Order taker, order maker, hunter, farmer?
Sales managers today need to be more astute and aggressive because the competition is getting tougher. This is a market share gain game and those that claim share win. The technology savvy manager has a greater chance to succeed now more so than ever before because technology aggregates information to drive business intelligence and decision making.
First, sales managers and their sales people need to know their business mix and make sure they have a compelling value proposition to their particular target audience. All too often sales managers step into the job and just assume they clearly understand their mix of business (and many have called on accounts for a while but haven’t analyzed what they’ve sold … but they tell you they know what a particular Contractor orders … really??). Have sales managers analyzed their area closely by account, SIC and available sales talent to call on those key accounts. The old 80/20 rule still exists but you may want to get your top reps selling to those top 20% accounts. Too many times a distributor rep will have 80-100 accounts assigned to them and they really focus their time on their top 20 accounts and the other 80 get very few touch points and just fill in their numbers. Sales managers should look closely at those other 80 assigned accounts and find ways to get them more touches to generate more opportunity. This can be achieved by reassignment to staff on the inside of the operation. Touches do not have to be face to face but can be executed via a phone call or email. It is the “touch” that counts. This book of business that the 80 accounts generate, could represent a significant growth opportunity but today are only helping to justify an outside reps compensation. As a sales manager, this can be a great area to focus on. Surely, there would need to be an effort to train inside personnel to feel more comfortable making the outbound call with frequency…but again, this can represent hidden revenue generation opportunity.
Business Intelligence (BI) can be used to generate more sales opportunities and align reps more effectively. Companies need to move from order takers to order makers. Companies that truly understand their market and customer alignment can create opportunities that drive revenue. The ones making investments in technology and working with their vendors to gather BI will win the battle in the trenches.
A few quick “to-do’s” can consist of the following:
Case study #1: Top sales rep hitting budget but mainly based on project driven sales.
In this case you have a rep hitting budget but most likely they are very strong in one particular product group. Could be a rep selling automation products or gear and lighting projects. These reps are the ones that have large potential because they most likely have the ability to close, build relationships and understand the pricing mix but what are they missing?.
- Take a look at their product mix and look for add on product group adjacencies. If they just sold the enclosure, ask for the fuses, duct, wire and everything which goes into the box.
- Take a look at their account base and do a fill in the gaps analysis by customer and vendor. If they are selling fuses to one Food and beverage account, are they selling those same type of fuses to another Food and beverage account they cover?
- Run a report by SIC code and then align with key vendor partners to see by segment and customer type where their products align best.
Focus marketing activity to your core customer segments with vendor offerings that the particular type of customer will buy.Train the rep to ask the right questions to the particular customer type. Most manufacturers have significant tools to help with this process.
Outcome: Use BI to sell wider and deeper into accounts.
Case #2: New sales rep assigned to penetrating new market segment
Your new rep wants to penetrate the College and University space and needs some guidance. What should they do:
- Align with a few select manufacturers that sell into that space and have products that are a good fit. Get them to go into these accounts with you, build your brand recognition and image. Ask the vendors for their BI on the segment. Most will have white papers, PowerPoints, sales materials and samples. Some even have online dedicated websites to the particular segments.
- If the vendor already sells into this space with someone else and this is a major growth area of focus for your company, you may need to realign vendor preferences and select a new partner for this particular segment. You need vendor support without hesitation. You need to make a tough decision.
- Use mapping software to “stick pin” each accounts location on a map so that the rep can visibly see their account package so that they can plan their travel day with time management being a key factor in deciding where and when they visit a particular account.
- Position your company with a portfolio of these key partners’ products and construct a product portfolio which sells into this space. If you want the business, the customer has to see that you speak their language and understand THEIR needs.
- Start small, most of the big universities may already be under agreement so go after the small to mid-sized colleges first, get some traction and then get yourself to be considered by the larger institutions when their agreements expire…know that date and start to position yourself well in advance.
- Be the first to show them new product!. Sometimes you just need that one breakthrough. Position yourself as being the rep that will drive cost savings thru technology innovation. This will get your foot in the door. Show them how new technology can save them money. Be prepared to do the financial sell versus the product/benefit sell.They care about ROI, they need to keep up with their competition (other colleges). They care about their appearance in the eyes of their customers …new students and their parents.
Outcome: Use BI to align sales area and vendor partners to become the industry expert and show customer savings.
Case #3 Sales rep making the calls but not making an impact
You have a rep and you know he/she is making calls on the customer but not getting the business, what do you do next?
- Conduct a “customer needs assessment” …you need to sit with key decision makers and ask them questions about their pain points and needs…not just product focused.
- Don’t just continue to sell product, look for ways to penetrate the account and provide value to get their attention.
- Sell either services or try to understand what their business issues are (i.e. safety, reliability, optimizing up time, productivity) and then start selling to those issues.
- Differentiate yourself from the competition by adding value while focusing on cost reduction, efficiency and operational issues.
Manufacturer driven services can help open doors to product sales as part of a total solution. Lock out tag out, arc flash studies, fall protection, breaker replacement, project staging, project management VMI programs, Tech support programs and training all can open up doors. Can your overall services revenue make up 10% of more of your total sales?
Outcome: The use of technology tools can provide sales management with the Business Intelligence they need to make effective decisions in the field. By using data and technology to help drive business decisions, executives will enhance their opportunity to succeed. Selling services that add value can enhance the vision that a potential customer has of your company.
Moving from a product centric only supplier to a full service, product and service supplier can enhance your value significantly.
Copyright © 2015 by John Salvadore
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