Recently I took on a new, very reluctant client. As the perennial top salesman in his region and one of the elite in his company, he came to me with a great deal of confidence and deserved pride about his production. His area VP of Sales recognized that this sales rep – as good as he is – had plateaued. The future of the region depended on this rep, and others like him, to grow.
Working with experienced sales professionals presents a different challenge than working with new talent. The most difficult thing is challenging their worldview. These great players need help seeing beyond the constant validation to elicit new growth.
“There are other players who were more talented, but there is no one who could out-prepare me.”Peyton Manning
As the expression goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.“ There any number of updated, improved, and new sales techniques and tools that any top performer can employ to grow. However, until that sales professional decides to move out of their comfort zone, all your efforts will be in vain.
Here are five strategies to help those top performers develop the courage to move beyond their comfort zones and embrace the changes that lead to greater performances and production growth.
Check Your Ego
One of the easy ways to help a top performer check his or her ego is to change the scale. My client was number one in his sales region several years running. When we changed the scale to encompass the 4 region area, he dropped out of the Top 5. When we looked at the company as a whole, he didn’t make the Top 10.
This exercise was to simply help him understand that his “best” work – as far as the company was concerned – was above average. We also agreed that while it was the best in the region, his performance wasn’t HIS best work!
Experience is a Bridge, not a Moat
At some point in every conversation, an experienced sales professional will tout how many years she has been in sales and/or the various high-level positions she has held in the business. This usually comes up as a defensive mechanism… a metaphoric moat to protect the flat performance of her castle, if you will.
Ask your rep to reflect on the many times in her journey did changes result in improvements. Sometimes the improvement was in raw production numbers (new markets, new products, etc). Sometimes the improvement was in profitability (new process, more pay). Help them connect the way she embraced change and improvement in the past to how she can grow her business today.
Argue Opinions, Trust Facts
Facts have a funny way of shutting down arguments. One sales professional can be the king of closing business with this highest sales numbers month over month, year over year. However, when that rep’s margins were so thin, and the promises made were so outrageous he could end up one of the lowest paid in the office!!!
Show your sales rep all the metrics that are important for pay and recognition. Putting the rep’s overall production in context can help set the proper expectations and goals… and shut down a boatload of unproductive conversations.
Second Time’s a Charm
When you present a new idea to your sales rep you may get some version of this response: “I tried that once before and it didn’t work.” In your mind, feel free to whisper, “Check and mate!”
First, ask his opinion on why the activity didn’t work when he tried it in the past. Next, ask him to list the changes in the market, market conditions, product offerings, process changes that have developed since he tried it last time. Now ask him how he can change his approach to this activity, in light of these new circumstances!
Acknowledge The Fear
Finally, acknowledge that the Comfort Zone is nestled right inside of the Fear Zone. Human beings are hard wired to recognize and react to the unknown with fear. Things that are new, by definition, are to some degree unknown. For seasoned sales professionals, new practices and procedures will have an unknown affect on their business. This is the fear we need to overcome in order to grow.
“Courage is knowing what not to fear”Plato
Circling back to Trusting Facts and Checking the Ego, you can reduce this fear by showing there are other sales professionals living and thriving beyond the Fear Zone. Those reps are producing at a higher level BECAUSE they embraced the new reality and all its changes.
For my client, the “Ah-Ha” moment was when he saw that sales reps from BOTH smaller and larger regions were making more money than him by simply offering a different financing option. Once he realized the facts made more sense to him than his old opinion, his profitability began to grow and his entire region is embracing the change because of him!
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