Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sales Tips Learned While Falling From the Sky

I had the unique experience of jumping out of a perfectly good plane a few years ago. Prior to boarding the airplane and jumping out of it, the skydiving club educated us via a detailed ground school class. Through experience they knew it was a lot easier to figure out potential problems in the classroom than while plummeting to the ground at a high rate of speed.

Our instructor had completed hundreds of successful jumps and assured us that if we followed what he told us, we would have a great experience. Needless to say, none of the people in our group was going to "figure out our own way" to jump. Not a smart idea. We learned how to exit the plane safely so we didn’t have an encounter with the propeller, how to fall in the right posture, when to pull our chute, and how to land safely. The jump went off without a hitch and it was a fantastic experience. We understood and knew that the person we had been listening to knew what the heck he was talking about and that we were all in a much better situation to listen to his every word rather than “trial and error” which could be catastrophic.

Fast forward a few years later where I found myself as a sales manager running the #1 vacuum dealership in North America with my great friend and sales genius, Joe DelVecchio. We had 150 total sales people and had nearly 60 people coming in every day to sell full time, door to door. To insure success we would track everything: number of demonstrations, the number of referrals, the number of sales, and the number of owner referrals.

One day, we realized that the closing ratios weren’t adding up. Most direct sales closing ratios are 1 sale for every 3 or 4 demos. We were running 1 sale for every 6. In the morning meeting we decided to let all of the reps know that there were two people out of the 80 demonstrations scheduled for that day who were friends of Joe. They had been briefed on how the demonstration was supposed to run, no short cuts, including the appropriate closes. It was like a secret shopper, but the sales person would visit the shopper instead of the other way around. If the rep happened to do a demonstration for one of those people and did everything right, we would reward them with $200 cash the next morning.

An interesting thing happened that day. Instead of the 1 in 6 closing ratio, our group closed 1 in 2.6. The next morning, the reps came in fired up and excited. They had earned almost $21,000 in commission collectively the day prior. We placed every demo sheet in a hat and drew two names for the $200 cash. Frankly, Joe and I never did have any secret shoppers that day, but the lesson was the same. If you do the right things, every time; you will get the right results.

Do you have a business where your sales force roams free and doesn’t produce? Don’t get me wrong; if you have a salesperson that achieves fantastic results and puts on a clown suit to do it, that’s fine with me. However, most salespeople will flounder without a system and burn up the leads and opportunities that they’ve earned or have been given. There’s a reason why your name is on their paycheck, or that your name has the title of sales manager beside it. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a better salesman than everyone. It should mean that you understand a system of selling that can be duplicated and shared with others.

Here are a few things I draw upon to this day from my early years in the vac business that I’ve found to produce fantastic results for my top consulting clients who achieve consistent breakthroughs:

#1. Set up a demo board of achievement for salespeople to qualify and aim to make it onto. The demos or customers on this board are usually those who are unassigned to any particular representative and walk or call in saying things like, “I’d like to buy. Can you sell me product?” The reps MUST hit a goal the month prior to be on the demo board.

#2. Maintain a sales tracking system and check it often. This can be called a “pipeline” or “sales funnel”. Track the number of prospects talked to; follow up, results, and referrals. It is imperative that you maintain records of the customer’s contact information.

#3. Reward the right efforts, not just the results. Everyone has had days where you work your tail off and sell nothing. Everyone has had days where they are unstoppable. Applaud the effort; however, don’t let a salesperson become a “professional visitor” instead of salesperson. Track closing and referral numbers carefully.

I would imagine that the “success tracks” in your business have been laid. The question is, “Are you making sure your team is staying on the track?” Like the story to open up this article, don’t let them pack their own parachute until they’ve proven they can be successful and safely manage your business!

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