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From Pacific Business News
Try everything to make your sales staff top-notch
By Ron Martin

As a retail sales manager, you must know your salespeople are either your biggest asset or your biggest liability. They hold the key to your success.

It's not hard to lose sight of the basic fact. Achieving your sales goal every month is imperative, regardless of any obstacles you encounter. And so your sales goal may become more important to you than to your salespeople. It would be wonderful if all you had to do was tell your salespeople, "Here's our goal. Surpass it." But that's not always the case.

In fact, salespeople often present obstacles to selling. Your job is to discover what these obstacles are and to find a way to overcome them.

For example, many salespeople do not consider sales a career. It's often a means to an end.

Some of your salespeople will have lofty goals, while some may have no goals at all. Some of your salespeople will have extensive sales experience, while others will have none at all.

Your salespeople will have different attitudes and ambitions, too. Some will want your job some day, some may not want their own job today.

In short, your success as a sales manager may hinge upon the behavior and results of young, inexperienced and, sometimes, uncommitted salespeople.

You can overcome this obstacle and achieve your sales goals by motivating everyone to succeed everyday. Make your goals and your salespeople's goals the same. Success breeds success. It's easy.

Engineering firms can hire trained engineers. They know what to expect. Accounting firms can hire experienced accountants. But some great salespeople have no prior sales experience. You may choose to see inexperience in sales as an obstacle; however, you can also see it as a blessing. Inexperience means no bad habits -- yet.

The key is to hire attitudes, and offer experience. Bruce Nordstrom, owner of the fabulously successful Nordstrom Inc. department stores says, "We can hire nice people and teach them to sell. We can't hire salespeople and teach them to be nice."

How do you teach people to sell? For one thing you can keep track of their progress by watching them daily. Give them all a "checkup from the neck up." Their attitudes must be positive. Remember, your salespeople are your life's blood.

Be prepared for excuses. When you hear, "It's slow," ask, "How can you speed it up?" This quick response reminds your salespeople that they control results. It focuses them back onto their behavior rather than excuses. Some salespeople like to point the "finger of blame" at the weather, traffic, economy, competition or anything beyond their control. Salespeople who offer excuses are defeated by obstacles.

When your salesperson tells you, "It's slow," ask, "How many good customers do you need to have a good day?" Your best customer of the year may enter your store just as your salesperson has decided: "People aren't buying." Because of this mind-set, your first-class customer fails to receive first-class customer service. You miss the sale. Your salesperson thinks, "I knew it -- people aren't buying."

It can't be stressed enough: Your biggest obstacles to success are the fragile attitudes and work habits of your salespeople.

Mental attitudes can change throughout the day. Someone may start the day with a great attitude, and lose it by noon. Salespeople get their emotions battered around by their customers, by fellow salespeople and managers, by the competition, or by their personal lives.

This condition is normal. You must be aware of it and control it. When you detect depressed spirits, inflate them. Ask, "Are you OK today?" If the answer is, "Yes," say, "OK, I wasn't sure. Have a great day." Your best salespeople will respond quickly to the slightest hint of your displeasure. They become "OK" immediately, and remain "OK" the rest of the day.

The nature and details of someone's personal problem are none of your business. Everyone doing their jobs properly is your business.

Other obstacles to your success can be unexpected resignations, salespeople who call in sick and "no shows." Your most costly salesperson is a missing salesperson.

You can expect some turnover in salespeople. Good ones are in demand, and your best ones know it. When one of your salespeople suddenly quits and leaves you short-staffed, you lose sales. To achieve your sales goals, you must have the proper number of salespeople behaving in the proper manner, all of the time.

Make it your priority to recruit, train and motivate salespeople, and you will overcome this obstacle. The best way to prepare yourself for sudden resignations is to have other salespeople "in the wings."

When you are always recruiting, and everyone knows it, magic happens. Your existing salespeople stay on their toes. And you have a constant stream of qualified applicants to consider should someone quit.

Handling salespeople offers a number of obstacles, whether it be attitude, mood or attendance. But every one of those obstacles offers a solution that will ultimately increase your sales. Find that solution. It's easy.

Ron Martin is the owner of consulting firm Success Dynamics Inc. and the author of several books.

 Success Dynamics, Inc © 2006