Case Studies

Sometimes the problem is not the sales force

(Management is the issue)

Sometimes the problem is the sales force 

(No sales process)

Your operations group isn't dysfunctional, they just don't have the desired competencies for the job 

(Poor selection and lack of profiling)

Identifying the problem

(Internal communication issues)

Include your organization’s culture in the evaluation and selection process

(Right guy, wrong culture usually doesn’t work)


The Situation

One of the first clients we worked with in association with McCrory & Company was a technology company that provided software to the financial services industry. The management for one line of business within this company had grown frustrated with their sales force. Over the past few years they were not able to increase sales revenues, had not expanded their customer base, and the margin on renewed contracts had declined. We were engaged to increase sales productivity by implementing a sales process, training the sales force to that process utilizing Solution Selling principals and tools. We were also engaged to profile the salespeople to identify the groups’ strengths as well as weaknesses across their sales cycle.

Our objectives were:
  • to help management identify desired competencies common among their best performers
  • help realign sales teams
  • direct sales management as to where in their sales process they should focus their coaching
However, when we started working with the sales force we discovered their typical sales cycle was nine months. But, almost every other quarter, their targeted accounts were adjusted and quite often reassigned. Additionally, marketing and sales had no interaction so their materials did not map to their prospects’ business issues.

The Solution

After encouraging the four senior managers to complete The Birkman Method questionnaire we discovered that three of the executives had engineering backgrounds and thought very concretely and linearly. In other words, they had only a short term focus, and were impatient when quarterly numbers did not meet expectations. So they were constantly fine tuning things, primarily with the sales force. They hardly ever adhered to long term strategies. We recommended that they develop both long term and short term objectives and give more import to the recommendations of the fourth member of the executive team who thought more holistically and conceptually than they. Unfortunately, they never had a chance to try our suggestions. Within a week after we submitted our recommendations, the COO had grown tired of the lack of performance and all four were fired!  However, the new managers, implementing our recommendations, increased their client list by 10%, sales by 15%, and retained their margins with current clients.

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The Situation

We recently began working with a new client. The company is highly profitable, but an unhealthy amount of revenues, nearly 70%, was derived from one client. This fact alone is impacting the value of the company. The small sales team of 5 had morphed into being more relationship managers than new business developers. New clients were gained more by referrals than by proactive sales efforts.

The Solution

After assessing The Birkman Method Sales Profiles for the team we discovered that all but one of the salespersons required active organizational support to be productive. Though they had favorable people and selling skills, they were not necessarily self starters. They worked best in an environment that was structured and process oriented. Therefore we customized a sales process for them, trained the five individuals to the sales process, increased accountability, and stipulated target accounts. Often times, because management is focused on day to day activities, the hardest thing to do for many of these small to mid-sized companies is to make sure that their sales people are acting proactively and not reactively. By changing the sales team’s focus and providing more structure the group became re-energized, opportunities in the pipeline increased significantly, revenues increased as well, and the number of new accounts grew by 20%, year over year.

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The Situation

A health care provider approached us concerning a team in their operations group. This team’s employee satisfaction scores were in the bottom quartile of the organization and their performance evaluations were unacceptable. Some of this was understandable. Over the past year they had gone through a re-organization, adjusted to a new process, and begun to report to a new executive who set individual monthly production goals. We were brought in to provide the group with some teambuilding exercises to increase trust, reduce internal conflict, increase their level of commitment, and establish more accountability.

We began our effort by having each of the team members complete The Birkman Method Questionnaire. Simultaneously we asked their managers to help us construct a desired Birkman profile for this position. The Birkman offers as many as 48 different characteristics for us to choose from. However, we have found that we can have a very effective “desired” profile for most operations positions with no more that 12 carefully selected characteristics. What we gleaned when we compared each member of the team’s profile to the “desired” profile was that only 25% of the group had 8 or more of the 12 selected characteristics. The average for the entire group was only 6, and a few individuals only had 2! It was also not surprising that those whose profile did NOT map to the “desired” profile were also the most unproductive. Each of these individuals had certain organizational strengths that their employer required, but this operational position needed a completely different skill set.

The Solution

It became clear from the Birkman Profiles that those whose performance and effectiveness were at an acceptable level, valued order and adhered to structure and procedure well. We shared this with the entire group as well as the managers. Specific actions that followed were:
  • Meetings were set up to improve internal communications. Each individual met with their respective manager to discuss their strengths and what factors when present energized and motivated them
  • New goals and objectives were mutually agreed to by certain employees in concert with their manager to create a positive sense of accountability as well as to help improve moral and self esteem
  • HR was brought in to help a few relocate internally
  • As part of the application process, new hire candidates are now asked to complete The Birkman Method questionnaire and have their profile mapped to the “desired” profile. It should be noted here though, that the profile is only part of the selection process, and not the deciding factor.
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The Situation

Within the investment management industry, many firms remove their portfolio managers from day to day interaction in the markets. That is the responsibility of the trader. The thought is that this format allows the manager to have a more strategic viewpoint and therefore portfolio transactions have a more long term implication. This construct also reduces compliance issues, but that’s another story….

Working with one portfolio management team, it was clear, in just a 3 month period of this portfolio manager working with this trader, serious communication issues had evolved. The irony of the situation was that these two individuals had known each other for more than 10 years, and had developed a high level of mutual respect. The portfolio manager had even solicited the trader to join his team. However over just a short period of time, communication between the two became limited and terse. Not an ideal situation for effective portfolio management. Performance was impacted.

The Solution

In competitive athletics, athletes often spend hours viewing their performance on film. Over time this allows them to not only recognize their strengths but also what skills they should work on to improve their effectiveness. The same applies in the work place. All Organizational Behavior instructors will agree self awareness is the first step to improved productivity. The Birkman Method, the industry leading personality assessment is the tool that we utilize to help us work with our clients in “their film room”.

We sat down individually with both the trader and portfolio manager to review their Birkman profile, usually a two hour process. During these conversations it became clear what the issue was.

One of the 48 characteristics that The Birkman evaluates is Challenge. Challenge gauges how an individual fortifies their self confidence, their self esteem. The trader had a very high score. High scores fuel their self esteem through achievement. They tend to be impulsive and react more on instinct. The Portfolio Manager had a very low score. Low scores strive to stay within their “comfort zone”. As long as they are within their comfort zone, they are consistent and effective. Often times, process can provide the infrastructure for this consistency. The portfolio manager had a “process” as to how he evaluated a security and its value. This process took time. The trader acted on intuition and relied on his years of experience. What had evolved over just a short period of time was that the portfolio manager believed his trader had no respect for his analytical process, and the trader felt the PM had no respect for his instincts. Communication became terse and heated.

Once this was all pointed out in a joint meeting, they both recognized that their styles in fact complimented each other. Once they understood that the way they fueled their own self esteem positively impacted their professional performance, the angst was eliminated, internal communication skyrocketed, and portfolio performance rose significantly.

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The Situation

A client was experiencing astounding growth. In each of the past three years this consulting firm had been able to double their gross revenues (and yes they do practice Solution Selling concepts and principles). This growth also required an expansion in the professional staff, including a new Chief Operating Officer. The leadership team had learned (through previous experience) that not everyone “fit” in their organization. In the past, certain individuals that were hired possessed the desired education, competencies, experience, and relationships that indicated success within the company. However, for various reasons, and in a relatively short period of time, there were those whose performance was unacceptable. These errors in employee selection had proven to be extremely costly and negatively impacted revenues.

The Solution

The company’s management team evaluated the cost of hiring the wrong person. These expenses were well into the six figures when they itemized:
  • Management’s time spent addressing poor performance
  • Missed revenues
  • Cost of termination or reassignment
  • Hiring a replacement
  • Lack of revenue due to vacancy
  • Learning curve start up time
While reviewing the executive team’s leadership and management styles, the question was asked if the Birkman Method could be used to represent an organization’s culture. Within 30 minutes we had defined their culture based upon certain characteristics evaluated by Birkman. This allowed the company to accurately convey the organization’s culture to candidates and search firms on the front end of the hiring process. They found this provided consistency for all involved in the interview process and set real expectations for candidates. Additionally, after candidates had completed the Birkman Questionnaire, a single page report identified 1) whether or not the individual mapped to the company’s culture and 2) possessed the desired competencies and aptitudes that the open position required.

We also suggested that the interviewing process begin after the screening process. The executives in the organization found this made much better use of their time because in this way each candidate was a truly viable one. Two immediate results from this effort were that new hire productivity, (i.e. billable hours) exceeded past experience and employee retention has been 100%.

If you would like to learn more about this situation, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss this in more detail with you.

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