Are you planning to grow your revenue?

Most businesses that we work with are trying to expand to enjoy the increased opportunities offered by the recovering economy. However, most also report consistent challenges with; finding enough new and repeat business, missed targets, unreliable sales forecasts and margins being eroded by discounting.  The answer that many seek is to expand the sales team but further challenges come in the form of; difficulty in finding good candidates, getting the good ones to join and then retaining them long enough to get a RoI on the recruitment, induction and training costs.

A recent article from Alinean reinforces the cost and delay factors mentioned in our April Newsletter . The article cites information from CSO Insights which said most salespeople take ten or more months to become fully productive.  The same article quoted Forrester as saying it can take as much as 36 months in certain industries.  This, despite the fact that most new sales people are hired from similar industries.

Some turn to technology in the hope that it will make sales people unnecessary.  This can work in some businesses with straight forward propositions and shorter selling cycles but for most businesses sales people are still an essential part of the way they find and win new customers and new business.

So, if you need sales people, but cannot find enough well qualified capable people what will you do?

Internal Sales Academies – an answer to; “where have all the great sales people gone?”

We would suggest if you cannot find them; grow your own – this is precisely what our tailored Sales Academy is designed to deliver.  Our approach will also shorten the time required for new recruits to become fully productive.

Read more …


Sales Led Revenue Growth

If you expect your sales team to drive growth, perhaps you should ponder the latest sales research to see how your plans might be impacted?

  • Only 14% of salespeople are professionally trained – in another 10 years this figure could be as low as 5%.  Two thirds of sales reps miss their quota; is there any correlation?
  • A new sales recruit can cost £80,000 [1] a year in sales support costs alone.
  • A likely timescale to allow for a new sales recruit to become fully productive is 10 months or more [2] , however if you’re in industries such as technology, medical solutions and complex business services you can reckon on up to 36 months to effectiveness [3] even if they come from a similar industry.
  • Less than half of sales reps believe in their own pipeline predictions; could this be attributable to lack of objective criteria, structured process, or meaningful reporting?
  • The optimum level of coaching for reps who are struggling to achieve their targets is 3-5 hrs per month [4] but on average most receive less than 2 hrs.

So what can these figures tell you, apart from the need to plan well to avoid the cost of failure?

This is not just about recruitment or training , it needs a fresh view and a complete change to the established way of doing things.  Your people may have the knowledge to put the necessary change programme in place but, it will put severe additional load on their management of day to day business. Our academy solutions are designed to support you in your growth plans by delivering an outsourced resource integrating your existing successful process into a seamless service:

  • Tailored recruitment to reflect the nuances of your culture, industry, market, brand, customer, etc.
  • A comprehensive induction programme to ensure the new recruits become an integral part of your organisation so they can deliver your proposition, your way to your customers.
  • Basic and advanced (soft and hard) skills learning and development to create a customer centric, commercially aware, adaptable sales force.
  • Coaching and mentoring to embed the learnings through real world examples.
  • Development and support of the sales leaders so they can in turn leverage and enhance the productivity of the newly trained sales force, and ascertain leading indicators for a reliable pipeline forecast.
Basic scope of an academy

Basic scope of an academy

Once the academy solution has been successfully piloted it can be brought back in-house or remain (partially) outsourced according to your on-going needs.

Request a call back to explore how our tailored Sales Academy solution can help you grow your revenue and margin.

1 Qvidian quoted $135.000
2 CSO Insights
3 Forrester

Improving Sales Force productivity during a renewal or growth phase

As the economic turn around is allowing companies to think about growth once more, the same old challenges of growing and maintain an effective sales and selling operation are still there to haunt you. The improvement in the jobs market may well increase your staff churn which makes the job of creating a stable or expanding sales and selling platform even harder.

  • Do you foresee your growth plans being limited by the capacity of your sales force to keep pace?
    No, really!?
  • Is dealing with churn in the sales force distracting you from achieving your business goals?
  • Do new recruits resist the switch to selling “your way”? Are you showing them your way
  • Are you getting payback on budget and time spent training the sales team?

New intake intake cannot become your staff, working your way, unless you put in the effort to develop consistent selling and sales management skills, closely aligned with your operational environment, for all customer-facing staff.  An essential foundation for this to be successful will come from the introduction of your own sales and selling methodology and associated processes.

The essential components in the creation of a successful sales team are; a well executed recruitment & selection process, thorough induction/on-boarding process, commitment to on-going development based on systematic training supported by regular coaching, and committed sales leadership that recognises its primary responsibility is to help their direct reports to perform more effectively with continuous improvement being the driving principle. The final components that help to ensure success are a fully integrated sales & selling process, and a customer centric proposition.

If Sales isn’t your primary strength our Sales Academy offerings are designed to equip you and your company to recruit, train and develop a sales force with professional selling and sales management skills capable of powering your growth plans. For companies with an established sales capability the Academy can provide new and original ideas and approaches to super charge what you already have.

Drawing on talent from either raw recruits, experienced sales people from other industries, or those who wish to be cross-trained into sales from other disciplines, the service covers the complete sales organisation from basic telesales through to senior account managers, sales managers and directors.

Basic Scope of an Academy

Delivered initially as an outsourced service, you have the option to take the functioning academy model in-house at an appropriate future date or continue to use us to provide the service.

“I just wanted to write formally to thank you for delivery of a first class project. In every step you have been a pleasure to work with and have delivered on everything you offered – and more.” June 2015

Let our experts help you through the challenges of recruiting, inducting/on-boarding and developing your ever evolving sales force.

Contact us now to discuss how we can help

People performance improvement – “getting the biggest bang for your buck”

Or should it be “getting the biggest quota for your quid”?

Anyway, within any normal selling operation a typical performance mix would see 20% of the team routinely averaging 120% of the target, 60% averaging 80% of target and the other 20% well under at 60% or less of target and perhaps being considered for the exit door. So, if you were going to invest in some time and money to help improve performance where should you focus your efforts and what should you do – where and how can you get the best return in terms of performance improvement?

The answer might seem obvious; sack the under-performers, leave the middle/average performers alone as they are “doing OK” and focus on the top performers as you cannot afford to lose them so they need to be spoilt!

Consider this:

  • If the top performers are exceeding target by 20% they are probably close to capacity and they are demonstrating that they already know how to do the job effectively. Also as they are only 20% of the workforce an improvement of say 10% would only provide a 2% improvement across the whole company. So this is not the first place to consider.
  • What about the bottom 20%? Before making any decision about terminating their employment you need to consider whether they have been recruited, trained and coached properly. If they are good people, apparently right for the job, but not performing then you need to properly explore the issues before deciding what to do. If there are issues with the way you recruit, induct and support new people you need to fix that before recruiting anyone else. So, for this group we suggest:
    • Potentially half may simply be wrong for the job so assigning them to a role which plays to their strengths or, as a last resort termination, is probably the best option for all concerned.
    • Those that you identify as being right for the job, but who have been let down by your systems, deserve some special treatment to turn them around. This will be a win-win for you and them.

If the performance of half this group can be improved by as much as 30% this would amount to just 3% across the company. So, while the remedial work does need to be done, as a matter of urgency, this group will not provide an immediate or huge boost in overall company performance.

  • So, what about the middle 60% who are averaging 80% target achievement? Performance suggests they are generally good at the job and they seem to have found their way around any obstacles created by your systems. Therefore they should respond well to some focused effort to help them improve their performance. The great news is that a 20% improvement in target performance in this group will amount to almost 12% improvement across the company so the return is good and should be achieved quickly.

Because the middle group will give the quickest return, the increased margin they contribute will quickly grow to fund the whole improvement programme. For a team of 10 people targeted to achieve £1.0m margin in a year but only achieving £840k the potential improvement gain is at least £160k. This will cover the cost of the performance improvement programme, leaving a significant amount of change that will improve the bottom line. Perhaps of greater value is the fact that you will now have a higher performing team who will deliver more this year, next year and on into the future.

Recommended approach

  • Review the whole team to establish your top, middle and bottom performers.
  • Analyse your process for recruiting, inducting, training and managing people and act to fix problems you find before bringing any more new people on board.
  • Now you must remediate issues with existing people created by problems identified in the review and analysis stages:
    • For the bottom group decide if anyone needs to go or whether a restructure of your selling team and adjusting their role in your business might be a more productive way forward. For the remainder, put them through an intense programme designed to remediate issues caused by your previous approaches. This may involve a process of “re-recruitment”, revisiting the induction and training (both soft and hard skills) followed by a period of focused coaching. You could create a “boot camp” to provide the focused coaching until the sales people have demonstrated they are performing at a higher level. Use of external agents for the boot camp may allow unbiased discussions and reveal additional opportunities for performance improvement. This will also leave your own Sales and HR managers free to do their day jobs.
    • For the top group, decide on an individual basis whether any additional development would be beneficial. They will also benefit from any improvements in your systems arising from the review and analysis stages.
    • The middle group will require similar attention to the people that you retain from the bottom group. They probably won’t require the depth of attention that the bottom group will need but you will still need to revisit issues that have arisen from poor recruitment, induction or training and inadequate management and coaching. It may prove that the boot camp approach is right for this middle group meanwhile there are development benefits to be gained from mixing people from the two groups.

At the end of the process you want to have one integrated sales team so a part of the process will involve some team building activities that are applied to the whole team. Although you will have identified the top, middle and bottom performers through this process such terms should not be used openly as this will make the job of creating one integrated team harder to achieve.

To bring this together we would recommend the creation of an internal Sales Academy which will be the umbrella function for; improved recruitment, better induction, meaningful training and development, and powerful management and coaching.  By creating a series of “qualifying” steps you can offer sales people a career ladder that sees them develop from basic sales through, intermediate and senior levels as well as a stream that will identify and develop sales managers for the future.  Your internal Sales Academy will become a vehicle for staff development and will provide outcomes that people will aspire to achieve, all of which will make them more effective ambassadors and sales people for your company.

£26,959: The cost to an SME of one bad recruitment decision

Most of us can calculate the direct costs of recruitment and we will probably come up with a few hundred pounds or more realistically one to two thousand but the real cost impact comes from the time and effort required to get a new recruit up to speed as a fully productive employee able deliver at an optimum level of performance.  Unum’s latest study,  produced by the highly respected Oxford Economics, sets a figure on the cost of staff replacement at £26,959 so you need your new recruit to last.

“£26,595 is a startling amount, and I would encourage SMEs to place more emphasis on retaining talent and developing good staff to reduce the cost of staff turnover.”  Peter O’Donnell, CEO of Unum.

£26, 959 is a not insignificant sum, just a fraction of which would provide a budget that could be used on more effective employment practices thus reducing the risk of future waste.  More positively, this will deliver more motivated and productive employees.  In many cases, with a sales person for example, the cost of replacement could be significantly higher and therefore the benefits gained from solving the issue are also much higher.  Whilst dealing with the immediate financial consequences is very important, the really important gain to be made with a sales person comes from the increase in their sales figures and the revenue and profit generated.

From our own research, the key contribution to this issue is the perception that employing someone new is just a recruitment activity when in reality recruitment is only one of four essential dimensions required to deliver a complete employment solution.  Those four dimension are; recruitment & selection, thorough induction, on-going learning & development, and appropriate management, leadership & coaching.  By locking these four together you can deliver an environment of continuous improvement in staff performance and productivity.

The simplistic cost calculation most often utilised considers only the direct costs of recruitment; agencies, adverts, temporary staff to plug the gap and the time taken by HR and management in the recruitment process.  However, in reality the calculation should also encompass the cost of lost production and productivity, and opportunity and reputational cost; almost no one we have met has considered these extra costs.  Taking the true cost into account, is £26, 959 just the tip of an iceberg?

So let’s look at those four dimensions in turn.

Recruitment & Selection

This is where it all starts, this is where the foundation is created, so investing the time and effort required to get this stage right will always more than pay you back in kind.

The first step is to carefully define and agree the requirements of the job including what you expect the new recruit to achieve for the business.  This should then drive the complete recruitment and selection process; what you will pay including incentives, where and how you search for candidates, how you will interview, other section methods you will use including profiling & psychometrics and finally referencing which should include their use of social media and other public platforms.

Then there is the matter of the final selection process; don’t just choose the best of the bunch, choose only those who match the full requirement.  However, if you cannot find the perfect match and you are considering a candidate who is a near match to the job specification, then you must work out what you will need to do to support them to fill whatever gap they have.  Discuss the gap with them as part of the job offer process, tell them what you will do to help them address the gap and agree with them what they will be expected to do.  Make it clear that failure to do what they have committed to could become a performance issue.  If they are put off by this process you will have saved yourself a deal of cost and potential heartache watching them fail.  When you take up references ask the referee what they think about the person’s ability to learn and adapt in line with filling the gap.

Thought: Don’t be afraid to recruit people who are better than you; be afraid not too!


Treat each new employee as raw material that will need to be moulded before they can deliver their part in your finely tuned engine.

No matter how experienced someone is when they join you that experience is only a reflection of their past and it may not be a relevant indicator of how they might perform with you.  Past successes may have been a function of a specific environment where they worked or it may even have an element of luck.

You must allocate time and resources to thoroughly induct the person into the company and their role in it, including an introduction to how technology and other tools are used in their role.  You must help them to understand your history, ethos, culture, principles and business objectives; where you are going, how you plan to get there and where they fit* into the scheme of things.  * Consider giving them a taste of each additional role /department/function so that they have a context for the impact of their role in the overall scheme.

If during the recruitment process you have identified gaps in the candidates’ skills or knowledge required for the job, the induction should also commence the process of plugging the gaps.

At the end of the induction ask your new employee to present back to you what they now know about your company and their role and also what they think they still need to learn.  For recruits into more senior roles such as management, sales and selling, invite them to present to you their ideas for their next 30/60/90 days.

Thought: One week of induction will typically cut three to four months off the process of “learning” the company and the job, which means the recruit will become fully productive much faster.  This will save a significant slice of the £27K.

Learning & Development

The development process commenced with the induction but you now need to focus more on the individual and their specific learning needs to achieve the ideal role competencies.  Technology will be a significant area to consider and in many cases this will be IT related.  The world of IT based business systems is one of constant change and if you fail to keep your people up to date and engaged with their use you may well be handing an advantage to your competitors.

We recommend that companies create a development programme for individual members of staff and even for departments or functions.  The purpose is to create a regime of continual improvement which should be a combination of formal and informal training, refreshers and updates plus, as discussed in the next section, coaching and mentoring from management and colleagues.

By making this a permanent feature of the way you operate your business you can create and ring-fence a budget for staff development.  All too often training is seen as a nice to have and in tough times the training budget is typically one of the first casualties.  However, there is sufficient evidence that companies who invest in training and development during periods of economic difficulties invariably emerge stronger than competitors who failed to invest.

Thought: The FD asks; “what if we spend money training them and they leave?”  The HRD asks “what if we don’t train them and they stay?”  This is the classic debate between cost and value – we recommend you go for value every time as it will ultimately cost you less!

Management & Leadership

The most important element for a successful and progressive employment environment is the leadership, coaching, mentoring and on-going development of teams and individuals across the business.  Having recruited the right person (perhaps with some gaps) and equipped them with the basics through induction and development programmes the real difference will come from good quality committed management.

This is true in all areas of the business but will deliver the most significant performance improvement in the sales and selling areas of the business.  Imagine a sales person tasked to deliver orders that will produce a margin of £150,000 and they under-perform by 15% (not uncommon) that represents a loss, every year, of £22,500.  A good committed coaching manager will get that back for you in no time so the investment justification is simple.

Thought: if your sales managers spend most of their time in the office with spread-sheets they are simply studying history when they could be changing the future.  They need to be out with their people helping them to become more productive and effective.

Bringing it all together

One model for delivering a co-ordinated approach to the four dimensions; recruitment, induction, learning & development, and leadership, is as a process focused on continuous improvement and thus increasing levels of performance and productivity.   The process was once fashionably illustrated by sales schools or sales academies, and as with any fashion it can enjoy a revival at the appropriate time.

Resource bandwidth and skills availability may be a challenge to any company in times of change or planned growth and who might be considering embarking on this approach, however, if you wish to convert that £27k cost into rewarding benefit, now is a good time to plant those seeds.

Contact us to find out how we can help you cultivate and reap the rewards.


Developing professional selling and sales management skills for all your customer facing staff

Maintaining productivity in a dynamic Sales Force

Creating and maintaining a sales team with enough good staff to achieve your plans and meet your forecasts can be a problem particularly if you are growing or staff turnover is disproportionately high.

  • Do you foresee growth which will challenge your internal organisation to grow an effective sales force?
  • Is dealing with churn in the sales force distracting from your business goals?
  • Do new recruits resist the switch to selling “your way”?
  • Are you getting payback on budget and time spent training the sales team?

New intake will not be your staff, working your way, unless you develop consistent selling and sales management skills for all your customer facing staff

If Sales isn’t your primary strength our Sales Academy offerings are designed to equip any company to recruit, train and develop a sales force with professional selling and sales management skills.

Drawing on talent from either raw recruits, experienced sales people from other industries, or those who wish to be cross-trained into sales from other disciplines, the service covers the complete sales organisation from basic telesales through to senior account managers, sales managers and directors.

Delivered initially as an outsourced service, you have the option to take the functioning academy model in-house at an appropriate future date or continue to use us to provide the service.

Let experts help you through the minefield of recruiting, inducting/on-boarding and developing your ever evolving sales force. Contact us now to discuss how we can help you!

Developing professional selling and sales management skills for all your customer facing staff

Developing your sales team

Are you getting value from resources spent on training the sales team?

Kevin Young, General Manager EMEA, Skillsoft (April 2011 article “Optimising Staff Training” on suggests that for many organisations their training programme delivers little long-term value to the business – simply because employees fail to apply what they’ve learnt in a classroom environment to their daily role, whereas the potential is there for “an individual’s productivity levels to increase by eight per cent if they can apply their training to their role. That equates to 160 hours of additional output, or roughly 20 days per year”.

We wholeheartedly agree with this assessment so we design and deliver sales and sales management training totally in the context of its application, so it is relevant, it sticks, and it delivers ROI.

  • We induct staff to be your staff.
  • We educate your team to sell with ROI in mind, and support them with appropriate tools to help them compete more effectively.
  • We provide education and training programmes covering both processes and selling skills for the full sales cycle.
  • We hone their negotiating skills; with an increase in the numbers of professional buyers, ensuring that your team employs the appropriate techniques and tactics from the very start of the sales cycle, can make the difference between winning or losing.
  • We educate your technical and field staff to be more sales aware; to support your company’s selling activity in all accounts; to help you to leverage more business from existing and new customers.

To enable you to focus on your core skills, we provide the expert assistance necessary to ensure you have the sales team appropriate for taking your business to market.

“The well prepared case studies made the negotiation skills training really come to life and made people stop and think about what they are actually doing. The key to any successful training is; Did they use it and did they gain benefit from it? We certainly did. I am convinced that we successfully negotiated our way through some very tricky issues since and the way we approached them was heavily influenced by the Performative training. “

Contact us to discuss your training needs.

time allocation to team members

Challenges of the Sales Leader

The Executive as Sales Manager:

This is specifically focused on the executive, who does not have a sales background but who does have to manage the sales and selling functions of the business. This is a typical scenario for many owner managers but is also the position when someone from a different discipline, for example the FD, assumes responsibility for the sales and selling operations. One obvious thing to observe about this person is that as well as managing sales they will also have another job to do as well; CEO, MD, FD, etc.

A principle that we have long subscribed to is that you can lead or supervise people but you can only manage processes. Attempts to “manage” people typically descend into supervision and this in turn tends to focus on monitoring the quantity of activity whereas what matters is the quality and value of the outcomes achieved by the activity. Good sales managers know this and spend most of their time training and coaching their sales people to achieve better outcomes rather than supervising them to produce higher volumes of activity.

The key to effective leadership of any sales operation, regardless of whether the leader is experienced in sales and selling, is to have in place a well-defined sales methodology and a complete set of associated selling processes. The methodology represents the go-to-market strategy while the processes are the tactics used to implement that strategy.


allocate time to each

Make time for coaching individuals and the whole team

The processes define the stages and gates that need to be followed throughout the lifecycle which sees a suspect become a prospect, then a customer, then a user and eventually an advocate. The processes ensure there are standard outputs from the mundane routine parts of the job. Those outputs must benefit both the company and the sales person. The sales people need to be trained in the use of the processes and progress is then easily monitored by observing how potential deals move through the stages of the process.  Such movement should be driven by adherence to the “rules” of the processes. This removes the need for the executive to try to manage (in fact supervise) every individual action and item of activity by every sales person – now, management can focus on exploring the exceptions.

Because the executive will be wearing a number of hats, it is important to allocate regular time slots throughout the week which are reserved exclusively for managing the sales and selling functions.

Here are a few tips to guide the executive as sales manager:

  • Design the commission plan to encourage the behaviour and results required to meet the business goals.
  • Create a sales methodology and associated selling processes.
  • Communicate these to the sales people ensuring they understand why they are expected to follow them.  The objective is to create an environment which permits intelligent adaptation within a defined environment.
  • Induct new people and train existing people into the methodology and processes
  • Reinforce this by managing people via the processes – make your expectations clear and consistent, e.g. if you ask for weekly reports, ensure you read them and respond.  Be alert to anomalies which may indicate coaching is needed.
  • Monitor progress through a dash board consisting of a few KPIs, pay attention to the exceptions and act on them.
  • Set aside regular times when you are in sales manager mode and publish these
  • Make time to coach individual sales people
  • Make time to visit prospects and customers with sales people, not on your own
  • Have a sales meeting with the whole team at least once per month – discussing account issues and tactics helps everyone learn
  • Speak to each individual sales person regularly and if they are remote do this by phone
  • If you feel you cannot do any of the previous points then bring in help, either a dedicated sales manager or part-time interim assistance to cover specific areas for you.

Training alone won’t solve your issues with selling performance

There are two common strategies used to address selling performance issues; train the people you already have or fire and re-hire new ones. It is possible that the people you have are lacking some important skills and it is also possible that you chose badly when recruiting but how likely is it that the root cause of your performance problems is poor selection or lack of skills?

We are sometimes asked to provide training in specific selling skills with common examples being; dealing with competition, negotiating and closing. In some cases the problem has been well identified and therefore the solution works well. However, in most cases the perceived “problem” is just a symptom so, for example; training someone in negotiation techniques will not help if the problem stems from poor qualification during the initial lead generation process.

Another issue is that training is often generic so the lessons delivered are not in context for your specific business, proposition or marketplace. This is really just a “sheep-dip” approach and is unlikely to deliver a sustainable gain in performance.

I hear I forget, I see I remember, I do I understand

I hear I forget, I see I remember, I do I understand

The most effective training strategy is when it is part of a fully integrated process of staff development – this is true for all training not just sales. The main components include:

  • Recruit the right people understanding the gaps that need to be filled through training.
  • Give new recruits a thorough induction into your company; history, products and services, your proposition, the market, your competitors, your business model and your sales methods and processes. This is the foundation for successful employment and improved retention.
  • Be mindful that people learn in different ways (read, listen, observe, do) and to get the most effective result you need to “train” people for the results you want, e.g. tell => perform by rote, vs. coach => understand and adapt as necessary.
  • Create a learning and development plan for each individual. This is not about a mad first week; it is about a development programme spread over the whole period of employment with you. I started my selling career with British Olivetti and through my near seven years with them I was being developed and honed to ever better levels of performance.
  • The development programme needs to use the management, leadership and coaching regime that you have in place as its delivery mechanism.

OK, so how may we help you?  Call or email us for a confidential discussion.