You’ve developed a valued product or service. Your business plan is secured. How you decide who will sell it could mean the difference between success and failure.
“You could have the most fantastic product in the world,” says Jim Sherry, vice president of Devon Consulting in Philadelphia. “None of that matters if you’re unable to sell your product effectively.”
In this first part of a two-part series, Smart Business talked to Sherry about sales teams who guides and coaches the team to make it as productive as possible, and the importance of attitude. Part Two will appear in the February issue.
How important is selling to a business?
Nothing happens until something is sold. For most companies, the vehicle to sell their product is through a sales channel, and many companies have direct sales channels salespeople. If you look at the sales process and function in most businesses, it is the most important process or function.
How does a company find the right strategy to sell effectively?
For most companies today, that answer is people. Despite all the business process outsourcing, sales ultimately boils down to relationships, and that’s a direct sales function. And although you can sell over the phone or on-line, there is still no substitute for the face-to-face sales call because in the end, people buy from people that they know, like and trust.
What does it take to be a good salesperson?
Sales is a professional occupation. Most people think that the best salespeople are the best talkers. Actually, they are the best listeners. Nobody wants to be sold to, but everybody wants to buy and everyone wants to be heard. The top echelon of salespeople ask six times as many questions as the average salesperson does, so it’s really not about talking.
Everyone has had the experience of walking into a store when a salesperson runs up and says, ‘I know exactly what you need’ without asking a single question. All they know, for example, is that you’re going on vacation and they have the perfect pair of skis and boots; the only trouble is, you’re going to the Caribbean.
If you ask the right questions and listen effectively, the customer will tell you what he or she wants to buy. It’s about solving their problems, not yours.
What skills are important to be successful in sales?
It’s possible for good salespeople to change industries because they can be taught the specifics about a product, a sales strategy or the industry. What you can’t teach is attitude. If someone inherently has the attitude, motivation and desire to succeed, then he or she can be coached. I want people who see the glass as half full, not half empty.
People need to maintain their uniqueness, yet remain positive. Nobody wants to engage someone who thinks the sky is falling. I believe a positive attitude is what separates the great salespeople from the average ones.
How do you hire good salespeople?
It can be hard. Very few people that end up in sales planned to be in sales. It’s not something that you typically go to school for, such as studying to become a doctor or lawyer or engineer. Sales is easy to get into, but it’s hard to be good. Sales can be one of the highest-paying hardest jobs or lowest-paying easy jobs in the world.
How do you develop sales plans and sales goals?
I think most people would rather have a say in deciding what they are going to do and how to do it rather than someone telling them they have to do it a certain way. If somebody has authorship in the designing of plans and goals and that person buys into it, there is a much better chance that he or she will take that plan to heart and develop the plans and take the actions necessary to make it happen. It’s called co-development.
What is the role of the sales manager?
The job of the sales manager is not to sell but to grow his salespeople.
One of the primary roles of a professional sales manager is to coach his team and to train and develop its members to reach their success potential. I don’t want to sell for them and I want them to think for themselves. If a salesperson comes to me with a problem, I first ask them how he or she thinks we should solve it. I don’t want to be a crutch.
In ways, it’s like being a psychiatrist. Coaching is one of the major aspects of being a good sales manager.
JIM SHERRY is vice president of Devon Consulting in Philadelphia. Reach him at email@example.com or (610) 964-5769.