Many companies, unfortunately, employ sales managers who aren’t well-versed in the finer points of sales management. They might have been successful sales reps in the past, but that doesn’t mean that they have what it takes to hire and onboard effectively, streamline sales processes or articulate sale strategies.
Enter Lee Salz. The Founder and CEO of Sales Architects, Business Expert Webinars and The Revenue Accelerator leverages his extensive, results-driven experience to help companies and clients improve their sales management strategies. Lee is also the author of several books, including the soon-to-be-published “Hire Right, Higher Profits – The Executive’s Guide to Building a World-Class Sales Force.”
We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Lee on several topics including hiring mistakes and best practices, the importance of being process-based, and his upcoming book.
1) Tell us a little bit about your new book, “Hire Right, Higher Profits”
This book introduces a concept that I innovated, which is founded on an executive perception change of a sales team. When adding people to a sales team, I suggest viewing that addition not as hiring, but rather seeing it for what it truly is – an investment in revenue.
In most companies, when it comes to investing in an idea that requires a $25,000 investment to implement it, they analyze it every way possible before making a decision to proceed. However, when adding a salesperson to the team with a base salary of $25,000, there isn’t nearly the same level of scrutiny. Yet, both the idea and salesperson are intended to serve the same purpose which is to grow revenue. Why wouldn’t decision-making be handled with the same level of care and scrutiny?
Hire Right, Higher Profits teaches business leaders how to determine what type of revenue investment is needed, prudently evaluate revenue investment options and both protect the investment and get a high return on it. In short, the book teaches executives how to build a world-class sales force.
2) If you had to boil it down, what would you say is the one secret to hiring (making a revenue investment) in the right salespeople?
I’m glad you phrased the question this way. Oftentimes, business leaders search for great salespeople rather than for the right ones with the potential to be great in a specific sales role for the company. And there is a major difference between those two approaches.
Before you can search for those right salespeople, business leaders need to fully analyze the sales role – a process the book presents as the Revenue Investment 360™. During this analysis, every factor that impacts sales performance in the role is uncovered – the drivers of success and the causes of underperformance/failure. Those factors are assembled and prioritized by level of performance impact in a Performance Factor Portfolio™. That Portfolio becomes the foundation to which every revenue investment candidate is compared and contrasted.
Rather than searching for great salespeople, you are now looking for the right ones with the potential to be great in this specific sales role.
3) Conversely, what is the most common hiring mistake you come across?
Many business leaders view their competitors as the best place to find their sales hires. The perception is that these people will show up with a book of business ready to drop in the laps of their new employers – and that these salespeople are ready to sell with no training.
I’m not opposed to making revenue investments in salespeople with related industry background. However, I would not be so quick to make that investment.
Every company and every sales role is unique. Whether a salesperson has prior industry experience or not, they need to be compared and contrasted with the Performance Factor Portfolio™. Business leaders are often shocked when they go through the Revenue Investment 360™ process as they think about salespeople who failed in the roles. As a result of this process, it becomes quickly apparent why that failure happened.
Even when making a revenue investment in a salesperson with industry background, a development program is still needed to teach them how to sell effectively for the company. They may know the industry jargon, but they won’t arrive on your doorstep ready to position the unique value your company brings to bear. They need a bridge program connecting their skills with proficiency in the sales role – sales onboarding.
4) Let’s talk about your sales management strategy firm “Sales Architects.” You talk about helping migrate clients from being people-based to process-based. What exactly does this mean and why is it important?
The question may appear to be insensitive as business leaders should take great care of their salespeople. When I refer to migrating from being people-based to process-based, I’m helping position companies for consistency, scalability and growth. The salespeople are very important to success. However, the first step is to build the processes for them to follow so they are successful – and so are their employers. I’ll bet you can’t name one company that has been lauded for sales success that has not defined process and metrics for its sales force.
We work with companies to build their sales architecture® based on best practices from their teams to turn them into process, with corresponding metrics and compensation that is tied to both process and metrics. Process development also includes hiring and onboarding as well as we talked about in the earlier questions.
True story, a former salesperson of mine named my company. She said, “You don’t take away our ability to be creative, but you provide a framework that helps us to be successful. Just like an architect doesn’t select the color of the window coverings, but does make sure the building is sound.” Bingo!
5) You mentioned the importance of identifying the right sales metrics. What kind of role does this analytical, data-driven approach play in sales management today?
Every company should have what I call a “sales metric management system.” This is a series of data points that show how the salesperson and the sales process are performing.
One of the common metrics business leaders have is revenue. Revenue isn’t a metric. It’s a result of the right metrics being delivered upon by the salespeople with a specified frequency. You can’t do anything about revenue, but there is a lot that can be done relative to the behaviors that lead to sales.
There are four criteria for each metric to be considered for inclusion in the system.
- Measurable – It has to be something that can be quantified. If it can’t be measured, it’s not a metric.
- Meaningful – I’m a huge baseball fan. Like baseball, sales has tons of statistics associated with it. However, which ones are true performance indicators? Those are the ones that belong in the system.
- Goal-oriented – We know salespeople are goal-oriented individuals so we want to be able to set objectives for the salespeople. Instead of pushing the salespeople just on getting the revenue number, what you’re doing is giving them a success model based on these metrics.
- Trainable. If you said that this is measurable, meaningful and goal-oriented, well then it should be something that we can train on so that we make the salespeople better at that aspect.
6) One of your older books is “Soar Despite Your Dodo Sales Manager.” What constitutes such a ‘Dodo Sales Manager’ and how do you recommend sales reps get around this obstacle?
It’s funny, people latch onto the title and they think I’m slamming sales managers – I actually feel bad for the majority of them. Sales managers are rarely given the training, the development, or the mentoring for their new role as a sales manager. Being a successful salesperson didn’t teach a sales manager how to hire, how to onboard, to create metrics, how to compensate, how to create a sales process. While they don’t always have the skills to help their salespeople, they can (and do) hold their team accountable for results.
This book teaches salespeople how to create a selling system when it has not been provided for them – how to breakdown a territory in a meaningful way, develop a needs analysis guide, analyze an account, etc. In essence, it gives salespeople the tools to be successful.
7) Where do you see sales management trending over the next decade?
Sales management is not often recognized as a profession, but it truly is. You don’t necessarily need to be a product expert in a particular industry to be successful as a sales manager. If you know how to put together sales hiring and onboarding programs, develop sales compensation plans, and build a step-by-step sales process with corresponding metrics – those skills are portable in any industry.
What has changed is that, because of all the automation that has been developed, it is easier to analyze sales performance … but there’s still a gap between the technology and process. Technology is a double-edged sword – it is not overly helpful if you haven’t established a solid foundation for your business. All the discussion we had today around process, metrics, compensation – if you don’t have that foundation, technology won’t be anywhere near as helpful as it could be.
More about Lee Salz
Lee B. Salz is a leading sales management strategist specializing in helping companies build scalable, high-performance sales organizations through hiring the right salespeople, effectively onboarding them, and aligning their sales activities with business objectives through process, metrics and compensation. He is the Founder and CEO of Sales Architects, Business Expert Webinars and The Revenue Accelerator. Lee has authored several books including the soon-to-be-published Hire Right, Higher Profits – The Executive’s Guide to Building a World-Class Sales Force – the book is available at a 25% discount during the pre-sale period. He is a results-driven sales management consultant and a passionate, dynamic speaker.