The Making of a “B Player” Sales Rep
There’s nothing wrong with being a B player or having one on your team. B players don’t often need a lot of maintenance. They push along steadily, and are typically loyal and unlikely to turnover. But some want to, and could be, A players. But, whether due to lack of support or drive, many do not become them. So how can you help those who have the potential to grow?
To answer that question, we need to first answer: how do people become B players? And, if we know how it happens, can we avoid it?
Starting at the End
The moment when we see a B player is often just after the quarter has closed. Deals that were forecast have slipped out or disappeared from pipeline. Suddenly a quarter that seemed like it might hit quota, although barely, has disappointed. What happened?
Often the pattern comes down to two things: first, the deals that were supposed to close didn’t, and second, that there were not enough other deals to make up the shortfall. Making a B player into an A player comes down to detecting both of those challenges early and coaching the sales person to help them grow as a professional.
The deals that should have closed, but didn’t, are the best place to start. Helping B player reps confidently close any active deal that they have is the first step towards building the confidence and skills to engage more buyers and drive even higher sales numbers.
1) Single-Threaded Relationships
Often the difference between B players and A players comes down to a sales person hearing what they hope to hear vs. seeking out any dissenting voices proactively. A clear sign of this is a deal that is “single-threaded” with only one strong relationship.
B players will often stop when they build a relationship with a single person, often mid-level in terms of seniority. They do not proactively engage the key leaders of finance, operations, IT, or whoever else needs to be in the decision. This leads to a deal that looks good until it becomes time to close it, and the internal consensus is not in place.
Identifying single-threaded deals early in the quarter and challenging the sales person to ensure that they have sufficient internal relationships prior to putting a deal in forecast is key to ensuring they deliver like an A player.
2) Engaging Weak Relationships
In many cases the correct decision-makers were involved at some point in the deal cycle. They may have joined a meeting or been part of an email thread. The failing was not that there was no communication, but that the relationship was not developed sufficiently from that point.
Top reps are extremely diligent about follow-up and will make sure that they engage with each person in the decision group regularly. By doing so, they are able to build stronger relationships and discover any objections early enough to resolve them.
With today’s technology, relationship intelligence platforms can easily replicate this level of diligence for sales professionals. Relationships that have not been kept active will be flagged for easy follow up.
3) Crucial Points of View
Knowing that there is a need to follow up is one part of the equation that separates A players from B players. However, knowing what to say is equally important. It is relatively easy to “script” the initial outreach. However, once a deal is active and the unique nuances of each business that is being sold to become obvious, the challenge of what to say grows.
The A players on a team may intuitively know what to say at each stage to move the deal along, but B players require a bit of guidance and coaching. Guiding them with pre-configured chunks of content that position pains and solutions in specific ways allows even a B player to craft a unique message for each relationship that addresses the challenges specific to that person and that business.
Even well executed deals can slip for a variety of reasons that are out of the control of even the best sales people. The only way to remedy this challenge is to have good pipeline coverage, with more deals than needed. If some slip, others will take their place.
1) Call Reluctance
The first outreach is always the hardest. Fear of rejection, and the unknown of buyer personalities combines to make it incredibly hard to pick up the phone or write the first email. Fear avoidance makes some sales people “hope” for failure in an interesting way. If you send a generic email or reach a voicemail, you are not putting yourself “out there” in a way that can be rejected. If you don’t risk rejection, it won’t hurt, but it won’t succeed either.
Arming a sales team with enough insights on their target accounts to open up a conversation is crucial to getting B players over the call reluctance hurdle. Even a few successful outreaches where an insight led to a great conversation builds the sales person’s confidence and gets them over the hesitation.
2) Measuring Activity or Measuring Success
We all know that what we measure we manage. Unfortunately for many sales teams, before the advent of relationship intelligence, measuring the early stage of sales activity was limited to raw activity. Raw outbound emails or voicemails. It was very difficult, if not impossible, to measure anything between that and a deal entering pipeline.
When sales teams are measured on raw activity, they will produce raw activity. Emails will be sent and voicemails will be left, without much regard to their effectiveness. However, if you measure relationship growth, the dynamic entirely changes. To grow a relationship, you need the other person to interact.
Rather than measuring raw activity, you’re measuring the back-and-forth of growing relationships, and by doing so, you change what a team focuses on. Volume no longer matters, results matter. Personalized outreach that engages a buyer and starts a conversation is the best way of achieving the numbers required. This simple change in measurement, and its resulting change on behaviour, upgrades the performance of all team members, not just the B players.
3) Network Access
Consistent A players know that selling is a team sport. In accessing new deals they are looking for any opportunity to connect. Perhaps someone on the executive team knows an executive at the prospect? Maybe someone in services worked closely with someone who has now moved to the prospect company? Could an investor or advocate of your company connect you to a key person at the prospect?
Growing a strong network and then leveraging that network for introductions and access to prospects is a hallmark of A players. B players often tend to try to tackle things solo, and in doing so miss many opportunities to access new accounts. Enabling an entire sales team with visibility into who knows who and how well will showcase every opportunity to access a new account through the relationships that the broader team knows.
A Team of A Players
Having a sales team where each member performs as an A player is the goal of many sales organizations. It may seem difficult to achieve, but with the right tools in place it is possible. Identifying single-threaded deals early in the quarter allows for coaching when there is still time to resolve the challenge. Providing teams with the tools to know when they are failing to grow the right relationships gives B players the tenacity of A players. Providing them with the content tools to deliver an impactful point of view allows them to move deals forward quickly and effectively.
Enabling an entire team with visibility and analytics on relationships changes behaviour to a more A player approach. Opportunities to gain access to new accounts through the company’s network can be quickly identified and leveraged, while measurement of relationship growth focuses behaviour on the things that matter, not false goals like high volume, undifferentiated activity.
Not everyone on a team is a natural A player, but with the right guidance, every motivated member of a sales team can be coached to perform like one, and that is what creates a truly high performance team.