Whether it’s the turn of a calendar year, your first year as a sales manager, or just the turning of a new leaf, here’s some resolutions for you:
- Make your sales managers fully accountable for their teams’ performance. Give them the resources and let them get on with it.
- Nail your sales strategy. Is it distinctive, compelling, clear, and embedded throughout the sales organisation?
- Become the custodian for your Customer Value Proposition. Fight with marketing if necessary. Look to constantly improve and develop.
- Stop/reduce Managing and start/increase Leading.
- (Better) educate your Board as to what selling is really about. If you don’t, when the figures are poor you will be constantly fighting off mad suggestions as to how to improve things.
- Spend more time with Customers, periodically try to see them on your own, but never undermine your salespeoples’ authority or position.
- Stay connected to the salespeople. Attend local meetings, have lunch with them, be available (appropriately).
- If you are also responsible for marketing give it the same attention as the selling dimension. Few Sales Directors who hold the marketing brief understand it properly. Strategic Marketing as opposed to Marketing Communications is a critical component in building competitive advantage.
- Build the public profile of the business.
- Accelerate your own learning; your credibility depends on it.
Whether you’re planning for January, for your new job, or just for a new you, here’s some ideas for you:
- Do one more unit of activity in the relevant time period. That might be one more sales visit per week, one more presentation per month or one more phone call per day. Improve your ratios without loss of quality and the sales numbers will follow.
- Speak to a difficult customer you have been putting off talking to. Our analysis shows salespeople are more likely to talk to customers they like before ones they don’t, regardless of the business opportunity.
- Sort out your sales collateral. Brochures, business cards, tech specs, PowerPoint presentations etc., should all be in pristine condition and up to date, including the correct year (©2008) on everything.
- What about your own learning? How much are you trading on what you’ve known for some time, how much recently acquired? Your own learning curve always needs to be at a stepper angle than your customers.
- Clear out your sales pipeline. All the hopeful things that in reality aren’t going to ever convert move to the dead category. ‘Fess up at the next sales meeting, focus on the few that do show potential for conversion.
- Stop giving your sales manger a hard time. They are not the enemy; being permanently ‘high maintenance’ is not doing you any favours.
- Improve your networks, both inside the company and out in the marketplace.
- Do a personal skills audit, be objective about your strengths and weaknesses. Do something to improve/exploit your conclusions.
- Take more ownership for failures, you are then in control of solving them.
- Work harder.
If you are in a telephone based sales role making high volume calls it can be easy to lose sight of what you are trying to achieve. By creating and applying a template, a potential customer can be benchmarked against your template to:
- See how attractive it is likely to be
- Check whether work is worth pursuing
- Decide what sort of activity needs to be undertaken
- Decide how much activity needs to be undertaken
This is undertaken by screening ‘suspects’ against a number of preset template criteria to see if they ‘qualify’ for further attention and be worth considering as prospective customers (‘prospects’).
Another comparison against templates created to reflect ideal customers (example) will give many clues as to how to progress. Focus can be given to where success has been achieved in adding value, and the type of customer most suited to this type of work.
By knowing how and where to add value, following analysis of fit against such templates, further models can be used to both create a suitable proposition to the customer, and to map out ways in which to achieve this. Also, by feeding information back into the template criteria, all “examples” will be continually improved, yielding more insightful data.
- Check that suspect fulfils ‘qualification criteria’
- See how suspect fits against template of ideal customers (example)
- Decide selling strategy
- Assign appropriate activity
- Define value example
- An amount of information has to be processed to see if the suspect will become a prospective customer (‘prospect’). This can be done by accessing the following criteria to assess the suitability of forming a business relationship:
– Money: the ability to afford your proposition
– Authority: the ability to authorise purchase
– Need: wants, needs, desires that you can tune into
– Timescale: they will buy in the time that suits your objectives
– Competition: they are suggestible to working with you
- A more sophisticated method of both ‘qualifying’ the suspect and deciding on the next steps is by making a comparison against the example. This is essentially a ‘perfect’ customer. Where you have previously checked the value and can use that knowledge to ‘model’ and effective sales proposition.
- With a fit established it is possible to focus on the message that needs to be communicated to the prospect, otherwise known as the ‘value proposition’. It should also now be easier to predict the activity that needs to be undertaken to achieve what will ideally become a shared vision of how you can help the prospect organisation.
People who need to develop their sales skills on the telephone, build better relationships with customers, and more effectively promote products or services by telephone would benefit from attending our Winning Business By Telephone programme.
On the surface it may appear to be a straight forward issue, but it is easy to give advice rather than actively seek employee’s involvement and it can be easy to allow one’s own biases to guide the discussion.
1. Explain to the employee why you need his ideas
- May otherwise initially seem threatening!
- Need to find out the reason for his behaviour
- You value his ideas
- Need to provide additional information about what helps or hinders the employee’s job performance.
2. Use questioning techniques
- Open, not closed
- Not leading or assumptive questions (may inhibit true response)
3. Active listening – what do we mean by this?
- Resist interrupting
- Do not judge
4. Recognise that you’re taking a risk
- You are both in a learning situation
- You may need to reset your own ideas
- The process is likely to open up the relationship
N.B. Your primary role is to coach, not to judge!
Employees ideas are not always either partly or wholly acceptable.
1. Discard the idea! Potential consequences of this are…
- Further ideas will be discouraged
- Employee is demotivated
- Employee frustration
2. Add in the manager’s own ideas! Potential consequences of this are…
- Employee does not take ownership of solution
- …and therefore may not implement the solution
- The perception of using authority to coerce may be created
3. Use skills to help employee to ‘audit’ their own idea. This helps employees in the future to ‘think’ things through, even in the absence of the manager.
On occasions, the employee will not have the knowledge or experience to give their own ideas. In which case:
- Present options without giving a preference.
- Avoid the game of “guess what the manager really wants!”
- Avoid bias – do not give away your preferred choice
- All alternatives presented must be viable solutions
- One suggested alternative may even be built on to create a solution better than the manager’s original ideas!
To help improve team and individual performance through an effective and flexible coaching framework, Structured Training’s open programme Coaching For Success will give the manager a clear view of the responsibilities and requirements of a coaching role as well as a sound understanding of the tools and techniques they need to succeed.
For more information on this course or on our using our proprietary framework Total Coaching TM model please contact us.