coaching with individual reps, one-on-one.
Kevin: I completely agree with you. I think that's extremely important. I have regular one-on-one's with my team now, not from a sales capacity but just the teams that work for me in the research firm that I work for called Talent Board. I think it's very critical to have a weekly touch base. Even ... Sometimes it could be as short as 10-15 minutes, maybe it needs to be longer depending on what issues need to be addressed but that check-in is really critical. It's critical for all the buzzwords that we talk about too, right, engagement and retaining those individuals. Just ensuring that ...
Lori: Yeah, and the weekly coaching is more than a check-in. It's about, "Kevin, tell me about conversation with a buyer you had this week that maybe didn't go as well as you would have liked, so that I can give some on-the-spot feedback. What would you do differently and how can we change that?" I'm not giving you all the answers but I'm making you think about it. I'm trying to help you apply it to your next calls and your next conversation so you start to see patterns.
Kevin: Lori, what other factors are critical when it comes to retaining top sales people? We've covered quite a bit, but also ensuring that the right candidates are in place for a promotion and/or any important lateral moves within the organization. Particularly in sales, whether it be net new or renewals capacity, for that matter, any other factors you recommend that are critical?
Lori: You know, it's one thing to hire good reps, it's another thing to keep them. To keep them you need to be a leader, you need to be high integrity. You need to have a company and an atmosphere that people want to be involved in. I think that that's changing over time with younger reps coming in that we need to be critical of whether we're hitting the mark on that. I also, I'm a big fan of seeing more women get into sales. I would recommend other factors being a mix of women and men on your team. If you're in technology and you don't have a woman on your team, I still see this ... We need more women sales leaders and developing top, great female reps is a good start towards that. It's not just a feel good thing to do but there's actually revenue increases that are associated with that. I think that's an angle I can bring that you might not normally hear as other factors.
Kevin: Well no, I appreciate you sharing, and I couldn't concur more in that regard. Lori, thank you again for being on the CPSA Podcast. Where can we find more information about Score More Sales and what you're doing today?
Lori: You can find me all over the web, at either scoremoresales.com, @scoremoresales on Twitter, we're all over the place. Google us. Also, Women Sales Pros which is the women's efforts I'm working on.
Kevin: Lori, thanks again. I look forward to meeting you in person someday.
Lori: Thank you, Kevin, it's been a pleasure.
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