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Management
January 2013

Building Rapport

How to make sure your sales team is properly ready for action.

January 03, 2013
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In today’s market, having an effective team of marketing reps may well be the difference between success and failure for many restoration contractors.

A high performance sales operation allows restorers to predictably control the growth of their business without relying on program work, weather and good luck, all of which are notoriously unreliable.

There are a number of factors to getting such a team and program in place, such as:

  • Hiring the right people
  • Having an excellent marketing foundation behind the sales program so that the reps are able to offer prospects meaningful reasons to change and do business with their company
  • An on-boarding process that gets reps up to speed quickly
  • An easy to use CRM to organize work efficiently and track results.

In addition to these factors, one of the most important and often neglected elements is sales management.

In our experience, there are two common ways that restoration business owners or sales managers “manage” their marketing reps.

The first is “hands around the throat” micro-management. This approach will work for only a small minority of marketing people and tends to paralyze the process and rarely leads to desirable results.

The second management style is far more common and is best described as “hands off.” This style is characterized by first hiring people based on “gut feeling” (generally highly influenced by the rep’s ability to sell themselves during the interview). The rep is then hired and, after a brief training period, they are turned loose. After all, the owner or sales manager thinks, they are professional salespeople (it said so right on their resume!) and they should know what to do. So, off to work our intrepid marketing rep goes.

Generally speaking, there are two types of reps in these situations.

Hoping for results

The first are those are pretty much glued to their office chair and you wonder if and when they are ever going to see a potential client.

The second type disappears and are always out of the office, leaving you hopeful that they are really tearing up the market in their quest for new business (though you may have a nagging suspicion that they may be at home watching Dr. Phil, at the bar or on the golf course).

Now, before I go too far, I want to be clear that I love salespeople. I mean true professional salespeople who work hard at their craft, attack their market with zeal and who are the engines of growth for their companies and earn the outsized rewards people with such responsibility should earn.

But, what I see far more often are marketing people that go from failure to failure their entire careers. The one person they are good at selling (for a while at least) is the boss. They will regale the boss with wonderful tales of giant accounts just getting ready to close, that the big payoff is just around the corner and that all their hard work will pay off any moment.

Because most restorers have almost not outside sales experience or sales management experience and because they are filled with hope that these stories might be true, they tend to allow the situation to continue.

That is, until one day they have simply had enough. Enough of the stories, enough of paying the salaries, enough of paying for lunches, golf, association memberships and other expenses with very little in the way of jobs and revenue to show for it. When the owner reaches this point, it’s “off with their heads!”

At this point, many owners become extremely frustrated that they just can’t find the right salespeople to make a difference in their market.

Placing blame

While it may be the case that the business owner or manager hired the wrong person to begin with, it is also true that the reason they cannot build a high performance sales team is that their sales management skills are sorely lacking.

In order to perform at a high level, salespeople need to know how to do their job. What kinds of activities are effective? How do they specifically carry them out? What should they say when they are in front of a prospect? Why should any of the people being called on change what they are already doing and switch to your company? What are the typical challenges and objections and how are they successfully dealt with? What are the steps or stages in the process as you move a prospect through the pipeline? And so on.

If the owner or sales manager can’t answer these questions, it is hard to expect that a newly hired salesperson can!

One of the most important aspects of getting peak performance from marketing reps is for their sales manager to “stay in rapport” with them. The best example of this is the merry-go-round that you find in most playgrounds. It takes a little more effort to get the thing spinning. But once it is spinning what is necessary to keep it going is a quick push at regular intervals.

Once the fundamentals of the sales program have been determined, the sales manager must keep the merry-go-round spinning as quickly as reasonably possible (generating necessary activity and output) while coaching the reps through challenges, obstacles, set-backs and the like as well as inspiring, training and developing them.

How to fix the problem

One way for sales managers to stay in rapport is by conducting three different meetings with each rep.

The first is a daily huddle meeting that addresses what was planned to be accomplished yesterday and the actual result. Then, what activities are planned for today. Any hot issues (both positive and negative) that need immediate attention and can be quickly addressed should be. These meetings should be three to five minutes in length. If there are any issues that require additional time, they are put on the agenda for the weekly meeting.

The weekly meeting is 30-60 minutes in length and begins with addressing any issues that came up from the daily huddles. After this is accomplished, the meeting should be used to dissect one of the rep’s calls from the previous week. This can be a particularly tough call, a great call, a surprising call, whatever. The point is to review the sales process with the rep so that the sales manager can ensure that the proper steps are being taken throughout the process and coach any problem areas that are identified.

The third meeting (also 30-60 minutes) is a monthly pipeline meeting that looks at the rep’s activities with prospects in terms of where they are in the sales pipeline. It seeks to identify conversion rates from one stage to another which, once understood, tells the rep and the manager exactly how many prospects need to go in the pipeline in order to achieve the rep’s and the company’s goals.

This analysis is also used to demonstrate how changes in the conversion percentages, (for example, prospecting activities to actual meetings), can make a major impact in the end result with the same volume of prospects.

This system of meetings allows the rep the freedom to use their desire, commitment and wide array of skills, but within the safe container of mutual expectations, understanding, collaboration and accountability in order to generate truly high performance results.

Tim Miller is the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Business Development Associates Inc. Miller is a highly regarded sales and marketing expert in the industry, and brings 30 years of experience and a unique perspective to help businesses solve their problems and grow to the next level. He is also a published author in several trade publications and speaks at multiple industry events and conferences throughout the year.

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