Mike Detmer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the principal of Detmer Business Solutions, which provides companies in the systems integration space with easy-to-use business knowhow modules that enable functional managers to better execute key duties. I still remember my first day on the job running the sales operations at Niles. Our tour bus bounced from side-to-side as we traversed the windy roads to Sedona, AZ, on our way to host a dealer council in one of the most magical locations imaginable. But the talk I was getting from my boss was anything but magical. It was concise and to the point. “Your job is to grow our revenues and preserve our margins,” Frank explained. “During this event and over the next several weeks I expect you to be a sponge and internalize everything about our existing operations. Then give me your plan as to how you will beat our competition,” he instructed me.
Gulp! “No pressure here,” I thought. But what better a place to begin than by looking at the results generated from our best customers, many of whom were on the same bus with me. After interviewing each dealer, it became clear that, much like many of you, our competitors had a fairly comparable array of products. Yet the competitor that was getting ahead had a highly effective sales force. So my plan to outsell the competition involved optimizing our sales team, and it worked.
If you find your business in a similar position and want to outsell your competition, blueprinting your sales force for excellence is the least expensive and most effective step you can make. Here are a few tips and resources available at CEDIA EXPO 2013 later this month to help in the process:
1 Better System, Higher Sales
To improve sales results, you first have to analyze and optimize your sales system. Within that system are your sales people, the roles they play, their responsibilities, and activities. Ask yourself; do you have enough coverage, is everybody working on the same page, and is everybody who is responsible for making sales held accountable for doing so? If you’re not sure where to start in assessing your sales system, Leslie Shiner is instructing a class at CEDIA EXPO called, “Build Your Business Like A Winning Baseball Team.” Don’t miss it.
If you want your company to outsell the competition, blueprinting your sales force for excellence is the least expensive and most effective step you can make. 2 Knowledge is Power
An enlightened sales force is an effective sales force. Due to the consultative nature of selling residential systems, the most effective sales people in the space tend to have a unique blend of product knowledge and people skills. Yet, frequently they are out of sync with project management. Structure your company for success by fostering a culture of cross-functional learning and development for both your sales staff and your installation teams. To learn some of the basics of synchronizing project management, Aaron Carmack is conducting a CEDIA EXPO class titled, “Project Management Skills For the Technician and the Designer.” Taking it is a good bet for smoother, more profitable jobs.
3 Process Rules
Repeatable work patterns will drive your sales team by taking the guesswork out of their jobs, thus allowing them to spend more time with customers. Be sure that you set a strong example and state what your processes are, so there is no confusion. Review your ways of doing business and modify them, if necessary, to drive the results you desire. To learn more about standardizing some of your selling cycle, Paul Self is conducting a class at CEDIA EXPO titled, “Wash, Rinse, Repeat - Standardizing Your Business Model.” His advice will help your sales team eliminate guesswork from its process.
4 Empowerment Goes a Long Way
Give your sales staff some slack in their pricing, so they can counter a competitive bid on the fly. When you do, make sure to have controls in place that prevent margin erosion below a certain point. For instance, some companies allow their sales people to set bid prices, but they also tie their compensation to margin as a way of establishing a balance between generating sales dollars and attaining profits. If you’re struggling with a compensation program, Tom Stone (a fine friend and competent CI business owner) is instructing a CEDIA class titled, “Effective Compensation Strategies.”
5 You Get What You Inspect, Not What You Expect
Don’t assume that your sales staff is spending all of its time selling. Ask to see the bids that are in the pipeline, as well as a list of their next top prospects. Assign monthly sales goals and post the results for everyone to see. Set up weekly sales review meetings to go over the projects in the queue as well as the top prospects going forward. This way everyone knows that you are serious about sales attainment and are watching to be sure it happens.
Unfortunately there is no course at the CEDIA EXPO 2013 on sales management per se. However, if you want a few sales goal and prospect tracking tools, just e-mail a request for such to me at email@example.com. I’ll be glad to help out.