Observations on Sales in an Organization – Part Two

This is the second article in a two-part series on sales. The first was from the company perspective. Both approach the subject with a sense of humor. You just HAVE to as sales is truly a necessary evil. These articles are more of an experience share of my 30 years of sales experience from both sides of the fence. 

Sales from the Salesperson Perspective

Know you have value
New business is the lifeblood of any company. Looking for a job? Just bought a house? Child on the way? You’re hungry. You’re hired. Bring on the orders!

Stay motivated
Do you believe in yourself? If not, you won’t have confidence to do the job right. What’s your dream? Where men have no dreams, they die. Unless you have a terrific marketing plan where all leads are coming to you anyway, then you will fail without a love for proactive work. It’s 4:30 p.m. Do you make that cold call? Yes! That sale just might push you over your quota.

Time management
The time eating alligator of email is a challenge, especially for salespeople. Do not email just to say “thanks” unless you’re communicating with a prospect or client who can give you business. Never eat alone because networking’s your secret weapon. Your ear is on the ground. You have competitive knowledge. It’s only meaningful if you share it, so document in the CRM system immediately.

Be a specialist
Know and understand the product and your company’s ability to perform. A potato chip is a chip, an oatmeal raisin cookie is a cookie. What sets the sale apart? You, the person with whom they have developed a relationship and trust. Be knowledgeable and dazzle with numbers that are meaningful, the ones your competition doesn’t have a clue about.

Spend energies wisely
In 2001, we knew a sales person who handled three times the average sales load because he was using “technology.” He was using fax. It was his edge. Find yours. You have a choice; 1) one product sale over three months, or 50 product sales over six months. Give the C prospects to other staff members. Go for the As and Bs because C clients are a drain and have low return. Automation makes your sales and consultative role increasingly important and vetting a whole lot easier. Every business succumbs to Pareto’s law (80/20 rule). Let it happen. Balance your book of business. Get a larger cross section of clients.

Invest or pull the plug
Are you a salesperson going south? It’s a hard train to stop. When you don’t believe your dream, it’s no longer real. When there is no dream, there is a floor and you’re going to hit it. Remember, dreams change every day. Did you lose a big client? Scale the dream down from a four-bedroom house to three. Did you land one? Move up from Ford to Mercedes. When the dream changes, be vocal with management…without whining. Invest in the culture, trust the systems, then go get the new dream.

Written by Jim Annis, President/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Tom Miller, and Suzanne Chennault, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.

June 2014 HR Brain Teaser

Brain Teaser Courtesy of EPLI Pro™

You have an employee who’s a vegan, and has strong views on animal rights. She closes each of her emails with a quote from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) that reflects PETA’s political and emotionally charged views on animal rights. You have another employee who’s deeply Christian, and has begun a similar practice - closing his emails with quotes from the Bible or religious homilies of an unknown source.

Recently, your biggest client made a crack about the “radical whale hugger” at your office. While you feel fortunate that this client was willing to laugh it off, you’re concerned that other clients might not be as understanding regarding business email messages that contain references to political or religious views to which they don’t subscribe.

You want to instruct your employees that, when it comes to the company email system, “strictly business” is the order of the day.  Can you?

A.  No, this is free speech and protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
B.  Yes, you can.

Answer: B  Of course, free speech is protected in the United States, but the problem here is how and when these messages are being delivered - on your time, in your Company’s name, and with your email system. You have the right to control the content of Company email, but be sure to do so on a consistent basis - tell your people to stick to business related content, and save the politics and religion for their own time and communications systems.

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Observations on Sales in an Organization – Part One

This is the first article in a two-part series on sales – one from the company perspective and one from the salesperson perspective. We are approaching the subject with sense of humor. You just HAVE to as sales is truly a necessary evil. New business is the lifeblood of any company, because if you are not selling, you’re dying. As a peddler myself as well as a CEO, I have both perspectives. These two articles are more of an experience-share of my 30 years of sales from both sides of the fence.

Sales from the Company Perspective

Managing salespeople
A detail-oriented salesperson is rare. Scribbled notes, piles of paperwork and expense documentation are often left for other departments like accounting and fulfillment to clean up. Assistants can help with the routine so energy can be spent closing the deal. In depth product and service training works as long as you have defined outcomes and accountability for the training. Coordination with legal, production, and marketing are important. Getting everyone on the same page is vital in the following areas: what has been released to market/not; key themes, messages and selling points; availability of resources to support the sale; and ensuring the company can deliver what sales has promised.

Keeping motivated
When I managed 17 sales people at once, I didn’t care what they did as long as they got their numbers. We measured performance versus activity and discovered that didn’t work because when there is an issue, without tracked activity you are clueless as to how to improve performance. Set expectations by communicating the length of the sales cycle: is it two days, six months, or five years? True salespeople do not need to be motivated as they are already on to the next deal. Either they are externally challenged or they challenge themselves. Management perceives salespeople as being a pain in the backside, but reality is they often expose soft underbellies in the company that need to be addressed by leadership.

Managing and protecting the data
Technology that is both automated and simple will help reduce the follow up once back at the office. Anything that can close sales faster or allows immediate access to the sales person is preferable; voicemail that is automatically forwarded to their cell phone; customer relationship management systems; online sales inquiries that vet prospects then are forwarded to the salesperson’s email. A good salesperson wants to know what their numbers are. Aggregated/reporting info and social media are support tools. Laptops, iPads, and smart phones give salespeople more flexibility, higher responsiveness, less down time, and access to networked files. Confidentiality agreements and anti-piracy agreements will help protect your data, regardless of location.

When to invest and when to pull the plug
Increased market share, succession planning, pending retirement or change in employment status are all good reasons to invest. Almost 100 percent of the time your best sales person is not a good sales manager. Do not make that mistake. Invest in achievers and people who can do the job. Most companies do not set up criteria and do not pull the plug soon enough. Goals, accountability, minimum performance expectations, cultural fit are musts.

Stay tuned for your next article from the salesperson’s perspective.

Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Tom Miller, and Suzanne Chennault, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.