Discipline—The Most Underrated Skill in Sales

Kritika Batra | Last Updated : 22 Oct, 2021

On most days, salespeople make hundreds of calls and face rejections a lot of the time. They still get up, wipe off the dust, and keep moving ahead. Some may give up after a few follow-ups or deals that went south, but seasoned salespeople keep persevering, and the unique trait that sets them apart is discipline.

In a LeadSquared survey, we found out that 11% of salespeople feel that they’re somewhat disciplined but could improve their sales process. Making discipline a part of their sales has helped salespeople close deals faster and increase their incentives over time.

What difference has discipline made in your sales process?

Recently, we invited Kevin John, an ex-Army Major and Regional Head at SIP Abacus, and Prashant Singh, a marathon champion and COO at LeadSquared, for a webinar to share their experiences with us. They both brought discipline from their personal lives to their sales process, which helped them excel in sales. You can watch the recording of the webinar, Discipline: The key to consistent sales success, here:  

Most of the salespeople who are new to the trade focus on just cracking the one big deal. However, over time, they learn that the mark of a seasoned salesperson is a consistent success.  

Consistent sales success can be defined for every individual and the overall team as well. For an individual, a month-to-month improvement can be evaluated using a metric such as sales productivity or revenues. For a team, it’s the capability to complement one another.  

As Prashant mentions, “Sales consistency means that the team begins to improve its win ratio over time. But more importantly, the team needs to have the magic to get its collective productivity to be more than the sum of individual productivities. The team members must collaborate on their strengths and weaknesses to achieve sales success for their team.” 

Kevin, having trained in the Army himself, believes that discipline is the backbone of the Army. Similarly, in sales, self-discipline should be one’s religion. Each team member must identify their targets and plan accordingly to become a positive contributor to their teams.  

In the webinar, Kevin and Prashant shared a framework of discipline for sales teams with five pillars: Regimentation, Leading by example, Sales as a team play, Training and measuring, and Unflinching optimism. Let’s look at these in detail.

Regimentation 

A process that has been set up to carry out all tasks can help the team members bring discipline to their day. Taking inspiration from the army, here are a few ways in which you can improve regimentation in your sales process.

1. A driving force

A well-defined process and strict regimentation give each team member a clear sense of purpose. Since the team consists of people of different experience levels, regimentation can help them become accountable and keep them motivated. 

“The process of going out to practice every day differentiates a marathoner from a rookie runner. Putting your shoes on and going out to run, whether it’s one, two, five, or ten kilometers, and doing it every single day is the regimentation that I try to bring to my work too,” says Prashant.

2. Clarity and responsibility

To manage the new leads entering the system, all sales team members must know the protocol. Sales leaders must define the next steps, and every individual must follow them meticulously. Creating a detailed plan is essential in bringing regimentation to your sales process, as stated by 45% of the sales leaders.  

What can leaders do to discipline their sales teams?

3. Improving sales productivity

 Improving the process will ensure that the team achieves their weekly and monthly targets. A well-defined sales process also serves as a guide to avoid conflicts over leads and prevent multiple salespeople from contacting the same lead. Once the clarity has been established, salespeople know which leads and activities they must focus on. It will decrease confusion and increase productivity. 53% of sales leaders also believe that prioritizing important tasks increases team productivity.

What makes your sales teams more productive?

Leading by Example  

“As a leader, your team members look up to you and the way you act in crucial and stressful situations. In the Army, everyone knows that the leader will pound the pavement for them. The sales leader carries the biggest quota and handles the most difficult situations in the corporate scenario,” says Kevin.

He also mentions that sales teams are like wolf packs, where the leader is always behind the entire pack and ensures that no one is left behind and the team keeps moving ahead. Here are a few practical tips for sales team leaders to put to use:

1. A chain of leadership

Each person looks up to their supervisor and managers for guidance and a benchmark to learn from. The VP follows the CEO, the managers follow the VP, and so on. So, leadership and a standard for discipline must be set at every level.

2. Mentoring

For managers or supervisors, it is important to get into their subordinates’ shoes and understand their problems. The leaders can do something as simple as participating in team meetings and have one-on-one discussions with the team members. This helps the leaders identify any setbacks early on.

Sales as a Teamplay  

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” – Aristotle  

This statement is true in sales teams when the members begin collaborating and contributing in capacities exceeding their roles. In sales teams, the collaboration between different departments like field sales, sales development, and negotiators is necessary to deliver superior results. The leader must step in to remove any friction between teams and align everyone to a common goal. 

“A leader can mold their team and ensure that every individual’s contribution is valued. It is also important for teams to think of ways to collaborate and build a cohesive team,” mentioned Kevin while sharing a story about his days in the Army.

Training and Measuring

“The more you sweat in practice, the lesser you bleed in combat.” 

Kevin shared an interesting theory, 10,000 hours of practice, by Malcolm Gladwell. It states that ten thousand hours of practice can help you improve your results, as proven by sportspeople who have improved their performance by 26%. He believes that the same kind of practice and training can be highly beneficial in sales. For example, 60% of the salespeople find follow-ups and prospecting to be the most challenging aspects of sales, and leaders can help their team by providing appropriate training for the same.  

The hardest tasks for salespeople

Here are the ways to streamline sales training. 

1. Structured training

It ensures that all the team members are equipped for the roles they will be taking up. It also creates a channel for communication between the trainees and the leader, which they can utilize to gain clarity on the product and the process.

2. Short- and long-term skills

In a fast-growing company, it’s important to learn and unlearn a few skills every quarter. Tactical skills are usually short-term, while skills like communication and negotiation need to be honed for the long haul in sales. Leaders must also ensure that the entire sales team has an in-depth knowledge of the product, which can take place through rigorous training or frequent certification tests.  

3. Auditing and measuring

After all the training, when salespeople begin to make the first few calls, the leaders need to ensure that everything is going according to plan. One can either set precise metrics to gauge performance using reports, or as we do it at LeadSquared, an auditing team can be set up. Leaders can investigate the calls and follow-ups being carried out and give actionable advice to the salespeople, which helps them improve their performance in the future.

Unflinching Optimism  

Discipline gets you through the process, but optimism is what gets you to take the first step. Believing in your leader, the process, your team, and yourself is crucial in sales.  
 

“Whenever we are in a difficult situation, I never say it won’t happen. Everything will happen. It has worked out in the past, and it will work out in the future.” Kevin shares this mantra that he and his team believe in.  

Visualizing the goal

When you believe that you can achieve it, your goal appears to be just one or two tasks away. Optimism helps you get rid of a chunk of fear, and it gives you the strength to keep carrying out the functions despite any setback in your path. Each team member needs to be confident and keep delivering until they achieve the milestone they have set for themselves. Optimism also becomes a crucial differentiator between the winning and losing mindset.

While most companies use sales automation platforms, such as LeadSquared, to automate workflows and streamline their sales processes, consistent sales can only be achieved with the salesperson’s intrinsic discipline. Process automation is just a boost up, so every salesperson should use discipline as the driving force to perform better and contribute to their sales teams.  

Questions from the audience: 

We aren’t getting the desired results despite having all the processes in place and following them consistently. What can we do to bring about a change? 

If all your processes are right, re-evaluate your goals. If the goal is correct, you might need to optimize a certain step in the process or focus on providing a different kind of training to your team. Talking to the customers to understand how they perceive the product or service can also be beneficial.

What are the key points to consider while building a new sales team and hiring new sales executives?  

Apart from technical skills, knowledge about a certain industry or product is always beneficial. They should have the long-term skills needed for salespeople, such as clarity of thought and communication. As a salesperson, they should also know how to make the right judgements and should be able to empathize with the client. 

Sometimes the line between moving forward and leaving no man behind is very blurred. How can we strike a balance between the two? 

It’s a very fine balance, and you can’t keep on doing it the entire year if your targets are not met. As a leader, you can attribute the sales to your team members before taking any credit. You must also ensure that everyone in the team can meet their sales quotas. Your sales team must keep delivering and moving forward despite all obstacles. 

How frequently should a sales team lead review the performance of the team? Daily, weekly, or monthly? 

Ideally, the performance review should take place daily. Based on your team size, the sales performance evaluation with the manager can occur monthly. The team lead should organise a daily stand-up meeting to talk to the team and track sales. 

Out of attitude and aptitude, what is more important for a salesperson? 

Attitude is fundamental when compared with aptitude. Someone having high aptitude but no attitude can have a negative impact on your sales. With the right training, aptitude can be developed, but not attitude.  

How do we retain key salespeople? 

Assuming that the product and work culture is good, retaining key salespeople drills down to creating the right compensation plans. Set ambitious yet achievable targets and give handsome incentives to those who accomplish their targets. Appreciating your sales teams and giving them the right recognition also keeps them motivated to perform better.  

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