Organizing the Sales Effort

My son was trained by one of the most prestigious pharmaceutical companies in the world, with a deserved reputation for excellent sales training. He could tell you precisely which drug would treat what condition and the interaction of that drug with others. Still, even with that great training, while I was on one of my many trips to Japan he e-mailed me with the question: “I have to visit six doctors a day, where do I start? I have 36 different drugs to sell…help!”

This scenario may sound familiar. The training he received had focused on product but not so much on basic selling skills, which his employer simply assumed he already had. We make that assumption a lot. Perhaps you work in sales for a systems integrator or manufacturer…how much sales planning and organization do you do? Do you know what you will be doing next Monday? I believe most salespeople are reactive, which may be a function of needing to meet the sudden challenges of the day as they arise.

However, given that a tiny portion of your daily time is available to be in front of a customer, to be a truly effective sales person you must organize your “sales effort.” This is the systematic analysis of product or service related to potential customers. To begin, jot down everything you do tomorrow in your selling effort. What percentage of your time is actually spent with a customer? You may be surprised to learn that it is much less than you imagine. What does this mean? You are probably spending too much time hoping for an opportunity instead of creating one, or perhaps administrating and not selling.

Next, ask yourself a few relevant questions. Which products are most likely to sell to which customers? Where are those customers? How do I reach them? What problem do they have? Will my product solve their problem? Then, use the answers to create a matrix which will guide your planning. You may want to assign values to different attributes of your products, customers and channels. For example, on a 1 to 5 scale a terrific low-light camera would be a “5”. Parking lots may be a “4” since they typically are poorly lit. Your dealer in Pittsburgh might be a not-so-energetic “2,” but the one in Cleveland who regularly visits local airport authorities would be a “5”. Then align these attributes in your matrix so that you can focus on the channels, products, prospects, etc. which are in the “4 to 5” range – and ignore those in the “1 to2” range. A value of “3” may indicate that a different approach would improve your results; inside sales or your website could be used here.

Ultimately, the objective is to avoid spending your limited time with products or customers that have little value. Do emails before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. – another simple step that will help improve your results. Make some changes, check your daily time and answer for yourself.

Posted by Frank Defina on Oct 31, 2011

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