Excellent sales takes place when the right people, the right leadership, the right vision and the right strategy combine in a business. The views of sales industry greats can help you achieve this goal.
1. Getting Your Pitch Right
Having a sales strategy at the outset is critical to positioning yourself correctly for the market. In The New Strategic Selling¸authors Robert Miller and Stephen Heiman note that fully understanding your current position is the starting point to getting your sales pitch right.
This means knowing your competitors, understanding your market and its needs, and knowing how your prospects feel about your company and its offering relative to the other options available in the market. “It means in short having a reliable fix on all of your strong and weak points before each selling encounter begins,” say Miller and Heiman. Once you’ve got this nailed down, you need to communicate it effectively to your entire sales team, making sure that they understand what the positioning is so that they can communicate it consistently to their prospects.
2. Structuring Your Team
Rick Page points out in Make Winning a Habit, “The worst recruiting practice is to wait until you have an opening.” Reactive recruiting means you’ll only be able to draw on the available candidates – not necessarily the best ones. He suggests building a database of potential candidates so you know exactly who to woo when the time comes. He also advises that you write down the “traits, experience, skills and personality” that you’re looking for. Check this against the successful performers already in your sales team.
3. Managing Sales Activities
If you do not have a written sales process, now is the time to create one. In her book No More Cold Calling Joanne Black writes, “You may think that every one knows and understands their company’s sales process, but there are frequently different interpretations – especially with a distributed sales force.” In order to ensure that people are performing the required daily activities to secure sales success, you need to document the sales process you’d like staff to follow.
4. Monitoring Your Team
According to Norman Blem, author of Achieving Excellence in Selling: A South African Approach, supervising your sales force will help them to use their time effectively and efficiently, increase their sales ‘strike’rate and increase the size of orders. He notes that sales results shouldn’t be the only measurement of performance, and that sales managers should also consider their team’s sales reports. Says Blem: “In this case a distinction is drawn between reports that represent plans for future activities, such as a routing schedule for the month ahead, and write-ups of completed activities. All sales people should be evaluated on their ability to ‘plan their work and work their plan’.”
Sales people require continual motivation and rewards are a great way to keep them on top of their game. How you structure base salary, commission and benefits should, according to Dan Kleinman, author of All Star Sales Teams, be linked to the goals and values of your company. Other advice he offers includes getting people to compete against themselves, not each other; setting them challenging but attainable goals that are relevant to their territory and market penetration; consider the amount of persuasion required when structuring different levels of reward; only use commission when you expect high volumes; and use non-cash rewards as much as possible.
6. The Constant Coach
Now that you have your sales team in place, concentrate on their continual improvement. One of the ways to do this is to invest in coaching. Linda Richardson, author of Sales Coaching, says “Leadership without coaching is like owning a sports team without trying to make it better.” She believes that coaching can happen everyday – “in offices, corridors and on the run” – as well as in formal sessions.The point of coaching should be to help sales staff see where their weaknesses lie, and devise plans to help them improve. Richardson’s golden rule is “Get them to talk first”. Most people know where they are falling short and if you ask them to point it out, they’ll feel less defensive than if you do it. Once you’ve agreed on their challenges, Richardson advises getting staff to articulate their desired performance outcome, and suggest possible solutions to their challenges.