Improve the performance of your sales team

A common gripe I hear from business owners concerns the disappointing performance of their sales team. Meetings to discuss the sales pipeline frequently show a lengthy list of prospects, which the team are convinced will convert into business in the very near future. The team will also have a record of their activity – a comprehensive list of all the initial calls, follow up calls and meetings they have had with their list of target accounts.
Sadly, many of these prospects don’t turn into actual business and remain ‘in the pipeline’ at the next sales meeting. And the next. There are always many reasons given for this. Some of my favourites are “the proposal wasn’t quite what we were looking for” or “you’re not giving me the right price”, or “call me again in 6 months when we’ll have more money in the budget”.
Mick Merrick*, an expert at helping companies improve their sales performance, recently shared with me some quite frightening statistics:
Just 2% of Business to Business (B2B) sales are made on the first contact
Another 3% are made after the second contact
A further 5% after the third contact.
That leaves a massive 90% of sales that are made typically between the 4th and the 12th contact with the prospect. No wonder many business owners would like to improve the performance of their team ! Speaking from personal experience, I don’t know many people who could take 11 rejections before they get a yes on the 12th call and Mick’s statistics show that over 90% of salespeople give up after the fourth.
So the answer to improved sales performance is not necessarily to fire your existing sales team and hire only people who are psychologically tough enough to cope with all that stress and rejection. Mick’s advice is to have a written plan for your follow up and use a variety of different contact methods. Here at Aardvark we have another name for that variety, we simply call it Marketing. Good marketing should ensure that salespeople are making calls to a warmed – up audience with whom trust has been established. Better still, they could be handling inbound enquires from interested parties, enquiries generated by demonstrating the value and relevance of your product or service to their specific needs.
Thus the key to increased sales is to ensure that your sales and marketing strategies work in harmony with each other. No-one enjoys being bombarded with repeat cold calls, although we often feel sympathy for the poor person on the other end of the line who has to make them. Neither do prospects want to receive multiple e-mails every week trying to sell them the latest offers, discounts and bargains. Good sales and marketing activities supply interesting information to the buyer at the right pace. When we buy something new, we all like to feel that we are in control of the selling process and making use of our own judgement in our selection, rather than being the recipient of a ‘hard sell’.
So which would you prefer , a sales team who are persistent enough to get results despite the odds being heavily stacked against them or a sales team acting as advisors to get the right product or service, at the right price, for your growing business?
Happy selling and marketing!
*Statistics from Mick Merrick of Precept Optimum Performance in Hereford.