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Signs you are at risk of losing your top sales performers

October 26, 2011 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Coaching, Performance Management, Sales Coaching, Sales Leadership, Sales Talent, Self Development, Success, Wellbeing

There they are every day bringing in the deals. They’re always prospecting, meeting clients, networking, making suggestions about how to do things even better and they never discount unnecessarily. Best of all your clients are happy. They’re happy with your offering, happy with your service, happy with the sales support they get and your business is profitable.

Top of the world

Top of the world

Sounds magnificent doesn’t it? Your top sales performer(s) require(s) very little work. They self manage, are resilient and are such a breeze to work with. They’re low maintenance and are not temperamental like those 600lb sales gorillas. You couldn’t be happier, right?

Well this is what most business owners or sales managers are thinking when they get a great sales performer. ‘So easy’ they say, ‘I wish all my sales people where like this’. And yes, we would love all our sales people to be self motivated, self disciplined, engaging people who cared as much about our businesses as we do while bringing in fantastic, sustainable sales results.

The temptation is to leave them alone and say ‘don’t fix what isn’t broken’. Many business leaders and sales managers take this approach. However, it’s precisely the wrong approach to take with top sales performers.
Let’s look at how much would it cost you to keep a top sales performer versus how much you would lose if they left your business.

Research continues to show that top sales performers love to learn and grow. The money is good but it is not the overriding factor. Instead they seek out opportunities to advance their skills, knowledge and mindset on a regular basis – they want to be the best. They strive for Mastery. The number one quality distinguishing top sales performers from their colleagues is their desire to engage in self-appraisal & continuous learning.

Here is what you are likely to see top sales performers doing on a regular basis besides selling:

  • Asking for feedback on their own performance and the degree to which they have met client expectations.
  • Collaborating with colleagues and not putting competitiveness in the way of business success.
  • Recognising and acting on the need for continuous self learning and development.
  • Appraising their own performance and competencies and initiates development activities without prompting.


These activities are often done without the support of management. Top performers create their own self development journeys and go outside to get the coaching, mentoring and nourishment they need.
This is admirable on the part of the sales person and it seems, great for the business leader/owner or sales manager. However, businesses are putting themselves at a huge disadvantage if this equation remains one-sided.


Because money isn’t enough. We might think that all we need to do is throw more money at top sales performers. Yes they deserve to earn top dollar but it’s more than that.

We need to take an interest their overall development. Provide them with opportunities to further develop their knowledge, skills and mindset. Give them opportunities. These can be to work with us on the business, take a mentoring or coaching role in our sales team, work on special projects, develop new markets or become our business’ key spokesperson. We can position our top performers as a champion an important aspect of our business or simply give them one-on-one time with us or a nominated coach who takes a particular interest in their development helping them to be even more effective.

Changing Jobs

Changing Jobs

The small investment of our time and attention to develop our sales superstars is far outweighed by their contribution to our business. Why risk it by ignoring the very people who make us a success? It seems logical but organizations make this mistake time and time again.

I hear so many stories from top sales performers who just up and leave organisations because they feel they were taken for granted. Here are some stories from top sales performers who have left companies because their requests for development were ignored:

  • “I wasn’t listened to. No interest was taken in me and my development. I had no respect as a professional business person. Management didn’t care about my professional development and dismissed me as only being ‘a salesperson’ because I did not have a business degree. They were only interested in me because I could bring in the deals. I tried to explain that it wasn’t only about the money and that I wanted more challenges to help the business grow. I had great ideas and wanted to step up. Instead they just told me to keep on selling and stay in my box. I felt ignored and taken for granted. I became tired, bored, and disillusioned with management and so I left. They went into free fall when I resigned and since leaving the business they keep coming back to me offering more money. They just don’t get it do they?’
  • ‘My repeated requests to my manager for coaching and training were dismissed as too costly. I went outside to get the development I craved. My manager just wasn’t interested in giving me any of his time to coach me and certainly wasn’t interested in paying any money for my development. So I paid $3,000 of my own money for 6 one-on-one sales coaching sessions and they really helped. The benefits of one-on-one sales coaching were enormous. I achieved 130% of my budget in my first year and made the annual incentive trip overseas. My manager tried to claim the credit for my success. Needless to say into my second year nothing changed on the management front so after a further 9 months in solitude I left the company to pursue a career where personal development was valued.’

The cost of losing a top sales performer is enormous and it’s not until they are gone that most businesses realises its mistake. Are you at risk of losing someone who is vital to your business?

Before it’s too late ask your top sales people:

What they want by way of personal and professional development. Where would they like to take their careers? How would they like to contribute to the business? What ideas do they have about how we could be better?

Nourish these people with your interest in their ongoing development and show them that you genuinely care about their contribution and growth in your business – not just every now and again but continuously. If you make this a priority you will retain these top sales people and benefit. Make it a priority to do something to support them and let them know you really value and appreciate their contribution.

If you need to talk to someone about coaching or training in sales, sales leadership, sales coaching or people management contact us.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

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

Why leading an examined life is good for sales

October 20, 2011 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Brain Science, Coaching, Mindful selling, Neuroscience in Sales, Sales Psychology, Sales Results, Wellbeing

‘Leading an examined life’ was voted as the Number 10 of Sales Trends for 2011. For many years you could lead an intuitive sales life because your product was your edge, but not anymore. With products replicated in minutes, the spotlight is well and truly on the specific ingredients of being an effective sales person and sales leader and managing oneself in volatile times. This all begins and ends with neuroscience.

The latest scientific research into neuroscience confirms how we manage our brain. The brain is known to be like an electro-chemical machine and it’s our thoughts that affect the flow of our neurotransmitters across synaptic connections, especially the likes of Adrenaline and Dopamine. This in turn affects how we manage ourselves, make decisions and even recover from adversity. Living under the feeling of constant excessive pressure is not good for us on any level, particularly for sales teams who are often subject to achieving under the demands of sales targets and tight timeframes.

Avoid the Brain Drain

Avoid the Brain Drain

One of the biggest detractors from achieving effective long term sales performance is being in a distressed state for a prolonged period of time, reducing one’s ability to bounce back from adversity, make effective decisions and manage our self. The scientific research is showing that putting sales people under ‘constant pressure’ to achieve sales targets with no consideration given to time allocation preparation and resources is leading to poor quality decision making, poor overall performance and unhealthy life practices. This leads to negative behavior such as excessive alcohol consumption, and poor eating and sleeping habits which all contribute to the prevalence of poor sales results.

So how is your team holding up in these challenging times? Could they benefit from knowing how to manage their emotions?

In 2011 smart companies are now taking the time to uncover and develop the essential personal knowledge, skills and mindset needed to be resilient under pressure in their sales and leadership teams. In particular, there’s a focus on helping people develop a ‘mastery mindset’ and accompanying body awareness where self reflection, self awareness, compassion, candor, caring, learning agility and developing resilience are key.

Far from being self indulgent, neuroscience combined with personal insight and continuous learning is helping salespeople and leaders take control of their careers, manage their emotions, harness their energies, reduce their distress and sell more effectively than ever before.

Neuroscience, psychology, the brain and sales, the science of selling if you like, go well together. Think about it, it makes sense. Understanding our brains, how they work, what works well for them and what doesn’t work so well, and the skill of selling our business’ product and services all tie in together. If you understand what is happening at a brain level, you can further understand your responses and behaviours, the way you’re feeling, and in turn why you’re getting the results you are getting. Furthermore, if you’re not performing at your best as a sales professional, why wouldn’t it make sense to understand what is happening at a brain level or what neurotransmitters you’re creating to be responding and behaving in a certain way?

Chemical messengers that transmit a thought from one cell to the next allowing brain cells to ‘talk to each other’ are neurotransmitters. What is most fascinating is how you experience emotion and how you feel is dictated by certain neurotransmitters.

Everything going right
Everything going right

Kelly Rothwell, Barrett’s organizational psychologist and neuroscience expert explains, ‘Think about a time when you were successful, when everything was going ‘right’think about it for at least 30 secondshow do you feelwhat are you doing, are you smiling, do you feel good? I am going to assume you’re at least feeling good. This is the power of your thoughts and neurotransmitters. You have a ‘feel good’ thought and you release certain kinds of neurotransmitters such as, endorphins, norepinephrine, dopamine, acetylcholine and PEA. The flip-side is that if you have ‘unhelpful’ thoughts in an environment where you think you are ‘failing’ and ‘unable to make change’ the epinephrine (or adrenaline) neurotransmitter is released.

Epinephrine or Adrenaline as a neurotransmitter is imperative for our ‘survival instinct’. The challenge is our brain does not know the difference to a threat to our lives or a threat to our lifestyle unless we manage our thoughts and mindsets appropriately in the ‘stressful’ situation. It just responds to a threat as it would when our lives are at stake. if we leave it unmanaged, this is where the challenges occur.

Increased adrenaline production causes the body to step up its metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates to quickly produce energy for the body to use. The pituitary gland increases its production of andrenocorticotropic hormone which stimulates the release of the hormones cortisone and cortisol. These have the effect of inhibiting the functioning of disease fighting white blood cells and suppressing the immune system response. Moreover, we have elevation of blood pressure, acceleration of the heartbeat and greater tension in the muscles. Digestion slows or even stops. This complex weave of physical changes is known as the ‘fight or flight’ response which is helpful when our lives are at threat. It’s not so helpful when we are in potentially long-term ‘stressful’ situations as trying to reach sales targets, for instance, that have not been strategized as well as they could be.’

Kelly highlights a fascinating yet tragic true story about the life threatening aspects of prolonged stress: ‘What we know is that a continual stressed state such as what has just been described eventually wears out the body. Think about it this way – only a few veterans who fought during the siege of Stalingrad (both Russian and German soldiers) lived to the age of 50. Few even lived to the age of 45 and most died soon after their 40th birthday. All of these individuals suffered extreme stress 24 hours a day for more than six months.’

We may not personally be fighting in a war, yet our brains and bodies can respond in similar ways if our stress or neurotransmitters are unmanaged. Within the 21st century marketplaces, leading an unexamined life is not only detrimental to your health, it can be detrimental to many results you are seeking. If we’re unable to learn about ourselves, how we work and in turn our strengths, how are we to help ourselves excel at the work and profession we have chosen?’

Some very simple tips on managing perceived ‘stressful’ situations or even days are as follows. What needs to be noted here is being aware of what is actually going on within yourself and to yourself. The tips include:

  • Take control of your breathing – be aware of your breathing rate and take slow deep breaths
  • Take command of your muscle tension – be aware of which muscles are tense and let go of that tension
  • Take control of your cognitive processes – be aware of that internal ‘self-talk’, your thoughts, and be honest about the situation (our brains are very effective lie detectors, don’t sugar-coat the reality) and change your focus through asking helpful questions of yourself -it’s amazing what answers you can be provided.

So avoid the brain drain. Those who lead an examined life know that we can’t know another if we do not know ourselves first. Ultimately you need to take the time to build awareness of yourself, how you are feeling and behaving. What is going on in your brain? Are you engaged and consciously aware of yourself and what’s going on? Without awareness and giving yourself an opportunity to lead an examined life through learning about yourself, you’re not likely to be able to do something about it if you don’t like the results you are getting. If you aren’t achieving your goals at work (or at home), knowing yourself and what you’re doing to influence situations is key. Take control of what you can control. There is no need for unconscious or disengaged selling in 2011. Smart companies will make conscious, mindful selling a part of their daily working lives. To achieve sales mastery we will need to lead an examined life in 2011.

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

The Latest (disturbing) Findings From The World of Sales

October 13, 2011 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Business Acumen, Procurement, Sales Pioneer

For the third year running I recently had the privilege and pleasure of attending, presenting and acting as MC at the CSE11, Asia Pacific’s Premier Sales Leadership Conference – “The New Era of Professional Selling; The Pathway from Supplier to Partner Status”.

Over 150 delegates from Australia’s premium companies attended and we heard from some of the world’s leading experts on sales capability, strategy and culture. There was much talk about the rapidly changing face of our B2B (business to business) sales world and how we need to build relevant and sustainable partnerships if we are to flourish. One of the highlights was hearing from one of Australia’s top Procurement Leaders, Craig Rooney who is the Group Procurement Manager for Porter Davis Homes and former Coles Group Procurement Manager. Craig’s insights were well received and gave us all a clear picture of how to build a Pathway from Supplier to Partner Status with 21st Century Procurement Professionals. Like Selling, Craig pointed out that the profession of Procurement is undergoing dramatic evolution to adapt to the volatility of today’s business world.

Measuring Brain Waves

Measuring Brain Waves

The importance of Coaching to achieve real sales capability, results, and cultural transformation was a strong message as was the need to genuinely merge and unite sales and marketing, with the rise and rise of social media as a critical piece in the sales machine. And the emergence of Neuroscience to our effective and sustained performance in sales was a highlight at this conference with live experiments on show.

Another key and somewhat disturbing message was Adapt or Perish. The world of B2B selling is changing so rapidly that it is now polarising into two distinct areas, with the likelihood of a particular style of B2B sales person becoming extinct in the next few years.

There’s no longer a middle ground in B2B sales. What you now have is a polarisation of sales approaches:

1. B2B Transactional Selling
2. B2B Complex Selling

B2B Transactional Selling is commodity based selling where there is no product differentiation and price or cost is the only priority. The Pathway from Supplier to Partner Status is not relevant here and this is where we are likely to see the extinction or death of the transactional salesman as the costs to run (such as field sales force with diminishing returns) will see businesses re-thinking their go-to-market strategy. Those B2B field sales teams that persist in selling product will be treated as commodity sales people who add no real value. Customers will therefore not waste their time seeing or dealing with them. Eventually, we’ll see the sale of commodity based products move to internal phone sales teams and/or direct to online sales portals. In many instances this is already happening.

Complex Sale

Complex Sale

This leaves B2B field sales people in the world of complex selling requiring a whole different level of skills, knowledge and mindset. I have written previously in Know Your Business about the importance of business acumen in sales and becoming a business person who can sell which is even more of a priority now. I have also written previously about The Sales Pioneer the emerging breed of sales professional whose key characteristics rest in the ability to challenge and educate the client, bring insight and wisdom in their areas of expertise to the table and work in collaboration with clients to produce real results. The genuine Sales Pioneers are the ones who will flourish and prosper along with their clients in the 21st century yet these people are not all that easy to find or develop.

This brings me to consider ‘how do we professionalise selling?’ and create a pathway to becoming the Sales Pioneer Professional. The thinking and capabilities required to succeed in today’s complex sales environment are in the realms of the standards of MBA’s and other business qualifications. We all noted at the conference that medical doctors, engineers, pilots and other skilled professionals invest 6-8 years of their own money and effort into attaining their qualifications. It’s about time Selling stepped out from under the shadows of Marketing and MBA’s to be a qualification in its own right and earn a place at the tertiary and professional table.

In conclusion the CSE11 conference signified that many sales leaders, salespeople and procurement professionals are on the same page about where our industry and the markets are heading – insight and collaboration is key to navigating our way in these volatile times. Managing our own wellbeing and resilience by cultivating our neurochemical pathways and rewiring how we think and act. While we have a way to go you cannot deny that it’s exciting moving forward to use the changing market to develop our minds, skills and expertise and apply ourselves and our work to benefit our businesses, our clients and customers and the sales profession.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

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

The Practice of Confusion Marketing

October 6, 2011 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Marketing, Sales Culture

I wonder how many people, business owners and consumers alike are experiencing excessive frustration, anxiety or even depression as a result of the Confusion Marketing tactics employed by some businesses?

Confusion Marketing is the controversial strategy and practice of deliberately sending confusing marketing material in order to hinder consumers’ comparisons with other similar offers.


Confused Marketing

Many examples are to be found in the telecommunications, banking and finance sectors, where pricing plans, contracts or interest rate offers can be so complicated that it becomes impossible to make direct comparisons between competing offers.

You will find that with companies that employ such tactics that when you want any form of customer assistance to sort out your bill, statement or service issue, you might as well resort to prayer because that is likely to be more useful than the current standards of service on offer.

Confusion Marketing is the opposite of what we endorse as ethical, transparent selling and business practices. Sadly, Confusion Marketing is still classified as a legitimate selling strategy, but is really nothing more than deception, sleight of hand, trickery. Like smoking, just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right.

In March 2006, Theresa Gattung, former CEO of Telecom New Zealand, courted controversy by characterising telcos to a Sydney audience as not “straight up” with customers on pricing. “Think about pricing,” the press quoted her as saying, “what has every telco in the world done in the past? It’s used confusion as its chief marketing tool. And that’s fine … But at some level, whether they consciously articulate it or not, customers know that’s what the game has been. They know we’re not being straight up.” On February 2, 2007, Gattung announced that she would leave Telecom at the end of June 2007.

The net results of Confusion Marketing show there is very little loyalty and a great deal of company switching, subsequently wasting valuable time and energy which could be dedicated to other more productive tasks. Even Einstein would have trouble working out the confusing, ambiguous contracts on offer.

Expensive Mobile Phone Bill

Expensive Mobile Phone Bill

Bill shock is an obvious result of confusion marketing for all the wrong reasons. Bill shock can generically be used as a term for the surprise an individual receives when the amount owing on their bill is higher than expected. Other examples of bill shock have been noted in credit card bills, rental bills and utility bills. The amount of anxiety and distress an individual faces due to these circumstances shows the extent of how poor this business practice is.

I wonder just how many man hours are wasted in lost productivity because people are forced to spend hours and hours working through the finer details to make an informed choice. The same can be said for the hours spent on the phone waiting to get through to someone intelligible to work out a dispute when confronted with Bill shock or incorrect bills.

The Productivity Commission would have a field day trying to work out just how much of our time and money has been and is wasted because of Confusion Marketing. I would love to send a bill to our current telco for all the hours my business manager has had to spend to get our telecommunications plans working effectively, and even then there are still issues. Based on present calculations, I would be able to send a bill for $4,000 at least. I wonder how they would respond to that.

Since 1 July 2010, Bill shock is illegal in the EU. Eurotariff protected consumers by introducing a cut-off mechanism once the bill reaches €50 per month, unless they choose another cut-off limit. There is speculation that this legal precedent will be copied internationally causing quick industry response on solutions for the problem.

Maybe we could get Confusion Marketing made illegal as well? Perhaps then those businesses and markets that still choose to indulge in this dubious practice will to start to be better business citizens and take responsibility for their actions. We live in hope.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

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

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