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Creating a Culture of Selling with Rainmakers: A Window into Sales Performance

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Written by John Doerr
President, RAIN Group

At RAIN Group, our advice to organizations looking to create a culture of sustained, serious selling: Make sure the bucket doesn't have any holes or it won't hold water.

Time and again we see organizations doing a certain percent of what they need to do to help their teams achieve more sales success and increase sales performance (our favorite, “Can you come in and give a 90-minute speech that will charge up the team for the next 12 months?”), but rarely do they put forth 100% effort. If you're only doing 70% of what you need to do to increase sales performance, you don't get 70% results; you get much less. Like patching a leak in the bottom of a boat, if you don't patch it 100%, it still takes on water.

So if your charge is to create a team of rainmakers, those people responsible for selling who are bringing in three, five, or seven times more revenue than everyone else, make sure you address the gamut of sales performance management topics and give yourself a fighting chance of success. If you don't, you may find yourself expending 90% of the effort – almost there – but still falling short of your team’s sales goals.

There are six areas – three organizationally-controlled influences and three individual rainmaker characteristics (which can be influenced by the organization) – you need to address in order to build your team of rainmakers and improve sales performance.


Organizational Influences:

  1. Expectations and Feedback
  2. Tools and Resources
  3. Consequences and Incentives

Individual Influences:

  1. Skills and Knowledge
  2. Selection and Assignment
  3. Motives and Preferences

In this blog post, we will outline the influences controlled by the organization. Next time, we will examine what companies have to look for in the people they put into sales roles, whether those individuals are full-time salespeople or seller/doers in professional services firms.

So what can you address as a manager in your organization to influence and improve sales performance and the success of your rainmakers? Let’s dive into the three critical components:

  1. Set Expectations and Provide Feedback:

    According to Dr. Jim Harter, Gallup Consulting’s Chief Scientist of Workplace Management and Well-Being, Gallup has asked over 12.5 million people across companies to answer this question: “Do I know what is expected of me at work?” On average, 40% of those polled don't. If you think that's high, you should see how many salespeople and professionals know (or rather, don't know) what's expected of them by their companies regarding selling.

    In our experience, not many know what they are supposed to do. Certainly, they know their revenue goal, but not what they need to do every day to achieve it. They know they need to prospect, but do not know if they are targeting the right people. They know the basics of their value proposition, but do not know if the meetings they are holding are appropriate or effective. 

    In fact, according to sales researcher and author, Dave Kurlan, 83% of salespeople lack goals, plans, or tracking mechanisms.

    And making matters worse, those responsible for managing sales provide little coaching on how to develop those plans and improve upon any plans that are put in place. And the boat keeps leaking water. 

    What happens without clear expectations and coaching? Inconsistency!

    • Inconsistent sales activities across the organization
    • Inconsistent sales effort levels
    • Inconsistent persistence
    • Inconsistent improvement (due to lack of coaching)
    • Inconsistent results
  2. Provide the Necessary Tools and Resources:

    When it comes to sales performance improvement, rainmakers need the right resources to be able to find and win new opportunities. Sometimes they need a decent CRM tool to keep track of what they are doing; sometimes they need an expense account. Maybe they know they're supposed to prospect, but nobody's built them a list of appropriate businesses and executives to target.

    It is possible they do not have the right marketing or sales collateral materials to help them sell. One rainmaker may need to bring a technical guru along to represent a specific expertise of the company…but that technical guru can't afford to lose the billable time. Others may need a good coach to guide them through those sticky sales situations.

    Whatever the need, rainmakers need the right level of resources to find and win new business.

    What happens without the right resource levels? Frustration!

    • Ready to prospect, but don't have the names
    • Ready to present, but don't have the materials
    • Ready to meet with a prospect, but don't have the budget or time to go
  3. Articulate Rewards…and Consequences:

    It seems pretty simple - good sales compensation plans help drive the behaviors and outcomes we want in sales.  Incentive compensation, built correctly, can significantly influence your sellers to find and close more new opportunities.

    And rewards need not simply be monetary. Celebrating those who succeed will go a long way towards letting the entire organization know what you value. This is especially important in professional services firms in which the sellers are also often the billers.

    However, incentive compensation and “atta boys,” while necessary, are not sufficient. What happens when the sales performance results you expect are not there? Unfortunately, too many organizations we see are not very good at stating (and acting upon) the negative consequences of not hitting sales goals.

    What happens without the right consequences and sales performance incentives? Status quo!

    • The wrong incentive compensation: “Why should I sell more? My earnings are capped with this plan.”
    • No consequences for not prospecting: “Well, I guess I'll try when they demand it, but what's the worst that will happen if I don't? They never do anything about it.”
    • No consequences for making excuses about not delivering on goals: “It is not my fault. It is the economy/the marketplace/our offerings.”
    • And in professional services firms: “Hey, I am billing. Nothing bad happens when I don’t sell.”

So if you are looking to build a rainmaking culture of high achievement and sales performance success in your organization, make sure your bucket doesn’t have any holes. Plug the leaks by ensuring your organization is attending to the factors that it controls to influence and affect increased sales performance.

Next time, we’ll look at what you need to do to have the best people in the best shape to work in your culture. 

Topics: Sales Management Sales Performance Improvement