Early on in my career I was fortunate that my company hired Lenann McGookey Gardner to conduct sales training with not just our sales team members, but all our operations managers as well. At the time.. Sherri Novak
Vice President Operations – Larkspur Hotels and Restaurants, Larkspur, California

Articles written by Lenann McGookey Gardner are available for print and online publication. To request usage permission, contact 505.828.1788 or email Lenann@YouCanSell.com

End Sales Slumps!

Jack McGill had about had it. Mary Maxwell, his top salesperson, had disappointed him yet again. After years of solid production — and achieving her sales goals year after year — Mary's results were suffering, and Jack didn't know why.

Mary offered excuse after excuse. "Our products are commodities now," she said. "They're fighting me on price." He heard that one every week. And he knew that she wasn't the most organized person in the world.

But overall volume in our industry is UP, he'd countered to Mary. SOMEBODY was getting the business; why can't it be us? We're not the cheapest supplier — we have much more to recommend us than that. "Sell value!" he'd admonished Mary, but so far results just aren't happening.

Are you dealing with sluggish sales thanks to a "Mary-type" on your sales team? Many smaller businesses depend on a single person's sales ability to drive revenue, and when that erodes, trouble follows.

What can be done?

There's no guarantee that your Mary isn't dealing with difficult personal issues, illness, mid-life malaise (for both genders), or any of a variety of circumstances that you will likely be unable to affect. But there are things you can do to revitalize Mary, and drive new results. Consider these three courses of action:

  1. Update Sales Skills
    Any salesperson, no matter how successful, is fighting for share in a marketplace that's changing rapidly. Sales research tells us that the ways in which people want to be sold now are changing, and that salespeople who adjust their selling styles to match that change are more effective than those who sell "the way they always have." Get her (and yourself) an update on state-of-the-art selling skills, and Mary will not only feel valued and as if she's growing and improving, but your results should reflect that improvement immediately.
    What will she learn? Here's just one example: Old time selling emphasized presentations — getting in, presenting your offering, talking, talking, talking.
    Those who are successful now operate under "The 90-10-90 Rule". That is, ideally, when you're selling, your PROSPECT is speaking 90% of the time. Of the 10% of the time the salesperson is speaking, he should spend 90% of that 10% asking questions! Let the prospect speak 90% of the time? That's revolutionary! And it won't happen unless Mary knows how to ask good, meaty questions and build trust, so her prospects are willing to talk.

  2. Track New Metrics
    Most business owners and managers track closed business very well, and they usually keep track of proposals or quotes issued. But other measurements are useful. Track new contacts initiated with prospects. Stay on top of conversations initiated with clients about new business possibilities (these are not service conversations, they're selling conversations — be sure that salespeople are clear on the distinction). Track systematic, methodical follow-up (and learn when and what type of follow-up is optimal). And closely watch time spent face-to-face or phone-to-phone with prospects. Such "F2F and P2P time" is known to correlate directly with selling success. (There is no known correlation between time spent E2E — email to email — and selling success. Are your people substituting e-mail communication for the personal touch?)

  3. Experiment with a Sales Coach
    One-on-one coaching to drive sales to new heights is happening worldwide. The phenomenon has legs because it WORKS to motivate improved — sometimes massively improved — sales performance. But it can be expensive. Most coaching relationships involve a half-hour telephone chat with the coach weekly, and most coaches give homework between sessions, so your salesperson has to be willing to work. At the same time, the results of the effort are completely quantifiable — and the return-on-investment can be calculated monthly.

While talented rainmakers have been known to revive their own results from time to time, by taking any or all of these three courses of action, you maximize the likelihood that the turnaround happens sooner rather than later.

About the Author: Lenann Gardner is an internationally known sales consultant and author of Got Sales? The Complete Guide to Today's Proven Methods for Selling Services. A Harvard MBA, Lenann was the number one sales representative worldwide at a unit of Xerox Corporation, and achieved unprecedented results as a marketing executive at Mattel and Blue Cross Blue Shield. She coaches sellers of professional services worldwide, and is a winner of the American Marketing Association's Professional Sales "Marketer of the Year" award. For more information, please contact Lenann at Lenann@YouCanSell.com or at 505.828.1788.