Friday, December 21, 2012

The New Salesman

The mix of good habits and even better
planning will be rewarded!
We’ve all got to start somewhere

Contrary to popular belief, good salespeople don’t grow on trees.  Nor can you drive by the local mission and pick the one with the best lettered “will work for food” sign.  Lastly, I want to drive a stake through the heart of that hundred year old myth, that certain parents beget “natural born sales wizards”.  On the contrary, good salespeople are created, molded, shaped, formed and trained.  Not so good salespeople can develop bad habits, learn the wrong kinds of behaviors and morph into non-performing drains on their employers.

Unfortunately, our industry has a habit of tossing new guys the car keys, pointing to the territory and saying “go get ‘em, kid,” than providing any kind of real training.   This was an issue back in our dad’s day, a mistake in our day and a gargantuan mistake today.  Here’s why.  According to the research conducted by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson in their book The Challenger Sale, the difference in results of average and top rank salespeople is growing.  In the old days of purely transactional selling (Hey Mister, want to buy a Programmable Controller?) the difference between the star seller and the average guy was 59%.  In our world, the world of knowledge-based solution selling, the difference between star and average is over 200%.

The kind of slow progress toward the top that comes from trial and error learning impedes profits.  Think about this.  Most new sellers start off just a shade below average in performance.  Once they get to average, their performance is still 200% less than a top performer.  And, if we can get them to a point of statistically half way between average and star status, they are 100% more effective than the average guy. 

Now I know what a lot of you are thinking, we hire engineers, technicians, classically trained professionals.  In a world of knowledge-based selling this is all good, but it still doesn’t equate to sales moxie.  What’s worse, since most of the leaders of this industry grew up in the age of zero training, many of us don’t really know what a good training program looks like. 

I believe the first several six months sets the stage for success by laying down a number of good habits which morph into a foundation for growth.  Yet very few distributors invest time into establishing a plan for ramping up the new person.  Instead they stand back and watch, after a few months they may realize there’s a problem.  After a couple of informal talks with an already frustrated new salesperson, they finally decide to enroll the guy down at the local Dale Carnegie franchise.  Everyone struggles, money is lost and eventually the salesperson in question either figures thing out, or is flushed as a hiring error.

Finally, here is a thought from another industry expert:  In The Little Black Book of Strategic Planning for Distributors, Brent Grover estimates the cost of getting a new distributor salesperson to the point of being a profit generator at more than $150,000. But, he says, “if distributors capitalized these costs as one would a piece of production equipment – instead of writing if off as a current expense – that would be an asset on the balance sheet of at least $150,000 per salesperson.”  The sooner you can get your new guy up to speed – the better.  I know companies where this number is far greater.

Now a few weasel words from yours truly.  All of this is dependent on you making a sound hiring decision and hiring errors do happen.  Further, it depends on you having a reasonable sales process, good supply partners and the finances to drive the training home. 

With all of this in mind, join us as we spend the next few weeks exploring the ins and outs of a good “on boarding” process.

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