All Posts by Mark Watkins

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Mar 12

Creating and Leading a High Performance Sales Culture

By Mark Watkins

Assuming you have your sales strategy right – the right customers who are identified from the right industry with the right approach to engage them who are all aligned to your sweet spot… then you’re all set to go for successful high performance sales! 

You’ll also have recruited salespeople that are ‘fit for purpose’ and if you are a larger sales organisation you’ll have aligned the sales approach to the customers buying approach and where appropriate, allowed salespeople to specialise e.g. hunter / farmer models & aligned sales and marketing functions. Woah! Let’s take a deep breath.

These are some massive assumptions right here.  If these elements are in place, then the following will help you to lead and create a culture that will empower your sales professionals.

Silver Bullet 1 for a High Performance Sales Culture

Everyone is a customer. Your people are your brand. What gets modelled gets done and what interests my boss interests me.

If you want your ‘love mark’ or brand to come to life, your customers need ‘magic’ moments of truth with all of your people. If you want your people to ‘go the extra mile’, they need to be engaged. This is harder than it sounds and a whole industry focuses in on this with organisations like Gallup & their Q12, IBM Kenexa assessing engagement and providing approaches to shift and lift it.

A new take on the Balanced scorecard – The Z model

Look after your people and they will look after your customers. But how?

Boiling it down to the essentials, people want to have clarity about what’s expected of them, the capability to deliver, know how they are tracking and have the motivation to make it happen. This is supported by a lot of research, my favourite research and related insights coming from:

  • David Marquet – Greatness & Dr Cohan Brown both advocate for the importance of people being clear, capable and motivated. Find it here
  • Dan Pink – Talks about the same three factors using different language ‘Purpose, mastery and autonomy’. Find it here
  • Avoid the three signs of a miserable job. David Lencioni talks about related concepts of ‘Anonymity, irrelevance & immeasurement’ – check out his podcast here.

Set your salespeople up to do the best work of their lives! Model with your salespeople what you want them to do with customers i.e. coach them through sales – see article “Do great salespeople make great coaches?”.

Ensure you provide tools that enable your team that don’t distract them. Design these tools with them to meet their needs and the needs of the customers, whether its product information, marketing insights or tools like CRM.

Silver Bullet 2 for a High Performance Sales Culture

What gets measured gets done – lead and lag indicators that directly lead to the right outcomes and allow time for shift.

Clarify the key leading behavioural measures your team need to get the job done. Allow enough time for new behaviours to embed and trigger results. This is typically nine or so months for sales behaviours and 18 months for results.

What are the lead behavioural indicators? Find out what these are from the top performers in your organisation by modelling what you observe them doing ‘in the field’ with their customers. Then train others in the team to do the same. Huthwaite has conducted research on this to understand what the top 1-2% of sales performers do consistently to generate results, boiling it down to these competencies:

Silver Bullet 3 for a High Performance Sales Culture

Coaching, the right coaching, regularly.

All sales leaders know coaching is important, but many don’t know what it actually is. For those that do coach – it tends to be after the sales meeting to review how the sales person think they did. This is a good start, but the real value comes from…Coaching the PLAN, DO & REVIEW:

PLAN: Coach your salesperson on their plan for the meeting, it’s purpose and what skill they want to focus on developing.

DO: Observe what this person actually does in the sales meeting. Look at the lead behaviours demonstrated e.g. Number of questions asked? Were they open questions? Did they then ask problem and impact questions to find out the ‘need under the need’?

REVIEW: Have the salesperson review how they did both in hard measures of meeting outcomes, but also soft measures of skills developed. Then provide evidence based feedback from your actual observation. This is impossible to do if you didn’t observe the meeting!

The Three Types of Coaching That Increase Performance

In the world of sport, players practice 90% of the time and play for 10% of it. For the likes of business, players play the game 99% of the time and yet we expect high performance all the time?? For sales I would advocate for 3 types of coaching that lead to increased performance:

  1. Situational coaching: Coaching the whole person to enable their career and life. A perfect approach for ongoing development. Here are a couple of tools to help you do this well:
  2. Observational coaching: Observe and coach the client account plan and related sales meeting plans. Observe customer meetings that take place. Review the meeting and providing observational feedback to your salesperson – particularly in the skills that person is focussing on developing.
  3. Huthwaite recommends observational coaching best practice to be two days per salesperson, per quarter. Two days allows the salesperson to ‘revert’ back to their normal behaviours rather than putting on a ‘show’ for the boss. This is the most important coaching to do…and requires discipline, saying no to others management activities and upskilling your leaders to do it.
  4. Skills drills: Each quarter you will have a good indicator of the ‘themes’ i.e. common skills salespeople are finding difficult. This is a perfect opportunity to provide skills drills for the team. Get them to share what works. Demo the skill for them or get one of the team (or a salesperson from another team) for whom this skill is a strength, to demo it to the team. Then get the team to practise it.


If you’re keen to know more about how we could help partner with you to create a thriving high performance sales culture you can check out more on what we do in this space here

Nov 05

Accidental Learning

By Mark Watkins

Here’s what a facilitation workshop taught me:

Imagine if you will a well positioned and planned facilitation of a leadership team. They have had a pre-read and are looking forward to the session. The session format and outcomes are clear, the deck is prepared and we are ready for any eventuality and to ‘smash it’. The session started well, we had a sponsor that believed in us and participants who respected us already, we had opened strongly and warmly and framed in the background was a slide with photos of the team. What could possibly go wrong?

And then it happened! It was akin to being a whitewater instructor. The group was picked up and set off on a gently flowing river. Unbeknownst to me, I would place my paddle into the water and trigger the boat to veer to the left towards the white water and a waterfall and at the same time almost capsize the boat. Fortunately, the group hadn’t realised we were now going into an uncharted river!

I had asked a question. An ordinary question that changed the course of our journey. The question itself was “What questions do you have?”  10 minutes went by, then 30 and finally we were 1 hour and 5 minutes into the 90-minute session and we had were 10 minutes into our planned approach!

I know all about priming, framing and asking boxed questions. I have been running coach training for 20 years and work with groups on the powerful use of questions. I often share the principle ‘The quality of the question determines the quality of the answer’, and yet at that moment I asked a succinct, simple and open question that changed the course of the session dramatically. There are many alternative questions I could have asked to achieve the intended outcome e.g. “Are there any questions you have of me as your facilitator?” and we would have been done in 3 minutes.

Here’s my learning: Be careful what you ask. Be mindful of the intended outcome and frame participants with the right question. Despite this, I managed to stay calm and the group had a good experience. It could have been better, but it worked out OK in the end.

As is often the case, I learned from a mistake. Check out this movement if you want to know how Millennials are leveraging this whole concept to another whole level – LINK. Mistakes are okay if we learn from them and we are kind to ourselves as we reflect on them.

What mistakes have you been learning from in the last few weeks? What questions are you asking of yourself and others, and what would make them even more powerful for you and for them?

Take care,