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Trainer Duane Cashin Wants You to Wake Up Your Sleepy Sales Organization

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Duane Cashin

Duane Cashin is shouting from the roof tops that we do not live in a competitive marketplace but a crowded marketplace. He does not currently see companies performing at the level necessary to be successful in today’s marketplace. Cashin, a trainer, demands that sales executives re-evaluate the definition of a high-performing organization. Is your sales team coasting? What is the energy like on your sales floor? Cashin explains why the Pareto Principle is alive and well and what can be done to re-vamp sales and call center performance.

You have said that just because the marketplace is crowded doesn’t mean it’s competitive. What do you mean by this?

It’s very common today for business people to describe their market place as extremely competitive. In some cases this is true; however, in many cases it’s not. Markets are "crowded!" I will agree to that!

However when it comes to achieving sales and service success there is a significant difference between "crowded" and "competitive." Competitive says a person, or organization, is pushing themselves to the limit. When observing competitive behavior we see a sales person working late into the evening doing the research necessary to really understand the prospect they are going to call on. Or a customer service organization putting in whatever time it takes to gain a crystal clear and deep vision into what their customers want and need.

In a competitive scenario once an organization understands their customer they then take what ever time is needed to ensure their team has the ability to ask excellent questions, really listen and link to what the customer wants and needs. Most organizations say they are committed to doing what it takes to be "competitive," but in the final analysis they lose focus and settle into a reactive world. As a result they lose their competitive edge. They substitute pushing "themselves" to grow and understand, with pushing "product" or pushing their "agenda." In doing so they lose their competitive edge. And to the customer, looks like every other "vendor."

You have said that in a great company the 80-20 rule does not exist. Every team member is great or on his/her way.

Actually what I said is the 80-20 rule is alive and well! In the average sales and service organization you will routinely find 20 percent of the team members to be highly effective and the remaining 80 percent somewhere between probation and mediocrity. There is significant upside for the organization that articulates clear expectations and provides daily support and feedback.

The execution of this level of team support is very challenging. It is sure to send leadership home exhausted each and every day! As a result of this level of support possessing a high degree of difficulty, it represents a distinct competitive advantage, an advantage that is sustainable and not easily replicated. This is competitive behavior!

Why is employee performance feedback important?

I am not a rabid sports fan. However I am competitive. As a result of being competitive I enjoy watching a competitive sporting event. I gain valuable insight as I watch individuals pushing themselves to break an existing record or elevate themselves to new heights. Jim Rohn once said; "If you want to realize excellence and achieve something you have never achieved, you have to become a person you have never been!" Achieving this level of performance in any arena requires feedback.

The same principle applies to sales and service organizations. There is a strong similarity between the up-hill climb of a sales and service team performing at their best day in and day out and an athletic competition. Why do I say that? Because both are difficult. Both require dedication, energy, focus and persistence. And both serve up the agony of defeat!

Both are very tiring and require a very specific mindset to achieve success day in and day out. Both require a commitment to going beyond minimal acceptable levels of performance.

Organizations that achieve predictable and sustained sales and service excellence understand how challenging it is for sales and service professionals to remain at the top of their game. These organizations understand the rejuvenating qualities of appropriate feedback and the stimulating effect frequent feedback and support can have on an individual and an organization. In addition they understand that typically the personality profile of the top producer responds well to feedback and recognition, and they effectively administer this feedback in the correct dosage and in a timely fashion.

There is an ongoing debate about the relevancy of average handle time on the Call Center IQ site. What do you think are the best KPIs to manage?

I think the most important key performance indicator in any sales and service environment is monitoring the level of commitment each individual call center representative is bringing to the table.

Time invested on each call, the revenue generated by each call, the number of times the phone rings before it’s picked up, all these KPIs are important. However the engine, the juice behind moving the needle on any of these KPIs is the call center representative’s commitment behind them. The call center representative at the wheel! If you track all the numeric KPIs and you are not happy with the results, what are you going to do about it? You are going to train and ask for a higher commitment. If your call center team is not feeling the excitement, if they can’t see what’s in it for them all the KPI tracking in the world will not make any difference!

In making the business case for sales training and development you talk about sports. What can we learn by comparing football to the call center environment?

Holding daily practice for a professional athletic team is very expensive. There are utility bills, food, water, medical staff and medical treatment, facility, payroll and a myriad of other expenses that go along with running a daily practice session! Wouldn’t you think if you are paying players millions of dollars they could take responsibility for their own exercise and practice and you could cut those expenses from the budget Can’t you just provide them with a membership to Gold’s Gym and put the plays on the Internet and let them take care of the rest?

I’m sure you would agree if you took this approach disaster would ensue. When you are dealing with people, performance and winning it just doesn’t work that way. Yet many call center managers expect their team to perform at their best with as little involvement on their part as possible. A common call center manger’s attitude is: "My team is comprised of adults. I have given them training, clear expectations and I expect them to perform! This is not a day-care center." I understand where they are coming from. Sounds logical. Sounds realistic. The problem is it doesn’t work!

Running a call center is not for the feint of heart. It requires constant support, feedback, direction and energy! The good news is when you consistently provide this level of support you will be very very pleased with your results. This commitment will provide a distinct competitive advantage for you and your organization.

What is the biggest mistake you see managers making today in the call center environment?

The biggest and most damaging mistake call center managers make is failing to create a culture that enables predictable and sustainable call center performance.

As I indicated above each and every call center manager knows the basic KPIs to track. If they don’t they can read a book and have them all within a matter of several hours. However, simply understanding and demanding a certain level of performance in particular key performance areas will not translate into profitable performance.

Interfacing with the public in a sales and/or service position is a constant challenge. The role is fraught with rejection, frustration and a constant demand on energy. If an individual is to pay attention and execute effectively in the key performance areas they must be in touch with a "purpose." A personal reason, validation or accomplishment that is meaningful to them as an individual. When a call center manager is successful in creating a "culture" that provides purpose for each individual player the sky’s the limit!