With maturity of any b2b business comes a need for its sales field to change and grow; to adapt to increasingly complex conversations that demonstrate a heightened relevance to the customer’s business, and which speak to the personal agendas driving individual decisions. They need to ascend the relationship chain in the customer and widen ‘known circles’, creating more senior relationships from scratch. In doing so, they can’t neglect existing relationships which risk creating a vacuum for competitors to exploit. And, they have to do all this whilst overcoming legacy perceptions about the limitations of the solutions they’re selling, which are constantly evolving.
Each of these challenges in isolation would present a significant influence challenge not to be underestimated. Collectively, it can feel enormous, sometimes impossible, for a b2b sales person to keep up with such required growth and maturity. Particularly when they don’t feel equipped for it. This presents another influence challenge to add to the pile; managing ones emotions under pressure.
For the sales leaders at the helm, driving such personal growth in their sales field commensurate with the required change is the sales leadership challenge of the moment. How do we cultivate a mindset to Dream Bigger? At Applied Influence Group, our experience tells us that sorting the sales field into four categories can provide direction on how to influence the required change in each. It all comes down to two factors; skill and will.
1. Those that are capable of the required change and have the will to rise to the challenge. High Skill and High Will.
2. Those that are capable, but don’t have the will to go through the pain or might not have the confidence to be bold. High Skill but Low Will.
3. Those that are not currently able to deliver but have the will to get there. Low Skill but High Will.
4. Those that are not currently able, and don’t appear to have the will to change that. Low Skill and Low Will.
The model is based on the idea that for a given task, some people will want to do it (High Will) while some people won't (Low Will). For the same task some people will have the ability to do it (High Skill) while others won't (Low Skill). For each quadrant, the matrix suggests ways for the leadership to influence their individual team members to achieve the personal growth required. Here's our key guidance to sales leaders on applying the model.
Who Sits In What Box?
Labelling isn't always useful, but it can help rationalise a situation, particularly if you’re trying to influence a number of individuals to do the same thing. The Skill/Will Matrix can be used to work out who sits in which box.
Low Will As An Indicator Of Threat
Low Will can indicate disinterest, but it can also be a sign that someone views the change as a threat. For example, the introduction of a new remuneration structure can be viewed by some individuals as a direct threat to their power or feel it threatens their previously held status. If we can identify why they may feel threatened, we can frame our message in a way that helps remove this fear.
When Low Will Is Actually Low Skill
Sometimes Low Will is really an indicator of Low Skill. Individuals don't have the ability to do what is being asked but don't want to admit it. For instance, sales people might not want to lose status or face criticism for admitting that they don't know the solutions well enough and subconsciously hope that if they don't engage with the change that it will just go away. Here, effective Emotional Management can be the path to get the individual to recognise their own gaps and then help them fill it.
When Low Will Is Really A Different Viewpoint
High Skill/Low Will can often be an indicator that the sales person has the skill to do the change but disagrees with the direction the leadership has set. Here, asking effective questions and using Active Listening can draw out the real reasons for the lack of effort. In many of these instances, it is misunderstanding rather than fundamental disagreement that has caused the problem. By trying to understand their perspective, sales leaders can change their message to one that makes sense to that individual.
In the fast paced environment that many of our clients operate in, a common reason for Low Will is that sales people are trying to do too much and whatever it is that you are asking them to do just doesn't seem important enough. In these situations, it may be appropriate to help the individual realise why they should fear the consequences of not acting. They might not recognise that a failure to buy into the leader's direction is likely to be bad for them in the long term. People with their head in the sand cannot see what's coming, so helping them to clearly see the long-term is highly ethical, and in their interests. The most effective way to do this is by eliciting the wider and longer-term consequences from them, rather than making a transactional threat which can often reinforce the negative behaviour.
Harnessing High Will/High Skill Individuals
Within team settings, High Will/High Skill individuals can often become frustrated by other team members who "don't get it". They can be high achievers individually, but can become disruptive to a team. These people often don't understand why they are motivated to do something or why they are doing it so well. Some may be content for others to be less capable as they might view it as a path to promotion and status.
"All models are wrong, but some are useful." George E. Box