Nothing happens until somebody sells something.
With that simple statement, Red Motley made clear the importance of the sales function to any organization. As a material handling distributor in the supply channel, the importance is even more acute. Selling is your lifeblood. The selling function is a significant part of your activities. Yes, operations, service and technical support are essential, but today’s material handling distributor must be a “selling machine” where everyone who serves the customer directly or indirectly delivers and communicates (sells) value. When this thinking permeates your culture, it assures growth and profitability. I have just described a true “selling organization.”
Transforming into a team where everyone sells and has a selling mindset will not happen by accident. You must do it on purpose. If you tell people to do the right things and your system tells them otherwise, the system will win every time. This article will highlight three things you can start immediately to indoctrinate this culture into your system: 1) teach everyone to sell, 2) sell the house, and 3) standardize your selling process.
Teach Everyone to Sell
This part of the transformation starts at the top, as you might have expected. First and foremost, the dealer principal and top management must be selling experts. Not that they are out in the field closing deals (although they may have key involvement in some accounts), but they must possess sharpened selling skills in order to sell ideas, expectations, tools, systems, etc., to the entire team. Sell, not tell! They must also have a clear understanding of value and benefit selling in order to present, market and perpetuate the required factors that differentiate you from the rest of the competition. Only leaders who understand the strategic and tactical requirements of successful selling can direct, inspire, coach and motivate a true selling organization. Visible, enthusiastic support of any selling-skills training is a must.
Sales managers must also sell. They must become brilliant in their contribution to joint calls—not to take over, but to be a model of professional selling skills. As a coach they must reinforce the disciplines of professional selling and raise expectations. It is strongly suggested that sales managers participate in any selling skills training. The purpose of this is not to just monitor and observe, but to be an active part as each salesperson practices and refines their execution.
Of course, frontline salespeople must be masters of selling. Selling is their profession. Each one should strive to become the material handling sales professional. Product knowledge, application expertise, people skills, benefit selling, communication skills, strategic account planning and pre-call planning are just a few of the many skills and tools they must execute skillfully to get consistent results. Intensive selling-skills training for these professionals is a given. These are the highly trained field agents of a successful selling organization who take proactive action and start the engine.
Don’t forget that service technicians, customer service, installation and all sales support must also be trained in selling skills. Granted, selling is not their primary job duty, but they are interacting daily with customers and dealing with the tough issues. They encounter an astounding amount of opportunities to reinforce value, secure jeopardized business, penetrate and expand accounts, discover hidden opportunities, pass leads, add on, sell and build relationships. Great selling organizations provide these key players with more than just technical know-how or specific job skills. They leverage their integral involvement with customers by adding core selling skills to their regimen of training. With proper sales training, they can learn to sell spontaneously and appropriately.
Sell the House
We don’t just sell product anymore. Product and brand will not sell themselves. We have to “sell the house.” The one thing the competition does not have is your differentiator!
Why should customers choose to do business with you? Every person in your organization should know that answer. This awareness should season everything you do and be on the tip of every tongue. If you do not know that answer, who does?
When you consider the question, “What do we sell?” you can help define that answer by documenting unique factors and value-added services of your distributorship. Unique factors are advantages, minute distinctions and attractive characteristics that you offer. Don’t get hung up on the word “unique.” Some competitors may claim the same or similar unique factors. Unique factors are simply what you look like as a company. How many branches you have, expertise in certain markets, years in business, key people, inventory, size, location, stability, certified mechanics, customer base and lines represented are all examples of unique factors. Value-added services are what you do for your customers before, during and after the sale. These services support your offerings and enhance the perceived value. Examples might be fleet management, part usage reports, financing services, safety training seminars, etc. I suggest you workshop these two lists as a team and publish the results internally. Make sure everyone knows and believes in who you are and what you do. You may even want to prioritize this list and document the top things that clearly set you apart from the rest of the pack of competitors.
Standardize Your Selling Process
So how do you take this corporate selling mindset to the street? This has to be more than a value campaign or hype. You must make sure that all contacts and experiences with your customers result in a perceived value for which they are willing to pay a premium price. This will not happen by accident. Banners and literature will only create visual consistency in your marketing and image. Each and every person, in every customer interaction, must sell that value and communicate it effectively.
The best way to facilitate this is with a standardized selling process, a framework to help each person who interacts with the customer prepare and execute effective selling of your value. The dynamic interaction with a customer is not step-by-step. However, having a structure for how to prepare and execute the interaction is powerful.
The 5 A’s Selling Process comprises Approach, Analysis, Active presentation, Answer objections and Always be closing. Outside sales professionals can use this outline to pre-call plan for each call. Sales support can use this same outline to react better in spontaneous selling situations and opportunities that occur every day. By standardizing the tool and terminology used for selling your value every day, you can fulfill the first challenge—teach everyone to sell.
Becoming a selling organization is not really complicated. It is decisive, however. The pieces are all there: your people, products and operations. It is really a matter of connecting those pieces to transform into a selling machine. Teach everyone to sell. Sell the house. Standardize your selling process. Remember the line of children’s toys called Transformers? With its existing parts, a robot could, by a few decisive moves, become a racecar or some other machine. Make the three decisive moves we just discussed and turn from just a material handling dealer into a selling machine!
|Meet the Author
Don Buttrey is president of Sales Professional Training LLC, located in Beavercreek, Ohio, and on the Web at www.salesprofessionaltraining.com.