Sales down? Invest in Your Sales Teams January 13, 2009Posted by David Dirks in Grow your skills, Recession: How to Beat It!, Retailer Store Strategies, Sales Strategy/Tactics.
Tags: beating a recession, recession sales strategy, sales, sales development, sales training, training
Another knee-jerk reaction to slower sales and revenues: cutting back on sales training. Cutting into the training investment you make to enhance skills and intellectual capital of your primary weapon for sales revenue is business suicide. When times are ‘good’ (yesterday), sales seem far easier to bring in than they are when times are ‘bad’ (today). When the money is flowing in and the business is riding along, investment in things like sales training doesn’t make anyone bat an eye. That all ends when things get tight. Then it’s cut, cut, cut.
I’m not advocating sales training for the sake of just training. You can spend a lot of money on sales training and get very little bang for your buck. The key to sales training effectiveness isn’t how much you spend. It’s more about what you focus your on and how consistently you do it. One-shot sales training is a losing proposition for you and your sales team.
When does your sales team need training the most? Two answers: 1) they need it on a consistent basis with enough frequency to help keep them focused on skill building and keep them learning. 2) THEY ESPECIALLY NEED IT NOW MORE THAN EVER. When the economy cycles down as dramatically as it has during the last few quarters, it can absolutely frustrate and drain the energy from the best of sales professionals. You cannot let that happen.
What do sales professionals need right now? They need an infusion of new ideas/tactics/strategies. They crave some fresh thinking. They desire sales leadership that will keep the ball moving and facilitate the kind of learning draws fresh life into the sales cycle. You don’t do that by cutting back on time and resources dedicated to sales development.
Remember, right now they are worried about the economy, their jobs, their houses, paying for kids college, and the fall their 401k just took. Do you think they just arrive at your business all fresh and ready to go? In times like these sales teams can wear down before they even get started. Then enter the crunch of falling behind on sales that used to come to fruition in a regular basis. Here are a few ways to insure you give your sales professionals the care they need to sustain themselves and win in the market place for your business.
- Make sure you have a good inventory of the skill levels of each person on your sales team. Match their skills against the sales cycle for your business and take measure of how well each person performs along each stage of the sales cycle. The idea is to create a list of sales skills that are matched to your sales cycle and can be the focus of a weekly, bi-weekly, monthly training plan.
- Focus your training efforts on sales strategies and tactics that solve current sales challenges. Ask your sales team(s) where they are experiencing the most problems along the sales cycle. Map the sales cycle out from raw lead to closed sale and make sure that time is spent on brainstorming ways to overcome any challenges in the sales cycle.
- Hold people accountable for learning. Some people are self-motivated and directed to learning. Some just need a little leading and prodding to move along. Others just sit there like a load of sand and contribute nothing to their own sales skills and intellectual capital. Those folks need to go. My bet is that those in that latter category are probably the bottom performers in your business. Get rid of them. Sales is a motivational business and you need people who are motivated to both sell and continually learn.
My definition of both sales and marketing success is when you can truly differentiate your business from your competition. This is in the context of being framed in the mind of your customer and potential customer as a business that provides more than just products and services. You can’t do that if you sales efforts are just as bad as the rest. Making a consistent investment in your sales development efforts will differentiate you from your competition. How do I know that? Trust me. I buy products and services all the time and it always amazes me at just how lousy most sales efforts are across the board in businesses both large and small.
And that my friend, is your opportunity.