Are you Ready for Sales Marriage? (Part III)

So I hope that the first two posts about sales marriage have been extremely helpful as you discover what sales marriage is and what it should be, and whether or not it is a relationship that you want to be in. In this final article for creating a sales marriage we are going to discuss the organizational attributes of the company you are looking at and focus on several questions that you will need to find answers to in helping to complete the marriage so that a fulfilling life together will be successful.

Here are some of the questions that need to be considered and are going to be discussed in a bit more detail in this final article.

How flexible does someone need to be to survive in their sales environment?
What is the sales management approach in training and thereafter?
What are they willing to teach you as a salesperson?
What aren’t they willing to teach you?
What corporate baggage does the organization have?

So with these questions in mind, let’s get started!

Consider the organizational Attributes that Makes it Successful

Stretch for Flexibility
Flexibility in a sales environment can do two things: it can either be extremely beneficial in stretching you to become better (which should be something you are seeking) or it may be the very type of environment you are already trying to escape from, not allowing for growth. As mentioned in the 2nd part to this article, you need to avoid the rebound relationships, because most rebounds are an escape to the core issues at hand, and without digging deep to focus on those core issues, the relationship will fail. So what make a sales professional successful in their environment? Does compensation change often or not at all? Is it different in different divisions and what accounts for those differences? You need to clearly define the long-term or strategic aspects of the position. There needs to be a demonstration that there is indeed more opportunities to stay on a faster track if the individual does indeed perform at a high level.

One of the very things that attracted me to TrueNorth in the first place was the “newness” of the organization, yet they have a very solid foundation within the industry. Just in the short 6 months that I have been here I have seen some incredible growth, including new partners that are increasing the standards of what we already offer, which in turn has also increased the standards of the interview process in our hiring practices to find top talent that are attracted to growth. Those who are successful in our environment are those that see sales as a process, not a hard close. Having a passion about what we are doing for people in coaching them is also a key point in that flexibility. This is a new industry for you, or a new environment from what you did for a competitor. At the same time, how flexible are you to being stretched? When I played baseball I had some great coaches, but I have to say that the coaches that I respected the most were the same ones that I hated on certain days because of the push for me to excel and go beyond what I had done before. I am grateful for those “stretching” exercises.

Approach and Training
So in addressing this area of questioning, understanding the sales approach is a must. Is it a hands-on type of training, or more of a distant observer? What kind of feedback is given and how specific are the details in that feedback? With that feedback, how often are goals set to achieve something greater and how often are reviews conducted? What are you being graded on? Do those measures make sense in your own personal development? Is there classroom training, or do you just watch someone from the sidelines?

Understanding the answers to these questions is critical. Knowing how well you deal with a certain type of management approach is extremely important, but at the same time, you also need to be coachable. Just because you were the #1 sales professional at your last organization does not mean you will be #1 in this new organization. You need to personally sit down and focus on what makes you YOU. I will be writing another article at a later date in regards to how you can focus on you and who you are, where you are at as a professional sales person, and really determining whether or not you should even be in sales. Sometimes it is not the coach, but the player. Not everyone is fit to play, not because they can’t learn it, but because it just isn’t the right match. Understanding what approach is good for you is important, and understanding how the new organization is going to approach YOU in training and beyond will need to be known and discussed.

The great part about TrueNorth Academy in this area is that our training approach has been set up to mimic the very coaching programs that we train our clients on. As a result, you will enjoy a classroom setting as well as personal one-on-one attention. Part of the training puts you on the phone as well, since that is where applying what you are learning is key to you being successful, giving you the ability to focus on some weaknesses that may be troubling you.

Coach or be Coached
I am going to address the next two questions in this section since they are related in several ways. What the organization is willing to train on or not will reveal one of the most important observations: What is the quality of the team that you will be working with?

So why is this so important? Because the quality of your future as a coworker, making new friends at work, and possible leadership roles in the future is critical to your satisfaction in the “sales marriage”. There is a proverb I have always enjoyed that says “Keep company with good men and good men you will imitate”. I took this advice seriously when I started my professional recruiting career. I figured that if I hang out with those that are wealthy and make 6-figures, then I should be making 6-figures. By my second year, I had achieved this goal and have ever since. Sure I worked about 80-90 hours per week that first year, and yes I missed my little girl’s first year of life (pretty much) but now I can enjoy the rest of her life and the work has paid off. The growth is tremendous and I love what I do. (And for those that think recruiting is not sales related, we need to talk).

Will you be in company with good men and women? Are you surrounded by people just getting started in their careers, or seasoned professionals in your same situation learning a new industry? Understanding what they are going to teach during the training and what they are expecting from you already is very important so you can go into the relationship with no surprises. They may even have some materials you can read or focus on prior to starting to prepare for the new relationship.

In looking at TrueNorth, we are looking for a little more seasoned professional that is willing to train and learn. During the interview process, we address all the questions that we feel are extremely important for you to be successful in the role. It is because of this process that we hope those that do interview are honest with us be even more honest with themselves about these questions since we want to see the success of others in these roles. We are also working on a new program that will be used to train better, certify you in SPIN selling (a concept that we use in our approach) and overall create a successful environment for you. There are also several books I can recommend to really improve your sales career, irregardless of how long you have been selling or how good you think you are. We can always improve.

The Baggage We Carry
This last question is a fun one for me because it can be such a controversial subject. But let’s be honest: all of us have baggage. So do organizations. One of the things I learned in working with the “good men” of my professional career is not only to eliminate the hype, but also to leave nothing on the field (I know, another baseball analogy, but you understand right?).

Relationships are built on trust and communication. So are organizations. If you cannot trust the people that you work with, why would you even communicate with them? If the organization cannot take the time to answer your questions thoroughly and be up front about the roles, how honest are they going to be once you are hired? By the same token though, you have to be careful not to interpret information into what you want to hear. You will just be deceiving yourself, and later you will be bitter and it will be your own fault.

So what is baggage? While I will not go into the Arabic origins of the word, what I will do is give a definition using questions based on what you should be looking for. Why is the company hiring? Is it because of recent layoffs? Is it because of a high turnover rate? Is it because of growth? These are important questions to ask in terms of baggage.

Other baggage items to consider are the challenges that sales people in this role experience. One of the best ways to do this is to speak with some of the sales people. Some companies do not allow people to be available (which is understandable, because you may be a competitor trying to steal someone away or find out secrets or whatever), but if you hang around a little bit afterwards you are bound to run into someone you can talk to. Just simply ask if it is possible to speak to someone else within the role first. If that doesn’t work, I promise if you are really serious about looking, you will find someone to speak with.

Ask about the most challenging things to come with selling the product or service. This requires true introspection and honesty, so if they think about it first, then you probably are getting an honest answer, but if they go right away into an answer, they are probably saying what they have said over and over again to overlook the question and not hit the question head on. Look for signs that tell you whether or not they are coming with more baggage than you want to handle right now.

Every sales organization has some baggage, but it isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes those baggage items were great learning experiences, and unfortunately it was a phase that they went through, but what’s done is done now. The experience was taken into consideration, new concepts and principles were applied, and they are moving forward. Find out about goals and where the company sees their current model going, as well as the ideas and plans in place to get them there. They may not be able to go into all details or specifics, but most will have a general idea.

In regards to TrueNorth in this scenario, I will hold those details for a personal interview, since most of our “secret sauce” is extremely important to our business model, and there is only so much I can share. So you will get a taste, but I won’t give you the recipe!

So there you have it! Your deep commonality of needs and values coupled with those of a great organization will make for a successful “Sales Marriage”. So get wooing!

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