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Recently my great industry friend and Scholarly Kitchen editor, Rick Anderson shared his views on “Six Key Mistakes Sales Representatives Are Making” http://bit.ly/Yp32QZ. I have known Rick for most of my 11-year tenure at Elsevier as the Sr. VP of Sales and Marketing for the Americas. After getting to know Rick, I came to respect him and his opinions as to how our account managers should interact with the library community. I respected him so much that I invited him to be our keynote speaker at our annual Sales Kick Off meeting back in January 2007. So, you will hopefully understand that I have a unique perspective about Rick’s background and expertise on this subject. I thought it would be useful to share with you my views on the “Best Practices Your Reps Should Use” as it relates to their every day interactions with the library community.
This article on the “Best Practices” is based on my collective experience and represents one of the many best practices that exists. Creating a high performing sales team requires consistent training and performance management. The best practice detailed in this article will give you a great start to a high performing sales organization.
There are a lot of best practices that a sales professional needs to inculcate in their every day business life. It is my hope that this article will generate a lot of thought, discussion and debate but most importantly, raise everyone’s perspective on the subject of best practices in sales and sales management. The sales profession at times gets a bad rap. Some of it deserved and some of it not. If we as a professional community want to improve the perception of the sales profession, we must look in the mirror and be the change that we desire.
Establish a sales process for your company.
There is a common misperception in business that hiring someone with sales experience will ensure that you will achieve your sales objectives. It has been my experience that most organizations do not understand the principles of professional sales and sales management. They will hire someone with a resume that promotes that they have sales experience and they hire another sales person, then another and another. Now, they have an organization on paper that appears to have great sales experience, but what they have not figured out is that their sales team is operating under different experiences and values. It is very similar to having a team of rowers on a crew boat and everyone is rowing to a different beat. With the proper direction, the crew team can achieve great things. The same can be said for your sales organization. If you were to provide your team with a defined sales process and a proper training program you will be assured that your team will have a greater opportunity to achieve your strategic objectives. Of course, there are other key activities that you will need to employ to manage the performance of your team, (i.e., having a proper mission, strategy, job descriptions, incentive plan, performance objective setting and reviews).
What is a sales process? The answer depends on the specific needs of your business, customers, products, services, etc. A sales process reflects the critical path of activities that your prospect/customer will go through to purchase your product and/or service. At each step of the critical path, a member of your team will have to interact with your prospect/customer. The success of each interaction will determine if the prospect/customer will proceed to the next step in the sales process. For example, the sales process should include but not be limited to the following steps: Pre-call analysis, initial call, follow-up call, proposal preparation and presentation, proposal counter meeting, negotiation and close.
Having a sales process for your company is very important as it will shape how your company will interact with the market. It will ensure that every time your team interacts with your prospect/customers they will have a very consistent high level delighted experience. Consider your favorite restaurant, airline or drycleaner. If they provide you with a delighted experience, you will continue to do business with them and you will recommend them to your friends and colleagues. Personal referrals are the best form of advertising for your team and company.
Providing your sales team with the proper foundation of an established sales process that invokes the key principles of your company along with a training program that reinforces these principles will ensure that your customers are receiving the best level of representation. If you do not provide your team with a firm overview of your training then you are not providing them the best opportunity to fulfill your strategy.