3 Strategies for Getting the Most Out of Your Sales Team

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In his book No B.S. Ruthless Management of People & Profits, business coach and consultant Dan S. Kennedy presents a straightforward assessment of the real relationship between employers and their employees, and dares you to take action. In this edited excerpt, the author shares the three strategies that have worked best for him and his clients when it comes to managing a sales staff.

If you need help managing your sales staff better, here are three strategies I've used that never fail to boost results.

Strategy #1: Proper Investment.

In most businesses, the investment in salespeople is either democratized, i.e., the same for all, or weighted in an entirely unproductive way. Most business owners invest too much time and money trying to lift the performance of losers while leaving their winners entirely to their own devices. You'll profit to a far greater extent by doing exactly the opposite. By supporting, working closely with and giving more resources and opportunities to champion performers, you'll get a lot more sales. If you give that same support, attention and resources to your poor performers, you may get a little more sales. Do you want a lot or a little?

But can you turn a poor performer into a top performer? Yes. That's what sales legend stories are made of. But it's difficult, painful, time-consuming, costly work with low odds of success. If you now have a sales team, you should carefully analyze who's in the top one-third of its pyramid and who's in the bottom two-thirds, fire at least half those at the bottom, and sit down with those at the top to explore and discuss what you might do to aid them in being even more successful.

Strategy #2: Proper Use.

Highly skilled, successful sales pros should be spending as much of their work hours selling. Not cold prospecting, not otherwise prospecting, not stuffing envelopes, not filling out forms. Selling.

That means relieving them of as much of everything else as you can.

Prospecting, for example, should be replaced with marketing, and the manual labor of prospecting replaced with media. If you have a sales professional making a cold call to try and create interest from scratch, in this day and age, you're a fool. Prospects can be found or created, brought forward, made to ask for information, and then to ask for a conversation or meeting with a sales pro by any number of means cheaper in net terms than hours of a sales professional’s time.

You also want your salespeople selling to the best and highest value, highest probability prospects—not just anyone. Putting good salespeople in front of poor prospects is pretty dumb, but that’s what happens when they're left on their own to prospect or when there's no management and qualifying of leads.

Consider this example: A financial services firm I worked with had three representatives, each producing about $20,000 a month in net revenue for the firm, at little expense to the firm but commissions, for they were charged with creating their own leads and getting their own sales appointments. Over the course of six months, the least effective of the three was eliminated, and a new direct-marketing system that cost the company about $25,000 a month to fund and operate was put in place; it generated 80 percent of the leads needed to keep the two reps fully booked with meetings and—most important—it put them in front of prospective clients with nearly twice the investable assets of the prospects previously dug up by the reps, and it put them in front of prospects predisposed to accept the reps as expert and trustworthy advisors.

The result: Each rep generated more than $60,000 a month in net revenue—thus the firm’s monthly numbers went from $60,000.00 to $120,000. And if you deduct the $25,000 marketing cost, the firm’s still ahead by $35,000 a month; $420,000.00 a year. By developing this kind of marketing system, a second office with two more representatives was possible. Better reps could be recruited and retained, because they were relieved of prospecting, could use their highest and best skill more of the time, and make more money for themselves.

Strategy #3: Proper Accountability.

“If the guy meets quota and produces enough revenue, I don’t care what he’s doing or how he’s doing it.” I’ve heard that from business owners a lot and incredibly, I heard Steve Forbes utter it—on TV—about the ad reps working for Forbes magazine. I respect Steve Forbes. He’s smart about money. But he’s dumb as a rock about this.

This is why 90 percent of prospects actually requesting follow-up at trade show booths never get it. This is how lead flow gets “creamed,” and if the rep makes enough money to be happy by the third week of the month, he plays golf and lets unconverted leads and prospects who failed to buy at first opportunity die. You just can't leave salespeople on their own to decide how they’ll use or waste your resources and opportunities.

You can’t leave them alone with how they're doing it either. Your business’s reputation and long-term sustainability and equity are all put at risk by every spoken, written, emailed or tweeted word and by every action of your representatives. Salespeople need a lot of oversight.

My best and most profitable client had a quality-control monitor who called and spoke with at least one out of every eight non-buyers, giving them a gift card for their time, to question them about what they had and hadn’t been told, what they liked and didn’t like about the presentation and the salesperson, and why they didn’t purchase. His salary was easily covered by the sales he rescued, but he was worth a lot more because the salespeople knew of his meddling and knew they’d be called on anything out of order. This company’s nationwide average conversion rate was double that of their industry’s.

People who are given a good opportunity and want to excel respond reasonably well to accountability that aids them in staying on track and improving. People who resist and resent this kind of accountability are best sent packing.