This article was written by Barry McKinley, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor
Most small business owners who hire sales people complain that they never know what the sales people are doing, they are costing too much and/or they are not producing.
The first step the business owner must realize that getting a salesperson up to speed is time consuming. The owner’s response is I don’t have the time to “hold their hand”. Think of it another way: Does your company have the money to flush their salary and expenses down the toilet monthly?
In hiring a salesperson you are looking for somebody that can be a long term employee. This means you don’t want to hire a part time or semi retired person, just because you can get them cheaper. You want somebody whose livelihood rides on being successful with your company. It may save some time in hiring a person with your industry experience but having good sales skills is far more important. Because they have been a salesperson for 10 years doesn’t mean that they are good! I have occasionally cooked for nearly 50 years, and I still stink!
Sales and product training is critical. If you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself look for help. I am glad through SCORE, along with other members to provide assistance and help develop sales programs.
In training, telling them what to do is NOT an effective way to develop staff members. In fact after just 24 hours most people retain:
7% of what they hear
15% of what they read
25% of what they learned with video or computer based training
30% of what you show them how to do
People learn by doing. They will retain:
50% of what they learn through discussion
75% of what they learn when they practice the skill
95% when they have to teach the skill to other folks.
If you are doing and they are watching you are not developing good sales people.
Tracking the sales person efforts is critical. You need to know how many contacts they make a day, how many clients expressed interest, how many ordered and the overall outcome. This can easily be tracked on different sale software programs, along with the contacts name, follow up information, and email. Sales planning is just as critical as making sales presentations.
You need to regularly meet with the salesperson to discuss their customer follow-ups, success stories, the reasons customers are not buying, what your competition is doing, and what are their short and long range goals. At the same time, you need to evaluate how the sales person is doing on obtaining their goals. Establishing sales goals for your staff is critical. Without a target we have no direction to aim. The targets need to be obtainable but they have to be a stretch.
An effective leader creates imbalance. They know for their business to survive and grow they have to constantly change the status quo. The marketplace changes weekly with new competitors, new customers, old customers disappearing and new ways of doing business. Good managers recognize what got them there won’t keep them there. The manager’s job is to create order with systems and procedures to create predictable quality, high productive, consistent results and a wonderful customer experience.
Like any other part of your business you need a plan, establish goals and methods to measure. Listen to the input of your clients and staff, they will determine how you do business.