IMPLEMENTING INCREMENTAL CHANGES TO ACHIEVE IMPROVEMENTS
Imagine how excited I was to hear that, as the new sales manager for a high-end audio manufacturer, I was invited to Japan to train under the company president. But when I got there it was like a bad scene from The Karate Kid.
My first week was filled with tasks that I just didn’t understand the relevance of. So finally I had to ask, “Mr. Hayahsi, forgive me, but how is training the assembly line workers and engineers how to sell going to help me sell to my quota?” Hayashi replied, “Simple, Mike San, when you understand Kaizen philosophy and see how to constantly improve your product presentations, you will understand how to improve your sales team’s performance in America as well.”
As time went on, I learned that Kaizen is a Japanese word that translates as: “to change” (Kai) and “to become good” (Zen). It implies that everything can grow through gradual and continuous improvements. This applies to one’s personal life as well as business
Simply apply a few Kaizen principals and you will see that it is much easier for your business to capitalize on emerging opportunities practices. In the case of your sales process, ask yourself, “What can we change to take our sales performance to a higher level?” In asking, realize that sales-skills development is an ongoing event. As the sales team leader it is important that you train and develop your sales people frequently with each session adding a little more to the team’s ability.
CONSIDER THE KAIZEN APPROACH
To improve your sales team’s performance, consider implementing a Kaizen sales process of your own. Once a week, for 30 minutes, have your sales people conduct trainings for each other. Occasionally you should lead a session as well. That way, your people get to hear from you and receive your seal of approval for what they are doing.
Train on a variety of topics, like product applications, system designs, and soft-selling skills. This will get useful information in front of your sales team and promote idea sharing within the sales organization. Experienced sales people may not learn much but will be reminded of things they know and are not using effectively for one reason or another. New sales people will use these sessions to build a strong foundation for professional selling techniques.
Once this is established, have each of your sales team members conduct a personal Kaizen event in assessing their sales skills. This will enable them to find areas in which they can work individually to improve their own performance. Your checklist for a personal assessment may include things like: Sales Activity (number of proposals or presentations per month), Selling Skills (probing questions, bid generation/presentation and closing), Knowledge (of products, customers and your competitive advantage), and Personal Character (attitude, dependability, and drive). Review each sales person’s self assessment with them on a quarterly basis and point out areas that you believe will help and encourage them to bring the accomplishments they have made into the group trainings.
Selling residential systems is more complex than ever before. That’s why you’ve got to implement a culture of continuous improvements to your sales process.
Simply apply a few Kaizen principals and you will see that it is much easier for your business to capitalize on emerging opportunities. Plus, you will probably identify some things that you need to stop doing as well.
Mike “Sparky” Detmer is vice president of sales and marketing for Niles Audio and a member of the Consumer Electronics Association’s (CEA) Multi-Room Audio Video (MRAV) council board.