Bulldozing Barriers To Selling

Many web-based businesses are plagued with high staff turnover. This can be an especially costly proposition when your sales staff turns over quickly.

Consider how many phone calls a new rep invests before prospects get around to returning those calls, or the time required to get a new person trained on the finer points of your site. That’s not even talking about the commitments that fall through the cracks, and account information that walks out the door.

The bottom line: Losing sales people is costly!

Many believe that higher pay is the top reason ad sales people move on. In our experience with hundreds of ad sales people in various media over 20-plus years, we have to humbly disagree.

Sales people want to like their jobs, to work on interesting challenges, and to feel that they are valued — just like everyone else. Sure, we all like to earn more money. But the vast majority of sales people only go looking for more money when they are either grossly under market-value, or because they feel undervalued in other, non-financial ways.

Let Them Sell

Good sales people want to spend their time selling — interacting with customers and prospects, devising creative ways to overcome objections, solving prospect’s marketing dilemmas with radical new ideas. Sales people like to pitch, to present, to negotiate and to close. And those are skills for which you pay top dollar.

Sales management ought to want the same thing. Which of us would consciously choose to use our high-priced negotiating talent to do clerical or support work? Yet, that’s what ends up happening in most sales teams.

When ad sales people spend selling time handling non-selling tasks, everyone suffers — clients are less well served, fewer prospects are contacted, management spends too much money for too few sales, and the sales people are unhappy, unchallenged, unmotivated. In short, they are ripe for turnover.

Bulldozing The Barriers

One of the key identifiers of great sales management is the ability to run interference for the sales team, and continually remove the roadblocks that keep sales people from selling.

Are your sales people spending time interacting with engineering because the client’s campaign didn’t run right? Of course, they have to insure that the client got what was ordered. But is that the best use of a sales pro? Consider training a support person, or a junior sales trainee, to see the order through so your high-priced talent can be in front of more customers.

Is your sales team spending a lot of its time gathering basic background information on new prospects? Good sales people do want to be well prepared. But is a sales pro the best person for the task? How about a departmental support person to help the whole team with research and background information? (If they are trained to handle RFPs and FAQs too, you have the start of a sales trainee program, and you now have a farm team of sales-people-to-be “on deck.”)

When a client wants something really different, does your sales person get caught up in meetings with marketing, product development, editorial and engineering? Develop a sales support person who can carry that ball, so the sales person can focus on face-time with even more clients.

Part of the role of the effective sales manager is to keep an eye out for these and other distractions from selling — legitimate business issues that need to be handled, but not by salespeople. Then find creative solutions to get the whole job done, and done well, without pulling sales people away from their priority business.

Are you anticipating difficulty in selling this to your organization? Next week, we’ll look at the economics of sales team deployment.

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