What are you doing to make your telephone ring? This is one of my favorite questions to ask the owner or manager on the first day of a consulting assignment. I have often heard it said that sales cure a lot of sins in a business. While sales don’t cure all business problems, robust sales certainly go a long way toward keeping morale high and everyone in the organization busy.
When the housing economy is strong, but sales are relatively slow, there are two primary aspects of the business I believe it is wise to investigate: the first is the sales force itself and the second is sales management. I believe the performance of the members of the sales team is almost always enhanced when the sales organization has a strong coach.
It’s not uncommon, however, to find a sales team that’s pretty much on its own to produce. Newly hired salespeople often tell me that “Good Luck” is about the only proactive coaching they have ever received from their manager. How about in your organization, do you have a well-managed, well-coached sales team?
All salespeople have a certain degree of talent, but to expect a sales team to achieve its full potential absolutely requires the presence of an effective sales manager or coach.
When salespeople fail to plan their day or week, they almost always do a poor job of following up with customers and prospects. A quote and hope mentality typically leads to more time spent doing takeoffs than selling.
In a contractor-oriented building supply business, about 90% of the marketing plan to make the telephone ring is made up of the activities of the outside sales force, so when the sales force’s selling skills are weak or they lack the discipline to prospect for new business, poor results almost always follow.
The sales manager is accountable for observing each individual salesperson and determining whether his or her failure to achieve satisfactory sales levels is a result of a lack of skill or a lack of will. For example, a salesperson who is paid a commission tied to either sales or gross profit, must possess relatively high economic values for the commission to be a motivator.
These observations are best made by accompanying salespeople on sales calls and by regularly scheduled meetings with the individual members of the sales team. The biggest mistake I see sales managers make is wishful thinking. Salespeople rarely make the transition from struggling to make their draw to top performers all by themselves. They must have a coach who is committed to their success.
An improved selling performance is almost always achieved one major product group at a time. Salespeople usually get their foot in the door with a prospect by persuading the prospect to give them an opportunity to prove themselves with perhaps siding, or windows, or roofing, etc.
Through role-playing exercises, the sales manager or sales coach is able to help the sales force overcome the sales obstacles they are facing. When salespeople complain that their prospects are telling them their prices are not competitive, the sales coach will teach them the questions to ask and how to best ask them to deflect the pricing objection.
The most effective sales managers don’t get their motivation from making sales themselves, but from seeing their sales team grow as sales professionals.
What kind of sales coach are you?