Helping underperformers find their mojo has its rewards, but for the most part, it is a really hard thing to do. Is it impossible though? No.
As sales leaders, our main job is to enable success for our teams. We hire the right people. We train them. We support them the best we can. Yet, some of our people just never seem to reach sales superhero-hood.
In my experience, there are a few things that are consistent with sellers who stay stuck: They don't consistently get to know their buyers, don't practice their pitches & demos, they engage in 'spray and pray' selling, and they don't invest in getting to know the product well enough to satisfactorily answer questions that clients throw at them.
It is frustrating, and we try to fix it with time-tested solutions that unfortunately never work for our bottom performers. We throw more training at them; we do six sigma projects and dig into data to work out the 'exact nature of the problem' that keeps them from performing super sales feats; we send them for motivational training/sessions/seminars/outings; we even try tweaking KPIs. Of course, we also make life hell for our Sales Engineers by demanding an ever-expanding library of custom demos in the hope that if these people have enough demos at their disposal, then maybe, just maybe, they'll crack the code.
Why Do We Continue To Apply Solutions That Don't Work?
Honestly, It works just often enough to keep us stuck in this loop. However, it misses the mark on what the real problem is: salespeople don't have the ability to tailor their pitches in real time. This, right here, is what your bottom sales performers will tell you, when (and if!) you stop throwing solutions at them.
Of course, they don't have all the answers! No one can. Think back to your days on the frontlines, and if you're honest with yourself, you'll remember that you didn't either. Practice doesn't solve this: it doesn't matter how many demos I give, there will still be the odd customer who will derail the demo by asking questions that are 'out of syllabus' or that are new to your team. They can't possibly know the product inside out - they're the sales guys! Besides, your product is always evolving.
What's The Core Problem?
The one area though where I've seen my sales teams struggle the most is with their demo itself. The customer breaks the flow of the presentation, and the presenter goes to where the customer is leading. Their flow is broken, and very few salespeople have the confidence to jump back to where they left off. It's even worse when they're presenting their screen, and can't flip through their demo notes to get their bearings.
This is why having the sales engineer in the room works so well. He's there to cue the salesperson the moment they flounder. He can manage the demo. He can navigate to other areas that the client wants to venture into. He can help course correct. He tracks when something has been missed out altogether. What does the salesperson do when all of this is happening? He focuses on the customer. He listens, and is, therefore, able to respond.
What You Need Is A Feasible Solution
Of course, having the Sales Engineer in the room isn't a feasible solution - you can't justify two people for the same job, clearly. It always devalues the sales engineers when doing demos becomes the norm for them rather than being the true SMEs of your product. But what if we could cue the salesperson, track the demo, and help them venture into areas of the product they weren't planning to cover, with confidence… without the sales engineer in the room?
This was the genesis of SmartCue. I wanted to find a way to bring my Sales Engineer into demos with me, unobtrusively. I wanted something light and easy to navigate, without a steep learning curve. And, I wanted something that didn't make my sales reps sound like scripted robots! It didn't happen all at once and it took a lot of iterations and a lot of starting from scratch… but what we have now is pretty great (even if I do say so myself!). End of plug. This is what I did to solve my problem.
Find The Solution That Works For You
You do you. As a sales leader, you need to find a way that bridges the gap between these two roles or find ways to drive synergies and tools that can work in real time, or near real time. Because guess what? When salespeople have everything they need to answer questions when they can switch between custom demos in real time, and when they don't have to spend most of their attention flipping back and forth on knowledge articles and unwieldy decks… What do salespeople do?
They sell your product.