All owners and managers of sales organizations should be spending time dwelling over the question, how good is my sales team?
- What process do we follow to select members of our most valuable asset?
- How effective are we at identifying quality prospects?
- Do we utilize multiple sources to search for prospects?
- What methods do we use to have on-going dialog with prospects?
- How do we determine who we will get face to face with?
- Are we asking the correct questions and obtaining the proper information to provide a recommendation the prospect wants?
- Are we selling on margin?
- Are we leveraging the proper testimonials to convince our prospects we are the least risk solution?
As you begin to answer these and other questions a clearer picture will develop. Are you an owner/manager who is in denial? Perhaps because numbers are being hit you are looking the other way. There are a host of issues that can dupe you into thinking that things are okay.
- Strong brands create a weak sales force!
You may be obtaining business in your region due to a strong brand created by a corporate marketing machine and national account team. Though there is nothing generally wrong with this it creates a weak sales effort on the local and regional level as the branch becomes staffed with “service-oriented” staff and not ”business development staff”. I have countless examples of larger entities that are wondering why they cannot obtain the larger margin boutique business.
- Low price/small margins can create a weak sales force!
Out in the staffing market there are plenty of firms whose strategy is to be the lowest priced option. My intent is not to stand on a soapbox and comment on any firm’s pricing strategy. Organizations have succeeded for years being and promoting themselves as the low price option in their market or industry. If this truly is how someone decides to gain market share then there is not much orientation or training we need to provide the sales team. Basically just get out there and extract your client’s current pricing and beat the rate/fee.
- Lack of strong competition can fool you.
Some of you out there who are working in the large metropolitan areas probably find this hard to believe. If you are operating in a large city in the United States, it is not unusual to have hundreds of competitors who are providing the same services as you. I have witnessed over the past five years several rural and suburban markets where an organization had a nice percentage of market penetration only because their competition is so bad. Once their competition ups their game or a new competitor moves into the market they can lose market share dramatically.
- You are in a service or sales maintenance mode.
This could be the worst virus to infect the building of a high performance sales team. I have seen many successful organizations that balance between selling new business and filling the job orders they have. When they have no job orders they sell. When they have job orders they service. This is okay. Much of this boils down to the goals of the organization and the ownership. Unfortunately, I have witness cultures where selling is something you do when there is nothing else to do. What we fail to realize is that when you sell today you are really working towards business 3-5 months from now.
Review these top four points and discuss them with your team. Try to do an honest appraisal of your situation to determine if these may be affecting your staffing organization. Then look at your team and review the numbers that you hold them accountable for. After your analysis you may decide to re-establish goal setting and other targets. If you are not already doing so you should be stressing full margin selling. Also make sure that your team understands what margin is and why it is so important. It is shocking how many staffing organizations have a mystery around gross margin. If I ask ten frontline staffing employees to explain to me how there firm establishes gross margin, less then half will provide me with a full or correct answer. It’s all about margin.
Other steps you should be taking:
- Monitor the competition– In the big world of business well-run companies know what the competition is doing. The academics call it competitive intelligence. Coke knows everything that Pepsi is doing. Wal-Mart is on top of Target. Microsoft has teams of people who are watching everything that Apple does. So why do we know very little about our Sure we may know some basic surface stuff, but are we in touch with how they are positioned in the market. If you want to find out what your team is made of, assign each one of them one of your competitors and have them present their findings in the next sales meeting. We spend a great deal of time in the IMPACT for Staffing Sales Program on competitive intelligence.
- Observe salespeople in the field– This is an absolute must if you are to have a handle on the performance of your team.You must be in the field providing valuable in-process coaching. Many staffing owners/managers are only providing the end-process measurement of monthly sales. By just looking at the end process you could be too late for any course correction.
- Look for year after year improvement– Your people should be showing some improvement year after year in their gross margin. If not, then we need to look under the hood and perform a diagnosis of all critical points.
- Monitor marketplace trends– In the movie, Other Peoples Money,Danny DeVito plays a tough Wall Street shark who is involved in hostile takeovers. During one of his speeches to a group of employees he says,” There were once good people in this country that made great horse and buggy whips then the automobile came.” If we have a blind eye to what is happening in our market we will wake up one day and wonder what happen. There is nothing exciting about going after increase market share of a decreasing market.
- Develop stats that are relative to driving new business– A frequent questions I am asked by staffing owners/managers is what are acceptable activity numbers to hold my group accountable for. I do not have a one size fits all approach to this question. Number of calls, number of face to face appointments, number of new client visits, number of networking opportunities, new job orders generated etc. all are noble pursuits to increase business. What I always recommend is that you come up with an average to a certain activity based on the level of experience. A new rep is geared towards prospecting activity while a more experienced rep may be steered more towards orders and horizontal/vertical account integration.
Take the time to review your business development efforts. In a time where most services are in a heavy maintenance mode, very often we overlook the other main artery of our staffing organization – the sales force.