Some people were born to sell. These are the people who as children launched mini-empires selling paper toys in the school cafeteria and earned enough money to buy the best video game consoles on the market. For everyone else, becoming a lean, mean, selling machine requires training. Your company’s sales training makes the difference in having a superstar sales force and an unproductive one. Forget what you’ve seen in the movies. Cursing at your salespeople and screaming, “Coffee is for closers!” won’t make them sell more. Taking rookie salespeople and turning them into successes requires more nurturing and less browbeating.
Establishing a Mentor System
A quality sales trainer can teach new salespeople all the theories, strategies, and processes they need to become sales superstars. Everything they know remains theory, though, until they learn to apply it in the real world of selling. It’s one thing to teach new golfers the right way to swing a driver, but it’s another thing to expect the players, even with the knowledge they’ve acquired, to rip the ball 300 yards on their first try. For this reason, most successful people, regardless of industry, had mentors who helped along the way. Wayne Gretzky credits NHL great Gordie Howe for showing him the ropes as a new player and helping him to develop into one of the sport’s best ever. Salespeople need good role models, too, which is why you should consider establishing a mentor system at your business. Once salespeople reach a certain level of success, part of their job should become helping newer salespeople or those struggling achieve similar results. Offering mentors overrides on their underlings’ commissions provides an incentive for them to take the role seriously. If your company is new and doesn’t yet have successful salespeople, think about bringing in top sellers from other industries periodically and on a contract basis to shadow your salespeople in the field and guide them to success.
Developing Thick Skin
Even the world’s best salespeople hear the word “no” infinitely more times than they hear “yes.” It’s the nature of the game. Particularly if the job requires cold calling or going door to door, a regular part of a salesperson’s daily routine involves getting yelled at, hung up on, or ushered out the door. This holds true whether the salesperson has a trophy room full of sales awards or is an 18-year-old rookie. Successful salespeople don’t fear the word “no,” nor do they get discouraged when they hit a losing streak where prospect after prospect declines their services. They don’t take it personally when someone turns them down using particularly nasty language. Rookies, on the other hand, often don’t let it roll off their backs so easily. If you’re training salespeople who’ve never worked in the field before, it might be jarring for them at first when they endure abuse from irritated customers. The best way to develop thick skin in your salespeople is to get them used to hearing “no.” They should be so inured to it that it doesn’t affect them. You can thicken your salespeople’s skin by putting them in situations in which they’re guaranteed to be told no. It might sound cruel, but if they’ve chosen to work in sales, they’re going to face rejection, so they might as well get used to it up front. You can even make it fun. Have them approach a restaurant manager and offer coupons from a competing establishment. If they can learn to laugh about rejection, it takes the sting away.
Embracing a Numbers Game Mentality
Sales, at its essence, is a numbers game. To make a sale, you have to give a certain number of presentations. To land a presentation, you have to book a certain number of appointments. To book an appointment, you have to make a certain number of cold calls. The best sales trainers have the numbers in their industry broken down to a science. That way, salespeople have a specific target for how many calls they have to make, on average, to book one sale. Let’s pretend you’re managing a sales force at an insurance company. It’s a phone sales job, and many of your salespeople are getting burned out from sitting in a cubicle making cold calls all day. What do you think is a more powerful motivator for these salespeople: making vague promises of success if they keep dialing numbers; or telling them if they make X number of calls before the end of the day, the data shows they’ll probably make a sale? Embracing a numbers game mentality allows you to assign a quantifiable benefit to the grunt work of making cold calls and going door to door. “Let’s shoot for 120 calls today, Chris. That should get you three sales.” Now Chris is motivated to sit down and make calls, as he’s mentally cashed the commission check from his three envisioned sales for the day. By establishing a mentor system, developing thick skin, and embracing a numbers game mentality, you can turn your rookie sales force into lean, mean, selling machines.