I have a friend who works in the sales department of an education publishing company. Recently, she won an award for having the highest monthly sales for six months running. She and her three colleagues all went through the same training, but she consistently outsells them by significant amounts (and she didn’t even have sales experience when she was hired). She told me that one of her colleagues asked her, “What is it about you? How do you do it?” My friend says she has no idea, but I do: It’s just who she is. She’s friendly to everyone and always upbeat. She really listens to people. She’s a great problem-solver. She never says no to anything. (Yes, I realize how lucky I am to have her as a friend.)
Wouldn’t it be great if she were working for your facility? Chances are, you already have some high-quality salespeople on staff. But how can you help them be even better? How can you take your sales staff from good to great?
1) Start with professional training for your sales leaders. This might seem like a no-brainer, but if you’re hiring experienced people and you’re confident about their ability to cinch a sale, the need for training could be overlooked. In fact, there’s a reason teachers, doctors, lawyers, and others have to fulfill a certain number of professional development hours each year. We all get rusty; especially in sales, when someone is making the same pitch over and over again, it’s easy to lose some of the vitality and charisma — that stuff my friend has—that is crucial to a successful transaction. Plus, the better trained your leaders are, the better trained your whole sales team will be: Solid skills and best practices trickle down. Ideally, you want to let your sales leaders choose their own training programs, ones that suit their personalities and styles.
2) Look for passion and interpersonal skills more than sales experience. Experience comes with time, but passion about fitness? An ease with people, a willingness to see each individual as unique and to truly listen to them, and the finesse required to help customers get their needs met? Those things are hard to fake.
3) If your sales numbers aren’t high enough and training isn’t producing the results you desire, you might have to ask yourself difficult questions. Do you have the right people on staff? Might you have to let a weaker employee go, or find a position that better suits his or her strengths? Do what you can to help naturally good salespeople get better, but know when it’s time to shake up the team.
4) Finally, focus on relationship-building. You want to think about this on a couple levels. First, what is your relationship to your sales team, both the leaders and the people who work under them? Do you have a personal connection to them? Do they know what your goals are and why those goals are important to you? Do they trust you? Second, what is your sales team’s relationship to prospects? Do they make an effort to connect personally? Do they listen to their needs and do whatever they can to fulfill them?
Keep in mind one more thing: Your facility and your staff are going to reflect you. As a manager or owner, you set the tone. If you (like my friend) are open and upbeat yourself, if you really listen to your employees and you tackle problems in creative ways, you’re likely to find that your sales staff (and, for that matter, other employees) do too.