Good Luck, Chuck

Why sending your sales force out the door with more than a pat on the back is worth the time and effort.


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Looking for a job in sales? Even in a turbulent economy, it seems you’re in luck. I recently spent some time on Career Builder (just for the purposes of this column. . . I love my job) and punched the word “Sales” into the keywords box.

Looking to peddle somebody’s wares in the state of Illinois? You’re in luck: 3,932 positions had been posted, just in the last 30 days. The State of New York? Even better, with 4,498 positions. In Texas, 5,976.

This got me thinking. I wonder how many of the organizations looking for great sales representatives have formal programs to prepare their sales people to execute their responsibilities. So I did some research in this area as well. Best I can tell, the number is somewhere between 25% and 40%. This means the percentage of companies that do not have such programs is between 60% and 75%.

Frankly, I was not surprised. Experience tells me that the sales training programs for most small to medium-sized companies go something like this:
“We’re sure glad you’re here, Chuck, and we’re really expecting big things from you. Let’s take the nickel tour.

“Nice shop, huh? Now that the tour’s done, I should let you in on a little secret. Our market is poised for growth and we think you’re just the guy to do it, heh, heh. Here’s your desk. There’s your phone. The laptop and business cards should be here any day. “Alright, now, time’s a-wasting. Early bird gets the worm, right Chuck? Good luck. Let me know if you need anything.”

Certainly, most coaters and finishers cannot afford to invest $5,000–10,000 in the formal training of a sales person. A little bit of planning and a day or two invested with a new member of the sales team, however, can pay quick dividends. In addition to the standard new employee orientation, consider a program that imparts the following to future additions to your business development team:

Set expectations right out of the blocks. How much new business is the new team member required to generate, how much of a learning curve will be tolerated and when is an impact on the part of the new team member anticipated?

What personality traits were instrumental in the sales person being hired? This might seem like an odd thing to cover, but telling the individual what was important in the hiring process reinforces and encourages the behavior you expect. In a sense, it gives the new member something to live up to.

What makes your organization unique relative to the rest of the market? A big part of this person’s job is to persuade your prospects that your company offers something they cannot get elsewhere. Quicker turn-arounds, better quality, transportation, proximity, value-added services, or whatever sets you apart should be emphasized. This step serves to build your new employee’s sales ability and also mitigates any “buyer’s remorse” the new employee might have relative to whether he or she chose the right company.

What customer objections might the person encounter in the field? Are your services typically higher priced? Do you have a reputation for questionable quality that has recently been rectified? Has there been a recent ownership change? Any customer or prospect apprehensions the sales person might encounter should be placed front and center. This provides an opportunity to practice handling objections and enables you to openly address concerns with the new sales person.

What is your ideal customer profile? Not long ago, I made the comment that one of our sales people was going “a hundred miles an hour.” One of my board members responded, “Well then you better make sure he’s pointed in the right direction.” His reasoning was solid. Left to his own devices, a sales person may not look for new business in the right places. Clearly identify ideal targets by geography, industry and size.

Finally, make certain the new sales person is willing to ask for help when needed. Assisting in opening doors by making contact with peers at your prospects, making calls with your new sales person and providing introductions to industry contacts are just a few examples of value the CEO or company leadership can provide to a new team member.

Most companies in our industry would find it challenging to allocate five figures for a top shelf sales training program. However, a little time invested in educating new additions to your sales team can help ensure that they hit the ground running.



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