I've just heard this story too many times not to share it as a learning moment.
I received a call from a salesperson asking for advice as he struggled to meet his quarterly sales quota. I assumed he was calling looking for new sales techniques or particular guidance on moving a client to close. But this was not the case at all. Here is how the dialogue went:
Salesperson says, “I’m selling a product in a market where I have a competitor selling the exact same thing.”
I replied, “Same thing? You mean same features, same everything?”
“Are you more price competitive?”
“No, not really. We offer trade in of older equipment to bring the price down but so does our competitor”
“What about service?”
“Yeah, we do support the customer better than they do.”
”That’s good. But will your customer pay more for this better service?”
“Interesting, so tell me what kind of direction have you received from the owner of the business you work for?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, given the market realities you’ve outlined, how does your owner expect you to win new business? Is he doing things to separate you from this competitor? For example, specializing in a certain niche (becoming experts and thus the preferred vendor) or using marketing and strong advertising techniques to build brand preference (aka, Colgate vs Crest toothpaste)?”
“No, the only guidance I was given was, “Treat it like it’s your business.”
Even the best salesperson will under-perform or fail under these conditions. It is not the salesperson's job to identify target customers and invent ways to differentiate. The role of the owner, President and/or CEO of a business is to equip your sales team with the tools to be successful. At a minimum this includes the following:
Given that only 28% of a salesperson’s time is spent in front of the customer and about 50% of that time is actually selling (the rest is prospecting (35%), relationship building (10%), and training (5%)), it is imperative, you the owner, equip him/her with the tools to ensure it is the right prospect and that he maximizes the productivity of that time.
In my 12 years of consulting "under-performing sales" has been by far the number one pain point with the blame typically placed squarely on the salesperson or VP of Sales. It is not long into the engagement when humility kicks in as the owner discovers it is their lack of a long-range plan, a clear understanding of what makes them different, a detailed knowledge of their competitors, and an ineffective or non-existent marketing strategy that are the real culprits.
Want to grow your metro Atlanta business? Let's talk over a cup of coffee about what we can do to give your sales team the right tools for success?