Making the Grade in a Post-Refi Market

As we move through the second half of 2012, many managers are wondering how to successfully prepare for a post-refinance marketplace including how to train current staff to meet new market conditions.

In my consulting practice, re-engineering a sales staff from order-takers to sales professionals is an issue that I am frequently asked to address. Oftentimes, sales management starts to invest in training with the belief that additional training will correct the problem.

The reality is that before deciding on a training solution, managers should evaluate which sales professionals would benefit most from this investment. In these tough economic times, the days of unlimited spending are over and companies must carefully select activities that will deliver the biggest return on investment. In my experience, identifying and customizing solutions for individual producers is the most effective way to improve overall sales results.

When evaluating sales staff and their performance, we use a four-part framework called the “ Will vs. Can’t” evaluation investment matrix. We also use objective assessment reports to measure the person’s talent and sales skill gaps. Developed by Andris Zoltners, a professor at Northwestern University, the evaluation matrix divides sales people into four groups: motivated but not capable, star producers, problem sales people and capable but not motivated. We have slightly modified the template to better fit the needs of our industry.

A brief discussion of each group and what it means from a resource allocation is as follows:

1. Motivated but not capable — These individuals put effort into selling but do not understand or know the selling process. They may improve with coaching and training but because of their low capability, they will need to receive training assistance. The capability component is a function of not being properly taught the selling process assuming they possess the right traits to sell. Individuals who need this type of training effort should be identified during the hiring process. Assessments are especially valuable in helping managers determine the individual’s sales learning gaps early on.

2. Star producers — These individuals have the right combination of talent and motivation. A sales organization’s success is a function of its expertise in attracting and growing these types of individuals. When it comes to investing in training, star producers are an excellent investment because they are motivated to improve their capabilities and understand the selling process. Star performers raise the bar for everyone in the organization especially when they share their success strategies.

3. Problem sales people — These individuals are not a good investment from a training perspective because their issues (lack of motivation and talent deficiency) are not easily improved through training. These individuals should be placed on a performance improvement plan with an eye to quickly moving them into another non-selling position or out of a company. The investment in time and training needed to correct these deficiencies is typically too great.

4. Capable but not motivated — These sales people are the most frustrating of all four groups since they have the talent but at this point in their lives (for whatever reason), they need to be motivated. While training can be a solution, incentives may offer a better opportunity to address motivational issues. I have found that once a motivation has been identified (assessments are particularly helpful in this area too) performance can be changed or improved by tapping into what motivates the sales person specifically.

When managers identify which sales person would benefit from training, they increase their return on investment dramatically. Have you graded your sales staff recently? If not, let’s talk.