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Should 360 Feedback Surveys Feature In Sales Transformation Programmes? What The Research Tells Us.

In earlier blogs we have considered the features of successful sales training and the value that coaching can bring.  Our focus now turns to 360 feedback.

Can multi-rater feedback improve workplace performance?  The answer from academic literature is mixed and could be summarised as “yes, provided that….”.   Previous research has shown that multisource feedback can be an effective method of improving work performance in its own right (Kluger & DeNisi, 1996; Smither et al, 2003).  Many researchers agree on the potential for 360 programmes to raise self-awareness and have a positive impact on performance, but mixed empirical findings can be attributed to the “high degree of variation in design features across 360 processes” (Bracken and Rose, 2011) and the fact that often the content of the feedback is provided to the individual without a coach or facilitator to help them understand it (Lawrence, 2015).

Research shows that for 360 feedback to have a positive impact on performance it must:

  • be accepted by the individual (Alexander, 2006; Smither et al, 2005)
  • be conducted by a trained professional (e.g., McDowall and Kurz, 2008; Alexander, 2006; Latham et al, 2005)
  • involve goal setting for the participant (Latham et al, 2005; Smither et al, 2005)
  • provide “short- and long- term support for participants, as they seek to make sense of the feedback and commit to specific actions” (Lawrence, 2015)
  • “provide a comprehensive and valid measure of workplace behaviour” (McDowall and Kurz, 2008) that is linked to the purpose of the programme (Lawrence, 2015).

The latter point is particularly relevant in our experience of working with sales organisations.  Historically, many have used generic 360 surveys more geared to measuring leadership or general workplace behaviours, whereas what they should measure are the capabilities that drive improved sales performance.

The importance of the skill and diplomacy of the feedback facilitator in navigating the potential sensitivities and nuances of 360 data is highlighted by a number of authors and researchers, because it is critical that the feedback is understood and accepted by the individual in order for there to be a commitment to goals and behaviour change (Alexander, 2006; Latham et al, 2005; Lawrence, 2015).

Finally, the overall sponsorship and positioning of the 360 programme is key, as it must be based on mutual trust and buy-in that is fostered through good communication (McDowall and Kurz, 2008).

Combining 360 and coaching: turbo powering the impact on performance

 Whilst there is a lack of research specific to the field of sales, there is a growing body of evidence that shows professional coaching support following 360 feedback can be a powerful way to improve performance.

  • A large study of over 1000 senior managers examined the effects of executive coaching on 360 feedback over time. One year later, they found that managers who worked with a coach were more likely to set specific (rather than vague) goals, to solicit ideas for improvement from their superiors and had improved more than other managers in terms of 360 ratings (Smither et al, 2003).
  • Luthans and Peterson (2003) found that participants need systematic coaching along with the 360 degree feedback in order to gain self-awareness and have a positive impact on work satisfaction and organisational commitment.
  • Thach (2002) found that the combination of 360 feedback and individual coaching increases leadership effectiveness by up to 60 per cent.

In contradiction, Jones et al’s (2015) review suggests that using 360 feedback reduces the size of the positive impact of coaching. However, they acknowledge that this may be due to issues of the participants not accepting the feedback or using generic leadership surveys that have no direct relevance to their objectives. In other words, poorly designed or delivered 360 programmes will inevitably not achieve your desired aims.

McDowall and Kurz (2008) conclude that coaching and 360 feedback processes are mutually beneficial as “coaching is helpful for initiating and embedding behaviour change following the initial feedback process” and “360 feedback measures make an effective contribution to the coaching process, as differences in ratings provide both the coachee and coach with valuable information about levels of effective performance at work….”.

Key Findings:

  • Goal-setting and ongoing support for the individual enhances the impact of a 360 feedback programme
  • If you want to change sales behaviour, you need to measure sales behaviour in your 360
  • Feedback must be accepted and understood by the recipient in order for them to commit to behaviour change
  • Combining 360 feedback with ongoing coaching will turbocharge its impact

 

Bloojam are business psychologists who take an evidence-based approach to selecting and developing salespeople, leaders and sales leaders.  To learn more about our Academy approach to developing sales capability in your workforce please visit our website.

 

Alexander, D.M. (2006) How Do 360 Degree Performance Reviews Affect Employee Attitudes, Effectiveness and Performance? Seminar Research Paper Series. Paper 8. http://digitalcommons.uri.edu/lrc_paper_series/8http://digitalcommons.uri.edu/lrc_paper_series/8

Bracken, D.W. & Rose, D.S. (2011) When Does 360-Degree Feedback Create Behavior Change? And How Would We Know It When It Does? Journal of Business and Psychology 26, Article number: 183

Jones, R. J., Woods, S. A., & Guillaume, Y.R.F. (2016) The effectiveness of workplace coaching: A meta-analysis of learning and performance outcomes from coaching. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 89, 249-277.

Kluger, A.N.  & DeNisi, A. (1996) The Effects of Feedback Interventions on Performance: A Historical Review, a Meta-Analysis, and a Preliminary Feedback Intervention Theory. Psychological Bulletin, II9(2), 254-284

Latham, G.P., Almost, J., Mann, S. & Moore, C. (2005) New Developments in Performance Management. Organizational Dynamics, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp. 77–87.

Lawrence, P. (2015), “A best practice model for the effective deployment of 360° feedback”, Development and Learning in Organizations, Vol. 29 No. 6, 13-16.

Luthans, F. & Peterson, S. J. (2004) 360‐degree feedback with systematic coaching: Empirical analysis suggests a winning combination. Human Resource Management 42(3), 243-256.

McDowall, A. & Kurz, R. (2008) Effective integration of 360 degree feedback into the coaching process. The Coaching Psychologist, 4(1)

Smither, J.W., London, M. & Reilly, R.R. (2005) Does performance improve following multisource feedback? A theoretical model, meta-analysis and review of empirical findings. Personnel Psychology, 58, 33-52.

Smither, J.W., London, M., Flautt, R., Vargas, Y., Kucine, I. (2003) Can working with an executive coach improve multisource feedback ratings over time? A quasi experimental field study. Personnel Psychology 56, 1, p23-44

Thach, E C (2002) “The impact of executive coaching and 360 feedback on leadership effectiveness” Leadership & Organization Development Journal Vol. 23 No. 4, pp. 205-214.

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Is Coaching Salespeople Worth The Investment? What The Research Tells Us.

In the first blog of the series, we explored the features that make sales training succeed.  In our second blog, we look at the value in coaching (and mentoring) your sales team.

Does coaching improve performance in general? The answer is a resounding “yes”. Definitive research reviews by Theeboom et al (2013) and Jones et al (2016) have found that coaching is an effective change methodology (Grant & O’Connor, 2019).  In particular, coaching has a large impact in terms of performance improvement.  Jones et al (2015) argue that this is likely to be because coaching involves many characteristics that we already know from research will enhance performance. These are:

  • Coaches apply goal-setting
  • Goals generally feature work-based activities, promoting experiential forms of learning
  • and thereby directly encourage transfer of learning to work behaviour

Jones et al’s (2015) research overview found that it makes no difference to outcomes whether the coaching sessions are delivered face-to-face, online or by telephone.  Their findings also suggest that internal coaches can deliver stronger outcomes than external coaches. However, research also tells us that the strength and quality of the coach-coachee relationship is a key ingredient to the success of the coaching process (De Haan et al, 2016).  For example, empathy, positive regard and autonomy support are important characteristics of the relationship (Grant & O’Connor, 2019).  So, while it may be ideal for organisations to develop a culture of coaching internally, due care should be taken in terms of training managers to be effective coaches and ensuring they have the relevant skills and characteristics that support quality relationships with their coachees.

Evidence of Impact of Coaching on Sales Performance

The purpose of sales coaching is to equip salespeople with the right knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) to achieve role and organisation-related objectives and goals. It can be delivered by a Sales Manager or an external coach.  Similar to executive coaching, the aim is to improve performance through a series of conversations, feedback provision and activities (Badrinarayanan et al, 2015).  Mentoring on the other hand tends to not have a focus on the development of KSAs and performance per se, but is the “exchange between a senior experienced person and a less experienced, more junior protégé” with a focus on career goals (Bradford et al, 2017).

Sales coaching is an under-researched area, but Badrinarayanan et al’s (2015) overview finds that it is an effective element of training and development programmes and that “professional sales coaching plays an important role in the development of salespeople…”

Sager et al (2014) found that salespeople are more satisfied with both selling skills and product knowledge training when it is supported by role models. Furthermore, sales organisations can assist salespeople by providing role models and mentors during initial sales training. Participants are more likely to be satisfied with training if role models continuously and consistently demonstrate correct and expected selling behaviours. Bradford et al’s (2017) found that a combination of external training and on-the-job training are more related to performance enhancement than are internal training courses.  They also recommend the use of internal mentoring, especially where the mentoring relationship gives the opportunity to shadow, observe and mimic the behaviour of the more senior colleague.  These researchers suggest that developmental support from line managers is important to realise the full potential of sales coaching.

In summary, the research tells us that coaching and mentoring play very important, but distinct roles in the embedding of sales capabilities. Coaching embeds learning by setting goals that feature work-based activities and encourage learning transfer. In this relationship, the coachee benefits by taking ownership for converting the ‘theory’ of sales training into a set of clear goals, supported by a tangible set of practical actions that will embed the desired behavioural change. On the other hand, mentoring allows the mentor to reinforce the expected sales behaviours and the mentee to observe and imitate these.

Key findings:

  • Evidence that coaching can improve individual performance is strong
  • Coaching embeds learning by setting goals that feature work-based activities and encourage learning transfer
  • Quality of coaching support is critical to the success of the coaching relationship
  • Participants report increased satisfaction with sales training when it is supported by mentors who role-model the expected behaviours

Bloojam are business psychologists who take an evidence-based approach to selecting and developing salespeople, leaders and sales leaders.  See our website to learn more about our approach to developing sales capability in your workforce.

 

Badrinarayanan, V., Dixon, A., West, V.L. & Zank, G.M. (2015) Professional sales coaching: an integrative review and research agenda. European Journal of Marketing, 49, 7/8, 1087-1113.

Bradford, S.K., Rutherford, B.N. & Friend, S.B. (2017) The impact of training, mentoring and coaching on personal learning in a sales environment. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, 15, 1.

De Haan, E., Grant, A.M., Burger, YD. & Eriksson, P.O. (2016) A large-scale study of executive and workplace coaching: The relative contributions of working relationship, personality match, and self-efficacy. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 68(3), 189-207

Grant, A.M. & O’Connor S. (2019) A brief primer for those new to coaching research and evidence-based practice. The Coaching Psychologist, 15(1) 3-10

Jones, R. J., Woods, S. A., & Guillaume, Y.R.F. (2015) The effectiveness of workplace coaching: A meta-analysis of learning and performance outcomes from coaching. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 89, 249-277.

Sager, J.K., Dubinsky, A.J, Wilson, P.H. & Shao, C. (2014) Factors influencing the impact of sales training: Test of a model. International Journal of Marketing Studies, 6(1), 1.

Theeboom, T., Beersma, B. & van Vianen, A. E. M. (2013): Does coaching work? A meta-analysis on the effects of coaching on individual level outcomes in an organizational context. The Journal of Positive Psychology: Dedicated to furthering research and promoting good practice. (September 2013)

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How Can We Deliver Impact Through Sales Training? An Evidence-Based Approach To Developing B2B Sales Capability

Estimates of the size of the sales training market vary but are typically measured in billions. One estimate for the US alone put the total annual spend on formal sales training in excess of $10billion (Hair et al, 2009). If you’re a business leader thinking about undergoing a sales transformation programme consider this. Less than a third of transformations succeed as expected, with a staggering 70 percent of failures due to an organisation’s inability to adopt the required new behaviours quickly and completely (Keller and Price, 2011).

So, why does sales training so often fail to deliver the returns it promises? We set ourselves two key exam questions:

  • What are the most effective methods to embed learning and development in the workplace?
  • Can the impact of this learning and development be measured in terms of improved sales performance?

To answer these questions we carried out a comprehensive review of credible sales studies and academic behavioural research to identify the best ways to embed learning and to drive a change in sales behaviour that will deliver an increase in top line sales.

 

Sales Training Best Practice

In this first blog of the series, we explore what features of sales training make it more likely to succeed.

A meta-analysis of 144 research studies (Huang et al, 2015) found that to ensure that individuals put in maximum effort to transfer learning into their job, learning should focus on knowledge and skills. Crucially, knowledge should be tailored to the job, bite-sized and then tested on the job. It is through giving the individual opportunities to practice and to receive feedback on their efforts that will help them to turn knowledge into skills. A further meta-analysis of 117 studies by Taylor et al (2005) looked at the impact of Behaviour Modelling Training (BMT) and identified four key components:

  • Training should describe specific actions
  • It should show individuals how to use them
  • Trainees should have opportunity to practice these
  • Trainees should receive feedback on their efforts

Factors that increased the chances of an individual successfully learning a new skill included the following:

  • Rule codes- these explain what to do and why e.g. “Listen carefully and respond with empathy to reduce defensiveness” rather than simply describe the behaviour e.g. “Listen carefully”
  • Mental practice- encourage participants to imagine scenarios and role-play these before they act out new skills in real life
  • Real life practice- provide opportunities for individuals to practice, receive feedback and adapt.

To increase the chance of that new skill changing behaviour, training should incorporate the following:

  • Provide examples of both good and bad behaviours,
  • Encourage individuals to create their own real-life scenarios,
  • Encourage individuals to set goals that relate to the behaviour they have learned

Overall, BMT was found to be effective in enabling individuals to learn new knowledge and skills and had a smaller but more sustained impact on behaviour and job performance.

 

The Impact on Sales Performance

In their study Kauffeld & Lehmann-Willenbrock (2010) found that an identical sales training programme delivered in a modular or ‘spaced’ format resulted in superior implementation of the training content, self-assessed sales competence and crucially increased new customers and gross revenue performance when compared to training delivered in a single block. Spaced training delivery is defined as a number of units of training with time intervals in between as opposed to massed training where the entire training content is delivered in one tranche. The authors concluded that the results supported the theory of situated learning whereby the training was perceived to be relevant to the working environment, enabled participants to apply the learning in different situations and gave them opportunity to interact with their colleagues thereby creating an environment of support and collaboration.

In their study of 115 organisations that engaged in sales training, Roman et al (2002) found that training content was a key factor and that salespeople gain “higher performance and customer orientation when training content deals with company policy and sales techniques” whereas training that focused on product knowledge alone actually reduced salespeople’s effectiveness. The authors suggest that this is because the product training was focused on features and benefits rather than on seeking to understand the needs of the customer. Interestingly, when the sales training covered sales techniques, customer knowledge and computer knowledge, the performance of the sales force and their customer orientation increased further. In the words of the researchers “salespeople need not only to know how to make the sale, but must also understand customer needs and provide greater value by applying new technologies in order to translate their behaviours into higher sales outcome.” This is consistent with a separate study (Pollitt, 2010) whereby sales training that focused on the customer and his or her buying experience led to “additional sales that far outstripped the cost of the training.”

 

Key findings

So, if you are choosing between training providers, consider the following summary of the evidence:

  • Sales training that encompasses knowledge of the customer, the buying experience and sales techniques increases the performance of the salesforce
  • Content should be delivered in bite-sized, modular format with intervals between each module to enable theory to be put into practice
  • Participants should be encouraged to set goals that are linked to desired behaviour change
  • Participants should have the opportunity to practice what they have learned through role-play and then on the job
  • Feedback should be given after the individual has practiced so that they can learn and adapt

 

Bloojam are business psychologists who take an evidence-based approach to selecting and developing salespeople, leaders and sales leaders.  To learn more about our Academy approach to developing sales capability in your workforce take a look at our website.

 

Hair, J. F., Anderson, R. E., Mehta, R., & Babin, B. (2009). Sales management. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Huang, J. L., Blume, B. D., Ford, J. K., & Baldwin, T. T. (2015). A tale of two transfers: Disentangling maximum and typical transfer and their respective predictors. Journal of Business and Psychology, 30(4), 709.

Kauffeld, S. & Lehmann‐Willenbrock, N. (2010). Sales training: effects of spaced practice on training transfer. Journal of European Industrial Training, 34(1), 23-37.

Keller, S. and Price, C. (2011) Beyond Performance: How Great Organizations Build Ultimate Competitive Advantage, first edition, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Pollitt, D. (2010). BT Business Sales dials up a customer-focused coaching culture: Program combines new technology with tailored training. Human Resource Management International Digest, 18(4), 7.

Roman, S., Ruiz, S. & Munuera, J.L. (2002) “The effects of sales training on sales force activity.” European Journal of Marketing.

Taylor, P. J., Russ-Eft, D. F., & Chan, D. W. (2005). A meta-analytic review of behavior modelling training. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90(4), 692-709.

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Why Sales Capability Is The Key Differentiator In Professional Services

How Embracing The Science Of Selling Will Set Your Firm Apart

I have assessed hundreds of Partner candidates in professional services firms and I am yet to come across one whose burning desire is to become the top salesperson. Experts in their field, trusted partner to their clients, yes. But not a salesperson. The word ‘sales’ is rarely mentioned. Client management, business origination, increasingly business development, but sales? No, that’s not how we do things here thank you!

And yet the reality of being a successful Partner is the ability to generate revenue and to win new business in order to drive growth. So why are firms seemingly unable or unwilling to embrace a sales culture in their business?

The answer lies in how they recruit and develop their people. Major consultancies are able to take their pick of the brightest candidates from the most prestigious universities across the UK. Once in the business, their technical skills are honed through mandatory professional qualifications so that they can provide the very best advice to their clients, whether they are accountants, lawyers or other highly qualified professional. As they progress in their career the top firms will invest in developing their people management skills so that they can lead larger teams on increasingly complex client engagements.

I tend to assess individuals who are on ‘Partner track’. They are the best of the best. The majority will ace their panel interview and present a compelling business case. But the one thing that scares them is the prospect of having a sales (or revenue!) target to deliver. Sure, they are used to being given performance metrics to achieve, but in the past these have measured the things that they can control. They’ve never had their own neck on the line for a revenue target.

And yet, at no point during their career have their sales capabilities been formally evaluated or their development areas supported in the way that their technical or people skills have. Often, for the first time in their career, they worry that they won’t have what it takes; that they’ll be found wanting. Welcome to the world of strategic sales.

If professional services firms want their Partners to sell effectively (whether that is originating new business, cross-selling to existing clients or simply maximising the opportunities in front of them) they have to invest in the sales skills of those that find themselves on the Partner track. They can’t expect technical experts to be great at selling. Why should developing sales capability be any different to the way that firms support the development of an individual’s technical and leadership skills?

Don’t wait until they become a Partner to find out if they can sell. Evaluate their business development skills in advance and use this as a criteria for promotion. Support and train those with potential to maximise their sales capability and acknowledge that some people will never be top salespeople (and provide them with an alternative route for success). At the moment there are still too many firms that are setting their people up to fail by not supporting them to develop these crucial skills.

Acuity, from Bloojam Consulting, enables firms to benchmark their people’s sales capabilities and to pinpoint individual and team strengths and development priorities. These sales capabilities are statistically proven to be exhibited by high-performers who typically deliver c25% more in revenue generation than their peers.

Jim Bloomfield is a Director of Bloojam Consulting with 20 years’ experience of using business psychology to develop salespeople and leaders. He is a member of the Association of Business Psychology (ABP) and the British Psychological Society (BPS) and has successfully helped some of Britain’s best-known businesses exceed their sales goals.

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How To Enhance Business Development Skills In Your Technical Experts

Jo is a technically brilliant accountant who has been rapidly promoted through the grades at a large professional services firm. Along with her strong technical skills, Jo has always been great with clients, building strong relationships and providing an efficient, flexible and supportive service that they really appreciate.

Six months ago Jo was delighted to be promoted to Partner. However, today that delight has turned to despair. It’s the first time that she has been responsible for meeting a revenue target. Jo does not see herself as a salesperson. She knows she is great at what she does, but she is finding the challenge of generating revenue difficult and for the first time in her career she has doubts about whether she can succeed.

So, what are Jo’s chances of success?

As Daniel Pink argues in his book, To Sell is Human, we are all in sales.

The good news is that Jo is already showing some of the key behaviours and personal drive characteristics that are critical in business development: she is driven and focused on her own progression; she is confident in her abilities; she has spent many years building trusted relationships with her clients and provides them with insights that they find valuable.

The areas that Jo now needs to work on include her self-belief when it comes to winning business and increasing her client base. She needs to accept that her role has changed and to recognise how her existing skills, attributes and activities can help her achieve her business development goals. Equally, she needs to identify which skills and activities may be missing from her toolkit, and be supported to develop these. And she needs to re-focus her goals and personal drive to incorporate the business development elements of being a Partner.

This will be a familiar scenario for many consultancy organisations, where your highly valued consultants / accountants / lawyers (i.e. your technical experts) are promoted to senior / Partner positions and given responsibility for business development.  Many will thrive in their new role. Others will flounder. At worst, your valued employee will leave the organisation as they feel the pressure of ‘underperformance’ for the first time in their careers.

Our Acuity® for Strategic Sales assessment model is proven to enhance revenue performance by up to 23%. By evaluating individuals against 9 key capabilities Acuity can provide targeted and personal feedback to help them address their development needs.

If you want to retain your top performers and enable them to hit the ground running when promoted into roles requiring a focus on business development, let us help you to support them on that journey.

Sarah Clapperton is a Director at Bloojam Consulting. She is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist with 15 years experience in the assessment and development of leaders.

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5 Key Trends All Sales Leaders Need To Navigate To Get The Best From Their Sales Teams

Prior to the pandemic, many organisations were already responding to the changing needs of buyers by undertaking sales transformation and digitisation programmes.  Research from Gartner conducted over the course of 2018 and 2019 showed that 87% of senior business leaders reported that digitisation was a company priority, whilst 66% of CEOs expected to change their company’s business model in the next 3 years.

However, these were not delivering the expected benefits, with 72% of leaders reporting that corporate digitisation initiatives were missing revenue expectations.  In fact, the ‘democratisation’ of information has, alongside other factors, created a sales journey that is more convoluted with 77% of buyers now describing the purchase process as ‘complex’.

The pandemic has further fuelled the digitisation and transformation agendas for sales.  A cross-parliamentary report in the UK (2021) argues that the pandemic “has accelerated the digital revolution in how we trade and exposed an acute skills shortage in professional business-to-business selling”.  A number of key themes have emerged that, whilst not new, have certainly become cemented over the last 18 months and have significant implications for sales leaders if they are to maximise the performance of their sales teams:

  1. More Of The Buyer Journey Is Online: McKinsey (2021) research shows that omnichannel interactions, already prevalent in B2B sales, are now the predominant path for customers.  A global survey by Bain & Company (2021) found that buyers and sellers alike prefer virtual sales interactions.  Even as face-to-face engagement has begun to re-emerge as an option, buyers demonstrate a clear preference for a blend of digital self-service, remote human interactions and more traditional approaches.  In the space of the last 12 months, the appetite for digital self-service, necessitated by global lockdowns, has cemented a pre-existing trend particularly at the early ‘discovery’ stages of the buying cycle.
  2. Buyers Have Too Much Information: Conversely, this rise in self-service buying appears to have exacerbated a trend we highlighted in our previous whitepaper which is one of sales complexity.  Gartner’s research shows that whilst the vast majority (89%) of buyers agree that the quality of information available to them is high, half (50%) also found it overwhelming and 43% said it was contradictory.  As a result, buyers report that two-thirds of the buying journey is spent on gathering, processing and deconflicting information.  With numerous stakeholders involved on the buyer side, each independently uncovering information from different sources, it is easy to see how buyers find it difficult to find agreement between themselves about how to proceed.
  3. Buyers Are Prepared To Buy ‘Big’ Online: Perhaps surprisingly, despite this lack of clarity a significant proportion of buyers are prepared to spend 6 figures or more with a wholly digital sales process; that is, without any interaction with a salesperson at all (McKinsey, 2021).  Research from Gartner suggests that when a salesperson is able to interact with a buyer, they can expect to get only 5% of their time and so their window to influence a purchase decision is extremely narrow.  This risks an increase in purchase regret from the customer, if the solution doesn’t meet their expectations, and reduces the likelihood of repeat business.
  4. Seller Capability Is Not Fit For Purpose: Only 54% of B2B salespeople are confident in their ability to close deals in the new environment (Salesforce, 2020).  84% of sales leaders say that they don’t have the sales talent they need to succeed in future (Miller Heiman) and just 22% report that they consistently hire sellers who succeed.  In the UK, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Professional Sales (2021) reports a shortage of sales, digital and management skills amongst sales organisations.  Clearly there is an urgent requirement for organisations to invest in developing their sales talent so that it is fit for the future.
  5. Sales Leaders Are Not Equipped To Support Salespeople: Allied to the dearth of sales talent, is the increasing expectation that sales leaders should play a key part in developing employees.  Gartner research shows that 42% of managers say they lack the confidence to develop the skills that employees need today.  Little wonder then that the average frontline sales manager devotes just 9% of their time to developing their direct reports.  So not only are sales leaders failing to hire well, they also appear to give too little of their time and attention to help individuals to adapt to the new sales landscape.  Sales leaders need to develop their own capabilities as leaders so that they can improve their recruitment and development of sales talent.

Whilst the capability of the individual salesperson is clearly important, they cannot perform at their best without effective leadership.  It is therefore imperative for organisations to understand what is required of sales leaders so that they can support them in bringing the best out of individuals to create high-performing sales teams within the increasingly complex and fast-moving context that we describe.

Jim Bloomfield is a Director of Bloojam Consulting with 20 years’ experience of using business psychology to develop salespeople and leaders. He is a member of the Association of Business Psychology (ABP) and the British Psychological Society (BPS) and has successfully helped some of Britain’s best-known businesses exceed their sales goals.

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6 Reasons You Should Use 360 Feedback and Coaching To Create A Sales Culture

In our previous blog we looked at the 5 things needed to supercharge sales training. But sales training in isolation is doomed to fail with one estimate indicating that when it comes to transformation programmes “70 percent of failures are due to an organisation’s inability to adopt the required new behaviours quickly and completely”.

When evaluating the impact of training, many organisations will measure feedback from participants as evidence for success. Others may apply a formal measure of learning in the form of an assessment at the end of the training. But the most powerful measures of success are ‘learning transfer’- do the individuals apply what they have learned back in the real world- and what is the impact upon business performance.

So what can an organisation do beyond sales training that will directly impact upon the bottom line? Research indicates that combining 360 feedback with ongoing coaching to support training can be very powerful for the following reasons:

  • 360 feedback with individual coaching has been shown to increase leadership effectiveness by up to 60 per cent. By soliciting feedback from a number of individuals known to (and usually respected by) the participant the results are very targeted and personal in a way that sales training is not.
  • The coach is able to support the participant to understand the feedback results and to link these to actions that will change behaviour.
  • Coaching alongside training helps to embed learning and facilitates learning transfer by encouraging individuals to set work-based actions and activities. In effect, the coachee takes ownership for turning training ‘theory’ into practice.
  • In subsequent coaching sessions the coach is able to hold the coachee to account by encouraging the individual to review their actions and the effectiveness of these. ‘Live’ situations can be dissected enabling the individual to amend existing activities or to identify new actions that will enable them to handle that situation more effectively.
  • Goal-setting is found to enhance the impact of coaching. This is different from identifying specific actions. Goals are over-arching objectives that show the individual the destination that their many small activities will lead them towards. Having goal clarity is shown to enhance workplace performance.
  • Above all else, the key to successful coaching is the quality of the coach and their relationship with the coachee. Internal coaches can be effective but if training managers to be coaches it is critical that they are well trained and have the relevant skills and characteristics to support quality relationships with their coachees.

So if you want to maximise the impact of your sales training, we strongly recommend that you support any such program with 360 feedback and ongoing coaching.

 

Jim Bloomfield is a Director of Bloojam Consulting with 20 years’ experience of using business psychology to develop salespeople and leaders. He is a member of the Association of Business Psychology (ABP) and the British Psychological Society (BPS) and has successfully helped some of Britain’s best-known businesses exceed their sales goals.

 

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5 Things To Look For If You Want To Supercharge Your Sales Training

If You Want Sales Training To Impact The Bottom Line, This Is What You Need To Know

At Bloojam we have put a lot of effort into understanding the key behaviours that determine success in B2B sales roles. In fact, our research has identified 9 key capabilities that are statistically proven to be exhibited by the top sales performers, those who deliver on average nearly 25% more revenue than their peers.

Unfortunately, we’re yet to come across a business that is full of top-performing salespeople. Add to that, too much of the sales training that is out there fails to have any impact upon sales performance at all.

So what can be done to support individuals to develop their sales capability and to maximise the impact of sales training? Most importantly, is there any evidence that any of this will lead to an increase in sales? And what should you look for when commissioning sales training for your business?

It’s not cool but our approach has always been led by facts and data. We favour science over speculation and so we have undertaken a wide-ranging review of sales studies and academic behavioural research to identify the 5 key things that you should look for if you want to supercharge your sales training:

  1. Measure impact on sales- Most sales training measures what an individual has learned and whether they are applying that learning in the real world. But the key thing to measure is what impact does this have on sales. If the learning fails to lead to an increase in sales, then it is money down the drain!
  2. Train behaviours that will shift the dial- If you want to change sales behaviours, that’s great. But you need to be confident that the behaviours you seek are going to lead to increased sales. Luckily for you, we know which behaviours will do that.
  3. Encourage goal setting- Too often what is learned in training is forgotten within weeks. A common practice in coaching, goal-setting encourages individuals to commit to changing their behaviour for the long-term. The key is to ensure that these goals are linked to the sales behaviours that are proven to drive greater sales performance.
  4. Focus on the Customer- Sales training that encourages sellers to consider customer needs and their buying experience is more effective than training that prioritises the organisation’s sales process and procedures.
  5. Bite-sized modules work best- The same content delivered in a modular format provides space and time for individuals to practice, review and receive feedback on their application of the course content. This approach is shown to lead to higher sales performance than the same content delivered in a single block.

So there you have it. Five things you should look for when commissioning sales training. If you’d like to know more about how we incorporate these methods into our Acuity Sales Training Academy take a look at our website or give us a call.

Jim Bloomfield is a Director of Bloojam Consulting with 20 years’ experience of using business psychology to develop salespeople and leaders. He is a member of the Association of Business Psychology (ABP) and the British Psychological Society (BPS) and has successfully helped some of Britain’s best-known businesses exceed their sales goals.

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Why Innovation Is Key To Driving Sales Performance…

And Why Sales Leaders Need to Loosen Their Grip On Their Sales Teams

As sales dry up and the pressure to achieve target increases, for sales leaders it can be very tempting to impose greater oversight of sales teams through more regular check-ins, activity reporting, new processes and more. This is understandable given how volatile the world is right now. To make well-informed decisions about how to adapt to the new normal, it is only natural for a sales leader to want to have up-to-date information from those on the ground. But is it the right approach?

We already know that salespeople spend a lot of their time on non-sales activities, for example this Salesforce survey of sales professionals identified that even before lockdown on average 64% of their time is spent not selling. So if we are now asking them for even more information, more frequently, that can only further reduce the amount of time available for selling.

Worse still it may be stifling sales innovation at the very moment you need it most. There is a growing body of evidence that fostering a culture of innovation amongst your sales team will positively impact upon the bottom line. This is not achieved by a rigid ‘one size fits all’ style of management. It is based upon encouraging individual salespeople to share knowledge with each other, to ask questions, to challenge existing methods, to generate ideas and to explore these further in order to problem solve, all with the intention of adding value for the customer.

It requires sales leaders to focus on knowledge and behaviour within the team rather than their targets and outcomes. And it requires individual salespeople to work collaboratively rather than acting as lone wolves.

In rapidly changing and uncertain economic climates, everyone in the sales team and across the organisation needs to be sharing, and interrogating, information not just reporting it up to the sales leader. Allowing sales teams to be innovative could be a real differentiator. Encouraging your salespeople to think differently and to challenge each other and the status quo will enable them to respond innovatively and lead to better solutions that will enable them to position themselves with their customers as a trusted advisor; someone they want to hear from and whose insight they value. It is that quality of relationship that will drive your competitive advantage.

Jim Bloomfield is a Director of Bloojam Consulting with 20 years’ experience of using business psychology to develop salespeople and leaders. He is a member of the Association of Business Psychology (ABP) and the British Psychological Society (BPS) and has successfully helped some of Britain’s best-known businesses exceed their sales goals.

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How HR Can Influence Business Leaders To Develop Their People

Helping HR To Speak The Language Of Business

When we see HR leaders and Sales leaders together around the table it can be interesting to hear the different language being used.

HR professionals often talk in people terms such as ‘talent’ ‘personal development’ and ‘engagement’.  They often see the value of robust selection and development practices in terms such as ‘talent pipeline’, ‘succession planning’ and ‘future leaders’.

Sales leaders often talk in terms of ‘targets’, ‘revenue’ and ‘sales performance’.

But, these are essentially two sides of the same coin.  Drawing a line between the two will help you to make the business case for using robust assessments for selection and development.   Here are some ways to support your argument for more ‘people’ focused activities that all business leaders can buy into.

  1. Reduce the risks and costs of wrong decisions

A good assessment process tells you more information about an individual than you can ever get in an interview alone. For example, an expert-led discussion with them about psychometric survey results will give you an invaluable insight into a person’s strengths, preferences, values, drivers and areas for development.

Armed with this rich information, you can make informed decisions about whether a candidate will perform well against the critical job criteria, whether your employee is ready for the next level of role or how to best spend your training budget to meet the specific needs of a team or department.

  1. Show me the money

A powerful business case will demonstrate the return on investment based on identifying the costs associated with poor selection or promotion decisions.

Questions to consider include:

  • How much does the recruitment / selection process cost?
  • How much does it cost to train someone in the new role?
  • How much does it cost the business while they are getting up to speed?
  • How much does it cost in re-training or performance management if a team member is underperforming?
  • What impact does it have on others if someone is underperforming? E.g. colleagues “carrying” their work, re-training them or becoming demotivated themselves; managers demotivating their team; a leader getting the direction wrong for the whole business.

Based on the answers to these questions, you’ll find that the cost of a robust selection process is a drop in the ocean in comparison. Click here for a useful ROI calculator to get you started.

  1. Provide the evidence

If you want to add even more weight to your business case, a validation study will link the results of the assessment method to key performance indicators in the role.  Take the example of a sales team; if you can identify which elements of personality and behaviour will drive sales performance then you can show the associated increase in income to the business if everyone was recruited against this profile. To see an example of how this has been done click here for more information.

  1. Hone your training budget

Using personality questionnaires, 360 surveys and other tools shows that as a business you are willing to invest in your people and their professional development. Using these as part of a development process can create a culture of self-awareness and self-development that didn’t previously exist. It can also provide team, department and organisational level themes that need to be addressed, thereby enabling you to make the best use of the training budget rather than taking a more costly “sheep dip” approach. Providing cost saving figures for your business leaders will again support your argument and help you to achieve your people aims.

In summary, an objective business case outlining the costs of getting it wrong and the value of getting it right can speak the language of senior peers and the C-Suite, helping HR leaders reach their own objectives while bringing other business leaders with them.

Sarah is a Chartered Business Psychologist and a Director of Bloojam Consulting.  With 20 years’ experience working in selection and development, she is passionate about using evidence-based approaches to add demonstrable value to both the individual and the organisation.

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