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I spend a lot of time on the road with a number of sales teams and I have to tell you… the swagger factor out there in the marketplace is low. That’s right: SWAGGER. That quality of confidence that provides patience in the face of stupidity, no-blink nerve when looking into the eyes of challenge and the slight strut of knowing you’re the best.
As I’m talking to sales leaders in a variety of industries who are absolute best in class and working with top-shelf branded clients, they are still committing these party fouls when approaching new prospects:
- They run test-proof cycles for the most basic products and services.
- They waive engineering, design, drawing, setup and installation fees for first-time buyers on small orders.
- They fulfill tiny initial orders as a way to “prove” themselves.
- They agree to long “try, wait and see” cycles.
Now, at some point in your company’s history of performance, serving demanding clients and developing your reputation, your company became good enough to answer this question from a prospect: Are you qualified to do business with me?
“Qualified” means competent and market competitive — in pricing, features and benefits. Which further means that you should have the right to move past the first round (walking in the door). The issue is that prospects ask for samples, references, test-runs and little orders as a credentializing step in the process of doing business with you. After you have credentialized yourself, then you get to the real issues of a potential business relationship, which means relevance and value at a scale past credentialization.
Why are you holding on to them? Are you scared of their relationships with key clients? Do you feel guilty that you haven’t given them all of the tools, training and attention they needed to be successful? Is the process of hiring new salespeople so painful that you would rather hold on to these people than go look for new ones? All of the above and more?
Never show fear to animals, children or sales people — they can sense weakness and they will take advantage of it.
Let’s get rid of the fears first:
You have more power than you think. Remember “Jerry Maguire?” Jerry gets fired and tries to take all of his clients with him — and almost none go. Why? Sales people have a distorted picture of the power in the relationship they have with customers. Just like Jerry’s boss, all you have to do is pound the phones – you’ll preserve the accounts, take over the relationships and move on. If you don’t have relationships with your company’s key accounts, fix that. Regardless of how good the sales rep is, you’re the CEO and you need to know your company’s key account contacts personally.
Forget about fault. You cannot own the issues of success and failure with your sales person. If he is not hitting his production goals, you don’t “owe it to him” to give him one more chance.