Today CEOs are in a quagmire. They are finding themselves running their businesses, making CEO decisions yet having to either manage a sales department or wear the sales hat themselves. What’s a CEO to do today?
There are 5 things I think are imperative to do if you would like to make it through these crazy times. Interestingly enough, these things should also be done when things aren’t so crazy.
- Scale down your existing sales staff. Decide who make for the cream of the crop and get rid of the rest. How do you decide? By the 3 A’s. The first is Attitude. Do they have a positive attitude? A belief that if they can’t do it the way they always have, they are willing to look at their sales situations as true opportunities and use every minute to look at things differently. The second is Activities. Activities are the actual pro-activities that they do to prospect every day, every week, every month. It could be a combination of cold-calling, networking, cross-selling to existing clients, strategic alliance meetings etc. Activities are different for everyone but the ability to commit to whatever they are and stick to it day in and day out is imperative. The third is Approach. The approach is what your sales rep says and does in front of, and on the phone with a prospect. The other two cannot really be taught, but this one can.
- Teach your best people to sell in this environment with a specific process. None have ever sold in a volatile, fear-filled time like this before, and doing so without proper training is ensuring failure. A process to sell doesn’t mean a memorized script. What it means is an agenda of how they will approach each prospect, what questions they will ask, what they will do with the answers, how they will uncover the available budget and what will the next steps look like.
- Train your existing non-sales staff to be your marketing arm. Sales training can not only be used to train the sales organization but the non-sales people as well. Often we have non-salespeople in our organization that are in contact with our clients and potential prospects on a regular basis. Are they asking for referrals? Do they know how? The connections that exist with this segment of your organization are often overlooked.
- Learn to manage a sales team through the 3 “A’s”. As previously discussed, the three A’s are the basis of success. Additionally, it is the easiest and most effective way to manage your team. Keep an eye and ear out for a positive attitude. If you see or hear a negative one, which is easily identified through excuse making, it will become a cancer so cut it out immediately. Use salespeoples’ individual activities to help them track their success through the activities they carry out. A specific approach will allow you to have a real post-appointment discussion on what went right and wrong as opposed to the typical discussion which often includes a conversation like, “so how did it go?”, “pretty good, pretty good” which tells you nothing.
- Build your business on referrals and networking with no cash. Today networking is the way to build a business. Don’t get me wrong, there is obviously a place for advertising and other strategic marketing, but to help get you through some of these tough times, you should secure your brand by being out there in the community. Networking is again something that should be done through a process and if you read my articles regularly, you know that. Additionally we are not getting as many referrals as we should from existing clients and there are two reasons for that, 1) we don’t ask, 2) we don’t ask properly. Properly means you must be specific when asking for referrals. Either a specific person from a particular organization, a position of a person in a type of business, or an alliance of someone connected in the community that you haven’t met.
As we all work with the skeleton crew that we are left with, let’s work harder and better to make a success of our business. Getting back to basics, is it ever smart to get far away from that?
About the Author
Greta Schulz is the President of Schulz Business and author of “To Sell is Not to Sell” She has been in sales, sales management and training for over 25 years having begun her career right out of college when she was hired by the Xerox Corporation. Greta is also a syndicated columnist for several newspapers and specifically the American City Business Journals around the country.