Top 10 ways to have a great sales team How to make the best decisions in filling your sales training needs
By: EARL HEARD, CEO and Founder BIC Alliance
Over the years we have seen the work force change. Gone are the days when we hire a new sales person, give them a few days of training and then assign them to work a few days with a seasoned professional before turning them loose to sink or swim. There is no reason that person and the entire sales team cannot be successful as long as we give them, their mentors and their training department the tools they need to achieve their goals. Here are the top 10 ways BIC Alliance has found success when it comes hiring, training and retaining a great sales team.
1. Hiring: Hire the most motivated and people-loving folks you can find. Even though you have an excellent HR department you may want to consider using a recruiting firm that specializes in screening and placing energy related sales professionals. If you have to make a decision on hiring someone with energy and/or industrial experience or someone without industrial experience, I suggest going with the person who has worked in the energy sector. If your sales person will be selling to multiple industries and he claims to have experience ask him a) To explain the difference between, upstream, midstream and downstream; b) The best trade shows for each sector; and c) The best professional organization to join for each sector.
2. Sales trainers and "train the trainer”: You will need to hire or train at least one or two excellent sales trainers who are capable of training both your new hires and your present sales staff. It is important to remember just because someone is a good sales person does not make him a good manager or sales trainer. I have found having a good "train the trainer” program is the key to developing a strong cadre of trainers not only in sales but also in every department. The investment you make in developing a strong "train the trainer” program will be one of the best investments you will ever make in training throughout your company. A cost-effective option is a mentor-protégé relationship. Mentors help protégés expand their knowledge and understanding as well as hone their skills and master new skills through shadowing. A word of caution here — there are some excellent industrial operations, maintenance and safety-training firms that don’t necessarily have sales training or sales training development experience.
3. Using an outside firm, doing it in house or a combination of both: There are some excellent sales training firms that have never been on an industrial sales call or written an industrial sales training manual. If you can’t find a company that has experience in both areas you may consider using two companies that complement each other. Another excellent option, that may be more cost effective, is to hire someone with energy related experience that is also knowledgeable in developing sales training manuals as well as actually doing the training. If you have someone in house who can do most of these duties but lacks expertise in areas like developing job descriptions or developing a cadre of job trainers, then you may want to consider using an outside firm to train them in these areas.
4. Job descriptions — begin at the beginning: Make sure you have excellent job descriptions, not only for every sales related job in your company but every job in your company. A good job description will always contain the job title, the duties the person must be able perform, how much time based upon 100 percent the person will be spending on each task along with an estimate of the level of importance. These job descriptions can also be used for evaluating the performance of each individual. Once you have developed excellent job descriptions, job duties and task listing, you can begin breaking down each task into what we refer to as job breakdowns.
5. Developing a training manual and job trainers: There are many things needed before you can develop an excellent sales training manual that will help you speed up the process. a) You must have the buy-in from your top management along with the commitment to invest the time, energy and manpower to develop a first class sales training manual and a cadre of sales trainers. b) You need a good employee orientation manual to make sure the sales department and the HR department are on the same page. Working closely with HR will not only keep you out of trouble it will speed the process. c) Job descriptions that include task listing and job breakdowns are the cornerstone of developing an excellent training manual whether it is in sales, operations or maintenance. Any good training program should have a way for employees to learn and refresh themselves online. I suggest developing both a written and online training program.
6. Getting input and involvement from staff: Often management has a different idea of what is needed in a sales training program or in a sales training manual than the folks in the field who are actually making sales calls. I am a firm believer that you cannot develop a sales training program, a cadre of sales trainers or a sales training manual unless you get the sales force involved. Not only are these the best content experts, their buy-in is essential if you expect them to use it themselves or when they train others. One of the best ways I know to get started is to conduct a brainstorming session and develop a needs analysis survey with your sales management, HR department and some of your top sales people. Any good session like this should also have a list of goals to be accomplished, a list of priorities based upon short-term and long-term needs and some estimate of the time it will take and the financial investment you are willing to make. It is also important you structure a program that enables your sales team to continue selling while they help develop the program.
7. Accountability and documentation: Any effective management and/or sales training program must have a way of testing, ongoing documentation of activities and a way of sharing information. At BIC Alliance each of our sales folks and member service representatives record their activities daily digitally so they can be reviewed and shared by the management team and their peers. Each week every key manager and everyone in sales and operations files a weekly activity report that includes not only their sales and customer service activity but also the most important lessons learned for that week. We have found when we share activities and lessons learned it creates a better team atmosphere and makes learning and sharing information more fun. Not only does this help us increase sales and become the undisputed leader in our field, it better prepares us for training ourselves and others.
8. Recognition and rewards: It is important not only that our sales folks record and share their activities and lessons learned but also that their supervisors, peers and trainees also review the information. We are strong believers in recognizing and rewarding folks for a job well done. Second to survival, recognition is man’s greatest need. At BIC Alliance we believe in and practice recognition for a job well done and apply this same principle with our marketing partners and readers. We believe saying "Thank you” and doing more than is expected for our marketing partners and readers is the key to our success and the cornerstone of renewing our relationships. We do not think of ourselves as a sales person or in terms of making a sale but as your marketing partners who are helping you launch a marketing campaign.
9. Merging marketing and sales: Every person in sales must learn not only their industry, company and competition but they also need to learn how to use every marketing and sales tool their company makes available to them. Marketing and sales teams need to work together closely so the company has top awareness and the sales team has access to the best list of prospects, and knows how to do every step in the sales process. The sales team must be able to use the latest in sales and marketing tools including advertising, trade show tactics and techniques, and social media.
10. Ongoing training and a training library: Just as doctors, lawyers and accountants must have ongoing training, this is also a must for management, marketing and sales professions. Not only do we suggest attending both inside and outside sales training sessions, seminars and retreats we also suggest an in-house management and sales training library where your employees can check out books. You may even want to develop a way for them to be recognized or rewarded if they submit a book review that includes lessons learned. Here at BIC Alliance we place as much emphasis on the professionalism of our marketing and sales folks and our entire organization as we do on the quality of our publication.
For more information, contact Earl Heard at (800) 460-4242 or by email.