Small businesses struggle to find and retain good salespeople. This article points out five important elements for salespeople to contribute to the growth and success of small businesses.
In my experience as a small business owner and experiences as a sales and marketing consultant to other businesses, I’ve realized that finding and developing successful salespeople is one of the most challenging aspects for smaller businesses. Without the established systems, long list of existing accounts, and “deep pockets” that larger businesses have, small business owners don’t have the resources to withstand the costs of marginal salespeople.
Implement the following five factors and you’ll create a foundation for sales success.
Knowledge of their business
It’s more than knowledge about the product or service being sold, it’s also knowledge about the customer and his business, and about the marketplace in general. Salespeople need to have a command of four things:
- What’s most important to the buyer as it relates to your products/services – learn about developing buyer personas
- How your products/services work
- How your products/services solve the buyers’ problems
- What are your competitive advantages and unique selling propositions
Think about it – if your salesperson understands enough about the customer to appeal to his “hot buttons”, can effectively demo and/or explain what you’re selling, can communicate to the buyer how it solves his problem, and can articulate why the buyer should buy your product/service vs. that of the competition, you’ve got someone who has the knowledge to excel.
Skills to communicate with the buyer
Our research tells us what buyers value in salespeople. Read How to improve sales – avoid the 7 deadly sins of salespeople. More than anything buyers want a good problem solver. Have you trained your salespeople how to ask questions to uncover problems? Have you provided them a road-map about how to ask the right questions and listen actively to the buyer?
Like any other position, your salespeople need to have skills – selling skills. These selling skills should focus on the following 5 skill areas:
- How to ask the right questions in the right way to uncover problems
- How to build rapport with your buyer
- How to listen actively
- How to handle and overcome objections
- How to ask trial closing questions and how to ask for the sale
Defined sales process and good sales tools
Do you have a defined target market and a sales process that enables a good person to succeed? Do you have supporting information to describe your products/services, case studies that explain past success and applications, and appropriate marketing support? If not, your salesperson is disadvantaged.
As with other positions and roles in your company, appropriate processes and tools are critical to the success of your salespeople. The top 5 resources to have are:
- You’ve clearly defined your target market and what makes a buyer qualified
- You’ve developed a methodical and defined process for a sales transactions from point of initial contact to closing the sale
- You have invested in inbound marketing and outbound selling to generate qualified leads
- You have a CRM that enables you to track sales related communications and nurture leads
- You invested in technology like smartphones, tablets, LinkedIn, etc.
One of the most important resources to have to support your salespeople is exceptional service after the sale. If customers rave about you and tell their friends, your reputation with buyers will precede you. If not, even the best of salespeople will struggle to overcome a bad reputation in your marketplace.
Unhappy salespeople won’t be successful. Unsupported salespeople won’t last. Unless you create a positive, uplifting, energetic environment, your people won’t succeed. You don’t need to motivate people – people need to be self-motivated. Just don’t put self-motivating people into a demotivating environment.
A positive environment for salespeople is made up of the following 4 things:
- Personal development – do your people feel they are growing professionally?
- Recognition of achievements – are you recognizing the right behaviors…the behaviors that lead to sales success, good customer service and employee growth and development?
- Compensation – do your compensation plans recognize the right behaviors and are they effective reward systems?
- Work environment – does your work environment enable individuals to express and apply their personal styles, skills, and abilities?
The right DNA
The ongoing debate about whether successful salespeople are made or born will rage on forever. Experts agree there’s a natural aptitude for sales that some people have in their DNA. Face it, it is unlikely you’ll turn a top-performing quality control engineer into an elite salesperson – it’s probably not in their blood.
The single most important element to finding and developing a successful salesperson is hiring the right person – a person whose personality aligns with proven profiles of successful salespeople. It is difficult to determine if sales is in a candidate’s blood, and we encourage use of assessment tools during the hiring process. We use the CPQ online assessment and it has proven to be a very good predictor of sales success. Learn more about the CPQ sales assessment.
In summary, there are five elements that contribute to success of salespeople in small businesses. If your salesperson possesses good knowledge of how your products/services work and how they benefit the buyer, you’ve got the first element covered. In addition, command of selling skills, a good sales process with the right tools, and a motivating, supportive environment are key elements to success. Finally, no matter how good your environment is, not having the right person with sales in their DNA will likely prevent you from having success with your small business salesperson.