March 01, 2009

Are there any obstacles in the way of individual sales people selling more?

What is getting in the way of each of your sales people selling more?  Many managers are afraid to ask this question fearing the result will  be a list of excuses. The result is the opposite however - once all potential barriers (real or imagined) are clearly identified they can be tackled head on.

The most common barriers are; the relationship with the manager, levels of marketing and support, changes in the market (e.g. competition), the sales message or proposition and inefficient sales systems.

Here is a list of the key areas in which sales people can be helped to sell more:

(a) Leadership
Including building trust and respect, better communication, involvement in decisions, lead by example, clarity of responsibilities and direction, consistency, etc.

(b) Support
Provide assistance in the following areas:
– Messaging (how to communicate a compelling proposition for the customer)
– Marketing support / materials / sales aides / build awareness / references
– Product / industry knowledge and market intelligence (including competitor analysis, etc.)
– Sales training and coaching
– Pre-sales support
– Delivery / implementation / customer service / account management
– Unrealistic or impossible sales targets ) / demands

(c) Free up more time for selling by reducing time spent on:
– lead generation
– sales reporting
– admin
– preparing proposals
– travelling
– other areas (e.g. product meetings, order fulfilment, etc.)

(d) Provide more and better leads:
– Assist the sales person to be more effective in generating more of his/her own leads (buying, or building lists, direct mail shots, marketing support, etc.) 
– Provide the sales person with more and better leads in order to support his/her own led generation, contacts, black book, introductions, etc.

(e) Sales systems
The effective use of a good sales system (SFA/CRM) allows sales people to reduce reporting time, improve levels of personal organisation and increase sales effectiveness (conversion rates).

Yet, most sales people don't use a sales database, or at least don't use it fully. They regularly complain that sales databases, or systems that are cumbersome, slow, lacking in functionality (e.g. mail, calendar, etc.) and containing out-of-date information.

– Upgrade, or replace the system to ensure full usability and functionality
– Provide more training and user support
– Provide administrative support (including purging the system of redundant information, etc.)
– Make use of the system compulsory (linking it to payment of commissions, etc.)

(f) Strategic issues, dealing with the following objections:
– Competitive advantage (from pricing to product comparison)
– The market place is in a state of change (e.g. a downturn, etc.)
– We are not well known in the marketplace
– We need to build our brand, or change our reputation
– We need more / better reference sites / customers
– We need to re-examine the markets we are serving (geographic, sectoral, etc.)

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