Sales Challenges: 10 Tips to Help Your Print Sales Reps Succeed
What do you give the print salesperson who has everything? Frustration because all phone calls find voicemail. Anxiety because he needs to make his numbers every month or else. Anger, as messages are rarely returned. Disbelief when their own customer service department sometimes feels more like a sales prevention department. And a loss of hope when call after call, day after day, yields no tangible results. Well, aspirin would certainly be appropriate and candlesticks are always nice, but if you are the owner/manager who the sales reps report to, knowing how to ease their pain is not always obvious. So, here’s 10 things to add to your shopping list:
1. Lead-gen: Do you really want to help your salesperson? Provide leads. Put the ball on the tee and hand the rep a club. Be as specific as you can: Paint the picture of the industries, size of company and geographical location of the best candidates for future customers.
Do you really, really want to help your salesperson? Provide contact information such as address, phone and website. Do you really, really, REALLY want to help your salesperson? Provide well-researched leads that include what they do, what their business challenges might be, a suggested opening line and the name of a contact to approach.
What owners do for reps should mirror what reps should do for their own clients: Help them grow through marketing support. In other words, stock the pond with fish and then hand your rep the rod.
2. Encouragement: The absolute worst thing you can tell a sales rep is to “Go sell something.” (Really? Thanks for that, boss. Tony Robbins has nothing on you.)
Instead, try using some words of affirmation, like, “I believe in you.” Encouragement is sweet music to the ears of a rep who constantly fights the negative emotions of the job. Not only that, but it’s free. Celebrate a successful sales week with a gift certificate. Write a note and stick it on their desk. Remember that a little recognition can go a long way.
3. Let them sell: The cruel reality of sales is that the more successful you become, the less time you have to become more successful. So, by removing all sales obstacles, a sales rep’s effectiveness can be maximized. Salespeople should not estimate, source, enter orders or deliver.
Salespeople should sell (Really? Thanks for that, Bill. Einstein has got nothing on you.) and the best way to consistently increase sales is by maximizing face time with clients and prospects. Clear the decks. Let them sell. After all, that’s what you hired them to do.
4. Educate: Sales training is considered a must when a salesperson is first starting out, but after that … often nothing. The best of the best never stop learning. Reps need to be constantly fed with advanced sales skills, as well as technical knowledge.
But even reminding them of the basics can be helpful. The point is to keep throwing fertilizer on the ground around them. If you want the tree to keep growing, make the roots as strong as possible.
5. Get and keep them organized: Test all salespeople for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and a large percentage will meet the requirements. ADD-prone sales people lack basic organizational skills and the discipline to stick to it and see a job all the way through.
Managers can help by forcing them to identify top priorities to be done the week ahead. A quick, simple meeting with a salesperson each week forces him/her to think through their workload and choose the most important item. Otherwise, reps tend to confuse busy with productive.
6. Give a personal budget for self-improvement: Is $250 going to kill you, Mr. Sales Manager? Then give each rep a small budget and let them decide how to use it. Everything is on the table, so long as they can convince you of how it will better their job performance.
7. Role play: The first time a baseball player comes up against a pitcher, he might strike out. But a few innings later when he sees that same hurler, the results are likely to be different, especially if he knows what to expect.
Similarly, the first time a rep comes up against an objection, a tongue-tied outcome is almost a given. But if that first time happens in the safety of a role-playing conversation, when the objection comes up again in a real-life situation, the salesperson will be well-prepared to overcome that roadblock. Everything that happens to a sales rep will happen again. And again. Help your reps to have an answer for every situation by practicing responses, voicemails, negotiating and closing techniques.
8. Short-term contests: In a world of instant-gratification, the idea of a year-long sales contest can be counter-productive. Sales people have the attention span of a toddler, so keep their reward initiatives in line by not exceeding 90 days.
9. Send your sales reps to a trade show or conference: Salespeople operate in a bubble. Their little sales territory represents their world. Can you say road trip? Trades shows, user group conferences or an association event are not only a nice reward, it can widen their industry perspective, help the rep to network, and provide them with sales ideas that will more than pay for the expense of the trip.
10. Lighten up, Francis: It’s Friday at 3 p.m. and your sales rep is MIA. Her chair is empty and the appointment calendar on her desk reads, “Tee time!”
If this rep’s sales are meeting expectations and you are hyperventilating, get yourself a paper bag and remember that people go into sales for two reasons: Money and lifestyle. Salespeople earn the right to flex-time. Suppress it and you might as well put an ad in the paper for your next rep now.
The happiest day in a sales manager’s life is when the rep says “I do” to the job offer proposal. It took months to find him, hours to interview him and it became a large distraction to all involved. Now that he’s onboard and producing, do you really want to start all over anytime soon?
If not, then you need to make the most of your investment and do everything possible to ensure his/her sales success. From generating the leads to providing motivation to removing all obstacles to their growth, managers can play a leading role in directing their next sales superstar.