I used to be a marketing manager in a large corporation that employed road marketing reps and sales people as part of their sales strategy. I already had a lot of sales experience prior to working for this company and I applied everything I could to rise throughs ranks and eventually become the marketing manager. It wasn’t easy, but when you understand sales you can adapt what you know to the new product or service and have better than average success. When you become the manager of a team of people, who have little or no experience and have devised their own methods for sales, you really need to hit the reset button. For me the best way to do this was to prove that my sales methods worked.
The first thing I did was separate the team into 2 groups. The first group was the beginners, with almost no experience at all, and they had no choice but to take the coaching I gave them as gospel. They hadn’t endured 100 No’s until they got a yes yet, and to be honest, the thought of pitching people made them sick to their stomachs. This despite the fact that they’d worked for the company over five or ten years and could talk for hours about everything it does and how it works. They were proud employees, but when it came to asking someone to buy into what we were selling, they were either choking or panicking.
The beginners were the easiest group I could prove my sales methods too. We spent two intense eight-hour days in a room talking about what they are trying to do as sales people and getting them to connect with the knowledge they already had with the business and to use it in real time sales conversations. We worked in detail on phone scripts and best practices when talking to a potential client. It was like installing a sales operating system into each one of them.
And when their 2 day training was over, I simplified what they needed to do next. Get the lead cards out, take what you’ve learned and start calling people with the strategy we designed together.
They went to the phones where the rest of the team were doing what they could to get more sales appointments. Those people were group 2, the experienced ones. I asked how they were doing, and a few of them had been able to get a couple appointments each for the days ahead. By their standards that wasn’t bad. I should have warned them to hold on to their hats for what happened next. The beginners started making calls for the last 3 hours of the day. Between the 4 of them they managed to get over 40 appointments, one of them actually got 13 and was set for the rest of the week.
You would have thought this would have inspired or intrigued the experienced sales reps to see the new recruits do so well. Instead they finished their day and left quietly with little to say to everyone else. This would make the following day very interesting.
The next day started and now it was the experienced sales reps turn to learn the new direction and methods I had taught the beginners. But before we could get started there were issues. One rep was too busy with appointments to attend, and another called in sick. This left me with two people in the meeting room. One I had worked with for the past year as an equal until I got promoted, the other had some marketing experience and was chosen to take the position I vacated.
When I asked them how they thought the new team did on their calls yesterday, I got two very different responses, and both surprised me. The most experienced of the two was in complete shock. He couldn’t understand how they got those results. And this is in spite of working with me for a year and observing them for 3 hours the day before. He felt defeated but wanted to understand so he could improve himself. This surprised me because he wasn’t defeated by anyone but himself and with his amount of experience, I would have though he was more observant of me and them and had some idea of why they were succeeding.
My other rep was enraged. She felt like she had been disrespected for two reasons. First of all, she felt it would have been more logical to train the experienced people first, they had seniority and should get all the new methods and strategies before anyone else. Second, she though it was personally humiliating, and it was done intentionally to show them up. It’s difficult to have a conversation with someone who convinces themselves that my training strategy was built around making them feel bad about themselves and their results. I didn’t address that point the way she would have liked. I just said it like it is. I taught the beginners first to prove the concept for the experienced staff to see it in action. If she still felt humiliated that was her pride feeling a little hurt because she had been lapped by a few newbies. It was time to move on, and so we did.
I told them we are hitting the reset button. This seemed amusing to them, but also made them feel more relaxed. Doing outbound sales or being a sales person is without a doubt is a load bearing task. You are constantly learning and adapting. Every sales call was a new person you had to figure out and sometimes a new lesson in people skills. But the real problem with doing sales is it can make it difficult for a person to understand which experiences they need to remember and build on and ones you need to forget and let go of.
A good example is when someone does their sales pitch and the person shuts them down at a very specific point in that pitch. It may have been abrupt but the only thing the sales person understood is, this particular part of the pitch failed miserably, so much so it caused a reaction that prevented any possibility of the sale. Without fully understanding why, the sales person automatically reprograms themselves and will likely avoid that part of the pitch in future to avoid a similar outcome. It seems like a safe thing to do, but it’s being done out of fear.
Was there really something wrong with that part of the pitch? Likely not, it just conflicted with that one potential client’s view, and for that it failed. For some reason this plays out over and over again for many people trying to close a sale. If enough fear is collected and held on too, you will have a sales rep doing a pitch that is unrecognizable from its original state. They will be cloaked in fear, you’ll see it and hear it.
The experienced sales rep group needed that extra lesson, they needed to hit the reset button. They needed to understand how far they had drifted away from the best practices they use to do and the pitch that used to work. They needed to let go of the fear that lead them to alter their methods. There are lessons to be learned but not every YES or NO is a strategy altering lesson. If you’re going to analyze ever sales call, look specifically at why it was a yes or no from that one particular person. Learn from its uniqueness and only draw on that experience when it is specifically relevant to another situation.
I reset after every sales call. The reason is, I don’t want to carry much of one call into another. If I don’t close a sale, I will not show up defeated on the next call. Each and every person you do business with is different, they may have similarities, but I assure you their stories are all different and their view of you is unique as well.
There is so much to learn when it comes to sales and I could go on forever about it. But If there is one thing I think can help anyone who struggles with sales is to RESET.