Tuesday, 28 January 2014 13:09

How to help your sales force meet its goals

Salespeople always have goals they need to meet. Giving them a road map on how to achieve these goals can help increase accountability and boost sales.

“We developed something to make salespeople a little more responsible. We put a program together that not only sets goals, but helps them achieve their goals,” says Rick Voigt, president of Today’s Business Products.

Smart Business spoke with Voigt about setting sales goals and how businesses can get better results by making employees part of the process.

Where did the idea originate and how does the program work?

The program came out of a sales management group; another company had great success with it, and we tweaked it to suit our needs.

We call it ‘Stand and Deliver.’ Salespeople were given quotas, which were broken down by quarters. Then they were asked how they intended to reach these goals. That included things like what customers they were going to get, their top 10 prospects and leads they were working on.

It makes someone more accountable than just giving them a goal of $1 million and letting them figure out how to accomplish it. We’ve given salespeople quarterly quotas, but never asked them to come up with a plan for how those sales would be achieved. This way they take more ownership of their goals.

It’s a road map to success. By making it very detailed, it’s easier to follow through on the results. If someone says they are going to call on these 15 customers and try to expand their categories — try to get them to add janitorial products, for example — a manager can follow up on that and see the outcome.

How was the plan presented to employees?

They were provided with an outline and a template to work with, as well as examples of how to create a road map. A spreadsheet was provided that had different tabs to be filled out, including a section on what salespeople needed from the management team to be successful.

There also was a SWOT analysis — they were asked to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, both internally and externally. That provided us with a chance to evaluate their opinions of the company and our customers.

Where there any surprises?

No, but there were things mentioned that are needed and we’re working on those, such as a new software program that will provide them with a mobile app to access customer information.

The process was very positive; they did a great job making their presentations and were well prepared.

The intent of doing the road map is to eliminate excuses. At the end of the quarter, if all steps of the process are followed, then everyone should meet his or her goals. We made sure goals were manageable, although there also are stretch goals for employees who go above and beyond.

What if a salesperson follows through on the plan and doesn’t get the desired results?

Quarterly goals are set, but there are still monthly meetings to go over sales and see where assistance is needed. It could be a matter of sending out another salesperson, manager or even the owner to help the salesperson.

If someone hits 95 or 97 percent of the goal, but is really working and giving everything, you work with them. You can also tell, however, if someone is falling short because of attitude or work ethic. If they’re calling in sick frequently, coming in late or are never around, if they’re not asking questions of clients, that’s a different situation.

If you train employees well and they help each other out, there’s no reason why someone would fail. Some salespeople liked the road map because they wanted that direction and structure. They thought it would help them improve sales.

This helps employees understand what they need to do. Some were doing something similar already. This program just creates a more defined process.

Rick Voigt is president of Today’s Business Products. Reach him at (216) 267-5000 or rvoigt@todaysbp.com.

Insights Customer Service is brought to you by Today’s Business Products



Published in Cleveland

It’s difficult to know for certain what your clients want if you never ask them.

“Businesses should be asking their customers: What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong? What could we do better? If they’re not asking these questions, apparently they do not care about their customers,” says Rick Voigt, president of Today’s Business Products.

Smart Business spoke with Voigt about ways to gather customer feedback and how to use the results.

How do you find out about customer needs and wants?

You want to conduct surveys, usually at the end of the year. In order to encourage responses, offer an incentive like an entry into a drawing for an Apple iPad. We did that and had about a 20 percent return rate.
With surveys, you want people to be absolutely open and frank. You can’t improve and address problems if no one tells you about them. Another reason to do surveys is that 99 percent come back with praise for the great job being done. When customers put that on paper, it’s really ingrained in their minds. Then if a competitor comes in their door, they’ve just finished saying how great you are. Why would they want to talk to someone else?

What types of questions should be included in a survey?

It’s important to keep surveys short and to the point. When you’ve answered 20 questions and see the survey is only 7 percent complete, you’re not going to finish it.

Two questions we ask are to name their sales representative and driver. That reveals how effectively the sales consultant is at developing a relationship. If they don’t know the salesperson’s name, they don’t have a great relationship. The same goes for the driver — if they know the driver’s name, they have a relationship. Every point of contact with a customer should form a relationship to help establish your business with the client.

We also structure questions to get more information about the customer, such as how many employees work at that location or if they use other suppliers for furniture or office products. This information indicates the customer’s needs and if there’s an opportunity to generate more business with them. Surveys also can be used to determine ways to expand your business into a different product category. If it’s something else the customer uses, they’ll want to purchase it from someone they know and trust.

Our survey asks respondents to rate customer service regarding accuracy of orders, pricing, ease of placing orders and overall satisfaction, as well as what changes can be made to better serve their needs.

One issue that was brought up was the speed of our website. After seeing the responses, it was imperative to upgrade speed of ordering to better suit customers’ needs. We listened and that issue was resolved.

What else can be done to generate customer feedback?

For larger accounts, you can conduct business reviews that show them your performance. It’s like a report card — how is the fill rate, average order size, product categories purchased, method of purchases, etc.

Customers like the reviews because all the cards are out on the table. There’s a list of the top items ordered, and they can see opportunities to save money by going with substitutes. Changing brands can save a customer about 15 percent on average. Or maybe they can save by ordering a larger quantity at one time.

That helps when a competitor comes into the office and says they can save the business money; the client already knows they could save 15 percent if they changed brands. You have to tell customers this information because if you don’t, someone else will.

It’s important to show clients you’re working on their behalf, as a business partner rather than a vendor. You can replace vendors at any time, but you can’t replace a trusted business partner very easily.

Rick Voigt is the president of Today’s Business Products. Reach him at (216) 267-5000 or rvoigt@todaysbp.com.

Insights Customer Service is brought to you by Today’s Business Products

Published in Cleveland

Customer Service Week, set for Oct. 7 to 11 this year, provides a good opportunity to recognize the efforts of those employees who regularly serve as the face of your company when dealing with the public.

“When my dad and I started this company in 1984, one of the things he said to me was, ‘These are the people who make the company run and profitable. If you don’t take care of these people, you’re not going to have a company,’” says Rick Voigt, president of Today’s Business Products.

“Our customer service staff and delivery drivers have more day-to-day interaction with the customers than salespeople or managers,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with Voigt about ways to show customer service employees that they are appreciated.

How can companies show appreciation for their customer service employees?

Some ideas include putting caramel apples on desks with a sign ‘you’re the core of our business’ and mints thanking employees for their ‘commit-mint.’ Little trinkets can help put smiles on their faces, and that translates into happier workers when they’re dealing with customers.

The customer service team is an extension of the sales team, so the salespeople also should take part through some activity that shows their appreciation.

You could have salespeople answer phones when the customer service team is treated to a lunch. That helps show appreciation because the sales staff gains a better understanding of what customer service employees do by actually doing the job during that time.

What are some ways customer service personnel go above and beyond to provide a superior experience for clients?

You never want to say ‘no’ to clients. We have actually gone out and picked up a product not available through regular distribution channels in order to accommodate a customer.

One time, a customer placing an order mentioned being in trouble because there was no coffee in the office. An employee pulled it off the shelf and delivered it within 15 minutes. That customer was thrilled that someone went out of his or her way to bring him or her the coffee.

Personality is the most important quality to have in customer service. A male receptionist could seem strange at first to some customers, but may be the most qualified person, with a very pleasant, outgoing personality. If he’s doing his job, your customers will appreciate how they are greeted, regardless of who it is.

How important is it to have customers be able to call a live person rather than reach a directory?

Callers do not like getting a phone tree. A human being should answer the phone during business hours. Even if it’s outside normal business hours, if someone is in the office, they need to answer the phone. They may not be able to assist the caller directly, but they should at least transfer the call to the correct person’s voice mail, which in turn takes one more thing off of the caller’s plate.

People need to be confident that when they hang up the phone that their order, question or concern will be handled properly. That means providing proper training and giving employees authority to make decisions that are in the best interests of the customer and the company. If they are unsure about something, they can talk to a manager or supervisor and get right back to the customer.

Customers who call should not get the experience that you get with many 800 numbers — you don’t know if you’ll be on the phone for 30 minutes or longer. People want human interaction, so that’s what they should be given when they call.

When you give employees the proper tools to do their job and show appreciation for them, they’ll be happier and you’ll have satisfied customers.

Rick Voigt is the president of Today’s Business Products. Reach him at (216) 267-5000 or rvoigt@todaysbp.com.

Save the date: Oct. 7 to 11 is Customer Service Week. Show your customer service employees how you appreciate them.

Insights Customer Service is brought to you by Today’s Business Products

Published in Cleveland