Collector - September 2017 - 38
Are You Missing a Key Ingredient?
What it takes to build an effective sales training program.
By Marc Trezza
hile both strategic and tactical
excellence are essential to
building a solid sales team,
neither is sufficient by itself; the two must
be balanced to achieve success.
If you execute the right strategy poorly,
you will not be profitable. If you execute a
poor strategy with excellence, your sales
efforts will fail. You must have a creative,
powerful, real-world strategy and carry
it out with commitment, skill and welltrained salespeople. That last bit is key,
because your training program is the bridge
between your strategy and tactics.
Your sales strategy should include an
understanding of how buyer perceptions
and habits have changed, your agency
differentiators and how to turn market
information into a competitive advantage.
Your sales tactics should cover realworld phone skills-including limitations
of the telephone-how to field objections,
how to sell trust, presentation skills that
close profitable deals and how to get it
right early (getting a client and keeping a
client are two different things-an ounce
of prevention is worth a pound of cure).
Taken together, these principles can help
you transcend old barriers and achieve
goals that were previously out of reach-as
one agency client found when it went from
failing to win even one state contract in 30
years to winning two in nine months.
But integrating these principles
effectively into your sales training program
requires creativity, discipline and excellent
sales leadership. You need a leader who
has the ability to execute ideas and
motivate the sales team to implement the
Everything starts at the top. The
killers of positive change are executives
and managers who do not want to be
challenged, consider disagreement
disloyalty and value managers who follow
orders over those who are innovators.
A leader who doesn't know how to get
the best out of people will almost always
derail your sales efforts. You can't get the
best out of people by crushing innovation or
initiative. If we hire people "smaller" than we
are, we become a company of dwarfs. If we
hire people who are "bigger" than we are, we
become a company of giants.
The ability to outclass and outsell your
competition may prove to be our industry's
only true sustainable advantage. Where
absolute superiority is not attainable,
you must produce a relative superiority
by making skillful use of what you have,
which often means bringing in the
expertise to get it done.
The right training combined with the right
sales management and leadership will enable
your agency to attain new heights in sales
performance, which will protect and build
your agency's financial future.
When you cannot have absolute market
superiority, your sales team must pit your
agency's strengths against your competitors'
weaknesses to achieve relative superiority.
Think about the weaknesses of your
competitors' sales efforts. Do they use:
* Self-involved, seller-based pitches?
* Proposals that are boring recitations
of facts that do nothing to distinguish
them from other qualified agencies?
* Antiquated, buzz-word-filled brochures
that are essentially "me-me-me"?
Do their sales people:
* Lack operational knowledge that
matters to buyers?
* Use canned sales pitches?
* Rely on decades-old tactics long ago
rejected by most buyers?
Understanding your competitors'
salespeople is an essential first step in
differentiating your agency in a meaningful,
positive way. Knowing how to get that
information is the first step in developing
a successful strategy. Knowing what to do
with that information is the first step in
developing successful tactics.
Another key element of a successful
marriage of strategy and tactics is flexibility.
At one agency I worked with, the CEO called
a company-wide meeting and laid down the
law: "The next person who utters the words,
'But that's not how we've always done it,' will
be fired." Almost immediately, the resistance
to change broke down and we began to
achieve some major victories.
Winning isn't easy. It requires
simultaneous planning and action. Planning
is the basis for change-then you assess,
revise, adapt and overcome. Adapting to the
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