SI Review: September 2011

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Power Seller

Lead the Way

Don’t assume your sales rep has the answers

In my 18 years in the staffing industry — four of them consulting to staffing firms of all shapes, sizes and disciplines — I noticed that when it comes to ensuring sales reps are successful, the same stubborn issue rears its head over and over again: Sales managers aren’t providing their reps tools they need to get the job done.

A sales manager can’t assume past experience is all a rep needs. I’ve found that even people with experience need three things: 1. complete clarity in terms of what is expected of them, 2. to be held accountable to those expectations consistently, and 3. training and support from their next-level manager to make it happen.

Here are steps a sales manager must take to set up sales reps for success:

The company way. Train your reps to sell staffing solutions your company’s way. Your rep must understand how to deliver your firm’s value proposition and help buyers understand the distinctions between it and your competitors.

Incentive plan. Make sure your rep’s incentive plan is aligned with company sales objectives, and that it drives the right behavior. Is the plan for your rep designed to take the business where you want to go and achievable? Unachievable goals demotivate a rep faster than he can say “I quit.”

Quota. Make sure your rep knows exactly what he has to produce to achieve his quota. This requires reviewing your sales history and doing some math. Make sure your rep is carrying a pipeline of qualified prospects with combined revenue potential large enough for him to exceed that quota based on an average close rate. If you don’t know these numbers, get some help with industry averages.

Account list. Make sure your rep has a thoughtfully-constructed target account list. This doesn’t mean telling your rep to canvass the market for big logos and write some names down. Who is your firm’s ideal prospect? What does your current client list look like? Who are you most successful winning business with — large accounts or small to midsize firms? What industries are growing in your market? What skills are in high demand that your company can service well? The decisions you make together before building a list is as important as the list itself. It all starts with a quality target account list.

Activities and metrics. Determine the high-payoff sales activities and establish minimum weekly activity metrics with your rep. Today more than ever, sales reps can waste a lot of time on activities that don’t produce results. Your reps must creatively use a variety of marketing tactics to get a prospect’s attention, and they must touch the contacts on their account list frequently enough to be noticed and remembered when a staffing need arises. Reps should focus on calls, emails, social media, networking events and face-to-face appointments spent discussing the client’s critical business issues. Consistent, quality sales activity precedes consistent, quality sales success.

Track Progress. Sales managers must have visibility to reps’ activity to coach them effectively. So make sure you have a tracking system in place, whether your firm has the latest salesforce automation tool integrated with the front-office system or your reps use a simple spreadsheet.

Measure. Inspect what you expect regularly. What gets measured gets done. Enough said.

Coach. Coach your reps to success, and if you don’t have the time or the competencies, get some coaching from a third party to support the effort.

Be accountable. Don’t ask your rep to do anything you don’t do yourself. Managers who lead by example are those who garner respect, loyalty, and results from their direct reports.

Quality time. When you spend time with your rep, make it meaningful. Establish a routine schedule to include ride-alongs, joint sales calls, reviewing numbers, rewarding successes, and addressing frustrations by coaching in the moment. Consistency is the key here.

Ultimately, if your sales rep is not successful, it may have as much to do with the way he or she is being managed as with his or her inherent abilities and motivation. As the sales manager, it’s ultimately up to you to drive sales for your organization.

Amy Bingham is managing partner of Bingham Consulting Professionals LLC. An industry veteran, she advises staffing firms in the area of sales effectiveness through strategic planning, strategy execution and performance coaching. She can be reached at abingham@binghamcp.com.

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