ASSEMBLING the winning sales team
Jul 1, 1998 12:00 PM,
There are sales management tools that need to be applied to create a highlyproductive and desirable sales environment. This article supplies sometools that can be used to create the right environment for your sales staff.
Good salespeople are Type A personalities who want to win. The good onesknow that if they win the race, the prize money will follow. Everyone likesto be stroked, especially salespeople. At my former company, GIC, weprovided more than money when one of our salespeople closed a big sale by,for example, taking the sales representative and his spouse to dinner.Being acknowledged by the boss is one thing, but including spouses letsthem know their partners were doing a good job and helps justify the longhours spent away from home.
Another way to bolster a repre-sentative’s ego is to publish his victories,thereby providing peer recognition. We identified recently won projects ona monthly basis and posted them. We also personally congratulated eachstaff member responsible for a new win and generated a daily report on newsales bookings. I acknowledged the staff responsible for the sale, usuallywith a handshake. To your sales staff, recognition can be nearly asimportant as the sale itself. Glory is important-something a boss shouldnever forget!
Another critical requirement is to provide reliable products and service.If a salesperson worries that a system will not meet client expectations,he will be less productive and may seek employment elsewhere. Good salesrepresentatives view themselves as professionals and do not want to lie toprospects about the products or services they represent. If you claim aproduct or service fulfills certain requirements, be sure your claims aretrue. If not, both a dissatisfied client and an unhappy salesperson maymove elsewhere.
Standardize product lines in each discipline to two major lines.Standardization makes it easier for all parts of your company-installation,service, engineering and sales-to understand how to install and supporteach system properly and deliver a quality product. Then, increasereliability by investing in the right technical infrastructure to deliverand support your systems. Most integrated systems need support around theclock, so your service program should cater to this critical need.
While their primary objective is to sell your products and services withinyour economic, operational and ethical guidelines, salespeople can be likechildren in a candy store. If you let them run loose without supervision,the results can be disastrous. When sales representatives are not managedproperly, they can do irreparable harm. I know a company that allows theirsalespeople to sell in any territory with few guidelines about salesmargins. The only number the owner looks at is total revenue. A goodaccounting system would probably show that many of his contracts are lowmargin or money-losers, which can kill a company. Another firm takes anopposite approach. Every proposal has to be reviewed by the productionmanager, the project manager and the sales manager and signed by the salesmanager and the salespeople. Their sales representatives spend more timedoing paperwork and getting approvals than selling. Treat salespeoplecarefully and establish reasonable limits.
GIC made it easy for sales representatives to do their jobs. We gave seniorsales representatives the discretionary authority to propose projects of upto $100,000 without prior approval, unless the margin fell below aproscribed level. In those cases, they had to rationalize why it wasimportant to win the job-a large upside for additional revenue over thenext five years was a frequent justification. More often than not, we wentalong with the sales representative’s recommendation because he was closerto the deal and had a better perspective. Over time, faith in our salesstaff became increasingly justified.
Discretionary authority for salespeople in your firm will vary. As a rule,a senior sales representative should have the authority to propose a systemthat represents 1% of your firm’s annual revenues without obtaining priormanagement approval. As a last resort, our management always retained thelast right of refusal on our proposals. With that safety valve, if a signedcontract came in with major economic or design flaws, we could alwaysrefuse to accept it. Because of our ability and willingness to setreasonable limits in the selling process, our salespeople could focus onselling. Our staff appreciated the freedom, and our limits and guidelinesminimized exposure to abuses and mistakes.
Avoid placing a real or perceived ceiling on what a successful salesrepresentative can earn. This means not using planned earningsrequirements. Let salespeople reap what they sow. Setting artificial limitsreduces productivity and results in lower sales. Smart salespeople willdevise elaborate plans to control earnings and defeat any system. It ismore productive to motivate them to focus on selling. Additionally, avoidceilings on income. Our attitude was the larger the commission check, themore money the company was making.
Acquiring and building a strong sales force is difficult because good salespersonnel is a rare commodity. You have to treat your sales staff likeclients and make an effort to meet their needs. Recognize their egos andmassage them. Develop secured territories and demand accountability. Investin a strong infrastructure, so you can deliver reliable products andservices. Give salespeople peace of mind and support them in a way thatmakes them believe in the company they represent. Establish reasonableguidelines and limits to maximize selling time, and let the sky be thelimit on income. Using these approaches will minimize costly turnover, makeyour sales force happy with their employer and pirate-proof yourorganization from its competition.