In 1992 at the age of 22 I finished university; I am not sure which of those, or perhaps it was both that lead me to the thinking I knew everything, it took one day in sales to realise that wasn’t the case – ouch!!!
Thankfully, my managing director had the good sense to send me to a 3 day sales training course which changed my life. I remember thinking at the time that I could not believe that people could spend so much time at university learning (in lots of cases) useless information and something so important as practical interpersonal skills could be learned and applied with immediate effect.
The sales trainer became a lifelong mentor of mine and I recall him vividly saying that day, “there is a dearth of good sales people in Australia.” It was like he planted a seed in my brain and it became my life long journey to work it why.
It has taken a few years but I reckon I have got it nailed, mostly managers don’t do any of these as well as they could:
- Recruit – They’ll look at someone and say to themselves “I’ve got a vacancy, he / she looks like a sales person, talks like a sales person, lets give them a job”. I appreciate it is not quite that simple but thorough processes including multiple face to face interviews, profiling, reference checks are available to all though are rarely used with any consistency or discipline. Additionally, I have worked in organisations where HR have got sabotaged recruitment using “process” as an excuse for their ineffectiveness – please.
- Induct – Most induction programs go like this…. “here are your keys, here is a phone and customer list now off you go and sell.” Often this is called the sink or swim mentality but for me this is like throwing a brick to someone who is drowning. I did this many years ago and ruined some great possible careers in sales and it still sits with me poorly – at best this is incompetence and at worst it is disrespecting people’s careers whilst demonstrating a total lack of empathy.
- Training – Richard Branson said a few years back, “Train people so they can leave, lead them so they don’t want to.” Too many companies don’t train their people and the ones that do are most often ticking a box, spending what is in their budget regardless of the relevance or sending them on some generic cost-effective workshop (read cheap).
- Coaching – When an apprentice electrician is on site he has a foreman looking over his shoulder saying don’t touch the red & the blue wire because you will go, “bang”. Likewise, a graduate account has a finance manager saying that a journal entry will go in that column, not that one. A sales person goes out by him or herself going from prospect to prospect hoping that some one will speak to them and be interested in what they have to offer. No cosy desk, no fridge to put your lunch in, no support from someone in the next cubicle when you have had a tough conversation; they just must get on with their next call.
- Relationships – 70% of people leave their job is because of their relationship with their line manager – Sales Managers have a huge role to play here.
I’d love to hear thoughts and experiences.