Does Your Sales Team Have Performance Issues?

The most important decision we make as salespeople, managers, and leaders is how to connect with our customers. Are we effectively engaging with our clients? How your sales team performs in front of customers is crucial, since they (usually) only get one chance. Successful salespeople know the importance of preparing and strategizing before meeting with customers and prospects. Bypassing the warm-up and instead jumping right into the sales pitch can be a costly mistake for the inexperienced salesperson (e.g., “Here’s what our product can do, and here’s why it’s great. How many should I order?”).

Conversation Ready?

Being customer-focused is one of the critical factors that has helped organizations weather economic storms and endure even after decades in business. And being truly customerfocused, as opposed to merely paying lip service, will be the same critical component that will help companies meet their growth plans this year and the years to come. As Nattalie Hoch, Executive Vice President of Sales Operations, put it in a previous Journal article, “Being customer-focused is a journey, not a destination. What satisfies in this environment today will not in the next few years as customers continue to evolve,” Hoch said. “Being customer-focused is not an item on a to-do list you can check off. We can’t say we’ve done it and we’re ready to move on to something else.” Being the very best at client services will result in long-term business relationships. That comes from research and preparation and, out of that, come the right questions to ask, as well as the ability to listen to and truly hear the responses. (While this sounds logical, for many salespeople, listening to the customer has become both an overlooked and underrated skill.) Each face-to-face interaction with potential clients should be managed to move an opportunity forward. Not knowing what to ask the customer is one reason why customers stop agreeing to schedule time, and opportunities are ultimately lost. An inability to engage in—and, indeed, initiate—customer conversations is a tell-tale sign of lack of commitment and preparation. It demonstrates a fundamental disregard for putting the customer at the core. Recognizing and owning up to ineffective attempts to engage with customers as being the reason the opportunity didn’t advance, instead of providing timeworn excuses (poor economic conditions, indecisive buyers, crossed signals, etc.), is a far more productive way to improve the next attempt. The ability to assess one’s weaknesses in addition to one’s own strengths in an objective, clearheaded way is in itself a strength that can result in improved performance moving forward—and is one you should be cultivating among your teams and yourself.

More Customer-Facing Time: Quantity vs. Quality

“All sales organizations are relentlessly searching for ways to remove administrative and other nonproductive activities from their salespeople to free more customer time,” says Joe Galvin, Chief Research Officer at the MHI Research Institute. He goes on to point out, however, that for WorldClass Sales Performers, this means more than just increasing the frequency of customer interactions. Sales professionals must not only make the time to engage with their clients throughout the product life cycle, but they must also have compelling business reasons to meet. “The focused dialogues with the customer let them jointly evaluate the impact of their solutions on the customer’s business goals and objectives, as well as check customer satisfaction and detect signs of possible customer defection. These conversations then lead to new opportunities to cross-sell/upsell, introduce new products, or penetrate adjacent buying centers.” Such conversations can only occur when time has been invested to research before meeting with the client to be in the best possible position to understand the needs and challenges that the solution they ultimately propose will address and, ideally, solve for.

MHI sales best practice

The mark of success in any world-class organization is the ability to readily offer proven solutions and methodologies to clients and prospects that solve for customer needs and eliminate pain points or conversion hurdles. Our own research bears this out: 86 percent of World-Class Sales Performance organizations say they understand their customers’ issues before they propose a solution, compared to 51 percent of all others. These organizations recognize that for their solution to resonate with their customers, it must be connected to their issues. And, their salespeople have a solid understanding of their customers’ business needs, at a rate of 89 percent compared with 49 percent of all other organizations. Ultimately, sales professionals at these world-class organizations know they must earn the right to propose a solution by understanding the customers’ concepts.

It’s not about the quantity of conversations with the customer or prospect. It’s about the quality of those conversations and how much preparation has put in beforehand in order to engage with the customer in an informed, substantive way at every interaction. Don’t squander what may be the one opportunity in front of the only audience that matters—their customer. Performance matters.

Case Study: Our Sales Training helps Waste Connections close more accounts

Our clients – Where are they now?

Success in sales is as easy with some help from AchieveGlobal. Image courtesy of adamr on

Success in sales is as easy with some help from AchieveGlobal. Image courtesy of adamr on

Read the full article on how Professional Selling Skills and Professional Sales Negotiations were used to bring success to Waste Connections. Our sales training is designed to have measurable, practical results to your sales – the proof of its impact is in stories like these from clients who have gone on to succeed. 

Channel Sales Competency Study

Download the full study paper here

All channel organizations start with the same goal in mind: to achieve organizational objectives by leveraging channel partners. However, the shape of multi-channel operations varies across organizations. This difference is driven, in large part, by the different realities, e.g., cultural, market dynamics and channel maturity, of individual organizations. Yet, there are common competencies that have been proven to drive success regardless of organizational differences.

The MHI Global 2014 Channel Sales Competency Study sought to expand on the work we began with the 2010 Channel Management Skills Survey. In this study, we grouped the activities and behaviors of successful channel sales professionals into five core competencies:

  • Channel Core Fundamentals
  • Channel Business Acumen
  • Influencing Skills
  • Partnership Planning
  • Leading and Managing Partnerships

Within each competency, we asked respondents to rank a total of 55 specific behaviors and activities in order of importance and performance.

Tying performance levels to results allowed us to single out six “best bets” for driving results. For example, increasing channel partner productivity is a common strategic objective. Our research shows that channel managers who committed to planning a strategy for partner development saw a 123 percent increase on partner productivity over the prior year.

Another key to reaching sales targets is to increase the number of qualified opportunities in the sales funnel. When channel managers worked with partners who embraced metric development and SMART 90-day actions plans, they were able to double the number of qualified opportunities generated.

By leveraging the insights from this study, channel organizations will be able to create a solid framework for developing, executing and managing an effective multi-channel strategy – one that leads to bottom line results.

Read the full report

Your Most Important Customer Experience Training Tool

navigation tools to improve the experience for your customers

Your customer journey map is a vital tool. Image courtesy of phanlop88 on

Your most important customer experience training tool, to help you improve service and experience for your valued clients.. what is it?
It’s your customer journey map.

So what is a customer journey map? In simple terms, it’s a way to walk in your customer’s shoes and chart his course as he interacts with your organization while trying to fulfill some need or complete some task. The map allows you to identify key moments of truth and analyze and prioritize improvement opportunities at each touchpoint.

A journey map is a tool that helps you understand. Without knowing what steps your customers currently take to complete some interaction or task, there’s no way for us to change it or to make improvements. Imagine trying to change something that we have no clue about, that we have no idea how it transpires today. That’s just silly. And yet, so many companies attempt to do that.

There is no right or wrong way to map, i.e., how it looks, but there are some basic components (what the customer is doing, thinking, and feeling) and some fundamental principles to adhere to, including: the map is created from the customer’s viewpoint, not yours; it’s created through collaborative efforts; it’s shared across departments throughout the organization; it doesn’t sit on a shelf when it’s completed, and it’s never really complete; it’s not linear, and it’s not static. The more information and data the map contains, the more actionable it becomes.

Why do you need a customer journey map? Why is it such an important customer experience training tool? Because, when shared or otherwise used properly, it helps the entire organization …

•    be customer-focused and customer-centric;
•    understand the customer and his interactions with your organization; •    align around a common cause;
•    speak a universal language (customer);
•    break down silos;
•    achieve a single view of the customer; and
•    improve the customer experience.

Included in your journey map is the linkage between the customer interaction and the department with which the customer interacts. This helps employees in each department—customer-facing or back office—understand how they impact the experience.

For the employee, customer journey maps provide clarity in a variety of ways. Most importantly, the maps offer a clear line of sight to the customer.

Why is that important?

When employees have a clear line of sight, they …

•    know how they contribute to the customer experience;
•    know what it means to deliver a great customer experience; and
•    have the tools and training—and are empowered—to do so.

How, then, is it used as a training tool?

The map provides so much great information about each touchpoint, each interaction, in order to facilitate training and coaching about the customer experience, including:

•    who the customer is
•    what the customer is doing
•    what happens before the customer reaches an employee
•    what happens after the customer finishes with an employee
•    how the customer is feeling
•    who the customer interacts with
•    what the customer’s expectations are in the moment
•    where things are breaking down
•    where things are going well
•    what’s most important to the customer
•    if and how the employee contributes at each touchpoint
•    what processes support each touchpoint or interaction
•    which tools facilitate the interaction

It also allows employees to compare and visualize the actual experience to the ideal experience, i.e., reality versus what it should be or what it’s designed to be. The map provides a lot of information for coaching and training, really adding richness and detail that you wouldn’t get or employees wouldn’t see/realize otherwise. And because it’s a living, breathing document, it also provides a lot of opportunities for follow-up training to support the customer-focused culture.

In addition to training, journey maps are also useful orientation tools. I can’t think of a better way, during orientation, to show employees that the organization is committed to customers. What a great way to immediately let a new employee know where and how he contributes and how his contributions matter not only to the business but also to the customer. What an awesome tool to initiate an employee into a customer-focused and customer-centric culture, to help him see how departments work together, and to teach him about priorities for the business.

I believe this is a huge oversight on the part of many (OK, most) companies. Especially during orientation, I believe the customer—and the employee’s connection to the customer—are sadly overlooked.

Are you incorporating customer experience training into your new-hire orientation as well as into your ongoing employee training? And are you using a customer journey map to onboard or train your employees in order to reinforce your customer-centric culture? (You do have a customer-centric culture, right?) If not, what are you waiting for?

Your Customers Will Thank You for Listening!

man listening to his customers to make sales

Improve your listening skills – your customers will thank you for it! Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici on

One of the best team-mates I ever had was a Level 1 listener. His ability was amazing. It was as though each word was being documented and analyzed as they came out of his customer’s mouth. The magic transferred into an uncanny knack of knowing what the customer was trying to say – sometimes even before she had finished explaining.

There are three levels of listening:

•    Level 1. You give the customer (or the person you’re in conversation with) your full attention.
•    Level 2. Your attention ranges from partial to full, and you pick up on the major themes of the conversation.
•    Level 3. Your attention is elsewhere. We’ve all been here — like the time you asked someone how they’re doing, they start to answer and you immediately start to think about your to-do list.

Listening at Level 1 means not allowing distractions to interfere with your efforts to hear and understand what the customer is telling you.

But is Level 1 listening enough? Not quite, but it’s a good start. If the goal is to understand the customer’s need, two more skills are needed to uncover hidden gems of information that will help you assist them.

Ask open and closed questions

Getting a complete picture of the customer’s needs requires you to ask a strategic mix of open and closed questions:

•    Open questions invite extended answers.
•    Closed questions invite a word or short phrase.

This is important because open questions allow you to get the big picture of the customer’s needs, while closed questions allows you to zero in on the details. This way, you have a much deeper understanding of the customer’s issues and can use your expertise to help solve them.

Confirm your understanding

To show the customer that you both share a common understanding, you confirm your understanding of customer needs with a three-step process:

1.  Repeat key words and phrases the customer has used.
2.  Summarize the customer’s situation in your own words.
3.  Check for customer agreement.

It’s these additional two skills that allow you to expand your information gathering (don’t forget to keep listening!) and then repeat it back to the person in a meaningful way.

By using these three skills in a customer service interaction, your customers will not only feel more connected to your employees, but the potential rewards are much greater: increased customer loyalty and new business through positive word-of-mouth recommendations.

To learn more about how you can develop a more loyal customer base, contact us today.

Maximizing Your Sales Talent

A small portion of your workforce will stand out as top performers

A small portion of your workforce will stand out as top performers. Image courtesy of lekkyjustdoit on

Is there such a thing as talent? Looking at innate talent, the obvious answer is yes! Let’s have a closer look at talent quoting from Webster’s Dictionary, which defines talent as, “the intellectual ability, natural or acquired; mental endowment or capacity; skill in accomplishing; a special gift, particularly in business, art, or the like.”

Talent and the 10,000-Hours Rule

Quoting from Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers’ [1] he writes that the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play. The psychologist K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues could not find any ‘naturals,’ musicians who floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peer did. Their research suggests that once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. Very top performers work much harder than anyone else. And mastery kicks in with the rule of 10,000-hours practice. Malcolm Gladwell shares multiple examples for the rule of 10,000-hours ranging from Mozart, The Beatles to Bill Gates.


Sales Talent

Research conducted in 2011 and 2012 by Ernest O’Boyle Jr. and Herman Aguinis found that performance in 94 percent of their study fall into what is called a ‘Power Law’ distribution or ‘Long Tail’. It essentially indicates that there is a very wide variation, starting from a small number of people who are ‘very top performers,’ quickly dropping off to a broad range of ‘good performers’ and a very smaller number of ‘low performers.’ Let’s agree that we find this large variation, like in any group of people, in sales professionals. The distribution reflects the idea that we want everyone to become better performers if they can find the right role, and that we don’t limit people at the top of the curve – we try to build more of them and here the rule of 10,000-hour practice comes to play.

Considering all sales training and development efforts with direct customer interaction, as defined by World Class Sales Organizations, adding up to a very high 4-hours per work day, we achieve real mastery in about 11-years. And yet, somehow, we expect our sales reps to perform instantly like superstars. If sales reps are in essence practicing first-time new skills or value messaging or new offerings in front of live customers and prospects, we are doing everyone involved a disservice. If reps aren’t yet comfortable enough addressing individual’s concepts, they will stumble…and they know it.  This leads to call reluctance at best, terrible and counter-productive prospect calls at worse. Companies that understand this model focus very heavily on collaboration, professional development and coaching, encouraging and empowering people to continuous learning.


Talent Development

A talent development strategy takes a conscious approach to managing, developing and retaining your crucial sales asset. World Class Sales Organizations distinguish themselves by their ability to hire the right talent, thereby reducing first year hiring fails. This is documented by 77 percent of World Class Sales Organizations who agree that ‘Before making a final hiring decision in our sales organization, we assess all candidates using a standardized assessment tool’ with only 33 percent of average performing companies doing the same [2].

Once onboard, these organizations bring their new sales talent up to speed faster by investing in sales training to develop skills, provide a methodology and continuously enhance knowledge, and thereby reduce new hire time to productivity. Then, they keep them continuously trained through a multitude of offerings, e.g. focused e-learning modules, regular team workshops, knowledge sharing database, and dedicated front-line sales manager coaching through direct customer interactions. Again, 87 percent of World Class Sales Organizations agree with ‘Our organization requires the sales force to regularly participate in professional development programs’ compared to again only 33 percent of all other companies [2].

In summary, leadership and talent management capabilities have a surprisingly strong correlation with financial performance. ‘Talent magnets’—those companies that rated themselves strongest on 20 leadership and talent management capabilities—increased their revenues 2.2 times faster and their profits 1.5 times faster than ‘talent laggards’ or those companies that rated themselves the weakest. [3].

[1] Outliers: The Story of Success – Malcom Gladwell

[2] CSO Insights: MHI Global: Talent Management: Making Good Better – Volume 1, Edition 8 – Joe Galvin

[3] Boston Consulting Group:  The Global Leadership and Talent Index; The Smart Way to Improve Capabilities and Create Value

Be Ready to Demand Attention

character uses megaphone to demand attention and surprise his colleague

Demand what you need to develop! Image courtesy of Stuart Miles on

You’re on a journey to constantly refine your skills, make yourself better, and reach new goals. Why? Because it will help you sell more. And when you sell more, you make more.

Steady feedback is one of the best learning opportunities. Constant feedback on your performance helps you determine what’s working, what can be fine-tuned and what needs to be overhauled or re-worked.

Demand that your manager gives you this feedback. Act on it. And then make sure your manager constantly reinforces the key lessons that were learned, especially those that impact the business.

Ask for cheat sheets on how to handle certain customer objections, updates on how overall solutions and products relate to the overall value proposition of the business, and methods for understanding how others have sold successfully—you don’t have to use these verbatim, but have an understanding helps paint the picture correctly, and convincingly, when talking to customers and prospects.

Congruently, give yourself the attention you need for reinforcing development and training opportunities. Set goals for yourself to implement periodic refreshers on your training. It’s human nature to forget certain things, but refreshing yourself and brining repetition to your efforts can fill this gap. After all, if you’re demanding attention for coaching from your manager, you want to ensure you’re also demanding it from yourself, right?