I would avoid sending literature unless it's absolutely necessary. Nobody buys a product or service based on the literature alone. Oftentimes, a request for literature is really just a put-off. Unfortunately, many sales representatives mistake this for genuine interest.
The first step in dealing with a request for literature is to ascertain whether the prospect is for real or just trying to get rid of your rep. I do this by making the following statement: "I'd be happy to send you literature, but I have to tell you-most of the time when people ask me for literature, they're really not interested in what we do. The last thing you need is one more piece of literature to clutter up your office. If you're not really interested, I'm OK with that."
If the prospect is genuinely interested, your sales rep still shouldn't send it. Instead, your sales rep should use your literature as a pretense for uncovering his or her true needs and concerns. The best way I've seen this handled is what one of my clients does.
In response to a request for literature, my client says, "I'd love to, but I'm not sure what to send you. I have four different sets of literature-one for clients who have problem A, another for problem B, a different set for problem C and yet another for problem D. Which one should I send you?"
If the prospect selects problem B, my client simply responds, "That's interesting. Why did you pick that one?" Now your sales representative is off and running with questions that will lead you to getting an appointment.
I have several sales representatives who consistently fail to reach their sales targets. As a manager, what should I be doing?
Whenever managing sales representatives, you should focus on their behavior instead of their results. Behavior is the controllable activity that your sales reps should be performing on a consistent basis. Break the larger goal into quarterly segments, outline the behavior needed to achieve each of those smaller goals or benchmarks, and begin monitoring this activity.
You cannot manage anything that you cannot control. Your salespeople cannot control whether a particular prospect needs, wants or can afford the product or service they are selling, or whether a customer needs to reorder at any given time. What they can control is whether they call on the prospects and customers. If you manage the activity, the results will take care of themselves, provided that the sales reps are using a system for selling.
To ensure that your sales reps are using a system and not simply making social visits when calling on prospects, use a checklist of informational items that need to be covered at each step in the selling process-and the small agreements that must be made along the way to achieve a successful outcome.
Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a Pittsburgh-based sales training and consulting firm. Send your comments and questions to Larry Lewis via fax at (724) 933-9112 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be reached by phone at (724) 933-9110.