What Every Great Salesman Needs to Have
Would your selling
improve if you worked for the best sales manager in the United States?
I’ll bet it would. Great sales managers offer business insight, develop
sales strategies, and motivate sales professionals to get better results.
In 2004, Sales and Marketing Management recognized Greg Alexander as the
Sales Manager of the Year. He’s now the CEO of The Sales Benchmark Index
(http://www.salesbenchmarkindex.com/. If he isn’t your
manager, you still can benefit from his sales management skills.
Sell the way your customers buy. Alexander coached his sales
staff to sell the way customers buy instead of the way salespeople want to
sell. Alexander says, “Salespeople are paid to accelerate the timeline of
selling. One way they accelerate the sales process is to offer discounts
at the end of the quarter.” This quick fix devalues the salesperson.
Instead, he coaches his staff to understand a customer’s definition of
success for a project and work backwards to help the customer achieve it.
The way to do that is for salespeople to identify milestones in a project
that will lead to a customer’s success. The salesperson can then focus on
helping a customer accelerate through those milestones while keeping the
customer on time and on budget. Alexander adds, “When you look at the
sales process from customers’ perspectives they appreciate it. There’s
something in it for them.”
Manage Your Manger. Alexander says that there are 2 types of sales managers: Ones who think the
salesperson works for them and others who understand that they work for
the salesperson. The former tend to be micromanagers and report on the
progress of the outcome. They don’t add value to the process. The latter
will ask salespeople, “What can I do for you so you can be successful?
What’s standing in your way either internally or externally? We all work
for customers.” Alexander says if you have the latter sales manager it’s
your job to be the customer’s internal champion and identify the areas
that are preventing you from closing business. Then ask your manager for
help in removing the obstacles. If you have the former, it’s your job to
recognize it. These managers tend to be inspectors. They like consistent
performance, predictability and a constant flow of information. They like
to feel they are “in the know.” To accommodate them, salespeople should
provide frequent updates, forecast accurately and involve their manager
with all critical sales campaigns.
Multiply your productivity. Instead of
selling by yourself, use all the resources you have to distinguish
yourself from the competition. Alexander says to “turn people who are not
customer facing into customer facing people.” For example, a person from
manufacturing is familiar with the quality process. They typically don’t
meet with customers. You can involve them in your sales process and have
them speak on how your company’s process improvement impacts your
customers. A passionate, articulate IT (information technology) person can
talk about how the IT department is impacting the customer’s experience of
billing or shipment tracking. These internal people can provide your
competitive advantage. They’re not “salespeople” so their message gets
heard. Alexander says, “They educate your customer and in the process you
make yourself memorable to a customer.”
Run it like a business. Manufacturing,
like sales, is a mission critical business process. What sets
manufacturing apart is that its performance can be analyzed and measured.
Think about how manufacturing reports the number of defects off a line and
measures quality. Do most salespeople do the same? Can they report how
many cold calls it takes to get appointments which then result in a
certain number of sales? Alexander says most salespeople can’t. With that
lack of analysis and measurement salespeople lack the ability to modify
what they’re doing to reach their goals. He recommends applying the
principles of process improvement to the elements that are critical to
daily sales success. To do this sales professionals should measure what
they’re doing to learn what’s working. He says, “If you’re not making the
sales you need, look at the numbers of proposals, face to face meetings,
warm leads and phone calls you make. Salespeople who manage themselves
quantitatively are more successful.”
You may already have a great sales manager. If
not, when you learn from a great sales manager it just might seem like you
Maura Schreier-Fleming works with
business and sales professionals on skills and strategies so they can sell
more and be more productive at work. She is the author of Real-World
Selling for Out-of-this-World Results which is available at
www.BestatSelling.com. She founded her company Best@Selling in
1997. You can reach her at 972.380.0200.