A Primer on Sales Management: Just be Nice!

April 21, 2010 at 11:43 am | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, entrepreneurship, sales, Sales Training | Leave a comment
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Didn’t our mothers tell us to just be nice? This most basic of principles has been taught to all of us from our earliest age, yet niceness always seems to be in short supply. When you ask customers what they want or expect from the companies with whom they do business, more often than not, they say that they want nice salespeople.

Why is niceness a scarcity in sales? Usually, it’s a trickle down effect. Salespeople don’t feel cared for by their companies, so they transfer their negativity to their customers. That being said, there are clear strategies to help ensure that your team is modeling the golden rule. Here’s a refresher on how to jumpstart your sales team’s niceness.

Respect Them

Yes, respect really is a two-way street. Showing care and concern for salespeople and valuing their efforts can hugely affect how they perceive their job, their customers, and you!

Empower Them

Valuable insight can be found from the individuals who work on the frontlines of sales. They want to share with you their findings, offer their suggestions for improvement, and be given the power to make decisions without always having to get permission.

If you hired them, you must have thought they were qualified and capable. Give them the opportunity to excel, and you’ll build loyalty and commitment. Alternatively, if you clip their wings, you’ll quickly have a team that is resentful and just going through the motions of their job until something better comes along.

Compensate Them

Money talks! Reward those who are striving to succeed, offering solutions, and achieving their goals. Your generosity will not go unnoticed. Well-paid salespeople are happy salespeople who will treat their customers far better than those who are only thrown a few crumbs every now and again.

Provide Great Working Conditions

By creating an environment where your team truly wants to go and work, you can positively affect their day-to-day attitude. Whether you set up a comfortable office space or let them work from home if it’s more productive there for them, making their conditions undeniably great will encourage them want to be nice to others. No one wants to sit in a nondescript cubical with poor fluorescent lighting. This is a recipe for making ticked off salespeople. Instead, give them the space they need to flourish, and their happiness will be reflected in their work.

Make Them a Team

Sales teams that encourage each other and realize that they share a common goal are always more productive than those that squabble, backstab, and nitpick. Sure, a little friendly competition might be a good way to ramp up sales, but at the end of the day, your team should be helping each other to achieve their goals. By feeling part of a team, they have the support system they need to provide the highest level of service to your customers.

Help Them to Feel Good about the Company

Niceness is definitely contagious. If the company is modeling niceness through volunteerism, donations, treating their employees well, this spirit of goodwill will naturally carry on through employees directly to your customers.

Make Sure They Understand the Importance of Customers

Continuously stressing the value and importance of customers is something that is vital to every business. In our hyper rushed world, it’s easy to lose track of the fact that customer satisfaction should be at the heart of everything that your sales team does.

Train Them

Without training them how to care for customers, you’re setting your business up for failure. Salespeople cannot provide the highest quality of service if they are not given training on how to perform their jobs. Even if they’re the nicest individuals in the world, this may not be projected if they’re bumbling through sales presentations and unsure of what they’re supposed to be doing. Just Be Nice!

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No, Sales Training IS NOT an Option!

April 6, 2010 at 8:49 am | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Adrian's Network, Customer Service, entrepreneurship, Marketing, sales, Sales Training, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Those that understand the importance of training absolutely know this to be a fact.  It’s not a belief or an opinion, or a preference.  It’s certainly not an attitude.  It’s a cold hard fact: training is important.

But there’s a strange problem here; and you probably know what it is, either directly or indirectly.

Many people know that training is important – because, at one time or another, and in one form or another, we’ve all been valuably trained in something, or trained someone else to do something useful – yet this basic knowledge is not widely reflected in the world of work.  It’s clear importance is not fully understood, and therefore, not fully exploited to make life easier and more profitable.

Unraveling the Strange Problem: Changing Perceptions

The core of this problem has to do with that important postmodern word: perception.

For decades now – centuries, arguably – training has been seen as something that supports the workforce.  This position stems largely from the perception that training is an extension of education.  Since education has been traditionally viewed as a system of supporting human growth and development, workforce training has slid conveniently, some might say logically, into this existing groove of thinking.

So why is this a problem of perception?

Because in the modern workforce – and that of the foreseeable future – the idea that workforce training exists as a support system is dangerously outdated.  The notion of support implies that something is important; but not necessarily vital, and certainly not essential.  And it’s because of this view that in many workplaces, training is viewed as an enhancer; something valuable, yes, but ultimately optional.  Something to invest in or focus upon if revenues support it, or if time permits it.  But certainly nothing essential.

This perception is utterly out of date!

Training is no longer optional.  It’s not an enhancer, a supporter, or a nice to have thing.  In the 21st century, an organization’s capacity to effectively train its people is part of its ability to survive.  And if that capacity isn’t there – or if it’s defective – then the organization itself will reveal that flaw in a number of destructive ways, including loss of bottom line profits.

It’s a misnomer to think that so-called skilled workers are those human beings who emerge from university or college and bring with them some kind of technical or practical acumen.  That may have been true a few decades ago; but no longer, and never again.

In today’s world, everyone is a skilled worker.  From the receptionist with the high school education to the CFO with an MBA, the entire workforce has become a skilled landscape; and that means that there is arguably no position that isn’t in need of continuous training.

Each member of a team, a unit, and a company can no longer be viewed as individual silos focusing on their singular task within a limited sphere of activities.  Rather, today, each person is a part of a skilled workforce; and if there are gaps or lacks in any area, the entire workforce will suffer.  And make no mistake: this suffering isn’t merely emotional or cultural (though that is a part of it).  This suffering is financial.

Training = Profit

When there are gaps in the skilled workforce – gaps caused by lack of training – then, automatically, work become inefficient and money is lost.

How much money is lost depends on the type of gap and how it manifests; but without doubt, regardless of whether a company sells flowers or microchips, a gap in the skilled workforce costs money.

In the past, this gap was typically seen only in terms of sales, such as whether a lack of training caused a sale to be lost.  Now, however, we know without any economic doubt that the costs of ineffective or non-existent training gaps go far beyond lost sales.  These additional financial costs include: rework, missed profits (smaller profits due to inefficiency), and misallocated resources (money spent trying to fix a gap could be better spent elsewhere).  There’s also lost market share, lost potential word-of-mouth advertising from satisfied (or merely served) customers, and the list goes on.

Understanding Why Training is Important

It bears repeating: training can no longer be viewed as a support system, like a good benefits program or a leading-edge technical infrastructure.  In the skilled workforce of the 21st century, training is essential.  It is the core engine of a company, because it supports the entire skilled workforce.  And, frankly, there is no other way – whatsoever – for a company to comply with this paradigm shift than to understand that training is important.  Or rather, that it’s essential.

Not All Training is Created Equally

A typical and rational concern here might be that not all types of workers require the same training.  Actually, this is perfectly true, and not a concern; it’s just a basic fact of the new world of work.

Absolutely: your sales team will not require the same training as your customer service people.  While there might be elements that apply to both – negotiation skills and cultural awareness spring to mind – there is no need to envision a cookie-cutter approach to training.  In fact, the old model of training – the one where static, one-size-fits-all training was rolled-out through a company from CEO to Intern is tragically (and again, dangerously) out of date.  Successful training – the kind that retains profit and creates more profit – must reflect the needs of a particular team or function within a company.

This may sound expensive; and in fact, one of the big reason that old-fashioned roll-out training has been relied upon is because it’s seemingly easy to administrate, and even easier to predict costs (as needlessly high as they may be).

Yet as economists are clearly pointing out – without emotion, without bias, in the great way that economists point things out – this old-fashioned training approach is more expensive than the new, customized skilled workforce training.  This is because focused training can be measured and tracked much more practically than generic company-wide training.  Furthermore, this customization allows training to be tweaked and adjusted as business needs and market conditions require.

A Final Word…

Keep in mind that the key argument here isn’t that training is good.  This isn’t pro-training boosterism; and it’s certainly not a lobbying effort on behalf of financially neglected Training and Development professionals across the globe.  The perception that training is essential is sourced in the emergence of the most powerful, and possibly most dynamic, labor market concept in history: the skilled workforce.

And the message that it’s telling us?  Clear and simple: training is not an option.

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