Sultans Of Sales

Professional salespeople are driven by
challenge, success and reward. In order to continually achieve results they need to understand their customers and be highly skilled communicators. Managers working with salespeople should be clear about their vision, treat staff as individuals, and learn the skills needed to help the team drive top revenues.
Traditional ideas involving motivation, solution selling, and presentation skills still make for success in selling. Customer relationship management (CRM) has become the norm and means far more than just contact management for call centre. The latest buzzwords to help sales teams are sales force automation (SFA), which put simply means putting the best practices of selling into software package. The ultimate goal of SFA is to attract and retain profitable customers. More and more companies are finding that CRM software brings together sales and marketing strategies and provides competitive edge.
AMR Research estimates that the size of the CRM market will continue to grow, increasing 10-fold, from US$762 million in licence revenues in 1997 to more than US$7.5 billion in 2002.
Of that AMR says that SFA is the fastest growing segment of this market with an annual growth rate of 64 percent.

Leading brains
In New Zealand CRM vendors such as Marketing Technologies are seeing an increasing demand for its software. “As companies recognise that rising customer expectations and global marketplace require delivery of consistently excellent one-to-one sales, service and support they turn to packages like Brains,” says managing director Andrew Segar.
Auckland-based U-Bix Document Solutions lacked centralised database to manage its customer information. Instead individual account managers held information on paper and in their heads. As result multiple relationships between account managers and customers often ended up crossed.
For U-Bix the implementation of Brains has seen num-ber of benefits. “Sales forecast management has improved, new and prospective customers are captured in the centralised database, Brains’ telemarketing functionality has allowed major improvements in customer service, and significant increase in customer satisfaction has been recorded,” says Segar.
Helena Carter, managing director at APT Software Services, says “A good CRM system is more valuable than the building you are in. The more you understand your customers, the better you can tailor your marketing.”
Carter estimates that 30 percent of companies in New Zealand have CRM system in place “but it would be interesting to know how many of these use it as well as they could”. Salespeople tend to want instant results and are not renowned for putting in the time and effort to learn new system.
Fair enough. First of all software needs to be easy to use. “The way around this is to make software learning non-negotiable and driven from the top. With our product LEAD we offer once month training sessions for our clients,” says Carter. “My tip to sales managers is to choose product that integrates with the company’s financial system and email. But above all, it must be so easy to use that users don’t have to always resort to the manual.”
This is point echoed by Chris Todd, managing director of Parklands Products. “We have tried number of systems and discovered that our sales team wouldn’t use tricky software package, even under threat. We are now using GoldMine 5.0 and it meets all our needs as well as being easy to use. This product bridges the gap between complex, expensive SFA software and lower-end contact managers.”
Good software is not solution, of course, but an enabler. Jim Niven at The Integrators is keen to stress that even the best software package will fail unless sales managers have clear vision and strengthen involvement between senior staff and salespeople.
“We ask customers to identify problems then ask them why the problem is problem. If we can identify the pain in terms of dollars, time, and performance, then we can make solution and do an ROI,” says Niven. Since most software solutions cost around $2000, it is worth establishing if the solution costs more than the problem.
A common scenario for salesperson is spending around eight hours week writing proposals. “If I could offer them proposal writing solution which took one hour, that means gain of seven hours per person, per week. My $2000 software solution would take just six weeks for payback and allows more time spent with customers,” says Niven.
John Davies, managing director of Training, says the new name of his company (formerly First Training) reflects where the company is going, rather than where it is right now. Davies describes himself as traditionalist and firm believer of on-the-job monitoring and familiar methods to create the right climate to help motivate salespeople. Nevertheless, alongside his public courses he is also looking at building online training programmes through the Internet and intranets.
“There is place for technology and it is the way forward, provided that managers realise that it is not solution in itself. In July I will be launching new do-it-yourself kit from the UK, aimed at sales managers. This VLCCK (Virtual Learning Centre Construction Kit) can be used to create presentation and training material with customised look and structure,” says Davies.
But who would want to use such tool and why? In the sales and marketing environment product launch should be backed up by internal communications so that the staff know what they are selling. “The VLC concept could be used to not just deliver, but benchmark, product briefings,” says Davies. He adds, “Another use would be in change management situation where briefing and procedural training could be delivered and its delivery checked via CD-ROM and/or an intranet.”
Most failures of SFA systems and other software products boil down to the people factor. To managers not defining the concept of what they want in the first place and then poorly implementing solution that’s been oversold. Clearly the need for managers dealing with sales teams to improve their communication skills will remain an ongoing issue. It’s ironic then, that new technology has in fact boosted the need for more traditional training courses.

Pursuing high stakes
Rosemary Hume, senior consultant at Rogen New Zealand, believes the best way to motivate sales team is to focus on three aspects of the environment: infrastructure, motivation and skill development. Rogen specialises in the last two areas.
“We work with organisations where the business they are pursuing is ?high stakes’. We often see people pursuing new business opportunities that they have little chance of winning. It is important to set people in the right direction and ensure that they pursue attainable new business opportunities. It often costs lot to pursue new business. We use checklist looking at things like financial criteria and timing when assessing whether client should chase new customer. Sometimes it is best to know when to walk away,” says Hume.
Developing sense of personal autonomy for each team member is also an important part of motivation. “To ensure that you empower your team, the individuals need to be able to make decisions on the spot in front of clients to win the business. This level of autonomy will be different for each individual,” says Hume.
Treating people as individuals is common sense yet all too often sales managers think of the team as whole instead of its individual members. Consultants agree that key driver to motivate sales team is remuneration and rewards like overseas trips. “But it’s no good offering an overseas holiday for all the team as an incentive if one of your members is heavily pregnant,” points out Hume.

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