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The same Saturday afternoon at 04.30 in Mr. Hide’s office

Welcome in here again folks. You´ve had a long day trying to shrink our big elephant into a baby elephant. How did it go A-group?

– Thanks Dr. See we’ve worked hard on different solutions and we’ve based our discussions on the facts, that our key accounts only represent 8% of all our customers and despite that they receive 80% of our total discounting and furthermore, they burden us with half of all our costs and the key accounts salesmen do nothing else but looking after these accounts. Looking for new ones seem to be hard!

– Ok, A-group, what’s your proposal?

– Dr. See, we aren’t sure. Do we dare to increase prices? No, we don’t think so. Instead we concentrated on finding other ways. These are possible options: offering our key accounts to keep their discounts, if they agree to sign a two-year deal with us and thereby allowing us to free our sales resources to find new accounts and instead having our customer service to call them regularly and ask, “is everything satisfactory?” If not, the customer service leaves it to the key account sales people to react. If yes. Fine!

– B-group, you with the mid-sized accounts, what do you think about this?

– Well, Dr See, we believe, that we have great number of unapproached possible clients, that we haven’t had time to go for and therefore a relieved key account sales force would come in handy for approaching these prospects.

-Ok, friends. Time is late now, and you’ve done a tremendous work. Now go home and have a nice evening with your near ones. Tomorrow Sunday at 0900 we’ll meet again and the we’ll dig deeper into this. Ok?

– Looking forward to it, Sir!


Peter Forsberg Agera Sales

Peter Forsberg
Agera Sales

Dedicated his full life to business in Sweden as well as in the US, Germany and Switzerland. Also a number assignments all over the world.
Experiences; salesman, sales leader, marketing director, vice president and CEO.


 

Following Saturday at 08.30 in Mr. Hide’s office

– Welcome back! Glad to see you all here again, but before we start I have a picture to show you. I do really hope it won’t be the impression after your presentations, but I fear it might. We’ll see.

– Ok! How was your week? What do you say A-group?

– Well, Sir. It was a thrill that we never have come across before. We started directly last Monday morning, after having asked the customer service people to count all calls according to your instructions. They were happy to do it. I think they felt, that their opinions were asked for and needed, so just by having done so – we got a group more motivated than ever. Only that itself is a great merit to this exercise. They even wished us Good Luck before this weekend.

– Ok folks, you remember your tasks from last week? They were to find out how much time was consumed by our three client groups in terms of handling existing clients compared to chasing new ones.

– Let’s hear what you found. A-Group

– Ok, Sir. Here are our figures: Time spent on existing key accounts was 100% and thereby you understand that we did not spend any time on finding new key accounts.

– Thanks A, now to the mid-sized accounts. How was your time spent?

– Thanks, Sir! We spent 55% of our time on existing mid-sized accounts and 45% on finding new ones.

– Thanks! Now to C, the ad-hoc accounts.

– Well, Sir our figures are the direct opposite, as we only know the ones we already have and thereby we spent all our time on asking them if they were happy with us and our services and of course asked for new orders.

– Thank you all. I am sorry to say that the elephant is an appropriate summary of your presentations. If you didn’t know, what an elephant in the room means, I’ll tell you. It is a big problem, that all knows, but no one wants to discuss.

Time is now 10.30. This is a major problem and therefore you’ll have all day to minimize that elephant. We meet here again at 04.30. Lunch and coffee will be served in your rooms.

Good Luck!


Peter Forsberg Agera Sales

Peter Forsberg
Agera Sales

Dedicated his full life to business in Sweden as well as in the US, Germany and Switzerland. Also a number assignments all over the world.
Experiences; salesman, sales leader, marketing director, vice president and CEO.


 

Sunday afternoon in Mr. Hides office. Time is 5.30 pm.

– Welcome back for your final presentations for this weekend. Your last task was to come up with ideas about how do we take these newly won insights any further. Remember? I can see group A already has a hand up in the air. Ok A-group what do you want to say?

– So far, we’ve come to realize, that these exercises create more questions than answers.

– Yes, A-group that’s normal. Heard the old saying “the more you learn the more you realize how little you know?”

– No, Sir we haven’t, but it describes our situation perfectly.

– Ok! On you go A!

– Thanks Dr See. We talked intensively about this in our group and came up with a unison idea, may I start, Sir?

– You may!

– We are fully convinced, that a start should begin with, that all groups return to normal businesses tomorrow, but on top of what we normally do, we also clock our times devoted to the three categories. Meaning that we, when we meet next weekend will know how much time was given to our key accounts, our mid-sixed accounts and our ad hoc accounts. By knowing that we can fulfill the chart with additional information about how their cost burdens are divided.

– B and C-groups! You agree?

– Yes, Sir we do!

– Ok folks this it’s what you’ll do. As A- group just suggested and B and C also agreed to. Tomorrow is Monday morning and you’ll all be back to normal businesses. And on top of that you’ll clock the time devoted to each customer category. And furthermore you’ll separate time devoted to existing customers in comparison with chasing new ones. Ok?

– Certainly. Sir.

– Ok! Thanks all for having spent the weekend here. We meet here again on next Saturday morning, at 08.30.

– Sir, just a question. Does this only include only us in sales or shall we also bring customer service into this?

– Good question! Bring them in and ask them to count the number of calls from each category.


Peter Forsberg Agera Sales

Peter Forsberg
Agera Sales

Dedicated his full life to business in Sweden as well as in the US, Germany and Switzerland. Also a number assignments all over the world.
Experiences; salesman, sales leader, marketing director, vice president and CEO.


 

Sunday, after lunch in Mr. Hide’s office

– Thank you for your presentations and I hope the sandwiches tasted well.

– Yes, they did. Thanks Dr. See.

– Well, now to our findings so far. I am pointing at our key accounts, that even though they only represent 8 % of all our clients, they create 47% of our total turnover, 80% of our total discounting and roughly 50% of our total costs. How do you find this situation? What do you say Hide?

– Astonishing figures Dr. See. Perhaps our key accounts aren’t profitable at all.

– Might very well be so, Hide! But it’s too early to tell. And then we have the other two categories, mid-sized and ad hoc accounts, which both show completely other figures. Where do we take this newly won experiences from here? Any ideas?

– No ideas? Ok! Hide what do you think we should do now?

– Not sure, Sir, but perhaps we should dig deeper into it…?

– Well folks, you know what. This is what we’ll do. Time is now 3.30 in the afternoon. I suggest, that you bring your coffee back to your group rooms to discuss what we’ll do next and then we meet here again at 5.30. Ok?

– Ok, Sir.


Peter Forsberg Agera Sales

Peter Forsberg
Agera Sales

Dedicated his full life to business in Sweden as well as in the US, Germany and Switzerland. Also a number assignments all over the world.
Experiences; salesman, sales leader, marketing director, vice president and CEO.


 

Sunday morning in Mr. Hide’s office

– Morning folks. Hope you weren’t up too late last night, as we now will continue our demanding group-works. A, B and C are you all here?

– Yes Sir.

– I’ve summarized your findings from yesterday. Here they are:

– As you can see, our key accounts are only twelve and their turn over reaches 47% of our total turn over but they consume eighty percent of our total discounting. This chart also shows the figures for mid-sized accounts as well as for the ad hoc accounts. Based on this knowledge we’ll now complete this chart with the corresponding sales costs. Direct costs as well as indirect costs. Groups remain the same A group, you continue with the key accounts. B group does the same for mid-sized accounts and finally the C-group does it for ad-hoc accounts.

– Ok, off you go and we’ll meet here at lunch for presentations and sandwiches.


Peter Forsberg Agera Sales

Peter Forsberg
Agera Sales

Dedicated his full life to business in Sweden as well as in the US, Germany and Switzerland. Also a number assignments all over the world.
Experiences; salesman, sales leader, marketing director, vice president and CEO.


 

Saturday afternoon in Mr. Hide’s office

− Ok, welcome back again and now to your findings please. We’ll start with group A. The stage is yours A-group.

− Thanks Dr. See. Our task was to come up with the key accounts figures in terms of numbers, turn-over and discounts. These are our findings. And let me add, that it was great to have us finance and sales people together. Number of clients are twelve, accumulated turn-over was less than half of our total turnover and discounts finally was eighty percent of our total discounting. It’s an astonishing picture, where our key accounts only themselves consume most of our total discounting, while their turn-over is less than half.

− Thanks A-group and now to our B-group, who had the same questions but regarding mid-sized accounts. So please B, stage is yours!

− Thanks Dr. See. Our findings are: number of clients are one hundred and fifteen and their accumulated turn-over is exactly half of our total turn-over, while the discounting only reached five percent. Let me add, like the previous group just did, that it was great to have finance and sales together.

− And now to group C!

− Thanks Sir! Our findings are about ad hoc clients. Their number is twenty-five, their turn-over reaches nine percent of our turn-over and their discounting is less than twenty percent.

− Thanks A, B and C. Do you find these exercises essential?

− Certainly Sir. It has for sure been worthwhile showing up here on a weekend.

− Very well! We’ll meet here again tomorrow morning at 8 am.

− And then we’ll start with a summary of yesterday’s groupwork.


Peter Forsberg Agera Sales

Peter Forsberg
Agera Sales

Dedicated his full life to business in Sweden as well as in the US, Germany and Switzerland. Also a number assignments all over the world.
Experiences; salesman, sales leader, marketing director, vice president and CEO.


 

A Saturday morning in a conference room at Mr. Hide’s office

Welcome all and thanks for showing up here on an early Saturday morning. Dr. See will now take us through this very unusual but necessary weekend exercise. As you all know, our result is not satisfactory. It’s the other way around actually and unfortunately.

− Dr. See the floor is yours.

− Thanks, Hide. Hi, folks. I am impressed by seeing twelve people here and glad that six of you are from sales and six others are from finance. Now we’ll form three groups with two from sales and two from finance in each group. Now time for morning coffee and when you come back, I hope you’ve formed your groups. Ok?

− Yes, Sir. That’s ok!

− Ok, we’re back again. Hope coffee was good. This is what we’ll do. Each group gets an assignment with three questions to discuss and come up with answers to. We meet again at twelve for presentations, while at the same time sandwiches will be served.

− Here are the topics: You are called group A, B, and C. You’ll all get the same questions but regarding different customer categories. The questions are:

  • Number of clients
  • Accumulated turnover/year
  • Accumulated discounts/year

Group A must do this for key accounts. Group B for smaller accounts. And Group C, you’ll handle our ad/hook accounts.

− Hide, it will be interesting to see what the finance guys and sales folks will manage to come back with, while sales only count orders, are the finance guys more interested in counting money. That’s what this whole exercise is all about. Got it?

− Yes, Sir this will surely be interesting!

− It will! And this is just the beginning, Hide. We’ll see a lot more of it this afternoon!


Peter Forsberg Agera Sales

Peter Forsberg
Agera Sales

Dedicated his full life to business in Sweden as well as in the US, Germany and Switzerland. Also a number assignments all over the world.
Experiences; salesman, sales leader, marketing director, vice president and CEO.


 

An Emergency Sales Audit is about to take place

  • Hi, Hide, so now we meet again. How was your Easter? Sober?
  • Lots of eggs, but not my kind of course, and even more worrying about my business.
  • I understand.
  • Now, we’ll start working to get your situation under control and at the same time also involve other people in your company to solve these problems’?
  • Yes, Sir!
  • This is how we move on. Pick a few salespeople and also equally many from your finance department. And ask them to spend next weekend here in the office.
  • Weekend, Sir?
  • Yes, my friend next weekend, as we can’t allow ourselves to lose normal working days under these circumstances!
  • Ok, Sir, got it.
  • And Hide, give me a call as soon you’ve picked your people and determined at what time and I’ll be back with our working procedures for this weekend.
  • I will Sir! Count on me. I am curious about your procedures.
  • They’ll be helpful, I promise!

Need of a Sales Audit is detected. Hopefully in time

  • Oh, shit Hide, this is not good. We’ve got to do something about it. See those red figures?
  • No, Sir. I only see red minus signs.
  • That’s the summary, a conclusion, telling you that your business is not running as smoothly as you thought.
  • Yes Sir, but what can I do about it?
  • You’ll do a SALES AUDIT or in other words using your head to dig deep into to it to find what’ wrong. Know how to do that, Hide?
  • No Sir.
  • It’s like a regular medical checkup. Like sticking a thermometer up your feather ass. Not to embarrass you. No, not at all it’s the other way around actually. It’s only meant to make sure you are ok and if not, we’ll correct it.
  • No Sir, I don’t want any thermometer up there.
  • Well. Hide it’s a choice between standing a few seconds of embarrassment or eventually running the risk of dropping dead.
  • Ok, Sir. I’ll stand those few seconds.
  • Very good Hide! You know, there are two types of companies. Those who do sales audits regularly and those, like yours, who just do it when a catastrophe is approaching. It’s like living with or without an insurance.
  • This is what you’ll do. I’ll show you Hide right after Easter!

Peter Forsberg Agera Sales

Peter Forsberg
Agera Sales

Dedicated his full life to business in Sweden as well as in the US, Germany and Switzerland. Also a number assignments all over the world.
Experiences; salesman, sales leader, marketing director, vice president and CEO.


 

Continues improvements and change management

  • Remember Hide? Last we met we talked about sales management as being the toughest management job in any company.
  • Dr. See I do.
  • Good, because now we’ll go a little bit deeper. We’ll talk about continuous improvements and change management. Ok?
  • Ok!
  • So, check these pictures out. First you see your family ostriches along the assembly line. Everyone is depending on the others previous work. Saw that, Hide?
  • Yes Mr. See, I did!

  • Ok, now check the picture below! There you’ll see several sales colleagues running in different directions, doing their own little things without any knowing of the colleagues’ activities.

  • See the difference?
  • No, Sir.
  • Ok! Mistakes at the assembly line are immediately identified and thereby quickly repaired, while mistakes done by sales people are hard to detect. It only happens when results drop and then lots of time have passed and other methods are needed.
  • Got it?
  • No, Sir.
  • Ok, when results are down, you mostly don’ know why. Therefore, one must start digging to find what’s wrong. Only that itself takes lots of time. And when one finally has found the problems, one has to start acting and repairing. Time is being lost together with sales result.
  • But Sir, may I ask you a thing?
  • Sure Hide. Go on!
  • Is there a way to quicker identify mistakes in sales and thereby not having the go through the turmoil of change management?
  • Good question my friend! More of that when we meet next. Because then we’ll talk about SALES AUDIT.
  • That’ll be interesting Dr. See.
  • It will Hide! Till then – take care!

Sales management – the eternal challenge

  • Did you know that sales management is the toughest and the most difficult management job of all in every company?

 

  • No Sir, please tell me why.

 

  • Think of any other department in a company and what they have in common – the production, the R&D, the finance, yes, all other departments are working like assembly lines, where every detail is depending on the work quality of the previous person. Numbers at the finance, tools in the production, tests in the R&D. etc. etc. Any mistake is almost instantly recognized and rapidly corrected, as everyone’s effort is the direct base for the next. Got it Hide?

 

  • Think so, but what makes sales management so difficult?

 

  • Because there is no assembly line in sales and thereby no instant connections between what one guy does on his own in sales, as that has no importance to the colleagues. Errors are not noticed and thereby seldom identified and then of course not corrected quickly enough.

 

  • I see you are tired Hide. So, we’ll save the next lesson for a while. But when we meet again we’ll talk about the differences between CONSTANT IMPROVEMENTS and CHANGE MANAGEMENT. Ok?

 

Thank you, Sir. Looking forward to that.

Position, direction and speed

Previously we made a visit to our finance department to find out, where our most profitable clients were to be found. With that newly gained knowledge we moved on to the customer service department to find the immediate reactions from the market about everything, from our offers, prices, functions and new ideas. (Missed this? Go back to chapter 4 and 5.)

By having done so, we have created a logbook and a radar. We are in other words almost fully equipped to tackle the right possibilities in the market. The remaining thing to take charge of is the speed. When that is under control we have established all three tools that all ..

.. sea captains are depending on, namely: the logbook, the radar and now the speed, which is exactly what all sales managers also need, but often without realizing it. Unfortunately!

We have already increased our sales efficiency (did you notice this side effect?) by reducing the number of possible clients with a limited profitability and instead directed those sales calls towards more profitable chances.

Now to the question about increasing the face time with clients. Picture this! If one sales person can increase the face time with only twenty minutes per day, it would mean 100 minutes/week and consequently 4200 minutes/year (42 w). 4.200 minutes is 70 hours a year. Now, imagine that your sales force consists of twenty sales persons, (20 x 70) that corresponds to 1.400 hours per year or 175 full days!

Yes, 175 more sales days per year without having employed any new people! At all!

No wonder our sea captain, Dr. See, looks so satisfied, when he sends off Mr. Hide to work.

Another source of essential but neglected information

Previously, when we met, we talked about an unutilized source of information – the finance department, where after some digging you could find essential information for successful sales planning.

Today we’ll go to another internal and completely forgotten source of information for even more knowledge about your actual market situation. An opportunity to take care of!

All companies have a customer service department, which is in daily contacts with lots of people – new customers, happy customers, dissatisfied customers, angry customers, crazy customers, yeah, the whole lot and even more! It could be compared with a ship’s radar screen, where all things around are being noticed.

If we call our financial department our logbook, we can call our customer service department our radar!

 

 

To any sea captain this is obvious. But unfortunately, it is not that obvious to all managers.

So how to go about it? Pretty easy actually! Start by seeing the customers service people. Tell them, that they are our most sensible ears end eyes towards the market and thereby their experiences are of outmost value for sales planning, product development and all kinds of adjustments in our sales- and marketing efforts. (Bring a cake and some coffee, when informing them). Let them also know, that you will be back every Friday afternoon to hear about their experiences and points of view from the past week.

Advantages: 

The most accurate and rapid market information you can get! DO NOT MISS IT!

You can also ask this group to ask clients how they think about different things. A survey easily conducted by people who know their market and clients better than anyone else.

Just by involving this group, you get a highly motivated group, that before felt closer to the customers than their own company!  Which now very quickly changes to a devoted group, who sets the own company first.
BIG STEP FORWARD!

Successful sales planning begins at the finance department!

Why? Because: All account plans have lots of cost accounts, but a very limited number of revenue accounts. BIG MISSTAKE!  As that limits the possibility to see, where the revenue came from and hereby also limits the chance to see the actual profitability on certain customers and segments.

Just imagine, if you would put together pension costs, travel expenses, benefits, salaries and rents on the same cost account. The auditor would go crazy and so would the tax authorities as well. Therefore, cost accounting is very detailed, while the revenue accounting is more summary.

When sales and market people are about to find new profitable segments and customers in the market –  there must be actual and trustworthy facts behind such decisions.

What discounts do our biggest customers receive? What advertising costs are invested in direct sales? What do we pay our dealers? How long does it take for key customers to pay? On which customer type do our sales people devote most of their time? Such questions!

You do not need a revenue auditor, but almost, a person with a complete insight and knowledge about the actual profitability of different customer types. And that can only be achieved by knowing the true origin of the revenues and their related costs.

So, how does one go about fixing this? A good start would be to start talking with the financial people about your needs. And from there you take it step by step. It is not a task, that will be solved easily, but it must be dealt with.

It is a question of ambition and attitude! Facts are there – just go and find them, if you bother!

The choice is yours – either be a Dr. See or a Mr. Hide!

Your company’s success depends on it as well as your success!

Personal sales

Personal sales – the capitalism’s first foundation – the actual transfer of ownership for money. This profession is constantly evolving according to increasing pressure.

Previously, when supply and demand were in balance with each other, there were few requirements on the sales people, if any at all. The orders came anyway!

Today, when supply exceeds demand by far in all industries – completely different and new qualifications are needed, and necessarily so

Personal sales is an increasingly costly function for most companies, which leads to a constantly growing ambition to reach even higher efficiency all the time.

Unfortunately, a superior product is no longer enough. An equally superior sales function is also required to ensure success.

Having such a sales function is the challenge! And it is here Agera Sales come in, with their superior knowledge about Sales Effectiveness.

Dr. See and Mr. Hide. Our two ostriches in one

We all, not just sales managers and sellers, no, everyone in fact, both at work and in private have these two ostriches in us. The question is: which ostrich is dominant, as that determines what kind of person and manager you are. It’s all about courage and judgement. Every manager is daily confronted with the choice to look the other way or react.

 

 

Are you a Mr. Hide or a Dr. See?

If you can’t answer that question for yourself, I am sure your group can.

Now some questions:

What group has the best future in terms of result and harmony?

  1. When the group and its manager have the same opinion about the two ostriches. For example. The group regards its boss is a Mr. Hide and the boss also thinks of himself as a Mr. Hide?
  2. When the group thinks that their manager is Mr. Hide. And the manager regards himself as Dr. See?
  3. When the group thinks that their manager is a Dr. See and the manager regards himself /herself as Mr. Hide?
  4. When the group thinks, that their manager is a Dr. See and the boss also sees himself as a Dr. See?

Give these questions some consideration please, as they are so important and unfortunately also neglected, with a corresponding negative effect, when not realized and dealt with, as well as a huge potential for improvement when realized and dealt with.

Therefore, it would be great, if you would rank these groups from best to worst (1-4) and send your answer for a continued and fruitful discussion!

Dr. See & Mr Hide – 1

Fire or not?

This is very unfortunate, but it happens and must be dealt with. Imagine this situation: a sales person in your group is not performing as planned and hoped for. On top of that he/she is disliked by the clients as well as by the colleagues, because of his/her attitude. The boss has had many meetings with him/her about this. Nothing changes, neither the result nor the attitude. The problem grows even bigger day by day.

The colleagues avoid this person and the sales manager says to himself “what can I do? Firing is so dammed unpleasant, I’ll give it some more time”.

What happens when the boss chooses to prolong the pain by looking the other way, is that the situation gets even worse. The colleagues lose the respect for their boss. Instead they meet secretly to discuss this terrible situation. Concentration on sales diminish together with the group’s sales result.

PS: The sales manager should be fired himself, but that rarely happens, as firing is so unpleasant, even for the sales manager’s managers.

On the other hand, if the boss would have had the courage to deal with this directly. The following would have happened: an increased respect for their boss, a new atmosphere in the group, team spirit gains, result improves, clients notice the change and best of all – back on the right track!

Conclusion: Make sure your team is up to it! But then you must be up to it yourself. So be it! Only then you can challenge the world!

Fin-tail management – 11

Glad to have had you onboard, we’ve now reached the end of this part of our continuous journey.
So, let us conclude what this was all about. We take it from its very beginning: a fish in the sea is like any company in the market – both swim for food, hunting things to swallow and thereby giving themselves growth for further swimming and more winning.

To do so you must have all functions integrated and well-working, if not, neither the fish’s swimming nor our sales’ efforts can be successful. All functions in between are as important as the famous old chain, which is no stronger than its weakest link. Superiority within one function cannot compensate for shortcomings in another. And that is exactly what our fish has tried to teach us! Thank you, fish. You may take a break now!

We will now see what another animal might contribute with – an ostrich – that when frightened, hides its head in the sand choosing not to see.

All of us have experienced that mentality, when uncomfortable things happen, the boss chooses to look the other way.

Things do not disappear, just because you do not want to see them. which is what the ostrich and some managers seem to believe.

Say welcome to our new teachers: Dr. See and Mr. Hide!

Fin-tail management – 10

Motivation and Capacity

Welcome onboard again! Let us continue our trip through the body of the fish. As you can see we are approaching the end of this journey and this time we put two magnifiers on the most important qualities – motivation and capacity. When they go hand in hand, the combination is unbeatable!

Capacity however, without matching motivation, is completely useless, as well as the opposite.

Handling the sales people’s capacity is fairly simple. It is mainly about knowledge, achieved by training and learning. These ingredients are almost all managers capable to discover and develop, if necessary.

Also, motivation in terms of salary, bonuses and the boss’s appreciation, is rather uncomplicated. But motivation includes yet another “cup of tea”, namely difficult psychological factors and many of them hard to detect for the sales manager and shameful to admit for any salesperson.
This creates a hidden and complicated issue, that never the less has to be dealt with, as it causes unnecessary lousy results!

Let us have a look at what those psychological obstacles might cause, but first establish a well-known fact that resembles this:

Any film artist knows, that when a scene is lousy, you may shoot it again. On the real stage however, with a living audience, you cannot ask them to wait to see it again. It must be top quality instantly.

This causes a stress for the actor as well as it does for a salesperson. Now it is for real! Everything must be right. We call it Sales Calls Reluctance, which is comparable with an actor’s stage fright.

The factors behind are uncertainty, nervousness or just anything that upsets you and thereby prevents you from reaching your full potential. This is a science itself and there are methods to deal with it. AGERA SALES provides you such a service

PS: Depending on its hidden character, this issue is far more frequent than you can tell. And thus, a potential for Improved Sales Effectiveness.

Fin-tail management – 9

Training

Hi Mats. The Fish here!

− Fish? What Fish?

Remember? We talked last week about recruiting and you said I could come back to discuss training and mainly sales training?

− Yeah, sorry Fish, welcome to talk, but I am on my way to Brazil.

To Brazil? Swimming?

− No, stupid, flying of course! Swimming is your thing. Now to your questions please.

Ok! Let me start by asking you, could just anyone be a good salesperson or are there only certain characters that are aimed for it?

− Being a salesperson is nothing special. Not at all. Despite all books that try to glorify this profession as something magical not to mention the expression “star salesman”. Disgusting! This is a normal job for normal people. As always, it demands a certain portion of talent, human feelings, good routines and sound habits. But what job doesn’t? If you are a hero−driven person you’d better be a pilot or an astronaut.

Interesting! What is most important for a good sales person; product knowledge or sales sophistication? Or perhaps it’s the sum of both?

− They are connected of course but also depending on which line of business you’re in. The production industry requires cost efficiency and adaption to its present production. In this case you can’t be without superior product knowledge. In other lines of business, cleaning products for example, the sales talent is more deciding. But remember, in all cases professional sales people do know the consequences of improving the client’s present situation with it’s offer and following benefits, as well as the drawbacks of not buying. It’s a pro-and-con calculation that professionals master.

Is product knowledge a normal part of sales training or is that something “on the side”?

− Good question! There’s a certain gap here, but this needs to be considered all the time. Before taking on an assignment, we do deep analyses. And if any analysis would show a lack of product knowledge, we tell them to improve it, with or without our help. Otherwise, we would be unserious.

A stupid question perhaps Mats, but could one start by having open training sessions with the applicants, and based on their behaviors there do the recruiting afterwards?

− I myself was once hired this way, but that was in the mid 70’. Nowadays there are so many highly effective methods to do a professional evaluation before hiring a person. On the other hand, real professional sales executives often do the hiring themselves, based only on their gut feeling and experience.

When you implement your training sessions, are they customer made or “one size fits all”?

− Customer made! We always adjust our efforts to the client’s business models and needs. In our preparations we participate in/with the people in their daily routines to come as close as possible to their actual situation.  By doing so, we are much more trustworthy and may thereby offer highly needed and appreciated services. Joint calls are a very good method. I myself have over the past 30 years made more than 1,400 such calls.

Is role-play a good training method?

− I don’t like the word “role play”. It sounds like a theater school. It’s not about that. It’s more like a training camp, where cases from reality are being dealt with and solved. We do it in groups of three people. The reality is the constant factor, as that’s what the participants must deal with every day. Training isn’t an occasional thing, No, it’s a very frequent ingredient in all professional sales groups. As a matter of fact, it’s not far away from an athletics’ view on training!

When you’ve been given an assignment, does the company normally say, “come here and train my people?” or do they say “our results are not good enough, something has to be done. Help us?”

− Both, but we never take on an assignment without rigorous preparations. So, it doesn’t really matter what they say in the beginning.

One more thing Mats, how many participants do you think is ideal for a sales training group?

− Oh, shit, what a turbulence right now! How many people you said… It depends very, very much. But let’s say from three to nine. I got to strap in and close all equipment because of the turbulence, including the cellphone. Ok?

Thanks Anyway Mats!
I don’t think he heard me. Now I’m glad being a fish again. No turbulence, only calm and silent waters. But of course, he reaches Brazil a lot faster than I ever would.