As a group of sales trainees took a break from our workshop on selling, the distress they were feeling, was clearly manifest in their intense discussions. It was obvious from their unrestrained conversations that the software being installed to track their sales performance was the reason for their anxiety. It was also evident from their negative comments, that many of these trainees had already given up on selling their company's services and that no amount of sales training could help them sell their firm's services. Our client, a large midwestern service firm, was willing to pay generous incentives for their customer service staff to up sell additional services. Yet, most participants in this training session felt, for a variety of reasons, that obtaining additional sales was impossible.
Jenny, a customer service representative from one of the inner-city offices of the firm was typical in her feelings about being asked to sell. She talked about how difficult it was to achieve sales success because of her location and the unique customer base she worked with daily. She said it would be impossible to achieve the sales success of coworkers in the more wealthy suburban locations-"so why even try?"
Jenny specifically talked about a coworker by the name of Arlene who had been exceptionally productive in producing sales over the last three months. Arlene worked at a branch in an upper middle class suburb. She had earned over half the incentive pool for her sales success, doubling her income. Jenny told the group, that she was sure she could do the same thing, if she could work in the suburbs like Arlene.
On meeting Arlene for the first time, you might surmise that her warm and friendly disposition produced her ongoing sales success. She has a great personality. As Jenny inferred, you might also feel, after visiting her office, that her location assisted in her phenomenal sales success. Her customers certainly have the money to invest in her products and services. However, to learn exactly what was behind Arlene's success, the firm's regional sales manager had her "shopped," (had someone act like a customer to check her performance). They also had her local manager observe her work for a few days to see if they could learn more about her success. On closer scrutiny, the sales manager learned that Arlene consistently used the selling process The $elling Edge?, Inc. had taught her in our workshops and our Self-Directed Learning reinforcement series. Along with Arlene's warmth, friendly personality and favorable location, it appeared that using our "selling process" was the major factor in her consistent sales success.
Because there were so many complaints about the unfair incentive and tracking system being implemented by the firm, the regional sales manager decided to run a test on his staff. He wanted to see if Jenny was correct in her assessment. Did the location of a branch dramatically impact an employee's ability to sell and earn additional income? Was it true that location alone determined the amount of incentive bonuses paid out? Overnight, this manager reassigned Arlene to Jenny's inner-city location. Jenny then took Arlene's place in the suburbs.
The first week after the transfer, Arlene's sales plummeted, possibly giving some credence to Jenny's theory. What few sales Jenny had been making also declined her first week in the suburbs. Since neither employee was familiar with their new customer base, these reductions in sales seemed in order. However, on checking the two representative's sales success on a weekly basis, the sales manager soon learned that location had little to do with sales or lack of success. As the weeks progressed, Arlene's sales began to steadily climb. After a month and a half in the inner-city location, her level of sales success was right back up to her production levels before her move to the inner-city. Jenny, on the other hand, over the test period, was never able to move her sales beyond what she had been doing before her move. Of course, she had an excuse for not performing well. Jenny told everyone that her sales were low because she had not had the time to get to know the customers in her new location.
Although Jenny had a pleasant personality and seemed to get along well with people, her new manager observed that she seemed unwilling to learn and then use any of the sales techniques taught in our workshops. When she was "shopped" during the test period, it was obvious that Jenny tried to use her personality to persuade her customers to buy from her. Not once did she move out from behind her desk to greet customers, nor did she shake their hand. She immediately got down to business, and failed to build rapport with the people she served. She preferred to be efficient and in turn was not at all effective in selling her firm's products and services. In short, Jenny did none of the things that would help her build the kind of customer relationships that regularly produced additional sales.
As the manager evaluated the results of the test, it became clear that Jenny's bad attitude about selling was at the heart of her poor sales record. Also, not learning and using the sales tools she had been given was the deciding factor in her lack of sales success. Arlene, on the other hand, had proven that an office location was not a major factor in the sales process for this firm.
On closer scrutiny, the regional sales manager found that a bad attitude about sales permeated the entire inner-city staff. To a person, they felt that they could not sell the customers they served, so they quit trying. While at the suburban location, everyone was upbeat about the new sales skills they had acquired from our workshop and used the methods to consistently sell their customers and earn more money while they generated more business for the firm.
As the regional sales manager looked into this attitude problem further, it became clear that the contrast in staff feelings about the consultative sales process they had been taught, primarily emanated from their respective managers. For the most part, Jenny only parroted back what she had heard her inner-city manager say about the selling process. On the other hand, Arlene's attitude about selling simply mirrored what flowed daily from her suburban manager.
As you lead your sales team, what messages are you sending to them about the selling process? Do they know that you believe in and personally use the sales tools that they must master to succeed? Are they able to use your example as a springboard to staff sales success? It really is your extended shadow that controls how well your staff performs their sales duties. As the research into the selling process outlined in this lesson clearly shows, sales success, truly lies in the extended shadow of the sales manager or supervisor. Check out our personal sales coaching training at:
VIRDEN J. THORNTON is the founder and President of The $elling Edge?, Inc. a firm specializing in sales, customer relations, and management training and development. Clients have included Sears Optical, Eastman Kodak, IBM, Deloitte & Touch?, Bank One, Jefferson Pilot, and Wal-Mart to name a few. Virden is the author of Prospecting: The Key To Sales Success and the best selling Building & Closing the Sale, Fifty-Minute series books and Close That Sale, a video/audio tape series published by Crisp Publications, Inc. Menlo Park, California. He has also authored a Self-Directed Learning series of sales, coaching & team development, telemarketing, and personal productivity training guides.
Check out the listed books and manuals at http://www.TheSellingEdge.com/books1.htm
Virden teaches for the Center For Professional Development, Texas Tech University at Lubbock, Texas and in the School Of Entrepreneurship, J. Willard And Alice S. Marriott School Of Management at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. You can contact Virden at: Virden@TheSellingEdge.com.