How good are your sales people? More to the point, how good are your sales methods and how good are your sales training methods?
A further question to ask yourself is, what is the focus for our selling effort? Be careful if you discover that your sales people are concentrating on the product without any reference to the needs of the customer or indeed the true purpose of the sales function.
So many businesses think that the only function of the sales force is to sell the product or service and they reward this by offering commission on the sales achieved by the sales force.
Commission by definition encourages sales people to sell more product irrespective of the needs of the customer and it also encourages avoidance of follow up calls to ensure that the customer is satisfied.
Think about it. When you are the customer what do you look for when a sales person comes to see you?
In my earlier days I was a visiting lecturer at a noted Business School and was giving a presentation to a group of senior executives on sales and selling. I asked them their opinion of the quality of their sales people and received a universally positive response.
I suggested that it was great that they were so confident about the quality of their selling effort and asked them what was their general opinion of the sales people from suppliers, either actual or hopeful.
Again their opinion was almost unanimous. They thought that the standard of the people who came to see them to sell them something was pretty poor and sometimes dreadful.
I suggested that they take a few minutes out to think about what they had said. They were correct, of course, that the general standard was poor and it made them look a little more forensically about their own people and methods.
The fact is that many businesses measure their rate of success by the invoiced sales they achieve when the gross profit is the real income of the business. Again many businesses allow their sales people to negotiate prices and this results in the drive for the top line irrespective of the real needs of the business.
I am not an advocate of the business being bottom line driven at all costs but every business needs to make a return in their activities. Net portability is derived from the gross margin achieved and this should be the main thrust of whatever the business is doing.
Selling price needs to be fixed by the business and should not be at the whim of a sales force. Reward your people by all means but preferably against the gross profit they achieve. The drive will then be to achieve higher rather than lower selling prices.
A colleague of mine in the chair community of Vistage USA says that we should sell the problem that we solve rather than the product.
Just think about it. Every product that we buy either commercially or personally is bought for a reason. We buy toothpaste to keep our teeth clean and the supplier sells toothpaste to the shop so that it can satisfy the needs of the customers.
Selling has often been described as an exercise in building relationships. When those relationships are strengthened by solving the buyers’ problems then they are likely to be longer lasting.
The classic error that so many sales people make is to list with enthusiasm all the products that they have to offer and wait then to see if one of then strikes home. Far better to ask questions to uncover the problem that they can solve, keep quiet and listen.
Good training, change of emphasis and constant monitoring of face-to-face performance can change the ethos of a sales force and it is well worthwhile to implement such a programme.
Remember, it’s the problem that we can solve, not just the product that we sell.
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