Executive Sales Leader Briefing: Do My Sales Veterans Have the Drive to Sell?

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Welcome to the Executive Sales Leader Briefing, a new blog series I am doing every Friday.

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Recently, I’ve found myself in discussions with several Sales VPs and other leaders regarding how to put some fire in the belly of a sales team that has been around for a long time.

For a lot of companies, this is a real challenge, because clients like the experience and knowledge the veteran salesperson brings to them, but you question if they are being aggressive in opening new doors.

Based on my discussions and work with clients around this issue, I’ve put together a list of questions I hope you find beneficial. Yes, some of them are quite pointed, but if we’re going to dig deep, we have to be willing to look at it from all angles.

Do you have fire in the belly?   Your sales team takes its cues from you. If they feel you’re not pushing hard, they’ll soon follow suit.

Are you regularly discussing new business, including the “next steps” associated with getting it?  It’s amazing the number of companies I encounter that question why they’re not getting new business, but then fail to make it part of the sales meeting discussion.

When was the last time accounts were moved around between salespeople? Having the same person on an account too long might be something the customer likes, but it can create complacency and a failure to see new opportunities. Many times simply moving some accounts around is all it takes to stir the pot and get people looking for new business.

When salespeople are asked about how they’re going to grow business, does their growth plan rely on how well their existing customers do?   Veteran salespeople can be quick to jump on the bandwagon of a growing client and allow their growth to drive the numbers. The problem is the salesperson isn’t creating new growth, but rather is relying solely on the existing customer.

Do salespeople place enough focus on new products/services your company is introducing?  I’ve watched far too many veteran salespeople dismiss too quickly what a new product or service can do. Their approach is to merely rely on what is comfortable for them.

Is the compensation plan weighted to finding new business? Too many sales plans do not factor in the need to be chasing new business.

Are their KPIs specifically addressing new business and/or new prospects?   We get what we ask for. Veteran people are savvy when it comes to comp plans, KPIs and the things they know they will be measured on. If it’s not something you’re measuring, don’t expect them to chase it.

Does the company culture embrace aggressiveness? Culture starts at the top. If the sales team is to be aggressive, then they have to see it being a trait in the company.

What new ideas is the sales team bringing to the table from outside the industry?   Ask for these ideas, look for them, and embrace them when they come. It can be easy to simply let the status quo overpower everything. You start this process by you as the leader bringing new ideas to the team from outside the industry.

How many contests and measuring tools do you use, and are they changed up often enough to create urgency?   I’m not a fan of running one contest after another, but they can create a sense of competitiveness when used properly.

Veteran sales teams can be great, but I’ll contend they can be far harder to lead than a team of new people.

With new people, you know what needs to be coached and it’s much easier to develop a growth plan everyone will buy into. With veteran salespeople, it can become a slow drip process where you don’t notice what’s not happening until it’s too late.

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Copyright 2016, Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter.” Sales Motivation Blog. Mark Hunter is the author of High-Profit Selling: Win the Sale Without Compromising on Price.

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