Rethinking Sales – Free - Chapter Two: No salesperson is an Island
To begin with, you first need to realize that you are not just a salesperson, but a representative of a company and a part of a bigger picture. The image that you create will reflect on the company, to be sure, but that is a two-way street. The company is not hiring any Joe Schmoe off the street, so would you as a good salesperson work for just any company that comes along?
The current economy notwithstanding, a good salesperson, one with the numbers to back him up, should be able to have a say about where he goes and where he does not go. You should not be in the practice of selling items that you would not give to your dog, nor should you be selling things that are morally reprehensible to you. If you are a new or mediocre salesperson, you may have to take the positions that are lower on the totem pole and just lump it, but if you are good, you have a little more pull and a little more to offer than just a body to fill a position.
The Company and What a Good Salesperson Needs from It
The company needs its sales staff to make sales, end of story. Everything action that a salesperson performs can and should lead up to a sale. He makes a few cold calls in the hope of creating some leads. And what does a salesperson do with leads? He hopes to convert them to sales. Period! It does not matter if they are selling advertising space in the Kokomo News or doorknobs or herds of llamas. They are going to try to convert a person from stranger to lead to sale in as few contacts as possible. The more efficiently they can make a sale, the more sales they can make, and that is how salespeople make their living and the big bonuses. In a commission-driven occupation, it is the efficient and effective shark that gets to eat the fattest guppies, while the others are busy trying to gulp up enough of the remaining sickly guppies and plankton to survive. That is what the company needs from the salesperson.
You, the salesperson, need to have a few things from the company as well. First, you need a good product or service that makes your sales call that much more effective.
Tim is a great salesman. He can really sell, but a few years ago, he found himself trying to sell a product from a company that had an atrocious track record in the area. Customers were not happy and they were not at all silent about it. They were thrilled to death to badmouth this company and its products in the newspapers, on television and anywhere else that they had a forum.
Tim had a family and responsibilities to take care of and could not just walk away, but every night he came home feeling like a heel for selling what he knew to be an inferior product. This was really driven home for him when an unsatisfied customer accosted him in front of his wife and young son. He could not simply say that he knew the product was horrible and that no one should buy it. He could not justify his sale to the customer by saying that he had to feed his family, which may have been true but did not make it right. He also could not say that he was actively seeking a new job because it would not have changed the situation at all.
The company, in addition to making sure that the product or service is top notch, needs to make sure that the salesman is getting everything that they need in way of support. After all, it is not easy to make a great impression with less than great support. Sometimes, it is the little touches that matter, and sometimes it takes a little more effort. An investment in a good salesperson is an investment in the success of the business.
In the end, though, it is not whether or not you have the best sales staff on the planet. If you can’t get the simple things right, you are not going to succeed at your business, regardless. That company that Tim had worked for? It went belly up about two months after he walked out.
At the Core
There are many different facets of a business, even a simple and straightforward one. Every facet has to work well together or the business is not likely to have much success. Every
no salespeRson Is an Island
aspect has to be in tune with one another, much like a Mozart concerto, flowing along in perfect harmony and rhythm. If even one department or concept is off its mark, it will start to sound more like ear-splitting noise and less like Mozart, and your business will start to fall off.
At the core of your business, the center of its existence, are four concepts: branding, marketing, sales enablement and managerial vision and direction. These are the building blocks of the company, the shoulders they will stand on, the foundation, the very essence. These are the basic rhythm of your concerto; they set the tone.
Branding: Who are You Exactly?
When a customer is reaching for an item on a grocery store shelf, they typically are reaching for what they are familiar with and comfortable with, the brand they can readily identify and understand. They know the companies from which they choose the food for their families, they know the slogans and the jingles. They think they know the basic attitude of the company based on what is presented to them.
When you present a new product or service to a market of any kind, you will have to be able to compete with those that are already in existence and be able to distinguish yourself from them in some way. You do so with your branding. Who you are had better match who you say you are, especially these days! Every aspect of every company is on display on social media networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter – if you fire your secretary at noon, you can bet that everyone in the business and personal world will know an hour later, including your wife.
You start branding before you ever even start the official process: think about the name that you will give your business or your product. Do you really think that you will manage to make a profit in the children’s vitamin market if you have the unfortunate name of David Kidkill? No one is going to push their stroller anywhere to grab Dr. Dave Kidkill’s infant vitamins off of the shelf, no matter how nicely they are packaged or what a bargain price they are offered at.
You cannot offer marital counseling services if you have been divorced a dozen times. You should not be offering weight loss supplements if you weigh 700 pounds. The image that you are trying to present starts with the top dog and works its way down, including the sales staff.
Now, back to the salesperson and what he needs from the company. Branding is not only going to apply to the company and the product they are selling, but to the person that is currently touting it, as well. There are only a few very slimy and loathsome creatures that do not care about what they are selling or who they are selling it to. For most salespeople, the image that they are presenting reflects on them personally as much as it does professionally, so it becomes important that they are right with the world, at least from a sales standpoint.
A good brand can push a company into competition with the best and the brightest. Bad branding can leave that product or service wilting on the vine, no matter who is trying to sell it. Dr. Dave Kidkill’s Cola is not going to compete with Coke or Pepsi by any stretch of the imagination, but it is probably not going to see any real success against the smaller regional brands either.
no salespeRson Is an Island
So, you have to decide who you are (branding) and the image that you want to present. Now, you have to present that image. Marketing, despite the image that is given on television and in movies, is not about just creatively writing an advertisement and sticking it willy-nilly here or there. There is a lot of pre-thought that goes into marketing; at least there better be, or it will be a waste of time or money. Effective marketing does not happen overnight or in an instant. It takes some solid planning and happens in several steps.
Research: The first step in any marketing plan is research. The marketer must know who they are marketing to, what to use as the lead lines and where the marketing should be displayed. They do this by taking surveys, resulting in a statistical breakdown of the demographic groups. It is all about the numbers. A good marketing executive can tell you how many women ages 18-25 buy their starring product, where they bought it and even how they paid for their purchase. (All of this information will come in handy in a matter of time, not only to the marketing department of the company but to the sales staff.)
Ad Campaign: The second step of the marketing plan is to take all of the demographic information that is retrieved in their research and start building an ad campaign that will hit the majority of the two target markets: the established and the potential. There are some people that are already buying this product or using this service. This group is the established group. There is a second group who may be persuaded to
be interested in this product or service – a group who only needs a small push to become an established customer. (These are the people that the salespeople will be most interested in meeting).
Placement: Of course, the perfect ad campaign is not going to get anywhere without being put in front of the right people. Think of it this way: you have a beautiful golden retriever puppy and you want him to eat his high protein doggy kibble so that he stays healthy, happy and glossy. Even the best ad campaign is not going to make an impression, or a sale for that matter, if it is hidden from the people that actually need to see it, or worse, the wrong people are seeing it. There are some people who are just not going to be interested in your product, at least not the one that is being advertised right now. And there are some people that will never be a lead, never be a sale. Why advertise to them?
Young and hip customers looking for your young and hip product are not going into the stores geared toward the older generation. They are not going to websites geared toward their parents or their grandparents. Your flashy banner ad being placed on those sites is a waste of your time and effort, and they are probably merely an annoyance to those who are barely acknowledging them.
The right ad campaign has to be created, which goes back to marketing. This campaign has to go to the right places in order for the right people to see it. For that, you need to go back to your research. It is all intermingled and has to work in perfect harmony.
no salespeRson Is an Island
A sales team cannot be expected to succeed unless they have available the tools and information that will allow them to do so. Sales enablement is an important part of this. By bridging the principles of sales and marketing, sales enablement allows a salesperson to increase the revenue of the company by giving him access to insights, information and perhaps even outside experts. This information must be relevant to the sales process of each particular company, and it is often timed to match up with specific parts of the sales cycle in order to produce the maximum revenue.
There are many different types of information that make up sales enablement strategies. Case studies and product knowledge can provide much-needed facts about a product and its implementation. Market intelligence and competitive intelligence give important background information about a product’s niche and other competing companies and their products.
In order to be at its most effective, sales enablement techniques should consist of a combination of technologies and people. This combination can be fine-tuned, depending on the specific application for which it is required.
Doug is selling a case to a young lady. She wants this case. She actually thinks that she needs it. The young girl is sold, but she is only holding back because she does not have the full funds for the purchase. Doug is
a good salesman and knows that pressure is not what is needed at this moment. After all, he is not really selling the item, it is sold already. But while he is not making a sale, he could be losing one at this very second. The girl is tracing her fingers along the case wistfully. She really, really wants this case, after all. Doug smiles and suggests that he drop the price slightly, and with a conspiratorial wink tells her that he hopes he doesn’t get into any trouble by doing so. Considering that the company sells makeup, perfumes and other health and beauty aids and this is a beautiful, young lady who is very likely to become a longtime and very loyal customer to the brand, Doug drops the price down to $15. The girl is saving five dollars, but more importantly, she is getting the case that she really wanted.
For his part, Doug is making a sale and has generated a future lead in one shot. The company is earning a new customer and has still made a profit.
Doug did not need to call in a supervisor to drop the price by five dollars because the company gives him this flexibility. The ability to make a sale without having a supervisor breathing down his neck allowed Doug to close a deal, not only this time but all of the time. The more the company allows the sales staff to do, the more tools the company gives the sales staff to work with and the more work the sales staff will actually be able to do.
Management Vision and Direction
A company needs to know where it is going or it will never get there. Maybe the company had gotten there without even realizing it, and then it went off in a new direction. For most
no salespeRson Is an Island
people, owning and running a business is not something that is taken lightly. It is the rare person who reasonably expects to wake up on a Monday morning, start a business and be a success by Friday afternoon without a game plan. Every success starts with careful planning: knowing where you are going, how you will be getting there and what to expect once you arrive there. Vision is the dream, direction is the method to the reality, and they both must agree with one another.
There are two levels of everything: the big leagues and the just- for-fun leagues. Take the game of hockey: we have the Detroit Red Wings and Sam’s Fish Market’s city league team. The Red Wings are never going to hit the ice at Joe Louis Arena without a vision and a direction. The vision is reaching the end of the game with them being victorious, putting them one step and two points closer to the playoffs. The direction is the game plan that they have. The coaching staff gets together and analyzes the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. They will tell their players how to approach the game – “attack from the glove side, low,” they will tell them. Having direction will help to get them where they want to go; it can help them to accomplish their vision.
On the opposite side of the coin is Sam’s Fish Market’s city league team. They do not have a vision or a game plan. They don’t even have the same team members most of the time. Someone shows up in goalie pads and gets put in the net. Someone shows up who can skate really fast and he gets to be the power forward. There is no rhyme or reason to their approach because they are only doing it for fun. Who cares if they win or lose, after all? It’s not like that they will win
a trophy for doing it. Businesses with this approach are not going to win either. If Sam ran his fish market like he did his team, there would be more than just three-day-old cod smelling up the place.
Most companies start with the vision of the owner and with a written business plan. As the company grows bigger and bigger, there will be more people involved. The management team will continue to grow. The management vision may change slightly to accommodate this growth, but the general direction probably will not change by much. No matter who is brought into the management team, they must all be on the same page. The whole team must be heading in the same direction or the business will more than likely fall apart at the seams.
Think again of the hockey team: the Red Wings and other teams at a professional level have staffing changes all of the time. Team members are injured and put on the reserves. Some are not playing up to their potential and get sent to the farm clubs for “conditioning.” Trades and draft picks are made. They may not have the same vision and sense of direction when they first arrive, but they had better catch on soon or they will not make it for long on the team and the team will not have very good success with them on board.
As you may already have noticed, not all managerial styles match one another. Some managers and higher-ups are more hands-on than others. Different styles can complement one another, as long as they share the same vision and direction.
Management vision and direction can impact sales either directly or indirectly, based on the motivation. A good vision,
no salespeRson Is an Island
one where the sales are the thing and the salesman is the king, will guide them to know when they need to step up, step off or step back. The management team needs to pick the direction that the company is heading in, but then let the sales team do the driving.