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September 10, 2014

Your sales rep not working out? Maybe it’s not their fault… look in the mirror!

NUP_101558_1371I’ve worked with a number of firms in the market research industry where the one (or first) sales rep they hired didn’t work out… didn’t hit their goals… didn’t meet the expectations of the firm’s owner(s) – and so was let go.

It happens… sometime the rep is just not the right fit with the organization.

But just as often (or maybe more often), the inability of the company to effectively manage that sales rep is just as much to blame. It works something like this…

  • The firm hires a sales rep (though they’re not quite sure how to do this)…
  • Gives them not-nearly-enough training because the firm wants them on the phone/in the field as soon as possible…
  • Sets unrealistic sales goals because that’s what the firm’s owner wants
  • Establishes an ill-conceived and difficult-to-understand commission plan…
  • Provides little or no guidance, direction or support…
  • Then sends them out to call on clients and prospects.

Is it any wonder they fail?

Even if you’re not a sales manager, there are some fundamental sales management guidelines you should follow as you to look to lead and coach a sales team…

  • Set expectations for your sales rep and hold them accountable. Start with a well-formed job description and set of KPIs; make sure there’s no question what you’re looking for.
  • Set reasonable sales goals… maybe even a little low, at first, to give them some confidence as they get started. Translate these goals into a functional ‘sales plan.’
  • Provide some kind of a defined sales territory… never just say “go sell.” A territory gives them focus and ownership.
  • Provide the needed tools… laptop, mobile technology, CRM system and a quiet office when they’re in.
  • Don’t skimp on the front-end training. They don’t need to be research experts, but they do need to understand what you do, the industries you serve, your competitors and the kinds of client problems that your firm helps to fix.
  • Later on, provide additional training they might need – new service lines, industry issues, etc. Also, pay for them to attend industry conferences – for education and for networking.
  • Set aside time to meet with them weekly in sales meetings and in 1-on-1s – have them share what they’re doing, help them with problems, provide encouragement and direction, keep them engaged. Travel with them when appropriate. Have them work hand-in-hand with your marketing team.
  • Put together an easy-to-understand commission plan. Some fundamentals… commissions should be paid on revenue (not collections), paid monthly and with no limit on what can be earned.
  • Recognize them publicly. Let everyone else in your firm know when one of your sales rep does a good job… because when they sell, everyone else has work!
  • Everyone wants leadership… your job is to provide it.

Bottom line: Before you hire your first sales rep – or even if you have a couple on board – make sure you have the plan and processes in place to give them every opportunity to be successful. Only then will you know how powerful a well-managed sales team can be.

Post script…

In my blog post two weeks ago, I challenged the market research community to recognize the great marketing going on in our industry. Guess how many nominations I received? Just one! (By the way, congrats to Decipher for being the one!)

This tells me one of two things…

  1. As we’ve discussed before… market research is not an industry that embraces marketing & sales – and that translated over to this nomination process.
  2. No one in our industry is doing any great marketing.

And I really hope that’s not the case!

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