Sales Drive For 2012/13, Making Sales Boom
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Sales Drive For 2012/13, Making Sales Boom

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The Value of Sales Expertise

Until a sale is made - Nothing happens!

You need salespeople and everyone else involved in customer communication to understand how the sales process works and exactly what their role is every step of the way. You can have the best accountants and administrators in the world in your business but until they have sales to count up and process then they are not needed.

Cast your eyes around where you work and ask yourself the most basic of all questions in relation to business, “What do we need the most?” If your answer is anything other than more profitable sales, think again because businesses are either expanding or going backwards.

Standing still is not an option. In the world of selling, no one gets a prize just for showing up. You either win the sale or you lose. If you’re in business especially during a down economy, winning means only one thing: getting the sale.

Running that first shop taught me business is not financial science;
it's about trading: buying and selling." - Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop

So perhaps it’s time to recognise the sales team as the heroes of the business. Then, you'll have a company that is customer focused and sales driven backed up by administrators, and not the other way around. Sales teams are only ever as good as those backing them allow them to be. Now before you jump down my throat, I’m not for one moment trying to suggest that anything is less important and I'm certainly not saying that we salespeople make great administrators. We most often do not.

What I'm simply saying is that making profitable sales underpins the whole business, so you must do whatever it takes to give your sales team the X-factor!

For my mind, just like there are recipes for cooking, there are formulas for selling. To attempt to cook Granny’s favourite fruit cake without some of the key ingredients would be plain silly. The same applies in selling.

If you leave out the key elements of the formula you are often disappointed. You would think that a great deal of importance would be put on getting these sales formulas and processes right with continual refining but sadly that isn't always the case. All marketing dollars and all the advertising and merchandising effort is wasted if the person who is selling face to face either standing in front of, on the phone with, emailing, Skype or VOIP video with the prospective client, fails to close the deal.

Everyone has the capacity to be a salesperson; the problem is that selling is not a favourite task for most people. Many picture sales people as greedy, unethical, unscrupulous individuals who are determined to close a sale at any cost. However, as economies cannot survive without generating sales, these selling skills are a critical competency that needs to be acquired. The sales profession is an honourable profession and everyone involved in a business should learn some fundamentals.

Recently, a client of mine contacted her preferred freight company seeking a bulk rate for a large tonnage international shipment. The freight company telephone representative doggedly referred my client to their website for the rate. Later that day a senior representative from the freight company called to see whether they could proceed with a contract for that shipment. My client informed him that as their website bulk rate was completely inflexible and the delivery was urgent she had already gone elsewhere and booked the shipment.

As a result of that company’s failure to instill their telephone representative with the core skill of selling it represented an immediate loss of $100,000 or more let alone the incalculable loss of potential future business. In only a few seconds the telephone representative could have easily established the size of the order, the importance and urgency, and asked for permission for one of their specialists to come back in five minutes with an urgent rate.

Expensive few minutes wasn’t it? So imagine their hourly or annual loss reoccurring for the same problem.

It is time to recognize that salespeople have indispensable value in the organisation and their input should be sought at all levels.

Consider the structure of corporate business and how it is now seen as imperative for companies to have accountants, lawyers and a diverse variety of both men and women on the board. It should also be important that sales people are represented on the board as well. After all, outside board members can’t be quite as well informed as they might hope to be on customer matters as the salespeople who are interacting with them on a daily basis.

The sales people not only know the customer needs intimately but also know how those needs will affect the sales outcomes which are so critical to company profitability.

“There are two kinds of people, those who do the work, and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there”. (Indira Gandhi)

The Transition to Business Development

Heavy reliance on personal profiling has had a dramatic impact on the perceived value of a sales specialist. The emphasis has shifted and the trend now is to put a person into business development whose profile shows that they have the personality and the skills to be in sales, but as importantly, they would be bored witless in a technical or administrative position.

The position that they are then given is perceived as more important than a mere sales roll and is largely encompassed by the far broader description of business development. We now have business development assistants, business development associates, business development consultants, and business development managers. Relatively few seem to carry the title sales person or sales executive.

It’s almost as though sales has now become the apprenticeship for Business Development which includes a sales roll but demands a much wider range of expertise and tertiary qualifications. The Business Developer is also expected to be strong in other skills such as marketing, advertising, public relations, customer relations, and product development.

The title of “sales” is possibly perceived as a lesser term that no longer appeals to career seekers or no one wants to use any more because sales on its own is a very narrow career scope. Or maybe they have the belief that people don’t like being sold to anymore. Maybe that is a reflection of the old by gone days when we were subjected to the antics of those social hand grenades the gold chain wearing used car salesman. Ultimately whatever the choice of title description, the ability to sell and close the deal is the prelude to successful business activity.

Whatever the title, the skill of selling must be a core competency and it’s one that is not learned in university. Like golf, you can teach a golf swing but to perfect that swing and create a champion there is no substitute for going out and hitting the ball thousands of times to develop successful memory patterns. Similarly, in sales you must get out there and keep doing it many times over as well.

Because of their size, small businesses have to take the same approach. More often than not they have only one or two staff and they not only have to succeed at selling but they also have to fetch the mail, empty the rubbish, buy the stationery and clean the work and rest areas as well.

Having been involved for more than 30 years involved in selling, I thought by now that the art of selling to a system and winning sales processes would be ingrained in every person involved in the selling of any company’s products or services. With the proliferation of relatively low cost sales skills books, CDs and sales management material readily available in the world today, no one should be allowed to start talking about, or representing, a company's products and services until they are absolutely familiar with, and fully understand the fundamentals of selling.

It is a specialised arena that is still relatively easy to enter, because of the low cost of entry requirements.

All you need for personal appearance is; professionally-styled hair, businesslike but not necessarily expensive clothes, a few dabs of perfume or aftershave, some underarm charm, a good pair of clean shiny shoes, a smart tote, pen and paper, sufficient lunch money, a smile and a reliable either owned, leased or borrowed car.

Sometimes a fee paid open book qualification or compliance certificate is also required along with a standard police check. So your initial start up costs in the sales industry can be as little as $5000.

Incomes of $150-$250,000 are not uncommon for better than average salespeople and up into the millions for the top echelon. If you were going into a business on your own it would be difficult to find one for such a comparable start up cost with such a high potential return. It is a very good business even at 25% profit margin that will give you this kind of income for such a low set up cost. Obviously, your first sale is selling yourself to the company you choose to sell for.

Businesses have invested many thousands of dollars building up their own training programs and libraries with the aim of creating world class sales results. So what has been effective and what is really happening?

When asked recently to go out on routine observations, with a young gung ho 30-year-old salesman from a highly respected financial advisory company who use what they believed to be the best sales systems available, to my astonishment I discovered that this is not the case.

Phil Polson

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