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Ken Keller: Building confidence in your sales team key

Posted: September 30, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 30, 2012 2:00 a.m.

I recently reread the book “Moneyball” so I could gain better insight into the background story, the thinking and the performance of the characters in the movie of the same name.

It occurred to me as an “ah-ha!” moment — the concept that good teachers have always known — that the goal is to have the student gain sufficient confidence in their own abilities do their work proficiently on their own.

This concept works when learning to read, learning states and capitals or memorizing the Gettysburg Address. In business it might be learning a new software package, a process or a sales skill.

My focus this week is on improving sales. One of the most significant challenges in this economy is to grow top line revenue.

Telling salespeople “be grateful you have a job,” is easy but doesn’t win hearts or minds. No one in sales wants to be unsuccessful and show up in the bottom half of the stack rankings.

Barked orders and negative reinforcement have lost almost all impact after five years of a slow growth economy. Something else is needed.

Salespeople come to work each day to earn “their stuff.” Some salespeople have lost confidence in their own abilities and in the products and services they are selling. It is role of the person in charge to facilitate a turnaround.  

There are five steps to improving confidence. The first is self-knowledge. The salesperson has to know what his or her strengths and weaknesses are; what works for them in selling and what doesn’t; what they know and what they need to learn; and what they need to practice getting better at.

The second is to understand where resources are within the company, so a salesperson can go to the right place for information and assistance when it is needed.  

The third is to learn the entire product line, but to be educated one product/service at a time. Many salespeople settle for selling the one thing they feel most comfortable presenting, to the exclusion of the rest. The salesperson is essentially one-dimensional and leaves opportunities to the competition.

The fourth is to use the “buddy system” to keep motivated, keep learning and to keep doing making sales calls and following through. Procrastination and lack of accountability can be avoided by having a buddy to keep the focus tight and movement going forward.

The fifth is to build a personal vision. All too often, salespeople work very hard to get the immediate order to gain satisfaction and results. Better salespeople work toward the end game of a vision, which provides determination and focus when things don’t go well.

To provide structure to this process, the manager should hold several meetings. The first is a quick daily situation meeting where all salespeople present their top three objectives for the week. Verbalizing objectives in public reinforces deadlines and commitments.  

The second meeting is a short weekly one-on-one session when the sales manager meets with each direct report to reinforce the salesperson’s personal vision, coach as needed, discussing behaviors and habits to be executed for the goal to be reached.

The third meeting is a monthly training meeting. The first part of the training meeting is on product knowledge; the second half of the meeting is devoted to “sharpening the sales saw.”

There are three months left in 2012, plenty of time to make things happen and to lay the foundation for a very strong 2013. Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of the person at the top to lead the charge to grow revenue. What are you waiting for?

Ken Keller is CEO of STAR Business Consulting Inc., a company that works with companies interested in growing top line revenue. He can be reached at Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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