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Building a successful sales force

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30 / May / 2008

Sales men and women tend to get a bad rap from most of the public. From selling insurance, to used cars and “cold-calling”, sales personnel tend to be caught up in a stigma of bad suits, flashy lines and undelivered promises.

For most people in business, we know this is not the truth and that without a strong sales force your business is flawed. However, getting the right sales team is a real challenge and relies on the manager to have a clear understanding of some key facets of the business.
The manager must have intricate knowledge of the following:

  • Customer – target market; who are they?
  • Product/service – What are we selling and why does the customer want it?
  • Competition – What are our competitors doing and what is our point of differentiation?
  • Financial – What do we need to achieve to be profitable/successful?

Once these are clear, the manager can then focus on building a sales team to reflect the requirements of the business. Easier said than done, right? Well, actually it’s not as bad as you’d think. A sales team is really no different to any other department in terms of structure, you need a strong team on the ground servicing all customers, and they need to be led by a strong leader who isn’t afraid to “roll the sleeves up” when required.

For the sales team at ground level, they must have the following attributes:

  • Personable – people need to be drawn to them and respect their assistance/recommendations.
  • Focus on relationships – and this is probably number one in the book of business. Customers are the reason you live and die, so team members must focus on building real relationships.
  • Under promise and over deliver – never disappoint a customer, but if there is a time when disappointment is inevitable you must provide a solution. Most customers can deal with problems, but not surprises. Be open and honest with your customers, integrity will always be rewarded.
  • Humble – no customer should be treated differently at the sales level. Everyone is a potential customer and should be treated as such and nobody likes a sales member with attitude!
  • Ability to up-sell – this is very important, but should never come at the expense of delivering what the customer wants. There’s no point over-selling to a customer to leave them feeling disgruntled, they should always leave feeling comfortable with what they have received and looking forward to the next visit.
  • A thorough knowledge of the product/service being offered – if you don’t know what you’re selling, a customer will eat you alive. Many customers have peculiar questions, you need to be prepared to answer any.
  • Ability to close the sale – “I could have sold that guy $1000 worth of product” is useless to anyone. It’s not about what you could have done, it’s about what you have done. However, as mentioned above, keep in mind that customers are forever, so invest in them for the future, if you’re good they will be back.

Sales teams create revenue, without which no business would be around. But, there are real sales and “selling icy poles to eskimos” – the latter sounds great in sales text books, but in reality, the customer will determine the sale. The salesman’s role is merely to satisfy their requirements.

Get to know your customer, find out their requirements and then deliver a fantastic product/service that exceeds their expectations.

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