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Help Your Salespeople Sell

Wednesday, January 12, 2011   By Mike Reddy


If you're like this business coach, you’ve probably had the experience of visiting your local supplier to purchase a product, only to find that the sales team can’t tell you much about it.  Even if you like the product, unless they can give you the kind of details you need to be sure that it’s right for you, then you just won’t feel happy about buying it.

Selling is the engine that drives your business. So your salespeople are the engine drivers. If they aren’t performing, then neither is your business. Poorly trained salespeople who can’t build up a good head of steam in the sales engine room means it’ll be slow speed ahead for your business.

As a business coach I would suggest that training a sales team isn’t a one-off event or a simple matter of showing them how your product works and saying, “Now - go sell!” It’s a process that begins with a proper induction on the day they arrive, and regular updates to their knowledge and skills as time goes by, if you aim to keep them up to speed.

Know your product

Products may not sell primarily on their features (showing the benefits to the buyer is a more successful approach), but no salesperson should be caught off-guard by a customer needing to know the basic design features and technicalities of a product. The more a salesperson knows about the FEATURES of a product the more they can decide if they have just the right solution to fit the customer’s need and start pushing the BENEFITS they will derive from having it.

How long needs to be spent with your sales people, and what depth of knowledge they will need depends on the complexity of what you sell.  But the investment is worthwhile. 

Any business coach will tell you that product training is more than just handing them the instructor’s manual.  It can extend to studying specs, becoming acquainted with the marketing materials used with the product and even watching other salespeople carry out a sale so they understand exactly how the product is being presented. Get them to put together their own sales presentation and critique it.

Know the competitor’s product

Salespeople will sooner or later be faced with the prospect who has done their homework and can quote details about the features and benefits of your competitor’s product. Knowing the same information yourself let’s you explain where the rival product fails to meet the customer’s need as effectively as your product does.

Develop customer relationship skills

Initial training usually concentrates on learning the product, so it’s bound to focus the new salesperson on product knowledge. In fact, studies show that by far the majority of training provided to direct sales people is product oriented. Of course, having digested all this product knowledge they are eager to show it off to prospects. The result can be a rejection. The focus of selling should always be on the prospect - specifically their particular need - not on the product. All that knowledge is there so you can demonstrate just how right the product is to satisfy the prospect’s need.

Understand how you like to sell

Individual salespeople may have their unique talent for selling but in any one business all salespeople should operate according to the same sales system. Maybe you work on a ‘pressure them into buying’ approach. Or maybe you prefer something more subtle (and more effective) such as a relationship selling approach. Whatever it is, train your salesperson in the way it operates. Get them to understand all the steps in the selling process, from developing a relationship with the prospect, to recognizing the selling opportunity, to asking for a commitment, to making a successful close.

Understand your sales policies

To avoid rogue discount offers that can eat into margins and create resentment among customers it’s smart to have a discounting policy that covers how much they may offer, to whom, and under what circumstances. Your salespeople need to know these before you set them loose so they don’t make mistakes or look ignorant when prospects ask them about a discount. Similarly, they need to be aware of the terms and conditions that attach to each product, alternative delivery arrangements and the after sales service on offer. There may be other things worth clarifying up front as well e.g. how often you expect them to be in the office - as opposed to out selling; what reports you want on their activity - and how often.  Don’t leave yourself open to frustration or your sales team open to being criticized later because things weren’t explained fully from the beginning.

Mike Reddy is a Chartered Accountant, business coach and advisor helping businesses in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Gold Coast to easily increase their profits and cash flow. He is currently President of the North Sydney Chamber of Commerce, a Regional Councillor for Sydney North East and a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Sydney leadership team. As well as advising businesses, Mike presents business development seminars and webinars and is regularly contacted by the media to comment on small business matters. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.