Back in the days when social distancing was something we did after curry night and border control was a mid-week show on TV1, I spent some time with a company that was debating the structure of their sales team and the value that their salespeople were bringing to the organisation. The business was growing nicely but they questioned if this was based on their industry rather than the talents and efforts of their sales team. What we discovered was enlightening.
With the government announcing that the lockdown brakes are starting to be released, sales and marketing people should be preparing to play a vital role for businesses and ultimately the country’s economic future.
New Zealand’s return to some sort of normality will be staggered over a period of weeks and months, and the situation in which each individual company finds itself in will be different. There will likely be disruptions within your own company – roles and structures will need to be adjusted, jobs may sadly have to be shed, or may already have been.
The familiar phrase that has led us through the crisis, ‘We are all in this together’ is something which continues to resonate and should be top of mind when addressing your customers. We are all in a similar position and empathy, space and understanding will go a long way.
Firstly, I need to acknowledge how challenging the past couple of weeks have been for most people in business. The sad reality is that many companies will not survive these times and roles will be lost. Personally, I have spent the last 2 weeks talking to clients and contacts who have all been affected in different ways. There is shock, disbelief and hopelessness out there, but there is also pragmatism and optimism. This is not an article, however, about doom and gloom, it’s an article about the opportunities that are in front of us in the months ahead. The game has changed, and for many that means things are getting interesting.
We have just undertaken our third Mood of the Sales Leader survey, which captures insights from NZ sales leaders around performance, challenges and expectations for the year ahead. Along with the expected findings, surveys always throw up surprises, and this year was no different.
What was the biggest challenge faced by NZ sales leaders in 2019? According to our latest Mood of the Sales Leader report, it was competition. What is the biggest risk to sales performance in 2020? Once again, the survey showed it is competition. View the full report
I met someone a few years ago who told me his business was so successful that he couldn’t imagine it being any better. I didn’t believe him but told him if that was the case then he should sell it.
I have certainly never seen perfection, and I might struggle to say that I have seen the excellence that companies are apparently all looking to achieve.
One of the benefits of doing what we do is that we get to have a look under the hoods of many different companies to see who is doing well in the world of sales, and who isn’t doing particularly well.
Several years ago my wife and I enlisted a real estate agent to sell a house. The transaction went well, however, the agent made one fundamental mistake that taught me a valuable lesson and cost him any future referrals from us. As soon as the transaction was finished, we never saw that agent again. No thank you card, no wine, not even a thanks for your business. The last time I spoke to him was on the phone at the lawyer’s office to confirm the completion of the deal. We believe the agent made a mistake with his lack of follow through on what was obviously a significant transaction for us. It was a small thing, but something we haven’t forgotten even 10 years on. We have told that story many times and I can guarantee it has cost this agent opportunities.
The MD of a company recently approached us and was frustrated with his sales team’s performance. He believed when he started the business he had more sales success than his team, even though he only spent 10 percent of his time on selling. He couldn’t understand why his team wasn’t performing better.
Another recent conversation was with the CEO of another business who was frustrated at the quality of the clients the sales team were introducing. Ostensibly there didn’t appear to be major issues as the business was growing nicely, but it was on the back of industry growth rather than quality sales work. Simple analysis showed the sales team spent a huge amount of their time visiting clients who were small and purchased tiny amounts, and had very little room for growth. Every time the salesperson visited these clients it was costing the company money.
There was recently a story in the media about an advertising man who took a clown into his redundancy meeting. While the meeting took place, the clown made balloon animals and when he was delivered his redundancy papers the clown pretended to cry.
There was also the story of the well-known NZ businessman (you will figure it out) who apparently walked into a meeting with heavy-hitting investors and dropped hundreds of bouncing balls onto the board room table. He then delivered his message to say this is how many rockets they are going to launch into space in the next few years.
We recently heard a story of the history of a 3rd generation NZ family business. It was a story many in this company and none of their clients had heard but talked about how the business began, and the twists and turns experienced on the way to creating what it is today.
Sales is a rollercoaster of emotions. When you’re “on fire” life is good, you love what you do, the company you do it for and the people you interact with. Life is harder when sales are down, your manager is not helping by demanding more sales and even that great prospect you talked with last week you really can’t be bothered talking to. You don’t even consider picking up the phone to make a cold call. This is the time when salespeople start asking the questions about their career and the company they work for. This is the time when performance and productivity fall through the floor. Everyone in sales will recognise these emotions.
There was a famous car salesperson by the name of Joe Girard who sold 13,001 cars at a Chevrolet dealership between 1963 and 1978, including the world record of 1425 cars in one year.
How did he do it?
By all accounts, he would never sell to someone walking in off the street. Instead, he would only sell to personal referrals or to his existing clients & their families.
Joe used to run a rolodex better than anyone and knew his customers intimately. He would look to know as much about his customers as he could so that he could support him or her in their needs and wants. The number one thing however that contributed to his success was that he always made sure they got a fair deal. One that was fair for him and fair for his customer.Joe was a great example of someone who built fantastic partnerships with his clients.