Are You the Best You Can Be? How to Be The Sales Pro Your Employer Wants.
So how does Peter hit his numbers so early in the quarter? How does Lauren stay on the ‘Top 10 Producers’ list year after year after year? Are they smarter than you are? More personable, outgoing and likable? Absolutely not. So how come they outperform the rest of the sales team? Let’s take a look.
Bottom Line = Results
Outside sales is a results-oriented business. There’s no one watching over your shoulder, you often make your own schedule (at least some of the time) and you can punch out early after a particularly difficult day. All good stuff. You’re job success comes down to numbers, straight and true. Typically, especially within companies that maintain a large marketing and sales division, field representatives are assigned sales quotas that must be met weekly, quarterly, annually – it changes from position to position. Hit your numbers, you’re a hero. Miss your quarterlies and the division manager wants to have a little chat. Tough. So, the question is: are you reaching your quotas? All of them all of the time? Are you exceeding the expectations of your employer? If not, it’s time to determine how to move up the sales ladder to become an asset your company just can’t afford to lose.
Know Your Territory
Jim works for a large commercial insurer that specializes in coverage for new- and used-car dealerships. He has a four-county territory, rarely visits the company headquarters and delivers the best numbers of any rep in the region. Oh, and his assigned territory is in the boonies! “When I was first given the territory, I went to the library and went through every town telephone book within my (four-county) territory. I made a list of every (car) dealership…even the real small, mom-and-pop used-car businesses.” Jim spent a day at the library and three days entering his findings into his home office database. “Then I started dialing. I called every dealership – over 218 individual dealers – not to sell them anything. In my business, people don’t want to do business over the phone. I just called to introduce myself and to let the owners know that I’d be stopping in.” For the next two months, Jim drove the Crown Vic down rural roads and through the small communities that made up the bulk of his territory. Along the way, he stopped for what he calls ‘handshake’ visits. No sales, no questions and “…certainly no pressure. I just wanted to say hello and let them know I was there. I left a business card. That was all the selling I did at first.”
Know Your Client Base
The day of the hard sell is long gone. People don’t want to be pressured; they want good value for their business buck, not a lot of hype. Jim is a model of the successful sales rep. The first thing he did was study his territory and develop his own database, instead of using the database provided by his employer. That’s initiative. However, he didn’t stop there. He spent time working the territory and developing personal relationships with the auto dealership owners that made up his client base. No selling yet.
He took a low-key approach. He e-mailed and sent out mailings to everyone listed in his computer. He didn’t push. Instead, he worked to develop relationships with potential clients. He developed a rapport and first-name friendships with as many clients as he could. And he made this a part of his work everyday. “My goal is to do at least one thing everyday that has the potential to make a sale,” Jim said during a telephone interview. “That way, I create 365 new avenues each year. Now sometimes…it takes a whole day…I play in a couple of golf tournaments with clients…other days, it’s just a cold call. The key is to do one thing everyday. Just one thing.”
Jim also makes regular stops at the web sites of potential clients. “You can learn a lot about businesses by studying their (web) sites. It gives me an inside look at the thinking and business approach of the company owners.” Jim recommends regular study of client web sites, “especially news releases…they keep me current on what each dealership is doing.”
Know Your Product and Service Offerings
This may sound obvious, but there are reps who don’t read the manual or study the latest catalog or marketing materials. That’s like working with one hand tied behind your back. If you don’t know your product line inside and out:
-you won’t be able to educate potential customers on the advantages of your goods and services.
-you won’t be able to answer clients’ questions.
-you won’t present a confident, knowledgeable image.
-you won’t establish client trust (key to successful closings).
-you will miss underdeveloped sales opportunities.
-you’ll never become a “Top 10” producer.
Deliver the Goods
There are so many different aspects to a rep’s job. One key aspect is service. Yes, new business development is important, but servicing existing clients is how you grow your territory. Surprisingly, sales isn’t about selling. It’s about educating, training and servicing businesses. If you think of your work strictly in terms of hitting your numbers, you’re not seeing the big picture. Sales will come when customers and clients recognize your value and the value of your products. That’s education, not sales.
Perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of sales is handling objections. Typically, client objections include:
-I don’t have time to meet with you.
-I don’t have the money to purchase your service or product.
-I’m not interested in your product or service.
-I don’t need your product or service.
Sure, you’ve heard all of these objections before, but how do you handle them? Do you just shrug your shoulders and move on? Or, do you take the time to educate that buyer on how your products lower operating costs or increase their sales? Every scenario is a little different, but knowing your products and their advantages over the competition is the key to making that next sale. Why should I buy from you? Here’s why!
The Problem of Time Management
Time and again, the problem of too much work, too little time comes up in discussions with experienced reps. In sales and marketing, the old adage, ‘Time is money’, is one of the golden rules. There’s only so much of it in a day and if you don’t spend your time wisely, you’re not doing your job as well as you could.
Start managing your time by focusing on the core businesses within your territory. Start with the largest companies. They may be obvious choices, but that’s because that’s where the biggest sales are to be made. Focus on your target demographic, at least initially. These are ‘ideal candidates’ – the businesses and individuals at whom your products are targeted. You can expand the demographic over time.
Always talk to the decision maker, if possible. The DM is the individual in the company who will make the final choice on whether to go with you and your company versus a competitor. While it isn’t always possible to talk directly with the procurement director or other decision maker, it should be your goal to start at the top and stay there when introducing yourself to a prospective client.
Finally, develop mid- and long-term schedules. If you plan your day over morning coffee, you’re not thinking long term. Instead, develop a weekly and monthly schedule. It will save drive time (wasted time), it will increase your productivity (results) and it will eliminate much of the stress caused by too much work, not enough time.
You receive a telephone call from a telemarketer and some disinterested college kid starts reading from his or her script. No enthusiasm, no variation from the text – you might as well be listening to a recording. Preparation, whether for a cold call or an on-site presentation, is key. It’s essential to know what you’re going to say – the sequence of information you intend to deliver. But it’s just as important to prepare yourself to deviate from the script – to field a question or to pursue a different course based on the client’s response.
Preparation is a time saver, but it can also lock you up and tie you to a ‘one approach fits all’ mindset. The best preparation you can do is to learn your territory, learn the needs of your clients at the local level and know your product line inside and out. Then, when the odd question is thrown at you out of the blue, you’ll be able to move away from your script and handle the situation personally and professionally.
Closings: That’s What Counts
The bottom line is, well, the bottom line – your bottom line. How many sales did you close? It’s not about how much time you spent or how good you look in that suit – it’s results, ladies and gentlemen. Making the sale. It’s a process:
1. Cold call – determine who the decision maker is within the company.
2. Initial face-to-face – gather information on the business’ needs and concerns, i.e. cost cutting, increased employee productivity, new competition across the street, etc. This is the information you need to customize your sales approach to meet the needs of the business.
3. Presentation – professional, customized solutions. That’s what business owners want. They want solutions not hype. The presentation should also be engaging and entertaining. Skip the 18 different pie charts and bar graphs. Keep the focus on the client’s needs and how you can meet those needs better than anyone else in the world.
4. Follow-up – may take place by telephone or in person. Be prepared to answer all questions and address all concerns. Know your products and the client’s needs.
5. Closing – the signing of the contract, the sale is made. Consider taking your new client out to lunch. That’s what your expense account is for.
6. Follow-through – or how to keep your client’s happy. Remember, you’re the face and personality of your company. If you make the sale and then leave the client hanging, they won’t re-up or re-order next time. Client servicing is an important part of almost any sales job, so answer telephone messages and e-mails promptly.
It’s not brain surgery or rocket science. It’s plain old common sense. Potential clients want to be treated the way you want to be treated – with dignity, respect, concern and actual, valuable help. Remember, you’re in a results-based industry. To get those results, learn, study, research and understand the advantages of your products and how they dovetail with the needs of your target demographic. That’s what makes a “Top 10” producer!