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Does anyone really know what I’m supposed to be doing?

January 24, 2014 in Assessments, Role Clarity

Do you often find yourself torn between meeting the needs of your manager, the desires of your customers and the requirements of your role? If you answered ‘yes’, you’re not alone. All too often we see salespeople who feel they are ‘the meat in the sandwich’. They consistently go above and beyond to meet all their stakeholders’ needs, often leading to increased stress, frustration, fatigue and burnout.

In these instances, it is not uncommon to find that different stakeholder groups have a different perspective or understanding of the required capabilities, competencies and performance criteria for the salesperson’s role. This can lead to the issue of having too many masters which can manifest itself in the following ways: salespeople who end up doing their customers’ bidding at the expense of their organisation and others who go the other way.  Neither is helpful.


Reality can be so complex that equally valid observations from different perspectives can appear contradictory.

Then we have salespeople who think their role is one thing when it is actually something else. For example, a salesperson may consider the most important aspects of their role to be understanding customers’ needs, negotiating effectively, and administrative compliance. Their managers may consider the most important aspects of the role to be growing new business and meeting sales targets. Finally, their clients may believe the most important aspects of the role are building relationships, keeping them up-to-date on the latest products, competitor activity, etc.

All of these areas highlighted are important to almost any sales role; however, the disparate views and expectations of the stakeholder groups can lead to confusion and frustration for everyone involved, particularly for the salesperson, who needs to meet their own goals as well as manage the different expectations of their managers and customers.

So what is the right balance?

If any business is to succeed it would help that everyone knew what they were required to do to get there and that  managers, clients and other stakeholders all agreed.  Organisations everywhere want high functioning, smart sales forces. To do that the role of sales needs to be clearly communicated to all and effectively executed. How can you do this? Undertaking a 360° Sales Alignment  Process (Competency Analysis) can be useful in these situations to help highlight the gaps and areas of synchronicity both between and within different stakeholder groups.

Whilst many  organisations understand the importance of identifying and selecting for certain capabilities or competencies and performance criteria when they are recruiting, they rarely use or refer to these criteria  beyond the recruitment process. Subsequently, the function, purpose and usefulness of these criteria is often lost, ignored or misunderstood by all stakeholders. Imagine if everyone, clients included, clearly knew what the role of the sales person was; what was expected of them; what they were to deliver… then there would be less confusion all round.  Communication would be easier, results easier to attain and so on.

The 360° Role Alignment Process can be useful for identifying the level of alignment within a particular group across the responsibilities, deliverables and competencies of the role. In those instances where there is low alignment either between or within particular groups (particularly if there is low alignment amongst the salespeople themselves) it is important to strip back the role and refocus on the key overarching goals (e.g. build strong professional relationships with key accounts, complete all projects on time and within budget and help to grow the business by achieving minimum monthly sales targets). Once the goals have been established, it is important to identify the six to ten vital competencies to help achieve those goals, ensuring that the competencies cover knowledge (what they know and understand), skills (what they do, or can do) and mindset (how they think and feel) aspects. For the example goals listed above, key competencies could include:

  • RedArrows-600x450

    Everyone going the same direction, everyone is in sync


    • Discipline and Administrative Compliance
    • Financial Awareness
    • Understanding the Customer’s Needs
  • Skills:
    • Building Relationships and Networks
    • Prospecting
    • Project Management
  • Mindset:
    • Achievement Focused
    • Collaborating to Achieve Results
    • Planning and Organising

From there, it is possible to identify the appropriate behaviours that fall under each competency relevant for the role –i.e. for the Discipline and Administrative Compliance competency, behaviours aimed at ensuring accuracy and punctuality (e.g. effectively prioritises workloads to ensure they complete tasks in a timely fashion) may be more important for the role that those aimed at legislative compliance (e.g. consistently ensures they adhere to customers’ accreditation standards).

By including all stakeholders in this process it is possible to create a shared understanding across the role. This shared understanding means that everyone knows what to expect from anyone in the salesperson’s role. It can help managers to ensure their employees are maintaining the right competencies and behaviours, it can help colleagues understand and respond to requests for assistance, and it can help customers to know what they can expect from the salesperson and other interactions with the organisation.

This alignment and agreed understanding can also lead to greater efficiencies and more productive outputs from every interaction. More importantly, it can decrease the amount of stress and tension experienced, allow salespeople to be more self-managed, reduce the overall level of confusion and frustration, ensure that customers are likely to be happier and ensure that sales managers are still able to get what they want and need from their teams.

Author: Rebecca Accadia, www.barrett.com.au

How do your clients really perceive you?

October 11, 2012 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Business Acumen, Communication, Education in Sales, Mindful selling, Prospecting, Role Clarity, Sales Coaching, Sales Culture, Sales Leadership, Sales Relationships

Perception is reality. So what do your clients really think of you? Would you be happy with how they perceive you? Are they thinking any of the following when they think about you and your company?:

  1. ‘I’m so glad I’ve met you; my life/business is better off for knowing you.’
  2. ‘Oh that guy (gal), yeh they’re pretty good’
  3. ‘They’re nice but I don’t always have the time to chat with them’
  4. ‘That arrogant so and so’
  5. ‘Aghhh, I don’t trust them, get them out of my office now’
  6. ‘Who?’

Good relationships take time and effort to build and create something really valuable and viable. To the client, having a relationship with a Salesperson, Business Development Manager or Account Manager, who sells to them and manages their account means very little unless they perceive that we actually bring real value to them and the business relationship.

We’ve spoken before about the meaning of Value. Our real mission, as sales professionals is to find out what Value means to each of our clients and in turn have them find Value in us, our team, our products/services and the company that we represent.

However, as much as we would like to have a great relationship with all of our clients we do not seem to be able to achieve this with all of them. It’s a bit like our friendship groups: some are our closest or best friends and we love to spend time with while others are acquaintances whom we see occasionally and do not value as much as we do our best friends. Often this is because we do not know them well enough to be our best friends or we don’t have the time or inclination to progress it any further.

Do you ever get the feeling that your client relationships get stuck in a rut or stall or that they do not value you as much as you value them? We often say ‘If only they could see what we can really do for them, things would be different.’

How you are perceived by your clients is critical to your success with them. If you do not like how you are currently being perceived by your clients there are things you can do to change their perception of you.
The following table aligns customer perceptions to you, your product/service with the expected behaviours you are likely to see from them. It then offers tips about what to do to shift the perception to a better place.

Perception of relationship Client behaviour How to shift client perceptions up ladder
Commodity Sees your offering as a commodity; same as the competitors; they show no loyalty and have high price sensitivity; constantly asking for cheaper prices.

Make sure you differentiate your offering from competitors by presenting your competitive edge; highlighting relevant product/service benefits and demonstrate value beyond product.

Product/service provision Sees more value in what you offer however still looks around at offers from other providers. They have low or some loyalty but still have high price sensitivity. High price sensitivity Enhance customer experience by being a problem solver using your knowledge and experience
Value-add Loyalty is growing; likely to call you in if looking at new deals but may still have you go up against competitors on new deals.  Less price sensitivity and looking more at total cost of ownership. Understand real customer needs and priorities and create more value by being a problem preventer, not just a problem solver.
Partner There is high loyalty to you and your company; you are called on for advice and guidance and they see your offering as adding real value. There is lower price sensitivity and much more emphasis placed on real value and total cost of ownership. Offer a full management partner process.


As clients, we all like to buy from someone whom we trust, both the individual and the company they represent. The other day our team at Barrett was discussing how our clients perceive us and what they really like about us (based on their feedback and testimonials) and the overwhelming theme was that they really valued our straight talking, no BS, tell-it-like-it-is approach, our ability to demystify things and our ability to map a pathway forward to success and appropriately equip them and their teams for the journey ahead. That doesn’t happen by accident. We have to earn the reputation.

There are a number of things you can do

There are a number of things you can do

There are a number of things we can do that will help engender that trust and build highly effective client relationships based on real value:

  • Be open and honest in all communications
  • Keep the customer informed of processes, knowledge, market information, new products and ideas, etc.
  • Be interested in their business
  • Be a real professional and help them define what ‘Success’ will look like
  • Create and offer a planned approach for change
  • Use your business acumen & commercial awareness to offer ideas and make good decisions
  • think about possibility and help realise real results
  • above all be consistent – consistently good.


Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au

Stop Throwing our Salespeople and Sales Managers into the Deep End

March 8, 2012 in Education in Sales, Role Clarity, Sales Coaching, Sales Culture, Sales Leadership, Sales Management, Sales Relationships, Sales Training, Success

Isn’t it about time we stop throwing our sales people and sales managers in the deep end and expecting them to swim – or sell and lead with no support or training in this case? Isn’t it about time that we had frank conversations with our potential recruits about what sales and sales manager roles really entail and make sure our recruits really do have the skills, mindset and knowledge to take on the role in question and not just take their word that they say they do?

There is enough information informing and instructing us on how to recruit, induct, train and coach our sales people and sales managers yet too many businesses still take too many short cuts. Many organisations: managers, CEOs and business leaders are still throwing people in to these roles with little preparation expecting them to succeed and then wonder why they feel really annoyed and frustrated when these people don’t make it.

Foundations For Success

Foundations For Success

What is the cost to us and our businesses of not putting in place the right foundations first? Well frankly the costs are astronomical. Let’s just start with the obvious: cost of a new recruit failing (at least 5-6 times their total employment costs within 6 months), obvious financial impact on sales, erosion of team morale, and poor customer experiences to name a few which eventually leads the more subtle issues: poor perception of a company’s brand, loss of staff and further impairment of recruitment which further erodes company reputation in the eyes of current staff, potential recruits and buyers. And all this of course, impacts a business’ financial success.

We lose so much when we leave our sales capability, our sales engine, sales talent, and sales results to chance when we throw our sales people and sales managers in the deep end. Admittedly some do make it but not by design and then the cycle repeats itself. Your new recruits learn bad habits and when they become managers they endorse “sink or swim” all over again with the new recruits.

I plead with you and I beg you please consider the consequences of expediency and opportunism. Weigh up the need for immediate results at the expense of solid sales foundations. Consider relevant recruitment practices, proper training and coaching, clear goals and internal proper support.

The damage to people, let alone your sales results and reputation, is devastating. We meet sales person and sales managers who have been thrown in the deep end and are struggling to make it, often breaking under the pressure. Instead of transparent, adult discussions about sales performance based on clear criteria we see, all too often, avoidance or bullying behaviour or both by managers when dealing with poor sales or sales management performance issues.

A number of these sales people and sales managers are suffering from depression or sustained anxiety and wondering why they are a ‘failure’ which further erodes their ability to recover and perform. Others are coping by going into denial blaming their entire lack of success on their company and everyone in it often with little or no self awareness of their own role in this situation. They are defensive and frightened and so they lash out at others making their plight even worse. It sets up a vicious circle. With relentless pressure directed from above to succeed – it’s a wonder anyone has made it in sales and actually survived to tell the tale at all.

Of course it would be ideal from the outset that everyone entering into a sales or sales management role would know what their role entails and how they are matched in terms of capability from the outset. What a wonderful world it would be if these recruits knew exactly what initial steps to take to master their role and knew they had the support from managers by way of coaching and training to become very effective. Even better would be the recruit being given clear expectations, measures and consequences to gauge and track performance.

Very Risky Balancing Act Playing with Your Business

Very Risky Balancing Act Playing with Your Business

If you think I am looking through rose coloured glasses you’re wrong. It can and does happen in many organisations. At Barrett, we’ve worked with many businesses that have turned their entire sales culture and sales performance around for the better. All it takes is a clear vision of what you want and courage to act from the business leaders and managers. A couple of very relevant quotes spring to mind: Charles Dubois said ‘The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.” or Gandhi ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’. Another quote that springs to mind too is ‘Stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result’.

Last week a long term client of nearly two years admitted to cursing me for a year. The client admitted cursing me throughout their transformation project; cursing me for the all the changes that were introduced to bring the sales foundations. They cursed me because they had to undergo the pain of introducing sales disciplines to an otherwise ‘free-for-all’ approach.

We all know that change rarely goes smoothly. When we’re in the thick of it we find it hard to see the good; the end goal. This is because so much of what was familiar to us, albeit messy and unstructured, is being replaced with something more stable and replicable.

What People think Success looks like but Really is

Help your Sales People Understanding this

The changes this particular business has undergone in the last 12 months have been significant for them and despite the cursing they agree that it has been worthwhile. Admittedly it has looked something a little like the picture on the right or at least felt like that but they now the pain has been worth it and while it will always be a work in progress there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is not a train coming the other way.

So if you want better sales people, better sales managers and better sales results you know what to do:

  • improve your definition of what good sales and sales management performance looks like;
  • commit to better recruitment practices which allows us to select a better standard of sales person and sales manager;
  • resolve to provide clearer performance expectations, standards and measures;
  • give better coaching in the field and performance management

Not only will you have better sales managers and results, you’ll have happier sales people, staff and customers.

So, what are you waiting for?

Remember everybody lives by selling something.
Author: Sue Barrett , www.barrett.com.au

The Entrepreneurial Sales Person

June 12, 2009 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Education in Sales, Emotional Intelligence, Neuroscience in Sales, Prospecting, Resilience, Role Clarity, Sales Excellence Acadamy, Sales Motivation & Rewards, Sales Relationships, Sales Talent, Self Development, Success

As part of my ongoing professional and personal development I belong to a CEO leadership group where we meet monthly and discuss a whole range of topics to stimulate our thinking and decision making.

Recently we discussed the concept and qualities of Successful Entrepreneurs. Besides making the obvious comparisons with ourselves as to whether we met the criteria of successful entrepreneurs I found the content translated extremely well into what I and other research is seeing in successful sales people today.

It seemed to me that successful sales people had a lot in common with successful entrepreneurs who are often the main sales people in their own businesses anyway.

I thought we could use this information to help us find and cultivate Entrepreneurial Sales People for our businesses, especially to help we entrepreneurs who need to grow our businesses beyond our own capabilities and personal time constraints.

Here is a summary of my notes:

1. Successful Entrepreneurs are calculated risk takers note gamblers.

Unlike risk adverse people who avoid stepping outside their comfort zone and trying anything new or gamblers who seem to act before they think and often stake everything on one risky deal, Successful Entrepreneurs and successful sales people will step outside their comfort zone but not too far at first. They will stretch themselves check for evidence of success and recalculate their actions to try and step out even further. Good sales people do this with their clients all the time. They will trial different options and gauge the interest and suitability of these options with their clients. This is how new products or service emerge.

If you want to test someone’s entrepreneurial tendencies here is one way. Play the game of Coits. Ask anyone to try and get all six coits on the stand and see what they will do:

  • Conservative, non risk takers will stand right over the top of the stand and not move dropping all six coits on the stand from above.
  • Gamblers will stand far away and just throw hoping something will stick.
  • Successful Entrepreneurs and successful sales people will take a few steps back throw 2 coits, get them on and then step further back and throw again always checking their accuracy. If they miss one they will step in a bit throw again get the coit on and then step out again and so on. They are engaging in self testing and feedback which is why they keep getting better.

2. Needs
They also found Successful Entrepreneurs have 3 fundamental needs:

  • need for achievement
  • need for affiliation
  • need for power or influence

It was found that the need for achievement was by far the most important, with successful entrepreneurs marshalling the need for affiliation and power to support their need for achievement. This coincides with the research on successful sales people.

3. Questioning

Non Entrepreneurs specialise in ‘Social’ Questioning’ which revolves around their need for affiliation and not much else. Which is why I get annoyed when sales training over emphasises ‘building rapport’. You hear it all the time, sales people being told that to build rapport by asking about people about their personal lives, footy teams etc. This is very old fashioned and not as effective as people think it is. In fact for many first time client encounters it can be a real turn off for the client. It often comes across as fake. You will build more rapport by focusing on what you are really there to do – and that is work with clients priorities and address their issues.

Successful Entrepreneurs and Successful sales people specialise in ‘Opportunity’ Questioning. Here they are looking for evidence that opportunities exist for them to work on effectively with others. They are inquiring, curious and ideas oriented.

By looking at these qualities you can see you don’t need to start a business to have entrepreneurial tendencies. Entrepreneurial qualities, in my opinion, can be applied in many roles, especially in sales roles and more people have them they we maybe recognise.

  1. Who in your team, especially your sales team is showing these qualities?
  2. How can you and they capitalise on this, especially in these markets?

With the world presently in a major transition we need more people taking calculated risks, being prepared to ask ‘opportunity’ questions and look to achieve great and positive things by marshalling affiliation, influence and power.

Your advocate for selling the right way.

Create your ‘Ideal’ sales force blueprint

May 28, 2009 in Assessments, Competition, Complex Selling & Transactional Selling, Performance Management, Recruitment & Sales Recruitment, Role Clarity, Sales Consulting, Sales Culture, Sales Driven Organisations, Sales Excellence Acadamy, Sales Leadership, Sales Planning, Sales Psychology, Sales Results, Sales Talent, Strategy

Now is the time to rethink your sales strategy and your sales force. Design the sales force your business needs and get great results.

Tip: It’s all in the thinking and planning that happens before the execution.

To help you start your thinking and planning here are two case studies from our work files where the businesses got it right.

Story one: Transform your current sales team into a new sales team

“The Sales Culture transformation and competency project we worked on with you in 2008 has been such a great success for our team. The culture is now fantastic and the morale of the Sales Team is very good. We aimed for the culture we wanted and got it. People have settled into their roles and are working out fantastically. It was the planning and thinking behind it that made it work. The Competency work has, without a doubt, made a difference. The Sales Competencies are ‘Gold’. We refer to them all the time and the Sales People are using them as well to develop themselves and have clearer, more accountable, performance reviews. The competencies helped our team realise how responsible they need to be in their roles.”

This is what can happen when you design your sales force to deliver your strategy. This quote comes from a Sales Director of a business we have worked with for many years. They had the same sales force structure over the last 15 years and a very stable sales force to go with it. The team and structure had worked very well, however the market was changing and the business and its sales people needed to adapt and evolve to ensure they were current, fit and productive.

In 2008, this Sales Director realised she needed to develop a new strategy moving forward and with that needed a new sales culture and team to deliver it. But she didn’t want to get rid of the current sales team. They were good operators with great industry knowledge and experience. She knew it would be foolish to start from scratch with a new team and she didn’t want to create confusion or unnecessary unrest or anxiety in her existing team.

Her concerns rested around getting buy-in from the team regarding the new strategy and, in particular, their need to adjust their roles somewhat. Despite not wanting to lose people she was prepared to do so if necessary.

What did she do?

  • Developed her sales strategy and then presented her strategy to her sales team, inviting feedback and explaining ‘why’ they all needed to move in this direction using a well researched, evidenced based approach. The team knew what was happening in the market place so it came as no surprise to them that they needed to shift. That is fine intellectually, however we knew the challenge would be in actually getting them to shift in real terms.
  • To get the real shift happening she then engaged her team in the development of the new Sales Roles by engaging in a ‘job design’ process with us.
  • Out of the ‘job design’ process we developed the right Sales Behavioural Competencies (DNA) and ‘ideal’ role/person specification matched to sales strategy, product and customer base.
  • Sales Behavioural Competencies were then linked to the Sales Team performance management reviews and are now being used in coaching, recruitment and succession planning processes.
  • Sales Behavioural Competencies were mapped to measurable sales metrics
  • The Sales Behavioural Competencies now act as a pivotal reference point in all their work.

As mentioned, the Sales People are using Sales Behavioural Competencies to develop themselves, have clearer, more accountable, performance reviews and better role clarity which means they know how they need to perform to achieve their strategy goals.

Story two: Design the sales team you want from scratch – green fields

A Divisional Manager of a large Australian corporate came to us because they didn’t want to hire people from their industry as they didn’t think they were competitive in the current market. They wanted to refresh the gene pool and bring in fit sales people who were not tarnished by the industry mindset and its way of doing things. They knew that in this over commoditised marketplace their sales people were their competitive edge.

They were on the right track but didn’t know where and how to start. So here is what we did together to find elite sales performers:

  • Reviewed sales strategy, path to market, and products being sold
  • Developed the right Sales Behavioural Competencies (DNA) and ‘ideal’ role/person specification matched to sales strategy, product, and customer base
  • Built a structured sales recruitment process and kit
  • Targeted industries the new breed of sales people could come from and went to market to find them
  • Built and implemented the right sales induction training program matched to sales strategy, sales competencies, product, and customer base
  • Had new sales team present their ‘go-to-market’ action plan to senior management before they went to market
  • Implemented a sales management support system
  • Followed up with infield training and coaching
  • Mapped and measured sales metrics

The results were stunning from a sales initiative perspective.

The ‘new breed’ of elite sales performers achieved a sales closing ratio of 4:3 within 2 months against an industry average of 3:1 and sold the annual sales budget within 5 months.

Feedback from the sales people was that this was the best sales recruitment and sales induction process they had ever been through. In all their sales careers, and many came from big name companies, they have never been set up so well to succeed. They felt confident, proud, and capable to really deliver.

Feedback from the client: “We worked in partnership to develop an end-to-end model for a new innovative sales team. The approach was unique in that they worked with us across recruitment, training, needs analysis, pitch planning and the end delivery. They added huge value to any sales process.”

By designing your ‘ideal’ sales force blue print you can build and achieve the following in your business:

  • Change your culture by creating the sales culture you want
  • Design the ideal sales force you want
  • Recruit the sales force you want / your strategy needs
  • Refresh your thinking, ideas, actions and results
  • Develop career paths and succession planning
  • Clear performance expectations
  • Clearer, more accountable, performance reviews
  • Provide a framework for identifying what a high performing sales person looks for your business
  • Profiling of the core sales capabilities / competencies for sales managers/ sales people for use in recruitment, performance management, training, coaching and succession planning.
  • Provide a framework for assessing the calibre of candidates as defined by core competencies and values;

As you prepare for the next financial year and are developing your sales strategy take time to reflect on what your ‘ideal’ sales force blue print should be.

Do not underestimate the value of taking time to think and plan, ultimately it could make you a lot more money.

Sincerely, your advocate for selling the right way.

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