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Utilizing Individual Strengths: Is This How to Improve Sales?
Blog / Leadership / Feb 22, 2016 / Posted by Rene Zamora / 6487

Utilizing Individual Strengths: Is This How to Improve Sales?

As leaders, we’re constantly looking for how to improve sales. Our natural tendency is to find things that are not working and make them better. Specifically related to salespeople, our focus could be drawn to weaknesses, like prospecting or closing. This can lead us to send our teams to training that address these areas. Here’s something to ponder. Is that training helping the hunter salesperson to become stronger or fixing the weakness in a nurturing salesperson? I’d submit that the hunter’s find greater and longer lasting improvement through the training than the nurturing salesperson. What is that telling us?

Dr. Fredmund Malik, thought leader, author and professor claims in his book Effective Management for a New Era, “What Counts is Utilizing Existing Strengths. The emphasis here is on ‘existing’ strengths, not on those that must first be developed, and the essential element is ‘utilizing strengths’ and not ‘eliminating weaknesses’.”

I’m a believer in focusing on an individual’s strengths as a way how to improve sales because I implement this focus with all the teams I lead. I work as sales manager with up to seven sales teams at a time. One of my teams has a wide variety of strengths, and I’d like to share with you how utilizing these strengths has helped them produce new revenue highs.

In 2011, I took over a team that had one traditional hunter, two nurturers nearing retirement, a relationship-first rep and a new rep that works best with clear process. In addition, there were two family members selling whose strengths were not in sales and have now found their place in the company that best serves them and the business. The years before I joined the team, the leadership focus was on changing nurturers into hunters and openers into closers. The three-year effort led to little change. The hunter salesperson was selling more but not one else was making much improvement.

Prior to 2011 the team had never attained the annual goal set for them. They had never sold over $600,000 in new business revenue. Here is how they have done since 2011 with a focus on strengths.

In addition to hitting new revenue highs, the team also set new milestones for:

  • Average new business revenue per sales person
  • The number of salespeople selling over the 100,000K mark (4)
  • The number of reps who attained their goal (8 out of 9)

Their company has a 90% retention rate in revenue so the overall annual revenue of this small company has grown by over $2,800,000 over the past five years. They are growing very well at this time.

As you can see, the change did not arrive overnight but growth has been steady. Of course, there were other factors that contributed to this success, but focusing on strengths rather than fixing weaknesses was key. As a leader, you do need to decide to be consistent with this strong focus and make it part of your culture. In order to make the effort to utilize strengths be most effective, I needed to implement the following culture and practices.

  • Develop and support a team selling culture. When you develop a team selling culture, people can compliment each others’ strengths without fear of losing a deal because someone else will reciprocate later. This is not common in most sales teams and is why it must be encouraged and supported by leadership through patience, compensation and the facilitation of learning each others’ strengths.
  • Believe in my team and individuals. If you have the right people on your team, your belief in them and their strengths have more power than you might realize.
  • Develop a humble attitude. Focus on being the best team for customers. The job of the sales team is to bring in business and when they do, they’re doing their job. It’s not to be the hero of the company. Just as the job of accounting is to account for money and customer service is to attend to customers needs, the sales team has the role of bringing in sales. A humble attitude helps the team selling approach.
  • Create an empowering and accountable culture which places the responsibility of results squarely on the salespersons’ shoulders. When the responsibility is with the sales person, it’s no longer the managers’ job to “fix” weaknesses. The salespersons will decide to either fix them or not. The manager will support a desire to fix weakness and to leverage strengths but the focus is first on leveraging strengths.
  • Team members with complementary strengths. It’s hard to be whole if there is a strength missing. Rather than looking to duplicate your best producer find someone that can help make everyone better through their individual strength.
  • Recognize each person’s strengths and encourage the team to become stronger through teamwork.

Below is a list of the individual salesperson strengths on this team. As you read through the list, see if you can identify any strengths that exist on your team.

Hunter – knows how to identify markets that have problems we can solve and approaches them in a way to get their ear quickly.
Association network expert – they understand how to build credibility through association involvement and are consistent and patient enough to allow this credibility lead to sales.
Transparency – the person is willing to pass up on deals due to a bad fit and graciously communicate this to the prospect and on the way out pick up a referral for their integrity.
Educator – He knows products better than anyone else and how they might help solve a prospect’s problem. He does a great job at explaining this to his prospects in a way they can easily understand.
Service delivery – How a customer is taking care of is more important than them buying to this rep. They will work a little extra to make sure a customer’s happy and it can look like they are not using their time wisely until the referrals come in and the closing is easy.
Relational – Asking for things is not their strength but building relationships are. They understand that a solid business relationship that demonstrates you care leads to more business.
Processes – This person will always call for the process when we introduce new products or approaches.

Rather than trying to make people become all of these traits as a way to improve sales, focus on all becoming better communicators within their strengths. Encourage team selling in prospecting, networking, discovery or closing based on what will help a buyer make a good decision. Teach the team it is better to utilize strengths in themselves or others before allowing an individual weakness to get in the way of a buyer making a favorable decision.

If you have any questions about how to make this work with your team, feel free to leave a comment, send me a message or give me a call.

About Author

Rene is Sales Manager Now manages small-business sales teams with a business to business selling model. We work with companies that are established and competitive in their market, but can't seem to figure out how to increase sales through a sales team.

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This sales management book is written for small business owners that don't have much time and need a little sales management know-how. "Part-Time Sales Management" is a proven approach to growing your company sales while spending only 10-20 hours a month in sales management. Using…
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