In the end, we should all be in sales

A company I work with recently announced a new sales strategy: everyone who has contact with customers would be involved in the sales process. This rattled a few employees who said their job is to help people, not sell to them.

Engaging non-sales employees in the process of selling is an area of increasing emphasis for companies around the United States. These employees include everyone who talks with a customer, from the receptionist to an employee in operations or manufacturing who’s asked to answer a customer question.

Building stronger, positive relations with customers at every level can lead to tremendous new opportunities. Companies that do this push the sales experience from just the front end of an engagement through the entire customer relationship.

Keys to overcoming the fear of selling for non-sales people

This shift isn’t easy, for a few reasons. Companies are asking employees to step into roles they weren’t hired for and salespeople have an unfortunate reputation for being pushy extroverts. The manager’s task becomes one of building employees’ confidence while convincing them they don’t have to change personalities – good salespeople help people by leading them to the right product or service to solve their business problem.

Here are some proven tactics:

  • Show enthusiasm for the change and support their new roles. Every time the subject comes up, managers need to tell employees how excited they are and they know the employee will do a great job.
  • Role-play. They can practice new skills in a safe, non-threatening setting. Work together to develop “scripts” for overcoming objections. Monthly role-play meetings around sticky problems staff have encountered can be helpful.
  • Coach them. Give positive reinforcement and eliminate all criticism – even constructive criticism – until employees are comfortable with the new approach.
  • Keep them focused. Prioritize accounts and provide tools like sales literature and scripts.
  • Develop a departmental vision. Ensuring every activity flows from that vision creates clarity.

The company I talked about earlier is doing sales training to help non-sales employees learn and hone their new skills. Overcoming the fear of selling takes commitment, but it can become a cornerstone in the growth of any company.

Steve Bobowski is chief executive officer of Dale Carnegie Training in Wisconsin.

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