Accountablility—one to the other
In last month’s column, I discussed why so many agencies have low organic growth rates and how I would change that if I were their sales manager. As I explained, acceptable organic growth is often attributable to a skilled sales manager who inspires producer success by mentoring and coaching them.
Both agency owners and their producers have to be equally committed to achieving success.
In this final installment of “If I Were Your Sales Manager,” I’ll continue my discussion on mentoring and coaching. I’ll also explore the critical role of monitoring and accountability in helping producers achieve success.
Mentoring and coaching
Planning and setting producer goals, performing a thorough examination of their current book of business and conducting a pipeline review are just some of the areas I’d be focused on if I were your sales manager. I would also address the following:
- Centers of Influence Network (COIN). Who are the members of your current COINs? We suggest having at least 10. These may include people within your business community or industry, or those who are trusted advisors to people you know.
Once you have identified your COINs, you’ll need to create a Relationship Management Plan for each of them. The goal is to keep it simple and do something with every member of your COINs at least once a quarter. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or expensive, but it must be tailored to what that particular person likes. If they prefer to connect over a breakfast, lunch or dinner, that’s what you do. Or if they want to fish or golf or go to a ball game or a concert, you go do it with them. It doesn’t have to be a big deal; it just has to be something that will help strengthen that relationship.
Every agency owner or producer reading this knows that when you interact on a personal level with a great Center of Influence, great referrals typically follow soon after. However, these personal interactions must be systematic, not sporadic. So if you have 10 people in your COIN, schedule a quarterly event or activity with three of them the first month, four the second month and three the last month. Your rotating schedule then repeats itself every quarter.
If I were your sales manager, I would meet with you each month and ask you to detail the specific networking activities you did with your COIN members that month. And if you had nothing to report, I’d expect you to tell me why.
- Behaviors and Strategies. and behaviors will you establish as “normal” this year? (We call this monthly column “WINning Strategies” for a reason: What Is Normal?). In working with a salesperson, you should be asking what strategies and behaviors are normal today and what you want to be normal going forward. That’s why I always warn managers to be careful about what they allow to become normal. Is your normal focused on things like rehearsing and practicing, asking for referrals, and networking? What’s normal for you today? What do you want it to be? What behaviors and strategies do you need to implement to take your current normal to the next level?
- Sales Meetings. If I were your sales manager, we would have a sales meeting every week. Why? Because we’re a sales organization! Further, I would keep track of producer participation and remind any frequent absentees not to book appointments on top of our scheduled weekly sales meetings.
- Training and Improvement. What internal training does your agency offer producers? What outside training programs are you going to attend (like ProducerFit—a shameless promotion, I’ll admit!)? Seriously, where and how will you/your producers pursue additional training and education?
- Private Study. What other things can your producers do to hone their sales skills and industry expertise? I would ask the following questions: What books will you read? What podcasts or audio programs will you listen to? If you want to succeed, you must continuously improve.
- Time Management. I don’t like the term “time management” because the issue really is “situation management,” which I’ve discussed many times before. If I were your sales manager, you would have to follow the Producer’s Perfect Schedule. Because I’ve talked about this so many times before, I’m not going to discuss it in depth in this article, but here’s a recap: You’d have a morning appointment, a lunch appointment and an afternoon appointment on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday each week. Your floating Friday appointment is for what we call a “major relationship event.” Some people call that golf—and I’m okay with that! As a whole, you have 10 opportunities a week to be in front of clients, prospects, and COINs, keeping in mind that every hole in the calendar is a lost opportunity. (By the way, if you’re reading this and you don’t have 10 opportunities a week, shame on you!)
- Relentless Preparation. If I were your sales manager, our motto would be, “We will never lose to a competitor that is more prepared than we!” In other words, we are going to be relentlessly prepared. That would translate into excessive low-risk practice and a tremendous amount of sales skills building. As a result, we are going to know how to ask questions, how to handle objections and how to ask for referrals because we are going to practice, practice, practice.
- Presentation Rehearsals. If you worked for me, you would practice your presentations internally. I would never allow you to go out and make a presentation to a prospect that you hadn’t rehearsed in house first, either in front of me or another team member. This is particularly true if it’s a potential A or B client; there’s no way I’m going to let you go out there and show up, throw up and blow up!
- Team Meetings and Communication. As part of your Monday prep day, you should be meeting with your internal team. If I were your sales manager, we would definitely have a weekly meeting that would bring together sales and service to talk about what’s going on with the book of business.
- Sunday Evening Reviews. As your sales manager, I would consistently preach to all of my producers that this must be done. At some point each Sunday evening, you have to sit down and review what happened last week, evaluate where you’re going this week, and remind yourself of some of the basic behaviors and strategies that need to be in place so that you show up on Monday ready to play the game.
- Prospect Research. If you worked for me, you would have to thoroughly vet your prospects before you even called them on the phone. Even if you were referred to the prospect, before you went out to see them you’d have to have researched their business to the point that you’d know the first three risk-based questions you were going to ask them. Your first question can’t be, “So tell me, what do you do here?” You must demonstrate that you are well prepared.
- Mentoring. Once the planning and coaching phase is done, it’s time for some mentoring. Keep in mind that the best agencies—the ones that have the highest organic growth rate and the most successful producers—have a formal mentoring program. It may or may not be assigned to the sales manager; it could be the agency CEO or another high-ranking executive. In any case, it is someone who wants the agency’s salespeople to succeed and, therefore, wants to know what they are saying out in public.
- Joint Calling. On joint calls, everyone is on their best behavior. So if you were my producer, I would go on sales calls with you on a regular basis. With rookies, I’d go at least once a month, and I’d go once a quarter with my superstars. Not only will producers be better prepared if their mentor is there, having more than one person calling on them looks better to the prospect.
- Pre-Briefs and De-Briefs. These are the briefings before and after a call. The theory behind doing this is pretty simple: Learn from your losses and replicate your victories.
Monitoring and accountability
Besides mentoring and coaching, monitoring and accountability are equally important to a sales organization’s growth and success.
- Sales Meetings. Sales meetings keep everyone accountable, provided they are held on a regular basis and the producers are required to participate. If I were your sales manager, I would insist that every producer be prepared to talk to the group about their successes and their failures, and discuss whether or not they are on track to meet their goals.
- Formal One-On-Ones. If you were my producer, I would schedule a monthly one-on-one meeting with you, utilizing Reverse Performance Management (RPM). This means that I won’t be the one reviewing your numbers and trying to figure out how you’re doing; you’re going to come to me with that information, so you’ll need to be prepared. Using an established agenda, we’ll talk about behaviors and strategies, actual results, and what you’ll be working on in the upcoming month. It’s the sales manager’s job toask questions and hold you accountable. As a producer, it’s your job to be accountable.
- Overall Culture of Accountability. Unequivocally, the most successful agencies have developed a true culture of accountability. It all boils down to: “Did you do what you said you were going to do?” While I realize we’ve discussed this at least 100 times in our articles, have you done it? Has your agency established—and does it currently maintain—a culture of accountability?
The bottom line
Yes, if I were your agency’s sales manager, I would expect all of those strategies, tactics and behaviors to be in place. And as an individual producer, you’d be successful or you’d be gone.
I always tell producers, “I can’t want it for you more than you want it for yourself!” Well, it’s the same for agency owners. You have to want it more for your agency than anybody else does! However, it’s really a package deal: Both agency owners and their producers have to be equally committed to achieving success. It’s The Better Way!
Roger Sitkins, CEO of Sitkins Group, Inc., is the nation’s number one “Agency Results Coach.” In addition to establishing The Sitkins 100™ and Sitkins International, he is the creator of The Vertical Growth Experience™. His latest offering is The Better Way Agency, a web-based training program that shows agency owners ways to make significant improvements in all areas of the agency. To learn more, go to www.thebetterwayagency.com.