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The Magic of Sales. Oh C’mon, There’s No Magic!

 (Installment #1- for the owner/manager)

You might have noticed that there are thousands upon thousands of self - help books and videos out there claiming to fix everything that ails us - to make us better more loving people, to keep our marriages together, to help dissolve our marriages, to make us smarter, and so on and so on. Guess what? ‘Selling’ self-help books and tutorials are, also, under every rock, around every corner, and even popping up in our dreams. How many different ways can you be separated from you money? Apparently, in numerous ways and one thing is for sure… someone is sure making money at selling because a lot of this self-help material is just flying off the shelves!

 If you’ve ever skimmed through any of these books, you might have noticed something most have in common. The books are way too long (much, much too long) Instead of 150 or even 350 pages, maybe there are 10 pages that have good solid information you need (and that’s being generous). You pay probably $25.00 - $35.00 for one of these pearls of wisdom if you buy the actual book and it’s not any cheaper if you purchase a ‘valuable’ online tutorial. Ha! Selling is not complicated. Been happening as long as trade has existed. That’s not to say a refresher session isn’t needed from time to time but, really, no need for anything long and drawn out. So, to the point, then. Almost everything you need to know about how to select, maintain, and assist your sales staff.

 Numero uno – Please, please hire competent, personable people. By the way, be mindful when you’re interviewing because stats have shown that the person who impresses you with lots of the right buzz words and who seems really slick, isn’t necessarily the best candidate. Look for substance, for depth of knowledge, and intelligence. Can they think quickly on their feet? Can they problem solve? Also, look for someone who is articulate because selling is about communicating. Don’t let anyone tell you that good grammar has gone out of fashion because it has not! Don’t fall for the ‘slick’ pitch because it could indicate that that person might be willing to sell customers swampland in Florida (if you don’t want repeat business, go ahead, hire this snake oil salesperson). Also, when hiring, make sure you keep in mind exactly who you need for that job - match the strengths of your salespeople to your specific customers; for example, your best people with the most important or challenging customers and your least experienced with the easier accounts. Do not hire one of these Herb Tarlek (WKRP in Cincinnati 1978) types. Enough said here (and Herb’s suit? Ugh!).

 Once the sales staff is in place, you need to ensure that you have an environment and attitude that sets them up for success. On a personal level, that means continuous motivation and only constructive criticism. Praise the good (maybe even reward them with a car… hey, it doesn’t have to be a Range Rover, it can be a Hyundai. Okay, a ticket to a ball game then). Identify mistakes and correct them together. Belittling someone only fosters resentment and a poorer work ethic. Yelling at someone and pointing out that this is already mistake #183 is not helpful. Where were you at mistake #3, before it got serious? You, too, have responsibilities.

 Since you are an excellent manager yourself, you are a “hands on” manager and are always aware of what is going on around you (not off on a Trump golf course somewhere). Identify the simple, repeatable actions that show positive results and ones that can be mastered quickly. It’s easy to fall into bad habits (can you say social media?) so to get rid of those early on is essential. Remember that customers are your lifeblood and so knowing how to talk to them, even when to talk to them, and for what purpose (one that will benefit them!) is vital or you stand a good chance of really ticking them off and not getting or maintaining their business. As well, trust your staff, respect their ability to operate and do not hover over them like some drone buzzing around (remember that you hired the right people). Listen more, talk less, and interfere when there is a specific need (then it’s not interfering, it’s good management). You want to be aware of what they’re doing but you do not wish to micro-manage (it’s like your mother constantly nagging about your chores). Do make training an important component of their growth. There are always innovations and faster, better, more effective ways of doing something so make sure your staff is up to date.

 Speaking of being “with it”, make sure you have the right tools and support systems in place for your sales staff. Be efficient. There is software out there that reduces administrative work and actually keeps track of customer data and facilitates their needs. Paperwork doesn’t sell, one on one contacts do. Cheaping out here is shortsighted. We are out of the Dark Ages and into the Digital Age - ya gotta work with it! Find other staff in your company who will push the benefits of your company through social media like Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. If done well, these can be effective tools to enhance (but only enhance) the work of your fabulous sales team. Get great writers - worth their weight in gold!

 As you can see, this is not a 100 page, boringly repetitive manual on the deepest, darkest secrets of successful selling. However, the hope is that these few points highlight what has proven to be a successful strategy for many. This is not about reinventing the wheel but simply a reminder of best practices because, just as with anything else (think about your own driving), the longer we do it, the better we get but, also, sometimes the sloppier we get. So, a refresher, from time to time, makes sense to retain effectiveness, efficiency, and excellence (oh, and money - lots and lots of it!).