Friday, December 12, 2014

The Handoff - A Business Owner's Role in Supporting A Sales Team

I've just heard this story too many times not to share it as a learning moment.

I received a call from a salesperson asking for advice as he struggled to meet his quarterly sales quota. I assumed he was calling looking for new sales techniques or particular guidance on moving a client to close. But this was not the case at all. Here is how the dialogue went:

Salesperson says, “I’m selling a product in a market where I have a competitor selling the exact same thing.”

I replied, “Same thing? You mean same features, same everything?”


“Are you more price competitive?”

“No, not really. We offer trade in of older equipment to bring the price down but so does our competitor”

“What about service?”

“Yeah, we do support the customer better than they do.”

”That’s good. But will your customer pay more for this better service?”


“Interesting, so tell me what kind of direction have you received from the owner of the business you work for?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, given the market realities you’ve outlined, how does your owner expect you to win new business? Is he doing things to separate you from this competitor? For example, specializing in a certain niche (becoming experts and thus the preferred vendor) or using marketing and strong advertising techniques to build brand preference (aka, Colgate vs Crest toothpaste)?”

“No, the only guidance I was given was, “Treat it like it’s your business.”

Even the best salesperson will under-perform or fail under these conditions.
It is not the salesperson's job to identify target customers and invent ways to differentiate.

The role of the owner, President and/or CEO of a business is to equip your sales team with the tools to be successful. At a minimum this includes the following:
  • A list of “target customers” 
    • those inline with the customer mix outlined in your short and long-range growth plan
    • who match the profile of those who will value your product, expertise and/or differentiators
  • The compelling story to support why clients should buy your product over competitors
  • Who are the competitors the sales team can expect to face and what differentiates us from each
  • A supportive marketing (lead generating, branding, demo tools, social media, samples, brochures, etc...) strategy
  • The right sales tools and support (travel budget, conference attendance, CRM, bid and proposal, quoting, etc...) - tools that actually help the sales team do their job versus those that help the owner monitor the sales force.
Given that only 28% of a salesperson’s time is spent in front of the customer and about 50% of that time is actually selling (the rest is prospecting (35%), relationship building (10%), and training (5%)), it is imperative, you the owner, equip him/her with the tools to ensure it is the right prospect and that he maximizes the productivity of that time.

In my 12 years of consulting "under-performing sales" has been by far the number one pain point with the blame typically placed squarely on the salesperson or VP of Sales. It is not long into the engagement when humility kicks in as the owner discovers it is their lack of a long-range plan, a clear understanding of what makes them different, a detailed knowledge of their competitors, and an ineffective or non-existent marketing strategy that are the real culprits.

Want to give your sales team the best chance for success? Let's talk about your metro Atlanta business over a cup of coffee.  Contact me here.

About the author. Mike Gomez is President of Allegro Consulting, a growth specialty firm helping businesses plan and execute aggressive growth strategies. He grew his very first client’s business from $8M to $35M in just two years. Mike is a growth strategy and sales process evangelist, prolific speaker, writer, three-time marathoner, a former military officer and pilot of both aircraft and helicopters.