Unfortunately, too many businesses are currently caught up in the trap of being too focused on short-term cost-saving measures, rather than looking at the big picture and investing in their business. So, most are not putting their sales staff through a disciplined and strategically focused training program.
Today, they have to know exactly what to do to be successful in building their business. There is overwhelming focus on products and services, and not nearly enough time and attention being focused on the process of sales. The question is: Are you getting your ROI from training?
There’s a lot that goes into selling besides going out and making calls. Before, there was what I call low-hanging fruit that was easily gathered by salespeople who were nice and friendly. People liked them, and if they had a choice, they spent their money with them.
Today, people are a lot more selective about how they spend their money. They’re looking for professional experts, true consultants to help them build their business. Sales training should be more detailed than just an initial one-day training. Here are five things you can look at to build a successful sales force in this new economy:
Have the right management process in place. Organizations often take their best salesperson and make him the manager. This is a big mistake. If someone is an excellent sales person, they often have the traits that will make an awful sales manager. Management traits are very different than salesperson traits. It’s important to remember: Just because somebody is a good salesperson, it doesn’t mean she is going to make a good sales manager.
Focus on the salespeople’s activities. I often hear CEOs and sales directors say: “I don’t need to know what they’re doing when they’re out there,” “It’s not important for me to know what they’re doing every day” and “What’s important is to make sure that in the end they make their numbers.” That’s true. Activities are not just knocking on a door or picking up a business card and making a call. What it’s about is giving them the tools to help them understand what they are doing right and what to change.
Lack of true sales skills. We have often hired salespeople because, when they come in, they’re very friendly, very outgoing and we believe that personality will help them sell for us. That is absolutely not true. We need professionals who understand your products and services in a way that will help potential prospects ask the right questions to uncover what the real needs and the real depth of use would be. The depth of the question is what’s important, and the true professional salesperson understands how that value will be seen by the prospect, as opposed to a salesperson who is out there just being friendly and meeting people. It is not about glad-handing; it’s about being a true expert.
Lack of ongoing reinforcement. We tend to hire salespeople that have either sales experience or, more often, industry experience. Often, people with industry experience are bringing negative baggage with them. My recommendation: Find a process that you believe fits with your organization, that is the most professional and that you can track at every point in the process. Once you have that, have all of your salespeople use that process. It’s too difficult for you to manage salespeople when they each have their own way of doing things. They need to use their own personality and style, but within an approved process that matches well with the philosophies of your organization.
A poorly defined process. Make sure the process your sales department is using is the one that you feel most comfortable with. What are the pieces it should have?
First, it needs to have prospecting. There’s a variety of activities that people do, and you need to understand what your salespeople’s strengths and weaknesses are. They all need to have activities that need to be done all of the time, not just when they’re not busy.
The second thing is they need to prequalify every phone conversation. How often do they spend time in front of people that aren’t qualified – can’t make a decision, don’t have budget, don’t have enough money – and putting proposals out there and then following up. That’s not good for anyone.
And third: What are they doing when they are on the appointment? Are they actually interviewing the prospects, as opposed to just going in and telling them how wonderful the organization is and hoping they see an opportunity?
It’s very important to make sure the process is followed the way you want it to be. It needs to be an interview. After that, there needs to be a true discussion about dollars – about budget or investing. If that doesn’t happen, you don’t want to waste time on a proposal.
The next part of the sale process you want to look at is: Are they following up properly? Are they recapping the conversation and the commitments both sides made to move the relationship forward? Typically, a follow-up note or email from a salesperson says, “Thanks so much for the opportunity to speak with you. These are all the things we do, and aren’t we terrific?” That’s not what it should be. It’s a professional recap of what the conversation was, and the last step is your recommendation to the prospect based on what they said was important.
I hope that you’re taking your sales force, which is one of the most important things you have to grow your business, very seriously and spending time, energy and money on getting them trained properly. If not, you might as well just close your eyes, throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks. How’s that working for you?
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