We’ve now laid and strengthened our sales foundation by creating a strong value proposition and hiring our sales team. It’s time to ensure your sales people become the strong pillars of success to ensure the future growth of your company.
On-boarding Your Salespeople
On-boarding boils down to training and assimilation into the company’s culture, procedures and strategic focus. Training for a salesperson coming from outside the localization industry is well understood. Processes, technologies, linguistic issues, etc. all need to be covered. However, no matter how experienced the newly recruited salesperson might be, they still need to understand what makes their new company unique. More to the point, since they are selling an intangible service, they are selling the production teams within (and outside) the company. Knowing members of these teams can help the salesperson present the company much more effectively. My personal on-boarding experiences have run from fabulous to non-existent to “oh, you’re in sales, what training do you really need?” The companies who have been the best in terms of training sales staff have been mid-size to larger LSPs that had formal training programs.
One program in particular stands out. I spent several weeks at HQ learning the organization from the inside out. I had a combination of reading, one-on-one meetings with production team leads, departmental heads, project managers and, of course, my own manager and the marketing director. The initial part of the training focused on the company’s culture, goals and differentiators and addressed key questions such as:
- What makes the company unique?
- What are the goals of the company?
- Who are the key players in the company?
- Where does certain expertise lie (software, life sciences, etc.)?
- What tools and technology are used?
- What is the history of the company?
- What sales and marketing tools are available?
The remainder of the training focused on production process and technology, which enabled me to meet and build a rapport with production team leads, departmental heads, project managers and support staff. I was required to shadow various staff to learn how we did things and why and then had to manage a few projects myself so I could experience not just production, but also the systems in place that kept the company running on a day-to-day basis. By the time I was released into the world of selling on behalf of the company, I could explain our processes and technology quite thoroughly. It was excellent!
When my training ended, I felt instilled with the company culture, understood the company’s goals, the brand, and our differentiators. I also knew all the key people in the company and most importantly, the project managers, with whom I was most likely to be in frequent contact. I came away knowing who the go-to person was for just about any question that popped into my head. This saved me a lot of time later!
I was also trained alongside other remote salespeople who were hired at roughly the same time as me. That helped our team form a mutually supportive bond that we carried on into the remote sales environment.
Support and Motivation
A strong sales team starts with strong leadership, particularly a strong sales manager. From the rolodex of companies I’ve worked for, the best sales managers worked a lot, travelled a lot and thrived on the culture they created. These managers were highly engaged with each member of their sales team, which encouraged the sales team to engage with the company. Our strongest sales team managers possessed some common traits that made this possible:
- They established clear targets and goals that went beyond “get x amount of revenue.” As Skip Miller, author of ProActive Sales Management said best, “great sales managers measure the things that cause sales to happen.” Establishing targets is no easy task and is an ongoing process, but when both parties, sales and management, can agree on them, it’s a powerful motivator to any sales person. Many sales managers focus only on the number of calls a sales person makes. In my mind this is a false measurement. I can make 100’s of calls each day, yet accomplish nothing. My best managers measured productive calls, but more importantly they measured a number of other things such as the number of C-Level contacts made, number of quotes, number of meetings, number of presentations, number of quotes closed, number of referrals requested and gotten, number of services cross sold, etc. Qualitative aspects of my job were also measured. This included skill-building activities such as presenting to my peers on a particular vertical market, presenting to my management about my yearly plan, practicing various selling skills such as cold calling. Too often sales people are not measured beyond revenue achievement and this is usually 11 months too late. Measure the things that count and measure them frequently.
- They communicated often, using all available channels. Communicating with remote employees has never been easier: IM, Skype, conference calls, webinars, webcasts, text messaging and, of course, our industry’s notorious overuse of email all offer opportunities for easy communication. The best of the best avoided the dreaded “round robin” team conference calls, but, rather, had highly structured calls with a particular focus: successes, challenges, solutions and knowledge sharing (e.g. overcoming a difficult situation, brainstorming answers to arduous questions on RFPs, sharing wins and how they were achieved, feedback from clients about service offerings, pricing, etc.).
- They made themselves available and were responsive. Most sales managers I know are extremely busy people, but responsiveness is critical, not only in establishing trust with the team, but also for the sake of the client. One of my very overworked former managers established a simple protocol around phone calls. If it was urgent, say so immediately in the voicemail message. This helped him prioritize the dozens of calls he received every hour. As a result, I rarely had to wait longer than 30 minutes for a returned call. Most were returned within 10 minutes! This enabled me to be far more responsive to my clients, and these days, client experience is everything!
- They kept me up to date on company developments. It can be discouraging to hear important news through the grapevine or worse, from sources external to the company. Again, it is incumbent upon salespeople to stay informed, but I’ve seen this happen more than once where executives told some, but not all, staff about important news.
- They helped educate me on new technologies, value-added services, and partnership arrangements that enhanced our service offering. It is so discouraging to hear that internal teams are receiving training on a new technology/process/service offering/change in strategy and remote salespeople are not included. Not all technical training is relevant of course, but if it enhances the service offering, your sales team should know about it.
- They fostered teamwork by bringing the sales team together several times a year to for training and brainstorming, team building and strategy meetings, or to participate in broader company meetings. This was fabulous for morale.
With your sales team on board an motivated, they are now ready to go out and sell your services. In the next installment we’ll turn our attention to the bricks and mortar of sales and what your sales people can do to be more effective in winning new customers.