A simple (but not easy) plan – Follow this six-step roadmap to drive real changes in your sales force

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:28 pm

The return of the business traveler
Follow this six-step roadmap to drive real changes in your sales force

By Jerry Stapleton and Nancy McKeon, for SBT

Many executives think they can move their sales forces up to the Business Resource level of selling with just a one-time investment in training. The simple fact is: No three-day or one-week or even two-week training program by itself will create the internal environment — the culture — that selling at the Business Resource level requires.
Changing that culture demands a continuing, disciplined effort that must be led by the business owner or chief executive.
Start by looking at how you view the role of selling. If you see selling as simply educating the customer about your company’s products and services and then helping to make the transaction happen, you probably won’t understand or commit to what it takes to sell at the Business Resource level. We’re not talking about merely getting better at those traditional selling functions.
By contrast, if you view selling as a core process — a primary means for reinforcing your brand, a key to differentiating your company — and if you view your sales force as a key vehicle for creating demand for your products and services, then you’re already halfway to where you need to be to build a Business Resource environment in your company.

Here’s a six-step program to help you finish the journey.

1. Acknowledge that mere sales training won’t get you there. How would you transform yourself into a world-class athlete: Pop a couple of pills, drink liquid meals and watch some sports videos? Or put yourself on a strict regimen of proper diet and intensive training?
The answer is obvious; there are no shortcuts. Prepare to spend months, even a few years, working to lift your sales force to the Business Resource level. And make sure that the consultants you engage are equally committed to the long haul, not simply looking to fill seats in their seminars.

2. Make sure your sales managers do more than manage. Are your sales managers truly leaders and coaches? Or do they simply manage the numbers and other administrivia?
Equip them to lead by example. Everything that you’re asking your salespeople to do in the sales process, your managers ought to be able to do — and coach — so that the salespeople can learn by observing, and will rally around them as leaders.

3. Become an active part of the sales process. One key component of value that salespeople must demonstrate to your customers is their ability to command resources within their own companies – up to and including the support and commitment of the selling company’s senior executives. Your salespeople should be creating opportunities for you to meet with customers.
Take care, however, to avoid the common pitfall in which the meeting turns from the salesperson’s to the executive’s. Foster an atmosphere in which the salesperson will be comfortable taking the lead role in joint sales calls. He or she needs to be confident enough to direct you on what to do and say on the call, and you need to check your own ego at the door and be willing to take direction from the salesperson.

4. Implement compensation plans that reinforce Business Resource selling. If you want your salespeople to act like Business Resource salespeople, pay them for Business Resource activities and results.
Too many companies have incentive compensation plans that encourage short-term transactional results, even while management tries to communicate a long-term strategy of account development to the sales force.
Salespeople will always work to the plan. So design your plan to reward longer-term, higher-margin results in proper balance to shorter-term revenue objectives.

5. Hire and keep the right people. It takes a different kind of person to be effective at the Business Resource level. The Vendor’s top skills — smooth-talking "tell" pitches, glad-handing schmooze — are counter-productive for a Business Resource.
Some Vendors have honed their skills so sharply they can’t undo them. You must accept the reality that some of your people will not make it in a Business Resource environment, and that you’ll have to redesign selection criteria when recruiting new salespeople.

6. Deploy technology wisely. Technology has made salespeople more productive by, for example, linking them directly into company databases. Yet, equipping your sales force with the latest SFA tools will not lift the organization to the Business Resource level of selling. It is a mistake to lead with technology; it should be deployed as a support for and reinforcement of Business Resource processes and behaviors.

There is no substitute for the organizational commitment and investment required over the long haul. While there are no shortcuts, there is a clear path leaders can follow toward transformation. Agree to the plan, then, of course, work the plan.

Jerry Stapleton and Nancy McKeon are with Stapleton Resources LLC, a Waukesha-based sales force effectiveness practice. They can be reached at 262-524-8099 or on the Web at www.stapletonresources.com.

Dec. 26, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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