Entrepreneurial

Running a successful sales office

By Reuters Staff
April 30, 2010

- Michael K. McKean is the CEO and director of new product development for the Knowland Group, a leading provider of business development solutions for the global hospitality industry. The views expressed are his own. -

“A-B-C. A-Always B-Be C-Closing…you close or you hit the bricks.”

This may work for Blake in the classic sales film Glengarry Glen Ross, but sales directors today know it’s not always that simple. No one can create the perfect sales office overnight, anymore than someone can wake up one day as a golf professional ready to win the Masters. Building a successful sales team takes skill, patience, and hard work.

But just as any golfer can quickly up their game with a few short lessons from a knowledgeable instructor, so can you improve your team with a few easy steps.

1. Make your sales managers cold calling experts

Teach your people valuable telesales techniques from the beginning. Things like:

  • Start out honestly by telling the prospect why you’re calling and how much of their time you’re going to take.
  • Don’t waste the prospect’s time. No one likes a salesperson who rattles on for 30 seconds without letting them get a word in.
  • Make sure to schedule a follow-up appointment or phone call before you hang up.

Help your sales managers know what to expect and be prepared for every contingency.

2. Throw out the flimsy leads

Nothing ruins the morale of a group of sales managers faster than giving them a list of dead-end leads. Don’t waste their time and they won’t waste yours. Proactive sales calls should be measured by quality, not quantity. Calling 10 high-level prospects is much more productive than spending hours making 100 arbitrary phone calls.

3. Focus on building relationships

It’s usually not about closing the deal on the first call – especially for large accounts. The first mission for all your sales managers should be to build relationships. Take the time to listen and learn about the potential client before making your pitch.

However, never let the prospect hang up the phone without having a set time to speak with them again. This ongoing conversation will leave potential clients feeling much more comfortable and willing to give you their business.

4. Remember the rule of seven touches

There is a theory that no prospect ever buys a product or service until he or she has been ‘touched’ at least seven times by a salesperson. What this really means is that sales is about creating relationships. And relationships take time. Quite frankly, the rule of seven touches can sometimes turn into the rule of nine touches, or sometimes even 29 touches. As long as your sales manager is reaching out to the prospect in a helpful and comfortable way, then each touch is as important.

5. Networking events can be overrated

While forging those relationships with potential customers is crucial, networking events are usually not the most practical way to go about it. Resources are frequently better spent with sales managers reaching out to prospects one-on-one than competing with dozens of others for a few minutes of their attention.

Networking should be viewed like branding or advertising. Carefully evaluate each opportunity for maximum impact, otherwise it will quickly become an expensive undertaking that generates limited results.

Each of these five tips is a quick way to improve your sales team. Just like a golfer putting a few simple principles into practice, by mastering these techniques you can see measurable progress in a relatively short amount of time.

Comments
5 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Might want to add in give them a great set of contact management tools. Whether it be Salesforce.com for lead management or InsideSales.com for contact/phone management, the more tools you give your sales people to close the more empowered they are.

Posted by SethKravitz | Report as abusive
 

This is a great reminder article. We all know the things mentioned but need to be reminded frequently. I think that the Networking angle is good for reminding us of the things we know. If you find yourself working the 100 “hope” accounts you need to keep yourself “up” and networking helps remind you of that.
Thanks for the reminders. Jon at Edgemaster Mobile Sharpening.

Posted by JonAHolmquist | Report as abusive
 

Great article Michael! I have been in sales for over 20 years and I think your advice is wonderful. In fact, I posted it on my Twitter account. However, as sales people I have discovered that the traditional methods are not as effective and efficient as they used to be. I had to change. So, I embraced the Internet and resources that the web provides and started conducting most of my first call appointments ONLINE! Now instead on seeing 3 or 4 people a day, I can connect with 6 or 8 prospects without leaving the office! I save time and money! More connections equal more sales opportunities! Secondly, I created an ONLINE NETWORKING group and invite my best prospects to the session. This turns a cold lead to a warm one. Third, I created an ONLINE TOOL that I share with my prospects that engages the prospect and helps them solve their problem. Now, they see me as a strategic partner and not someone trying to sell them something. These tactics have made be more successful and profitable! Thank you for sharing your wisdom and expertise!

Posted by KenE3C | Report as abusive
 

I really like what was said about networking events being overrated. I have seen some people be very strategic about planning what events to attend, and I have also seen people attend events to get business cards, as opposed to striving to generate more business. My thought is that the quality of conversations at networking events is more important than the quantity of conversations, and it is so important to meet new people, as opposed to stay with whoever you came with. Your tips are great in the sales office and can also be used in terms of generating relationships/future partnernships for non-profits.

Posted by josephinehanan | Report as abusive
 

Good post. I’m in a situation right now where pro-active sales is a necessity, when 4 years ago it was a luxury if I had the time.

I have begun creating sales material and quality leads – but I’m new at this part of the business. I spent all my time learning presentation, but if I can’t get the appointment, it isn’t going to do me any good.

You paragraph about networking events was refreshing. I’ve never had success at those events. When everyone is presenting themselves to everyone else, it becomes a talking game instead of listening – which is the antithesis of my strength in a first meeting.

Posted by Storiale | Report as abusive
 

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