Are Your Sales People Selling?
I’ve got a question for you. It sounds a little like one of those confused movie scenes with two people arguing in circles, so bear with me. Here goes…
Do you know what they don’t know? And if they don’t know, what are you doing to make sure they know? I’m referring to your sales team and I’ve got some very strong evidence that they’re not selling, they’re only telling!
Thank you for humouring me – now I’ll get to the point.
One of our clients wanted a custom-made sales questionnaire designed to identify the training needs of existing staff and any new hires. We did this and it was so successful we have rolled it out into our interviewing.
The results, across 50 Sales Representatives and Account Managers in the hardware (merchant and associated reseller channels) and general building supplies (trade and specification) were enlightening to say the least and actually more than a little frightening.
In fact what we found is quite possibly a major contributing factor to the constant erosion of margin affecting our businesses and indeed the greater industry.
DO YOU HAVE SALESPEOPLE WHO CAN SELL?
Here’s what we discovered – hold on to your hat! – 70% of salespeople do not close on a proposal. Instead they’re leaving the client with the proposal and adding several steps to the sales process without any call to action or commitment from the client.
It became apparent that, for 70% of salespeople in our market, good follow-up is more important than actually taking a prospect through a measured and win-win sales process resulting in an equitable sale at that call.
A whopping 70% of those tested could not work through the sales steps involved with overcoming a client’s price objection and a further 60% when pressed on this would look for a cheaper product in their range to sell based on the perceived “client’s budget”.
This was actually the most alarming find for us – that 50% of salespeople tested will either drop their margin there and then or, even more alarming, contact their Manager for permission to do a deal for the client. This not only erodes their own accountability but also raises some questions about the Sales Manager’s ability, doesn’t it?
Let’s just run through some of our findings:
- 50% could not effectively overcome a quality objection, i.e. turn a client’s concerns over your product when compared to a competitor’s into a sale.
- 40% cannot work out gross margin, net profit or mark-up and therefore are likely unable to identify and pursue profitable deals for their business.
- 40% have no per client or per-call objectives and are doing the barest rudiments of sales and call planning.
- 30% hadn’t spent a day in the field with their Sales or Line Manager in the past three months.
- 80% hadn’t learned or been shown anything by their Manager in that time that had led to a change in sales behaviour(s) or an increased perception of their role or their employer’s expectations.
I’m sure you will agree with me that these are concerning statistics and proof that we are not really selling to our customers. Instead we are telling them “stuff” and expecting them to respond favourably. When they don’t, it’s highly likely we are then evading this and either dropping our prices or pushing a lower margin product.
WHAT HAS THIS TO DO WITH RECRUITMENT?
Now I hope you can see that all this has a direct correlation with your hiring processes and ongoing training and support initiatives?
See, you either hire people that can do this for you and have the ability to increase or at least maintain your margins, or you train the people in your team to do this and in doing so, identify and possibly look at removing those who can’t.
It’s absolutely possible to tweak your recruitment of salespeople to a point where you are literally ruthless about those who join your business and ensuring they have the ability to promote your products in the market as absolutely favourable compared to your competitors’ and worth every penny!
There was also another question which all this raised for me – instead of hiring for client base or industry experience, shouldn’t you be looking outside your industry for talent who can really sell, and then teach them your business?
So now you know what they don’t know – what are you going to do about it?