• How "The Flavor Of The Month Syndrome" Hurts Your Sales - Interview With Rob Jolles

    Yana Prokopets 22 January 2016
    One of the most sought after speakers in the country, the founder of Jolles Associates, Inc., Rob Jolles not only successfully sold for two of the most respected sales institutions in the nation; he managed their training as well. Author of three bestselling books, Rob inspires and demonstrates proven repeatable and predictable methods to improving sales-oriented businesses. A 24-year professional speaking veteran, it's not hard to tell why Rob's personal client list reads like a "Who's-Who" of Fortune 500 Companies.


    As technology evolves, more and more sales teams, especially the ones doing inside sales, chose to work remotely rather than sit in the same office. What factors should one consider when deciding whether they should build “real” sales team or a “virtual” one.

    RJ: Well, to be clear almost all real sales teams are in reality virtual. That’s because real sales teams are typically comprised of entrepreneurs who succeed or fail based on their ability to sell effectively. If the product requires face-to-face selling, success lies in not being in the office.

    In the past inside sales teams typically worked in a central location because their positions did not require travel, and that central location provided key information sources, and collaboration. However, technology has allowed us to have access to almost all information remotely, and online collaboration.

    What are your tips for managing remote sales people who you don’t have physical contact with on a daily basis?

    RJ: Typically sales people are managed by one, and only one measurement; what have you sold. This is a shortsighted and dangerous measurement because so many factors can effect sales numbers such as the competiveness of the product, geographical region, and the economy to mention a few. But the most important measurement that is too often lost is not what has been sold, but how it has been sold. This is important for those who are not managed remotely, but vital for those who are. It’s the equivalent of trying to manage someone remotely who is playing golf by only measuring the flight of the ball. When there is a defined sales process in place, managers can work remotely to help examine the actual swing, and offer support, coaching and guidance that benefit the sales person, manager, and the company.

    A lot of times people who are great at managing their own sales struggle with managing other people. So how do you make a jump from being great sales agent to being great sales director?

    RJ: This is a classic problem that has plagued not just sales managers, but all managers for decades. More often than not, those who excel at what they do excel because they possess an unconscious competency that supports what they do, and therein lies the problem. If what you do is natural it only makes sense you are going to have difficulty translating that action or activity to others. The key to being a great sales director comes down to three things. First, it’s critical that those who manage others actually be taught real management tactics. Great sales people who are moved into sales management might be able to sell, but that doesn’t mean these people know how to give recognition, delegate, compassionately coach, or provide true feedback. These are learned behaviors and more often than not are not instinctive. They must be taught.

    Second, there must be a repeatable, predictable sales process in place to manage to. I was fortunate enough to be taught by Xerox how to sell, but there are a handful of wonderful sales training programs out there including the ones I teach. Sales managers need to find one, and commit to it.

    Finally, and this one isn’t easy, sales managers must work diligently to separate their own personal style from the techniques they are teaching and asking others to follow. The quickest way to lose the mindshare of a sales person being managed is to force personal style upon them. Being funny, or talking about sports, or even naturally connecting on a deeper social level are classic style issues and do not determine success. Understanding how to create trust, asking questions, listening, and clarifying objections are sound techniques that do determine success, particularly when these techniques are delivered in an authentic manner.

    What is the #1 mistake that companies make when building a sales team or a department for the first time?

    RJ: The #1 mistake companies make is confusing product training with sales training. It’s common practice to bring a sales team together for training to teach them all about the product. After all, product knowledge is important. However, perhaps because the audience is made up of sales people, this training is almost always referred to as “sales training.” Stuffed full with every fact and feature of the products they are designed to sell, these sales people typically do just what they are told; spit out every fact and feature that has been drilled in through the training they’ve just completed. Fundamentals like asking questions and listening, which are difficult enough to perform instinctively, are lost. In reality, we are teaching sales people to fail.

    Real sales training has very little to do with pitching solutions, and more to do with problem solving, and consulting, and if a solution is warranted, helping clients move past the number on obstacle for all of us; the fear of change.

    Which tools, resources, online services for managing sales and sales teams do you like most?

    RJ: There are many, great tools, and resources, but one size doesn’t fit all so picking one would depend on your specific needs. However, the real problem doesn’t lie in which one you pick, but rather in how committed you are to sticking with it, and actually implementing it. Too often companies suffer from what I call, “The Flavor of the Month Syndrome.” These companies pick one particular program, and when another tool, resource, or online service catches their eye, off they go to another vendor. Not only does this destroy their ability to see value from their purchase, they lose the mindshare of the sales force who halfheartedly go through the motions expecting more changes to follow sooner rather than later.

    What are your favorite books, blogs, and courses on the subject?

    RJ: You are asking someone who has spent close to 30 years writing books, blogs, and course on the subject, so I’m going to be partial to my own programs here.

    Customer Centered Selling, Simon & Schuster
    How to Change Minds, Berrett/Koehler
    SPIN Selling, Neal Rackum

    Part blog, part article, the BLArticle® is a one-of-a-kind e-communication dedicated to inspiring, informing, and interacting.

    From keynotes to multi-day programs, Jolles Associates, Inc. customizes its content and delivery to suit your organization’s specific needs. Workshops incorporate small-group activities, role-playing, case studies, simulations, video, and Mental Agility® exercises. Presentation materials include tailored situational briefs, participant guides, and best-selling books authored by Rob Jolles.

    Thank you for the interview.

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