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Inside salespeople who find themselves behind quota may assign their performance problems to any number of factors beyond their control: the economy, the competition, the weather. But the reality is that the single most common reason for this problem lies in something they do control: their choice to use, or not to use, a cookbook.

A sales cookbook is a proven list of activities and behaviors that you can do every day and every week to be successful. We call this tool a cookbook because it operates on exactly the same principle as a recipe that’s been tested and validated by a professional chef. If you turn to the page of your favorite cookbook and find the page that reads “Chocolate Cake,” and if you obtain ingredients A, B, and C, and follow steps X, Y, and Z to the letter, then the end result, you’re going to experience is a chocolate cake – not just sometimes, but every time!

For inside salespeople, the cookbook should include an equally clear list of to-do items, a list that supports your personal income goal. We’re not talking about vague, impossible-to-measure entries like “be more persuasive during phone presentations.” We’re talking about a concrete set of actionable, measurable behaviors that you accept personal accountability for executing, day in and day out, week in and week out… such as setting a clear Up-Front Contract that concludes in a mutual agreement to make a decision by a certain point in the relationship (such as the next conversation).  

Often, we don’t start thinking about whether we have a cookbook until we notice – or someone else notices – that we’re behind quota. So, if you are now facing an income goal that’s more aggressive than you imagined, perhaps because something slipped a little earlier in the year, your job is actually pretty simple. You must look at your past history closely, objectively, and purposefully enough to create a tested, validated cookbook for hitting your goal before the end of the year. If you want, you can get your manager’s help with this task.

Most inside salespeople have never worked their way through this process. My advice: Take some time to crunch the numbers. Perhaps the math arising from a close analysis of both your past history and your income goal for this quarter supports a weekly target list that looks like this: ten new referrals, two hour-long online networking sessions involving LinkedIn, and 20 unique, new conversations with prospects, five of which culminate in a purchase decision. If that’s what you come up with, you’ll want to make sure your manager knows you are accountable for hitting those targets every week – starting now. And you’ll want to schedule time to meet together each week so you can evaluate your progress.

When we talk about a cookbook, we're really talking about the Behavior point on the Sandler Success Triangle of Behavior, Attitude, and Technique. We're talking, in other words, about what you do each and every working day – from your muscle memory, if you will. You already have a certain set of Behaviors in place – the only question is whether or not those Behaviors are supporting your income goal or in conflict with it.

It’s important to talk to somebody on a regular basis (your manager or a colleague) about your cookbook and how it’s working for you. Here's the analogy I use when I run into inside salespeople who don't have or aren't using a cookbook, or who are hesitant to talk about their weekly accountability to their cookbook: Think about Weight Watchers.

What does a company like Weight Watchers add to the equation? Accountability and social consequence.

Once you join Weight Watchers, you formally enroll in a system where you have to step onto the scale, every week, and acknowledge whether you made any progress toward the goal, or got further away from it – in front of other human beings. That's different from just having a plan. That's motivation to actually use the plan, notice what happens, and then change your behavior until the outcome you get is the one you made a commitment to create. That's the secret to executing on your cookbook and the inside sales environment – or any other environment.

The Takeaways

For the inside salesperson:

  • Identify, test, and hold yourself accountable to your sales cookbook. Share it with your manager.
  • Proactively commit to an accountability partner relationship that will apply social pressure to execute on the activities identified in your cookbook.

For the manager:

  • Help someone on your team identify the elements of his or her cookbook.
    • Ask: How many times were you able to set up an Up-Front Contract that included a commitment to make a decision on the first call? Second call? Third call? Does it look like your selling should be happening on the first call, the second call, or the third call?

Check out this section of our Blog to learn more about improving your sales process!

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