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Sales Villains! – Changing the Face of Sales

Sales Villains! – Changing the Face of Sales

If your entire knowledge of the sales industry is gained from watching TV programmes, it is hardly surprising that you may have a rather negative opinion of both sales and sales people!

Sales and selling, as we mentioned in the previous article, has been around since the dawn of humanity. In fact, it could be said to be the second oldest profession (we’ll leave it up to you to work out the oldest one…but suffice to say that includes ‘selling’ too!). 

The how and why sales is portrayed so negatively is probably something worthy of a PhD thesis, but for now, let’s just have a quick trawl through the stereotypes we are (still) being shown on TV and films that may influence the way sales people are perceived.

Arthur Daley

Mr Daley (played by the late George Cole) was the lead character in ‘Minder’, a series that started in 1979 and ran for some 107 episodes before finally ending in 1994.

Charitably described as a lovable rogue, he was in fact the epitome of a dodgy salesperson…’a Cockney wheeler dealer’ in fact. Ostensibly a used car salesman, he also had a garage full of tat which he attempted to sell onto the unwary.

This quote from the show demonstrates perfectly the type of approach to sales that we are keen to see the back of:  “You make contact with your customer. Understand their needs. And then flog them something they could well do without.”

‘Del Boy’ Trotter

Another ‘cheeky chappy’ Derek Edward Trotter – aka Del Boy – played by David Jason, was the lead character in ‘Only Fools and Horses’ which ran from 1981 to 1993. It was resurrected in 2001 running for a couple more years and had a one of special in 2014 for Sports Relief.

Del Boy was a self styled businessman, a market trader running ‘Trotters Independent Traders’ from a suitcase or the back of his Robin Reliant car. 

He believed he could sell anything to anyone and had absolutely no qualms about how a sale was made (or even what he was selling).

Famed for his scams, which included selling bottled tap water and calling it ‘Peckham Spring Water’, Del Boy was the eternal optimist…’This time next year Rodney we’ll be millionaires’.

He never saw himself as dishonest.

Albert Arkwright

Staying this side of the Atlantic, Albert E. Arkwright may not be a name you recognise immediately – say ‘Open All Hours’ though and you’ll know who we mean.

Arkwright, played by the late Ronnie Barker, was a miserly Northern shop keeper with a penchant for ensuring no one left his shop without buying something, anything…even if they didn’t want whatever it was they ended up purchasing. He was assisted by his hapless nephew played by David Jason.

Crafty – dishonest even – he may not be the archetypal slick salesman, but he ably demonstrates the ‘Arthur Daley’ school of selling…’flog em something they could well do without’!

‘Open All Hours’ was resurrected with David Jason having taken over Arkwright’s shop following the death of his Uncle. He continued the tradition of ensuring customers never left the shop without buying something…the ultimate trickster salesman, very much in the tradition of the ‘Snake Oil Seller’ we talked about in the previous article!

Stateside Sales ‘Villains’

‘Wolf of Wall Street’ is a 1987 movie that delved into the murky world of stocks and shares. Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) has the immortal line ‘greed is good’ and the whole premise of the film is that anything goes in order to close a sale…

Taking the stockbroking theme even further ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ was a 2013 film chronicling the true story of Jordan Belfort, his career as a stockbroker and how his firm, Stratton Oakmont, engaged in rampant corruption and fraud. 

Belfort practiced ‘hard selling’ techniques which duped investors into parting with cash to buy stocks, thus inflating the value of said stocks. His company would then sell the stocks they had previously purchased at low rates – earning $millions in the process…

‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ is a 1992 movie about the ruthlessness of hard sales. Four salesmen pitted against each other and vying to close sales, whilst motivated mainly by the fact that their jobs are on the line. Nothing is ruled out in the desire to make a sale – morals are chucked out of the window in the quest to close.

What about ‘Reality TV’?

One current TV show which really, really does no favours to the sales profession and those who work within it, is ‘The Apprentice’.

The contestants are seemingly encouraged to put ethics and personal morality behind them in order to ‘win the prize’. A philosophy which harks back to the worst sales techniques of the 1980s.

Common Themes 

There’s countless more TV shows and movies which portray sales in a poor light, including a relatively new production called ‘White Gold’, a UK production about double glazing sales in the 1980s.

From the mundanity of a grocer’s shop in the north of England to the glamour of Wall Street in the 1980’s, there are key similarities in the portrayal of sales people:

They are predominately male

They are liars (or at best deceptive)

They are unscrupulous

They are slick

They don’t care about their customers

They are in it only for themselves

 

 

Let’s quickly go over these points:

They are predominately male

Not so very long ago, this may well have been the case as sales wasn’t perceived to be a career that women would want to enter, let alone succeed in. Actually, until relatively recently, sales wasn’t really recognised as a career at all. 

The hard sell, do anything to make a sale methods employed in the 80s and 90s were very much suited to a masculine way of doing business. Competition over collaboration is a very male trait and could partially explain the relative lack of females in the industry.

Times have changed however, and there are some VERY successful female sales people and entrepreneurs out there, doing things their way.

They are liars

Now this ‘myth’ doubtless has its origins in Snake Oil selling! 

Whilst lying about the benefits of a product may have worked in the days when you could high tail it to the next town before your customers found out they had bought a pile of rubbish; these days, the internet and high speed comms means that a sales person who makes up stories about the efficacies of the product WILL be found out.

Do sales people who lie still exist – probably, but they will be uncovered.

They are unscrupulous

Yes, there are perhaps some people who (in the words of some of the contestants on The Apprentice) ‘would sell their grandmothers to be successful’ but, as per the above – there are fewer ways to hide this kind of behaviour thanks to the way the world is connected today.

They are slick

This seems to hark back to the car salesman persona, or perhaps the insurance sales people of the late 80s and 90s…the suited and booted individuals who put appearance over product knowledge and customer empathy.

They don’t care about their customers

In the commission only environment of certain sales sectors, it’s not hard to see how this perception would arise. Look at the movie mentioned above, ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, did any of the individuals selling stock in order to raise the price and make a killing for themselves, really care about the small time investors they conned? Probably not – they were all more interested in competing against each other to make more money!

They are in it only for themselves

There’s no doubt people existed (still exist) who only work in a specific role for what it can give them personally…and there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that – we all work to earn after all.

However if money, flash cars and power and its associated prestige are someone’s main drivers then they may indeed come across as ‘only being in it for themselves’.

Shattering these Myths 

We’ve said it before, but Steve Knapp Sales is on a mission to change the face of sales. 

Sales is chocked full of myths and stories about the way sales should be conducted…

As we enter into the second decade of the 21st century, it’s way past time that the sales industry moved away from the practices of the 20th century and caught up with the values and ethics of this era.

Times have changed, and in fact as millennials rise into positions of power within business, they will change even further. 

No longer will it suffice to rely simply on a never ending churnover of sales staff with limited knowledge, training or ability.

Your sales teams need to reflect:

  • Authenticity
  • Trust
  • Knowledge
  • Your company culture

They need have empathy and understand your customer’s buying journey.

Whilst some individuals have always been said to have a natural gift for sales, perhaps it’s time to recognise that actually their gift may simply be that they tune in to the prospective customers. They are able to get on their wavelength, understand the pain points and really LISTEN to what is being said.

Instead of pushing a product or service, they enter into a two way conversation. They HEAR what is being said and they aren’t formulating a response whilst ostensibly listening to the other party. 

If sales is to permanently move away from the poor (and often deserved) reputation of the past we all need to see there are better ways to sell – ways that work in the best interest of ALL parties.

If you want your business to grow in a sustainable fashion it is imperative that you take a long hard look at your own sales processes and teams…you can be sure your competitors will be doing the same thing. Failure to keep up with the changing face in sales could mean the ultimate failure of your business.

To find out how Steve Knapp Sales could help you update your sales practices get in touch…you have nothing to lose – well except for the bad reputation sales still seems to have!

 

To read more of Steve Knapp’s teachings and thoughts on Sales pick up your copy of Funnel Vision Selling Made Easy today on Amazon.

To read more articles follow the links to enjoy these most recent ones;

Sales Training: What is it Good For?

Why Your Sales Processes Should Evolve and Grow

Why Every Business Needs a Sales Strategy

Why Successful Leadership Matters

Put Sales at the Heart of Your Business Processes

Facing Down the Stigma of Sales and Selling

Del Boy stereotype

Facing Down the Stigma of Sales and Selling

Why is it that so many business owners, and in particular owners of small businesses, shy away from using the words sales and selling?

All businesses need to sell to survive but why do so many people positively recoil at the very idea of being a ‘salesperson’?

Could it be because there is a certain reputation ascribed to sales people, a certain stigma, that makes so many want to run a mile at the thought of actually being perceived as a salesperson?

Actually, YES and it’s such a shame. What’s more, it needn’t, and shouldn’t, be this way.

This month we’re going to examine the reasons sales, and by association salespeople, have such a bad reputation and how to avoid you and your teams falling into the stereotypical image of ‘the pushy salesperson’.

Back to the Beginning.

At the most basic level, selling involves one person exchanging goods or services for either money OR other goods/services. Strictly speaking the second scenario is ‘bartering’, however there is still the element of arriving at a suitable ‘exchange rate’ which sounds like selling to us.

This means that for as long as humanity has existed, which may be as long as 300,000 years, there has been some sort of selling going on. Yes, initially it would have been bartering as currency didn’t exist until around 5,000 or so years ago, but for as long as people have needed things that others could supply, selling has existed…

How’s that for a mind-blowing thought? There have always been salespeople

Here’s another nugget which may surprise you: in approx. 1750 BC in what was then known as Mesopotamia, a King by the name of Hammurabi, had a code of law written which included a section designed to protect sellers: Law #104: “If a merchant give an agent grain, wool, oil, or any other goods to transport, the agent shall give a receipt for the amount, and compensate the merchant therefore, he shall obtain a receipt from the merchant for the money that he gives the merchant.”

Given that selling, in some form or another, has been around for most of human history, why then does there seem to be such a stigma about selling and sales people these days?

Step up ‘the Snake Oil’ seller… 

Back in the 1800’s the US was busy building the First Continental Rail Road and a lot of Chinese labourers were employed. These labourers brought a product with them from home which they used to reduce inflammation – it was made of oil from the Chinese Water snake. Allegedly they shared the oil with their American co-workers who were suitably impressed and wished to replicate it. Unfortunately Chinese Water snakes are not common in the US and so ‘alternatives’ were used!

…and thus began the story of ‘the Snake Oil’ seller.

Travelling salespeople moving town to town selling their wares to a gullible market by claiming miraculous benefits and cures. Of course, by the time the oil was found to be of absolutely no use, the sales people were long gone. 

Who ‘Invented’ Modern Selling?

This honour falls to a John Henry Patterson who was born 1844 in Ohio and founded the National Cash Register Company (NCR) in 1884.

Mr Patterson was the first (insofar as in known) to create a sales training manual, practice direct mail and advertising and provide his sales teams with a script which they were expected to follow to the letter. This manual was known as the ‘NCR Primer’ and any sales person who failed to demonstrate they had memorised the 450 word document was fired. A little later the ‘Book of Arguments’ was compiled – a compendium of how to overcome client objections.

Patterson was often quoted as saying that half of all lost sales could be attributed to the salesperson’s failure to communicate. Definitely a man ahead of his time!

He also created the system of targets and bonuses which, in one form or another continues to this day. Salespeople were encouraged to sell more because that meant they earned more.

Greedy and unscrupulous individuals thus continued in the tradition of the ‘Snake Oil’ seller – selling things which people maybe didn’t need, couldn’t afford, or weren’t appropriate for them.

Car Salesman

Hands up…how many of you have an image of a sharp suited used car salesperson pop into your head when you hear the word ‘salesman’.

Quite a few of you probably.

And how many of you have had a bad experience in a car salesroom?

Feeling pressured into buying, signing up for finance, added warranties etc.

Replace ‘used cars’ with any number of other products and it’s odds on you can think of occasions when an overly pushy sale person has provided a horrible sales experience.

Those negative stereotypes stick in the brain and lead to the inevitable (if incorrect) thought process that ‘all salespeople are bad’.

Unfortunately human nature being as it is, we do tend to dwell on the negative and thus the idea that all salespeople are pushy, untrustworthy, ‘out to con you’ etc, etc is firmly engrained in the collective psyche!

Facing the Truth

If you are in sales yourself, running a company, or heading up the sales process within a company, you need to face up to the unpalatable truth – many people see sales and sales people as having a bad reputation. 

Much of this bad reputation may be based on past selling techniques but there are still plenty of examples of poor sales approaches and there are still pushy and frankly unscrupulous sales people out there.

Poor behaviour in the overall sales industry reflects badly on all of us.

Here at Steve Knapp Sales we are trying to change this negative reputation, by working with sales teams to demonstrate that ethics and integrity DO have a valid role to play within sales.

Changing the Face of Sales

Consumers today, whether we’re talking about individuals or businesses, are much savvier than in times past.

The internet has made experts out of everyone and it’s much easier to ‘shop around’ for both products and services.

According to research by media agency UK, a staggering 76% of UK buyers do online research before making a purchase; that may be referring to the individual consumer, but it would be a fair assumption that B2B purchasers also research intensively online.

The take away from this message is that you need to ensure a) you have an online presence and b) that it is kept up to date and is designed in such a way as to draw your customer base to you. Look back at one of our previous blogs ‘Why Every Business Needs a Sales Strategy’ where we talk about the importance of your sales and marketing teams working together.

Get the information correct, send out the right messages – in other words COMMUNICATE with your potential market place using language they understand – and you are already easing the way to a sale.

Your sales team (however large or small that may be) need to be representatives and ambassadors of your company – they must be conversant with the product(s) that’s a given BUT they must also be fully ‘bought in’ to the company’s ethos and brand values. Have another read of Put Sales at the Heart of your Business Processes where we cover this in detail.

Your company can adopt hiring plans which ensure that the right people are recruited to your sales positions, ones who won’t turn into ‘Snake Oil’ sellers! Rewards packages which don’t encourage making sales simply to achieve bonus levels can be designed and you can run continuous learning and development programs for your teams.

Customer service is not just a buzzword – treat your customer base well and not only will they keep coming back to you, they will refer others. This applies equally in the B2B sector as B2C. Provide your customers with what they need, when they want it and at a price they like and your Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is going to be great.

Sales Behaviours

If sales, as a profession is going to move permanently away from the used car or snake oil salesman image, what needs to change?

The ‘in your face, pushy, over confident approach’ needs to go and be replaced with more measured behaviours. Remember that the customer has probably already researched your product and could be simply looking for validation that they are making the right choice. A pushy salesperson could actually lose the sale, not close it.

Sales people should learn to listen as much, if not more, than talk. They should ask strategic questions and draw out information to work out exactly what the customer wants…not what the sales person thinks they want.

The phrase ‘he (or she!) could sell snow to an Eskimo’ is often used in a derogatory way towards a salesperson. Let’s turn this on its head…how can this ability be recognised as actually being a very valuable trait in a salesperson, instead of being seen as an underlining of a negative stereotype? How about highlighting the communication skills, empathy and customer service aspects necessary to be such an innate salesperson? Take the emphasis away from the end result, closing the sale, to the process itself…the customer journey. 

If your salespeople are perceived as offering a great customer service all the way through the buying journey; if your customers feel listened to, understood and appreciated and they TRUST you, they will keep coming back. 

Customer experience is the key to successful sales, in fact according to this report by Walker, by 2020 (i.e. next year!) ‘customers will dictate the buying experience’.

Ethics and Integrity in Selling

The so-called millennial generation have a different way of thinking about business, who they work for and who they buy from. They are far more focussed on values and ethics – both their own and the businesses they work for and deal with. They will resonate with those organisations that align with their own beliefs.

This generation (generally thought of as being born between 1980 and 1996) are now moving into positions of power – they are increasingly influencing company behaviours and they are looking for ethical and integrity based sales approaches. If you don’t tick those boxes, if you can’t earn their trust, then ultimately you will not make your sale.

Aflac, a large American insurance provider, commissioned a 2018 survey of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)and a staggering 92% of the millennials questioned stated that they are more likely to purchase from an ethical company! Can your company afford to miss out on this potential marketplace?

Summary

  • Selling is not new – humans have always sold to each other in one way or another
  • Recognise the negative reputation of sales 
  • Ensure your team understands (and uses) the softer, customer centric sales approaches
  • Build your CSR
  • Create an excellent customer experience
  • Ensure your entire business is structured towards customer experience.

It’s time to start treating sales as a profession that people working in can be proud of. Everyone can sell if they are given the right tools and information to do so.

(and finally, back to Snake Oil, in case you were wondering what was actually in the oil…in 1917 federal investors seized a shipment of ‘Stanley’s Snake Oil’ and upon investigation discovered  it contained mineral oil, a fatty oil believed to be beef fat, red pepper and turpentine…not a trace of anything snake related!)

If you enjoyed this article you might also enjoy read some of my other articles:

Sales Training: What is it Good For?

Why Your Sales Processes Should Evolve and Grow

Why Every Business Needs a Sales Strategy

Why Successful Leadership Matters

Put Sales at the Heart of Your Business Processes

Sa;es Training What is it GOOF fOR?

Sales Training: What is it Good For?

Sales training…what is it good for? Well, unless you have all the other basics in place as covered in our earlier blogs, the answer is…

Absolutely nothing!

You can put your teams through any number of sales training courses, and there are thousands of them (just run a Google search and see for yourself) but it’s a bit like learning online how to snow ski whilst living in Equatorial New Guinea…the knowledge may be there but it can’t be put into action or practice as the conditions are wrong!

OK, that’s maybe a bit of a tortured analogy, but hopefully you get the point!

Now we aren’t saying that sales training can’t be useful, of course it can, but you need to examine

  • Why your team need training
  • What you hope to get out of it (ROI)
  • How you will measure the success (outcomes)
  • How any training sits within your overall sales strategy

Let’s have a look in more detail at these bullet points.

WHY Does Your Team Need Training?

Is it because your sales figures have dropped/are dropping?

Do you have a new product?

Are you targeting a new market sector?

Do you have a lot of new starters?

Many businesses will offer training to their staff ‘because it’s the right thing to do’. And indeed in terms of staff development and retention, training IS often the right thing to offer within part of an overall Personal Development Plan (PDP).

The problem is that a 2 day ‘improve your selling technique’ course is not going to be much good if the course content takes no account of the specific needs of your people OR your company. Think back to the skiing analogy above!

Similarly, sending people off on expensive courses without ensuring they will be able to put what they have learned into practice once they get back, is counterproductive. It is also demoralising, for them and for the business as a whole.

If you put training in place for your people, there also needs to be some kind of tracking and follow up process in order to ensure that learning is retained. There are studies which indicate that people will lose 80%-90% of whatever was learned during training within one month!

What a waste of their time and your money! You needn’t necessarily set tests for people, but you should have a framework in place to allow learnings to be validated…it could simply be a case of asking your sales people to reference an aspect of training they found useful/helped them close a sale. 

What do you hope to get out of it?

Before investing £thousands on sending your staff on courses (or on bringing the courses on site) stop and work out just what the business goal is.

What outcomes are you looking to achieve and what sort of ROI (return on investment) do you expect – ROI need not necessarily be financial by the way.

Do you expect sales figures to increase as a result? If so by how much and in what timescale? 

Remember, ‘On average, only 29% of sales reps hit performance milestones in their first year. – Aberdeen, 2013’.  If you are sending your new sales employees on training, will it actually improve on that figure? If it turns it doesn’t, is it the right training?

Conversely, if you are looking for a ‘softer’ approach to ROI, will training add to your company culture, staff retention and staff satisfactions levels?

Offering training for trainings sake…in other words a tick box exercise, won’t benefit the company’s bottom line, or your staff’s wellbeing and success rates.

How are you going to measure the outcomes of training?

Remember the quote, above, that says people will forget 80 to 90% of everything they learn on a course if you don’t follow up with them? How are you going to do that? 

It’s pretty pointless sending people for training if you don’t then ensure they retain and use the knowledge.

So, will you arrange for tests to check on them and what level will you accept as ‘good’ or a ‘pass’?

Will you check sales figures before and after training to see if there is a difference and what will you accept as being a sufficient increase to justify the training?

If taking the softer PDP approach to ROI, when will you check in with your teams? Just after training? One week later? Six months later?

How does training fit within your overall sales strategy?

If you need a refresh on sales strategy why not revisit one of our other blogs Why Every Business Needs a Sales Strategy

Training isn’t cheap and if you are going to invest in upskilling your team you need to ensure that the courses they take are fit for YOUR purpose. As we said earlier there are hundreds, if not thousands, of courses out there and they will vary in content, length and cost.

In a previous article we have told you how you need to ensure that your sales and overall company culture (see Put Sales at the Heart of Your Business Processes) are fit for purpose. It follows therefore that any training must not only be relevant and something your teams need, it must also sit within your business culture.

If you have the capability it may be advisable to spend your training budget on developing in-house training provision in order that the training is’ specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely’ for your unique requirements.

See what we did there? We referenced SMART (goals) as a way of checking that the training you provide your teams is actually what they, and your business need.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t purchase ‘off the shelf packages’, simply that bespoke training content will be far more effective and, with an in-house set up, it should be easier to provide the ‘follow up’ we mentioned earlier.

How can training be implemented in your business?

If you’ve reached this point in the article you may be thinking that we are anti- training here at Steve Knapp sales! Actually, nothing could be further from the truth – we’re on a mission, it says so on the first page of our website…

“Steve Knapp Sales is about elevating the status of the Sales Profession, so that Sales Professionals can say proudly that they are in sales. If you elevate the culture around sales and elevate the standards of sales, you elevate the respect people have for Sales Professionals. Elevate Everywhere, that is my mission.”

We know there is a lot of good and valuable training out there but what we want to ensure is that businesses source training that is right for them, rather than opting for a one size fits all solution.

We want you to stop and think how training can be made a part of your business culture rather than be seen as a nice ‘bolt’ on for new starters.

Continuous professional development (CDP) is as vital for a sales person as for any other professional and it should be treated with the respect it deserves. Sending staff off on training days every now and again with no system for ‘post training reinforcement’ and no idea if the courses themselves are fit for purpose, is a waste of resources.

How are sales training course delivered?

As you would expect, just as there are lots of different courses, there are different ways of delivering them. 

These include:

  • Online sessions via YouTube (other platforms are available!)
  • Online one to one or group delivery via Zoom/Skpe etc
  • Workshops – face to face OR online
  • Home study via email/video/workbooks
  • Traditional class room
  • Facebook groups

Ultimately though, however the training is delivered if you don’t take into account the advice in this article, you could be literally spending money for nothing.

Summary

  • Sales training is worth very little if it doesn’t fit into your overall sales strategy and business culture
  • If training is not specific to business needs and requirements it will be of little use
  • Training needs to be followed up with post training reinforcement 
  • Make training a part of CPD and PDP 
  • Ensure you track the ROI
  • Innovate, look for new ways to train

If you enjoyed this article you might also enjoy read some of my other articles:

Focus on 3 cultures to win the prize hidden in an aligned organisation.

3 Behaviours that win business

Make more sales by aligning Sales & Marketing Activities

Mountains are Yearning

Why Your Sales Processes Should Evolve and Grow

Why Your Sales Processes Should Evolve and Grow

Last month we covered sales strategies and why it is absolutely vital for you to have them well mapped out in your business.

 This time we’re going to cover Sales Processes – what they are and why you have to have them if you want to ensure not only sales grow but a smooth buying process for your customers.

What is a Sales Process?

A sales process is a series of steps (processes) designed so a sales person may take a prospective buyer from initial interest through to a closed sale. There are usually between 5 – 7 identifiable stages – here at the Sales Coach we use a 7-step model which will be covered in detail later in this article.

Why Do You Need One?

Can you imagine trying to do something, anything, in your business without having some kind of plan or structure in place by which you can manage both expectations and outcomes? 

  • When you are looking for staff do you simply walk out of the door, grab the nearest passing people and employ them?
  • Do you pay your team whatever you want, whenever you can be bothered?
  • Does your accounting system consist of you chucking a few receipts in a plastic bag and hoping for the best?

The answer to all the above is NO (well at least we hope it is!).

 So why would you try to run a sales operation without having plans, systems and processes in place?

You may have been lucky in the early days with sales happening ‘just because’ but the emphasis here is on the word lucky. You need to be able to grow your sales if your business is to prosper – and you can’t do that by trusting to luck!

Picture this, you employ a new sales person. They come highly recommended and have a brilliant track record. Yet months down the line they are failing to reach targets and seem disaffected so, you call them into a meeting to find out what’s going on…

The first thing they say is…”there’s no standard procedure – everyone does things their own way – there is no consistency – I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, when or how!”

The only reason they could say this is IF THERE IS NO SYSTEM. What you have in your sales team and your business in general is a bunch of individuals trying their best but without any structure to inform them.

Remember, in previous articles, we have talked about getting your teams and departments working together? A comprehensive Sales Process will help this to happen – everyone in your business will be able to see a cohesive overall strategy is in place and, thanks to a documented Process, will know where their particular role sits and what they need to do to make things happen.

 Documented and understood processes also means your sales teams have structure to their selling activities, making it easier to analyse results…if everyone has the same basic guidelines to selling your products, why do some of the team perform better than others?

In addition, if a Sales Process demonstrably shows results (i.e. increased sales) then your sales team will be fully onboard – after all improving sales will deliver increased remuneration to them.

Your Sales Process will also form an integral part of your Sales Forecasting, as well as being a great way to underline confidence in your business – demonstrating that you know what you are doing in other words!

What About the Customers?

As your business grows, your customer/client base will too; having a structured process for converting leads, into prospects and then into closed sales will ensure that ALL your buyers will experience the same journey.

One of the biggest complaints from customers is that they don’t feel valued during the sales process. They are treated as merely a ‘sale’, not an individual (applicable even if they are acting on behalf of an organisation).

Creating a great sales process which documents and tracks a customer’s journey through your Sales Funnel (see below) will ensure that they receive the right service, at the right time and at the right price – hopefully resulting in a sale!

Remember, these days at least 57% of your potential customers will have already made their purchase decision based on online research. Many of them really won’t want to interact with you in any way other than online so you need to be ready to either accept this kind of scenario OR be able to convince them otherwise via your targeted marketing approach and your ongoing Sales Process.

Your Sales Process should improve your NPS (net promoter score) and CSI (customer satisfaction score) considerably as your customers will feel valued and respected, rather than pressurised and confused.

What Will You Need to Create Your Sales Process?

A CRM System (Customer Relationship Management)

What is a CRM?

If you have ever used a spreadsheet to track your customers journey, then you have created your own basic CRM. 

You will have recorded:

  • The customer name and contact details
  • How the lead was gained and when
  • Who spoke to them and when
  • What their enquiry was (what is it they want to buy)
  • Follow up date(s) will have been logged 
  • Follow up calls logged
  • Sale (or not) recorded

What a dedicated CRM system can provide that your spreadsheet would struggle to do (unless you are an absolute Excel wizard!) is link everything together to your email and calendar system. 

Used fully and correctly your CRM will become a literal data repository for ALL customer interactions. It will improve customer relations (because your dealings with them will appear seamless even if different team members work with them) and it will also improve Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) because your customer base will feel they are known, recognised and valued by your company – they are therefore more likely to become repeat, even loyal customers.

We can’t advise you on the best system but ask around other similar businesses, what do they use. Try to get the software companies to provide a free trial period where you and your sales manager can test the functionality before rolling out to your teams.

A Sales Funnel

A sales funnel is fundamentally the way you bring your customers closer to your offer and ultimately to a sale. 

In order for you to track the progress through this sales funnel, you need a way to record all your customer interactions – hence the importance of a robust CRM system (see above)

At the Sales Coach we break down the sales process into sections…

Suspect. Prospect. Approach. Negotiate. Close. Order. Pay.

SPANCOP

You should be able to set up your CRM system in such a way that you will be able to label your customers according to their journey through this funnel.

Following the SPANCOP system and recording data accurately within your chosen CRM will allow you to create processes in and around each of the separate headings. This means that if you have different groups or teams working at different levels within your sales team they will all be fully aware of their part in the overall Sales Process.

Equally, ensuring departments such as marketing and finance are part of the Sales Process and have access to the CRM will smooth the customer journey through the funnel.

Let’s have a look at each level in a little more detail:

Suspects

Starting at the very top of the funnel – the widest part – this is where you should theoretically have the greatest number of potential customer details. We tag these as ‘suspects’ – they are the leads, the approaches, the speculative contacts.

Get them in your CRM, no matter how speculative because if you don’t record them how can you hope to track and follow up on them?

Now you have these ‘suspects’ recorded you can begin the process of reaching out to them in order to move them further down the funnel. You could use email, phone calls, videos. Your approach should have been set down in your Sales Strategy in conjunction with your marketing team, so your sales teams should be aware of the steps to take.

Prospects

Using the appropriate methods you should have been able to establish which ‘suspects’ are legitimate potential customers and you can move them down the funnel to sit in your ‘prospects’ section. These are more qualified leads that you can now begin to work on further to convert to sales.

Approach and Analyse

You now have a ‘prospects’ list and can begin to reach out to the potential customer in a more personalised basis in order to establish that there is a genuine interest in your product. Your sales team will need to ascertain the customers pain points and begin the process of ensuring your offering fits their needs and requirements.

Negotiate

Your list of potential customers (out of the original interest) will have reduced considerably by the time you reach this phase. Arguably this is the most important part of the process as this is where your sales personnel, having already ascertained there is a need for what you are selling, convince the prospect that this is indeed the case! At the end of this level you will have either a commitment to purchase, a definite no, or a customer who will remain in the ‘negotiate’ phase a little longer.

Close

The deal is done – now to the legal side of thing, contracts and agreements. Until everything is agreed and signed you could still lose the sale. Don’t be tempted to think this stage is a matter of tying up the loose ends, keep the dealings efficient and effective.

Order

Well done – you’re over the SPANCOP finishing line…well almost! Don’t allow your team to become complacent though, they may have done their part in closing the deal but remind them that, to the customer, they are the faces of the organisation…their contact point. Make sure that everything is recorded in your CRM – even little things like knowing the name of a customers’ spouse or child, could help at some point in the future (remember CLV?).

Payment

Collecting payments should be straightforward, especially if your terms and conditions are stringent. But this needn’t be the end of your contact with a customer. Provided you comply with GDPR regs you should be contacting them on a regular basis, both to see how they are getting on with their purchase, but also to keep them in the loop re. new products which may also be of interest.

Summary

  • Without a Sales Process you are relying on luck rather than judgement 
  • You NEED at CRM
  • Departments and teams will operate more efficiently and effectively if there are processes to follow
  • Sales team will have structure to follow in their day to day work and will have a method of tracking the customer journey effectively
  • Customers will feel valued and respected
  • NPS, CSI and CLV will all show improvements once a cohesive Sales Process is in place

Conclusion

Selling is constantly evolving. Your buyers are too. You need to make sure that you are able to match their changing requirements by modifying your Sales Processes if necessary.

Never rest on past successes – look at businesses such as Kodak, Nokia and IBM…massive multinational companies who failed to recognise changing market places and subsequently collapsed. 

Use your Sales Process to communicate with your buyers, ask them what it is they want and need? 

Keep ahead of the game and innovate – don’t expect to be able to sell the same thing in the same way for the entirety of your business’ existence!

You could of course opt to just trust to luck – but we wouldn’t recommend it!

If you enjoyed this post please take time to read some of my other blogs:

Set Sales Targets That Get Smashed

5 Sales Target Set Checks For More Sales

5 Attributes That Make Goals Stick

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Funnel Vision – The Sales Pipeline Management Board Game

If a traditional approach to learning does not work then why are looking for sales training that follows a traditional approach?

I mean, you know what I’m talking about don’t you…the slides, the classroom, the workbook and the role plays!

The dread from your sales team that they are going to be put through the sheep dip and come out the other side expected to use a new lingo a new process and a display a new invigorated attitude to smashing sales targets.

The Learning Pyramid

Added to that what we know about learning styles and information retention why do you do it?

The Learning Pyramid

Take a look at The Learning Pyramid and question why you’re even considering a class room style approach when learning from others, game play and group work has such an amazing result!

You must be open to a fresh and different approach to sales training and this is why we are sharing this article.

Bringing together game design expertise from Katie Bain from Game Explorers and marketing expertise from Rob Taylor of 0114 Marketing to complement my sales process SPANCOP we are able to share with you Funnel Vision – The Board Game.

Funnel Vision is a sales training game that helps sellers see just what sales pipeline management is and show them through game play the impact and consequences of their choices and activities.

It shows the value in customer management, prospecting and prioritising the right sales opportunities. It’s a dynamic, immersive and engaging way to SHOW and INVOLVE sellers the sales process.

Using a Sales Process

Using SPANCOP as the sales process, sellers will spend money on marketing activities and manage their time to create Suspects for their business or territory. The purpose of the game is to constantly manage the shape of your Sales Funnel ensuring you have a continued supply of Prospects that turn into customers.

Through game play you are coached at the end of specific rounds on the shape of your Sales Funnel. The reasons it looks like it does and the corrective action you can take in the next round to return to the classic shape Sales Funnel.

Funnel Shapes

Many Sales Funnels take on the shape of The Blockage of display the attributes of Feast Or Famine. Understand what you need to do and the actions you need to take is what you learn when you play Funnel Vision

Game play testingFunnel Vision – The Board Game has been through a game play testing and is ready to take to businesses that have sales forces who need help in understanding and appreciating the sales process.

 

Fancy a Game?

This has already proven valuable and insightful for smaller business owners and interesting to sales teams that are not necessarily in a hugely competitive environment where it’s harder to connect to importance of the sales process.

If you have a sales team or lead a sales team that you know would benefit from this new, fresh and innovative approach to sales training then message me and we can take the conversation further.

Motor Engine

Why Every Business Needs a Sales Strategy

This month we are taking a look at SALES STRATEGIES – what they are, and why you need them in order to ensure your sales income is maximised.

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Basic Definition of Sales Strategy

Here’s a clue – it isn’t simply throwing stuff out there (including your sales team!) and just hoping something will ‘stick’ and result in a sale.

NO!

Your sales strategy is (should be) a detailed plan which establishes the direction you wish your business to take, and how to go about developing your sales processes in order to ensure consistent sales and therefore income.

Starting Over!

Like many businesses, when you started out you were glad of any sale, no matter where (or how) it came to you.

You probably did a bit of social media posting, went to networking meetings etc but were too busy working in your business to take a step back and really work out any kind of strategy.

If you’re reading this article now, it is a fair assumption that you have grown your operation to a stage where you have sales teams, a marketing department and a back-office function (no matter how small these teams are).

(NB if you haven’t reached this stage of growth, please don’t stop reading – you’ll pick up some tips which will put you in a great position before you get there!)

The problem is, that if you are still stuck in the mindset of a small business owner, doing everything for yourself, then you are unlikely to have created a fully cohesive sales strategy and your teams will be lacking guidance.

Even the best sales manager in the world will be operating with one arm tied behind his/her back if they have no clue what the company’s overall business strategy is.

Have a re-read of the two previous articles – Put Sales at the Heart of Your Business Processes and Why Leadership Matters which look at the structure of your business, its culture and your leadership role.

This section is entitled ‘Starting Over’ for a reason – it’s time to take a really good look at where you are now, what is working in terms of bringing in sales and what you need to completely revisit, revamp and redo.

It can be very easy to get stuck in the ‘we’ve always done it this way’ or ‘this has always worked before’ mode of thinking…get over yourself! Yes, changing things can be scary but without change there is rarely growth and without growth there is no possibility of increasing your sales income past a certain point.

Getting Back to Basics

What About Your Customers? Do you know where they are currently coming from? If not, why not? 

  • What does your ideal customer avatar look like? If you don’t know then set about creating one (or multiples if you are selling more than one product/service with potentially different target markets).
  • What do your customers say on social media about you? Do you offer them the ability to leave reviews? 
  • Is there an unexplored market you could consider?

Look at Your Product. Now this may sound so basic that you will wonder why it merits a mention…what are you selling? Is it a physical product(s) or a service?

Take a good look at whatever it is – analyse it. What will buying it give your customers? 

  • Does it solve a problem(s)? 
  • Does it tackle a pain point?
  • Or is it a luxury item – something that people desire but don’t really need?
  • Are you selling direct to consumers or is your market B2B?

Get these points straight in your head because it will affect your selling strategy.

How Are You Currently Marketing? Next, it’s time to look at your current marketing tools – bring your marketing team in on this as it’s entirely possible that you may be somewhat out of the loop.

  • What does your social media presence look like? Are you using it at all, and if so, has the message you are communicating changed since the early days? 
  • Are you overly reliant on social media? Has your company become a little complacent, even seduced by online channels?
  • Are your marketing messages conveying everything they need to? 
  • Do you need to consider different social media platforms – for example, if you have just used Facebook in the past is it time to consider Instagram? 
  • What’s your following like on the platforms you engage with? Does one outperform another? If so, why?
  • Do you use mail-shots (both physical and email) and if you do, who are you targeting? Do you segment your audience or carpet bomb them all with the same information?

What you are doing here is stripping back everything – establishing what has worked for you so far and what needs changing going forwards.

Starting to Plan

Right – you’ve looked at your current situation. You understand what is working with your existing marketing and you have a grip on your target audiences…

Now you can start to STRATEGISE

Firstly, work with your sales manager to establish realistic sales targets based on your company’s financial needs and capabilities…create a Sales Forecast.

Sales Forecast. Don’t pull figures out of the air, make sure targets are achievable.

  • Base your forecasts on past performances.
  • Look at existing customers – what are their buying habits, and can they be influenced to buy more or a different product?
  • Break down the forecast into monthly/weekly figure by customer and product. How many leads and conversions will be required to hit the targets?
  • How many salespeople will be required to reach these targets- is it more or less than you currently have?
  • What sort of activity will your sales team need to engage in to meet the targets – can you quantify this in cost terms?

Targeting and Reaching Customers (Sales Channels) Get your marketing and salespeople in the same room – if you followed the guidance in the previous articles then they should already be ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’ and ready and willing to work together.

Based on the sales forecast you have created, plan out how your marketing and advertising can target the customer base you wish to focus on (this may vary seasonally or even month to month so take this into account).

  • Does new marketing material need to be created? Get the input of the people on the ground – your sales team – they are closer to the customer and will have a good idea of what does and doesn’t work.
  • Segment your audience in order to run highly targeted campaigns.
  • Can existing customers be up-sold to?
  • Can existing customers be persuaded to recommend your business (a referral scheme)?
  • Work on customer retention ideas – remember it is easier to keep a customer than seek a new one.
  • Do you need to revise social media campaigns (and platforms) to target key audiences? 
  • Do you even need to look at re-branding in order to attract your target audience? 

Remember that your sales and marketing teams need to work together – they are each one half of the same coin after all. It is pointless having super-duper marketing materials if the sales team don’t know about them imagine being a salesperson dealing with a customer who points out something in a leaflet, or online campaign that you were completely unaware of. Not only does that look unprofessional in the eyes of the prospect, it could also make them wonder about the business as a whole…

Is There Anything You Need In Order to Get Started on Your Plans?

Undoubtedly there will be!

If this is the first time you have gone into such depth and strategic planning, you may find that there are shortfalls in your existing training and tools.

For example:

  • A CRM system (Customer Relationship Management) to track your customer interactions*
  • A sales funnel (tracking a customer journey through your sales process)*
  • New marketing materials
  • New online platforms
  • Training for your in-house teams

(* Look out for the next article when these topics – your Sales Processes – will be discussed in depth)

Get everything lined up and ready before committing to your new strategy – ideally you want to get it as close to right the first time around. Of course, it will change and develop over time, but hit the ground running, have a definitive start date and make sure you measure the outcomes.

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Putting the Strategy into Action

After all that hard work planning, it’s time to put the Strategy you have developed into play. 

  • Do make sure that you have documented all the decisions and actions in order that you can track progress over the year and, if necessary, tweak as you go along.
  • Make sure that ALL your employees are fully aware of this new Sales Strategy and that they have all bought into it.
  • If you have decided on new marketing/promo materials, ensure they are ready.
  • If rebranding, do you need some kind of ‘launch’ – this could be a great publicity opportunity.
  • Monitor and track progress
  • Keep your teams onboard by making sure they are continually updated
  • Remember to continually recognise success within your teams
  • Thank your teams for their work!

Summary

There’s a lot of information here, but to summarises:

  1. Explore the existing situation and current processes
  2. What is it you are actually selling?
  3. Identify your audience
  4. Target the marketing appropriately
  5. Establish achievable sales targets
  6. DOCUMENT your strategy
  7. Get your teams onboard
  8. Set up any new systems and training 
  9. Get your marketing materials ready
  10. Constantly review progress!

Conclusion

It can be all too easy to drift along in the same way, making sales but not reaching the heights you know you should be achieving.

Going right back to the basics may seem a bit of a chore but it will enable you to create a Strategy which reflects your aims whilst also respecting what has gone before.

Your Sales Strategy should be flexible enough to account for changing conditions and you must review it regularly.

Please also take time to read some more articles from the Steve Knapp Sales blog

Here are some that you might enjoy!

Do you need Senior Sales Professionals

5 Attributes That Make Goals Stick

3 Behaviours that win business

Would you cheat to win in Sales?

Why Leadership matters!

Why Successful Leadership Matters

In the previous article we highlighted the fact that for a business to thrive, sales need to be at the very heart of all business processes.

We showed how creating a positive sales culture within an organisation affects not only the sales team but the entire workforce and the impact this has on the bottom line.

In this blog we are going to look at how strong leadership is vital in order to not only implement a strategy to improve sales culture but to ensure it is consistently maintained.

The Difference between Managing and Leading

Many of you reading this may be thinking, that there is no difference between managing and leading a team or an organisation – we disagree.  Look at the following infographic: –

Can you see the differences now?

A leader tends to be charismatic and attract people who will follow them, leaders not only talk the talk but walk the walk which inspires their followers. They are often creative problem solvers and will take risks to achieve goals.

A manager may have many similar surface level characteristics to a leader but, dig a little deeper and you tend to find that they are more rule and protocol driven than a natural leader. They will still get results, but they rarely inspire the staff they supervise in quite the same way.

Some people have the rare ability to combine both the rigid strictures of management with the transformational and inspirational qualities of leadership (see the intersecting segment on the infographic) – if you are one of those people, or have one in your organisation, then you are extremely fortunate!

How is your Sales Force Structured?

Whether you have one sales team or multiple, the way they are organised, the sales culture within your business and the leadership from the top is going to affect their success.

Do you have a sales manager (or managers)? If so, look at the way he/she operates. Are they rule driven micro-managers who leave your teams feeling uninspired and lacking in motivation? Are they purely target driven, forever hammering home the ‘more sales’ message whilst constantly upping their team’s sales targets?

Look at staff turnover within your sales force. Is it high? If you have multiple sales teams, is there a pattern of higher turnover in any of the teams in particular? If there is, could the manager of that team be the problem?

Build Successful Teams

You may have to instigate a root and branch examination of your organisation.  Hopefully, if you have taken onboard the advice offered in our previous article on Sales Culture, you will have started that and therefore be already laying the groundwork for a successful company structure.

If you run a larger operation, are your CFO (Chief Financial Officer) and your Marketing Manager working in tandem with your sales team(s)? As discussed in the previous article, you need to ensure that your entire operation is focussed towards maximising your sales potential. This means ALL your management areas need to be linked – finance cannot stand apart from marketing and you cannot afford for your sales force to be working in isolation.

Instigate training sessions, starting with your sales (team) managers. Coach them in how to motivate their respective teams by understanding that there is no one size fits all methodology. Show them how to work with their teams as groups of individuals who all require coaching in subtly different ways.

Hire salespeople who fit within your company and sales culture and ensure they understand the sales expectations from the get-go. Make goals/targets high but achievable and incentivise your teams appropriately.

You need to become the leader of your company

The one that everyone looks to for inspiration, motivation and guidance. The heads of your departments need to have leadership as well as management skills and you must ensure that everyone works together.

Salespeople, particularly those who are managing teams, tend to be target driven, but individuals within a team may not be so driven. It is down to your sales managers to understand what makes an individual tick, what incentives/bonuses work best. Are they team players who like to compete against other team members or do they prefer to compete only against their own past results?  Your sales managers will me more likely to take this sort of approach if understand it is part of the company culture and they see you, as the leader, practicing what you preach.

You are looking for mentoring as well as selling abilities amongst your sales teams. Your teams should support and learn from each other and act as a cohesive entity as opposed to a bunch of people constantly competing against each other to be the best.

This is not to say that competition is bad…of course it isn’t! In fact, salespeople are naturally competitive and want to meet or exceed their targets, but you need to find a way that encourages competition whilst fostering collaboration.

Having the right people heading up your sales team(s) is vital. That is not to say that a sales manager MUST also be a sales leader.

Look back to the infographic at the beginning of this article – a leader is ultimately a visionary and strategist, able to see the bigger picture and inspire others to achieve their best in order to attain goals and targets. Whereas a manager is more concerned with the day to day processes and documentation of results.

If you, as the CEO/MD are able to fulfil the leadership role, be the pivot around which the company revolves (hopefully you are already that) then your sales teams can be organised around capable results and data driven managers, whilst you provide the inspiration and motivational input.

Read Focus on 3 Cultures to Win The Prize Hidden in an Aligned Organisation.

Sales Leader

Whether that is you as the business owner/CEO/MD or someone you bring on board, what qualities are important to successfully operate in this role?

Here’s a clue…they are all listed in the infographic! 

A sales leader should operate at a strategic level, creating and maintaining a positive sales culture throughout the company. Creating and communicating the vision and direction and keeping a 360° overview of the entire business.

A leader needs to be able to pull everyone in the organisation together, working towards the same goals, targets and aspirations – whatever role or level they are.

Sales Manager(s)

sales meetingIf you happen to have a sales manager who also has leadership skills, then well done – hold onto them at all costs!

If not, nurture the process driven side of your sales manager and ensure they have the necessary tools at their disposal in order for them to track and measure sales and targets. Encourage them to create and replicate successful processes and share their systems with other teams.

The most successful sales managers are target and deadline driven. They stand and fall by the sales figures they and their team(s) achieve.

In a 2015 interview of over 1000 sales leaders for the Harvard Business School; 75% of well performing sales managers reported holding their teams to a high degree of accountability by consistently measuring results against targets. 

This level of accountability can however sometimes mean a lack of empathy and understanding of how to help under achieving sales staff. Ensure therefore that your managers receive the training to help them support their team(s) in ways other than mere insistence that targets are met!

Sales managers should ensure that they recruit the best staff into their teams, so help them to develop robust recruiting procedures. A high sales staff turnover helps no one, getting the right people in – ones that fit your sales and overall company culture – should be an integral and essential part of your sales managers role.

Read Sales Coaching – Qualities to win.

A Cohesive Organisation 

We keep saying this, a successful business needs to have the right culture – top to bottom, bottom to top. No matter how large the organisation, every employee needs to know they matter, that their contribution counts.

Individual departments need to ensure that they are integrated into the whole – no one department can function without another and the business cannot operate optimally unless all the disparate parts work together.

  • Find and retain the best staff
  • Look for managers with true leadership potential
  • Compensate your staff appropriately
  • Make sure everyone is aware of the company vision, values and ethos
  • Ensure sales is at the heart of all business processes
  • Work to ensure your departments collaborate rather than compete against each other
  • Know your customers and make sure you ‘sell’ to then appropriately

Sell BETTER not just MORE!

Sales are the key to profitability – we all know that but, higher sales may not necessarily lead to higher profits. 

This may at first glance seem counter intuitive – your sales figures and thus income are up, so surely profit should be too.

  • Maybe the sales figures are up because the bonus levels have been increased?
  • What if the sales income is up but you have had incessant recruitment costs because sales staff aren’t staying with you?
  • Perhaps a sales drive temporarily increased income but your sales team has been too pushy and there is no repeat custom from these new sales.

Get your sales leadership and overall company strategies right and you should be able to avoid a feast or famine situation and obtain consistent and repeatable sales. 

Your sales teams will understand how to sell well, and your customers will not only keep coming back but will actively refer potential customers your way because of the service they receive.

You will also have a wider workforce who actively want to succeed and who understand the power of working together towards a common goal – namely a successful business.

Be a leader!

Put Sales at the heart of your business processes

Put Sales at the Heart of Your Business Processes

Whether you are new to sales (or indeed business in general) or a seasoned veteran, you will surely have heard the term ‘sales culture’ being bandied about.

Do you know what ‘sales culture’ is though, what it means and how getting it right can have a massive impact on your bottom line?

Does the term make you cringe?

Does it sound like one of those high level ‘management speak’ phrases which can’t possibly be applied to your business?

Well, read on – we’re going to explain how getting YOUR sales culture right is vital to the long-term sustainability of YOUR business

Sales

Could your business survive without an ongoing inwards income stream?

Unless you are multi-millionaire self-funding some kind of ‘vanity’ business, the answer is surely going to be NO.

How do you achieve an income?

By producing goods and or services that consumers (including other businesses) want to BUY.

In other words, your business needs to SELL its goods/services.

Fact. All businesses have to SELL to survive.

Why then are sales and selling often regarded as an ‘add on’ to a business operation?

Could it be because ‘sales’ and by association ‘sales people’ have, rightly or wrongly, been categorised as being somewhat unsavoury, a bit aggressive, manipulative – even downright deceitful? 

Ask someone what springs to mind when hearing the word ‘sales’ and often the used car salesman or pushy double glazing sales person is the first thing they will mention.

How then do you, and by extension, your business rise above these perceptions and ensure you are able to create and maintain an effective sales operation?

By developing, nurturing and maintaining a SALES CULTURE that pervades EVERY area of your business.

Sales Culture

It doesn’t matter if a business is a multinational operation or an SME, if sales and the sales force are not seen as an essential, and more importantly, INTEGRAL part of the organisation then the business will not reach its full potential.

Does that statement shock you?

It shouldn’t, because at the most basic level, if your staff do not feel that they are all working towards a common goal – namely increasing income (aka sales) – then there will always be discord and inter-departmental rivalry.

For example: your sales team is doing really well, they are exceeding all their targets – business is booming. BUT the accounts team are not keeping up with the increased need to invoice/credit check/credit control and therefore the money is not coming into your bank accounts. Result – your sales team are disillusioned because they can’t see the rewards for their successes.

In another scenario, the sales team are again performing well BUT production is slow to scale up to reach demand.

Or how about, the purchasing team have not been informed of the latest sales drive and therefore have not placed the necessary supply orders that will be required to increase production…

And so it goes on…the crux of it is that every person within an organisation needs to be putting sales at the top of their agenda – regardless of whether they are part of the sales team itself. It’s only by doing that, by creating a cohesion between your different teams, that you will be able to maximise your sales.

In a nutshell then, sales culture may be described as “Putting sales at the heart of all your business processes”.

That may be a little simplistic, but you get the gist!

What’s Your Sales Culture?

Stand back for a moment and take a good long look at your business (this is something you should be doing on a regular basis).

Be objective, try to see things as if you were an outsider looking in. Consider it a full 360° review of your operations.

What’s your turnover (sales)? Are the figures consistent month on month, or do they fluctuate? Are there any external reasons for fluctuations, for example seasonality or are the differences solely attributable to the success (or otherwise) of your sales team?

How do your various teams or departments interact? Is there rivalry (or worse) between different sectors within your business? Are the accounts team seen as ‘blockers’ by the sales force or the sales team seen as being ‘pushy’ or ‘arrogant’ by the rest of the company?

Look also at your own behaviours, your own values and beliefs. Do you treat departments differently – love sales but feel you have nothing in common with accounts (or vice versa).

Examining your business this way should help to determine not only what sort of sales culture you currently have but also what your overall company culture is. You may be surprised at some of the things you discover!

There is a school of thought that businesses should be driven from the bottom upwards, but whilst engaging everyone within a company is absolutely vital, at the end of the day the reality is it’s the leadership team that really shapes culture and ethos. In other words, you need to drive culture change from the top down.

Let’s look at some of the things you may have uncovered in a review:

Findings

Impact

Staff turnover is high

No stability in your teams – performance is low

Inter-departmental rivalry

Teams only looking out for themselves, so little to no

co-operation

Unmotivated or unrewarded sales team

Inconsistent sales figures

Poor planning and inter-department information

sharing

No joined up thinking, teams working in isolation

ALL of the above are going to impact your bottom line – your profit, so, what can you do?

Create the Right Sales Culture

Richard Branson is quoted as saying, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to”.

This sort of approach is one that all business should look at adopting – it demonstrates a corporate culture that places employees as the key assets.

You can link this approach directly to creating a positive and enabling sales culture as your staff need to be totally committed to creating and maintaining a sales focussed business. If they don’t feel valued as an employee, how can you expect them to commit to the business?

Every person within your organisation (be that 2 or 222 of them) has to understand and embrace the fact that without sales there is no business. Put that in an entirely person-centred sentence – “Without sales you will have no job”. Such a bold statement of reality tends to have a way of focussing people attention!

Everyone, from the most junior staff member right up to the board, need to understand the importance of sales, how your sales process works and what their role is in ensuring consistently high sales levels.

There is absolutely no point in giving your sales teams targets if they have no support from the rest of the business.

Equally, there is no point rewarding your sales teams for hitting their targets whilst not also rewarding the support teams who help them get there.

Yes, your business has to be driven by your sales teams as they are the ones ‘bringing in the cash’ but, just as a car won’t work without fuel, neither can your sales people operate in isolation.

Isolating your sales people, treating them differently, setting them apart from everyone else, simply serves to alienate them from the rest of your workforce.

When creating sales strategies, targets etc ensure that the other departments are included in the process – or, at the very least kept informed. Do not assume that your head of sales will communicate with the heads of marketing, production, distribution (or whatever). Nor that the heads of relevant departments will fully inform their own team members of the latest updates.

Aligning your entire business operation towards sales has been shown to result in a higher probability of sales closures. According to a 2014 study by Math Marketing, organisations that are aligned have a 67% higher probability that marketing-generated leads will close. Yet research by Bizible shows that over 30% of marketers feel that they are not aligned with their sales team.

Translating these stats into bottom line results shows that tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieved 24% faster three year revenue growth, and 27% faster three-year profit growth. (Sirius Decisions). Isn’t that something worth aiming for?

Information is key to a company’s success but all too often you find managers holding onto things because they feel it gives them an edge over a colleague. Competition can be a useful tool, particularly within a sales environment but it can be at the expense of collaboration.

Rather than separate pockets of information residing at departmental level, instigate company wide “all hands” meetings where everyone can have their say and you can share strategy. If your organisation is too large to do this, have representation from each level (and ensure the most junior are included…a fresh perspective can be extremely useful and younger staff are often able to see things in a totally different way).

Try making these meetings standing ones – it tends to keep them brief and it also negates the hierarchy situation that happens when seated around a table.

Instead of imposing ideas on your people ask for input. Is there something the accounts team do that drives your sales team mad? Does the marketing team make promises that neither the sales team nor production can fulfil? Perhaps a junior employee has spotted something that can be improved, a system that may have been in place for ages, but they spot a way to make it better?

Look at your existing staff roster, your terms and conditions and remuneration but also look at how you can improve them – don’t assume that ‘good rates of pay’ are the be all and end all. Today’s workforce (particularly millennials) often have a different approach to their working life…work life balance is not something you hear much of in a sales environment but it should be factored in to your recruitment strategy.

If your staff turnover is high find out why and fix it. Are people driven away by unrealistic expectations that result in burnout? Are your packages not reflective of your industry in general? Are your managers themselves the problem?

Your aim is to create the kind of work place that your staff want to come to and want to stay with. Create a place where your people feel valued, listened to and really believe that their contribution matters – whatever their role is.

Creating the right sales culture for your business may mean that you do have to consider letting people go…not an easy decision. However, as you undertake a companywide review and begin to implement new collaborative practices it will very quickly become apparent if there are any sticking points (or rather resistant people). To be honest such individuals may begin to feel so out of place in a revised culture (particularly if they had been ‘getting away’ with behaviours which are contra to your new culture) that they may decide to move on without prompting.

You will by now have realised that creating the kind of sales culture that will not only drive your sales team to excellence but will also motivate your entire workforce is going to be neither easy NOR quick.

It will however be worth it.

Conclusion

‘Sales culture’, ‘company culture’, ‘values and ethos’ may all sound like soundbites, or HR driven niceties…THEY AREN’T.

The overall culture present within your organisation will ultimately determine how successful your business is.

The sales culture will determine the volume and consistency of sales (and thus profit) you achieve.

A company could survive, at least for a while, with a toxic culture but it would be at the expense of its workforce. Only the thick skinned or ruthless sales teams would remain whilst the rest of the staff peel away and take up roles with companies with more agreeable cultures…possibly even your competitors.

Summary

Review your business operations
Identify your pain points and seek to address them
Involve your entire workforce – not just sales
Communicate across the board
Lead from the top – leaders drive culture, teams maintain it
Ensure inter-departmental collaboration becomes the norm
Employ people willing to accept, appreciate and abide by your company and sales cultures
Find a way to move on those that can’t accept your culture
Remember the phrase: “What if I train them and they leave? …What if you don’t and they stay?!”

And finally…

“PUT SALES AT THE HEART OF ALL YOUR BUSINESS PROCESSES”.

This is the first in a series of article; look out for the next one which will explore the issue of Sales Leadership.

If you enjoyed this please also take time to read some of my other recent posts

Focus on 3 cultures to win the prize hidden in an aligned organisation.

3 Behaviours that win business

Make more sales by aligning Sales & Marketing Activities

Do you need “Senior” Sales Professionals

Would you cheat to win in Sales?

Having Fun and Making Money

This blogs topic is fun. As in, actually about fun. It’s one of my core values, to make sure there’s an element of fun in everything I do.

I’m not talking about the David Brent style of constantly making jokes, which was taken from the real world experiences of that cringeworthy boss everyone seems to know who just wants to me popular. I’m talking about having a culture within your company where people are comfortable enough to be themselves and make contributions.

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“I’ve created an atmosphere where I’m a friend first, boss second…probably entertainer third.” David Brent, The Office.

I think a key point to note is that making things fun is only one part of a cultural overhaul which will happen sooner or later, either by your proactive choosing or by regulation, or reaction to your competitors overtaking you.

Engagement

The reason it is part of a bigger picture is because it fits in with the value-adding sell. The one where you’ll actually only sell to people if they need or want your product. The type of sell where you would recommend people don’t buy it if you don’t think they need it.

Does that sound unfamiliar to you? Are you still in an environment where sales are made to whoever will buy, because that’s how commissions are earned? It’s a short-sighted approach, because the buyers are so unlikely to buy again from a company where they’ve been sold something they didn’t need. They’re also likely to negatively review that company. “I got told I’d need x, but I still haven’t used it in a year.”

You’re rewarding shark-like behaviours, preying upon consumers for commission. And it’s the reason salespeople have a bad reputation.

Collectively, in sales, things need to change, and it needs to come from the leaders who set the cultures. If you change how you’re selling, to needs-based selling, it no longer feels like selling. It starts to feel like helping people. People start to feel good about doing it. They might even…have fun.

There are lots of things you can do to embrace and enhance the positive vibe around work.

Start fitness clubs, organise socials, team-building exercises. The sort of things that in the traditional sales environment, either don’t exist or are begrudgingly attended. Why? Because if people are out of their comfort zone, and let’s face it, hard selling on cold calls is rarely anyone’s comfort zone, the last thing they want to do is spend more time around a culture that revolves around that.

But the second you switch the disc and move towards a positive sales environment which is needs-led and value orientated, people will actively be energised by their work. You can then introduce those fun elements to your work environment to enhance the overall experience which will make your staff happy, not cringe. Now you have a healthy, happy, energised sales team who are providing value to customers, who in turn will appreciate the difference between your company and one which is just trying to make a quick buck out of them. Positive experiences, positive reviews, repeat custom and trusted client bases.

All sounds rather good, doesn’t it?

If you want to discuss more how I can help you to make that a reality in your business, I’m always happy to speak to people who want to improve.

If you enjoyed this post please click LIKE and click SHARE to share it with your network.

Please also take time to read some of my other recent posts

Focus on 3 cultures to win the prize hidden in an aligned organisation.

3 Behaviours that win business

Make more sales by aligning Sales & Marketing Activities

Do you need “Senior” Sales Professionals

Would you cheat to win in Sales?

Is the Sales culture visible in your business?

How OBVIOUS is it to your customers if your Sales Culture is right or wrong?

Sales in the culture of business is visible. And you’ve either got it or you haven’t.

It’s so important for the owner of a company to understand the customer experience of their company. 

I experienced both sides of the coin in one day.

I run an online group to help business owners with their sales mindset and help new sales professionals develop their skills. One of the members set up a direct debit as part of the sign up process and whatever they did, resulted in them paying twice.

I asked this company to issue a refund and I was told that I wasn’t important enough of a customer to automate a refund. I’d have to come up with a manual solution with my client.

I know about scale and big and small customers…but, seriously?! “You’re not important enough?!” 

Later that day, I got back to find an office chair I’d ordered had arrived…but there was a massive hole in the box. Just my luck, there were indeed bolts missing. Still reeling from my first experience of customer service, I picked up the phone with a sense of trepidation…

Well yep the bolts were missing and I didn’t have spares at home.

“Oh no thats terrible, so sorry to hear that.” Oh. “We will get you new chair tomorrow and I’ll make sure the delivery guy has all the paper work ready so he can take the old one home.”

I’m sure you’ve had that experience where you’ve turned to a friend or talked to your partner and said “Wow that was really good service, that was so easy to do.” You might not’ve said it like you were on a TV advert for Which? magazine, but it’ll have been along those lines. 

That customer experience was a consequence of a great Sales Culture. 

To understand the value in creating exceptional customer journeys, you need to understand your customer.

When you do that…you’ll sell more!

Conversely I bet you’ve also had the other side of that coin and experienced service where your experience as a customer was feeling like an irritation and the whole task of trying to buy something felt like organised torture.

Those are pretty good signs that Sales isn’t at the heart of a company’s culture.

Sales coaching quote

I mean…imagine working in that environment where management doesn’t care about your sales behaviours. If they don’t care, why the hell should their staff care? 

That root cause of not caring becomes so obvious because customers can see service, or a lack of it, in the behaviours of the sales assistant. 

The 1st Principle in the 5 Principles of Sales Excellence is 1st for a very specific reason.

That principle of Business Strategy helps test your motivation to put sales at the heart of your business strategy.

Why? Because by definition that puts the customer right at the heart of your business too!

You can measure customer experience through feedback. It’s tangible, and in many cases immediate. The key learning is the same reason that mystery shoppers are used. 

It’s so important for the owner of a company to understand what the customer experience of their company is. You can pinpoint any other shortcomings in your processes and address them, but if customer experience is an issue, it’d be like focusing on making sure your seatbelts and brakes work when your car is on fire. 

If you enjoyed this post please click LIKE and click SHARE to share it with your network.

Please also take time to read some of my other recent posts

Focus on 3 cultures to win the prize hidden in an aligned organisation.

3 Behaviours that win business

Make more sales by aligning Sales & Marketing Activities

Do you need “Senior” Sales Professionals

Would you cheat to win in Sales?

Copyright 2018 Steve Knapp Sales
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