Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The New Salesman: Growing the Territory

Accelerating Territory Growth One Individual at a Time 
One first impression,one client at a time.

Building a territory is like building a network of friends.  Let’s think for a moment about the friendships we have nurtured over the years.  If you’re like me, you didn’t just wake up to discover a pile of friends under the Christmas tree.  Instead, they grew based on shared experiences, time together and commonality of background. 

Amongst your best friends are classmates, coworkers, neighbors and people met through some service group.  You met them, you spent time together, or you went through some joint activity.  Maybe you shared the mutual burden of an overly demanding professor.  Or you worked together on a difficult fund raiser at your church.  The point is you intermingled in a series of joint activities.  Let’s drill deeper.

 Your timeline for establishing a relationship may have looked like this:
  • Met at some activity or were introduced by mutual friends
  •  Found some common ground
  • Shared time together over a series of days, weeks, months or maybe years
  • Developed trust
  • Exchanged more information
  • Developed a deeper relationship
  • Established a long term friendship

During each step of the process, you learned more about the person.  And they learned just a bit more about you. 

For a new salesperson, developing relationships within their territory is similar to building a friendship.  Given time and a degree of luck, the newbie will build relationships in their assigned territory.  Some of these relationships will blossom into business alliances.  Some will grow into deeply seated lifelong friendships.  When a person matures along with their territory a magical thing happens.  This friendship factor is one of the true joys of being a seller. 

But this isn’t about eventually building friendships.  Instead, the purpose of our exercise is accelerating the process.  Quickly building strong relationships is the main point of the plan.

There is only one First Impression
The new salesperson is struggling with many things.  Product skills, new company culture, a fresh set of expectations and meeting many new people.  This is a daunting list of distractions; it’s easy to send the wrong message. And, the list is important.  So, what can a person do to create the right impression? 

Every salesperson brings a background and a set of strengths to their first call.  Yet most really don’t think of how they explain their strengths to their new customer.  I have cringed in pain while new sellers with years of engineering background struggled to present their value to the customer. 

Good sales managers coach their newest team member on what makes for a good self-delivered introduction.  Assume that most people are a bit shy about telling their own story.  They fear sounding boastful and throughout their careers may have never been asked to deliver their own personal elevator pitch. 

Step One – Build a personal story to share your background.
But the first impression goes far beyond just standing in one place and rattling off a 30 second commercial on your life’s experiences.  It can’t be one way; people are interested in those who show mutual interest.   This brings us to the second part of building the first impression. 
Good questions open doors.  And, with all the distractions of a brand new territory and a batch of new people, we can’t count on listening and thinking of questions at the same time.  Develop a list of introductory questions for the customer.  We will talk more about questions in another article, but for now let’s talk about starter questions.

Here is a couple to give you a flavor:
·         What is your favorite way of getting product information?
·         I see your job description is maintenance manager; can you give me an idea of what your duties cover?
·         What do you expect from one of your top supply partners?

We won’t waste time with the whole open ended question lecture.  There are other resources for that skill, but do not that each of these questions allowed the customer the opportunity to help you do a better job. 

Step Two – Create questions prior to your first visit.
I recommend making the first meeting entirely about the customer.  Your job is to gather information, make a good first impression and open the door for future sales.  But remember the Boy Scout Moto.  Be prepared.

 Have the following at your disposal:
·         A company line card
·         A “composition book” and a pen for taking notes
·         A history of previous sales to the customer (if applicable)
·         An understanding of any issues which may still be lurking in your customer’s mind from previous experiences.

Step Three – Be Prepared
You’ve met the customer, but the first impression continues far beyond the twenty minutes you spend together.

Make yourself different

There are thousands of new salespeople cruising around the planet.  A good many are trolling around your territory.  But you’re different.

The best way to jump start a relationship is to let the customer know you value their time and you value their opinion.  I recommend sending each new customer contact a thank-you note following your first visit.  Pay attention.  I did not say thank you email.  Send an honest to goodness card that says something like this:


Thanks for sharing your time with me yesterday.  I really appreciate that you were willing to invest in our future.

Your opinions on the value of a good supplier made a bigger impact than you might imagine.  I have been thinking about what you said for the past couple of days.

Imagine this, the customer arrives at work and finds the card on his desk.  You took time to think of him.  Now he stops his work and reflects back on your time together. 
It’s a memorable first impression.

There are many other relationship accelerators.  We’ll hit them another time. But for now think about stepping off on the right foot. 

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