Can’t Invest in Sales Rep Development? How Can You Afford not To?

I went to visit a prospect last week who started out his conversation with me by saying, “I’m not really sure why you are here, we have a sales manager and our reps are supposed to be doing their own phone calls. What can you do for us?”

“Good question,” I replied, trying obviously to sound as intelligent as I could while wondering if this was going to be the shortest meeting on record. “Well let me ask you this, why did you agree to meet?”

“I feel like our guys are doing well, but they don’t seem to be progressing, and I thought maybe you could help with that.” OK, now we are off to the races.

“What do you do to invest in their continued development?” Now I’m starting to think there is a chance that this meeting will last past the two minute mark.

“We’ve done training courses, brought in motivational speakers, even set up sales contests, but none of that stuff has brought anything new to the table. Maybe our guys are just good for a period of time then we’ve gotten all we can out of them.”

“How often do you meet with them?” I responded, hoping I could find a way to help.

“We meet as a group once a week to discuss what is working well and what isn’t. I usually hear about these great opportunities that are on the horizon, but very rarely do they talk about anything getting in their way. They seem to have all of the tools needed to succeed. I mean, they are not doing poorly, but they seem to be pretty comfortable with where they are.”

Before making any recommendations or even telling him more about what we do, I asked him if he would allow me to interview one or two of his guys and then meet with him again to see if there is a way to help. He agreed.

What I found was that he was right. They had done several training courses and motivational speakers, which got their guys excited for change for about 10 minutes. They also did have a weekly meeting which, for the most part, nobody ever opened up in because they didn’t want the other reps to think they were having problems, and they certainly did not want the manager knowing they were struggling, especially when the numbers showed they were just fine.

This is a problem we saw way too often…salespeople who need additional help but don’t want to go to their colleagues or manager for fear of looking badly. We recommended that he take two of his guys…the top guy and the bottom guy, and put them in our SAM peer advisory groups for three months. SAM groups are designed specifically to have sales and marketing professionals develop their sales skills outside of the regular work environment. It allows them to work with other, non competing sales professionals and learn from each other’s experience, holding each other accountable for goals (real goals, not the “make my manager happy” goals that many had been setting) and helping each other out.

After the first meeting of each of his reps (the top rep was in an Executive SAM Group while the “bottom rep” was in a regular SAM Group) even before I had a minute to call him, I received a call from the sales manager. “These guys loved it,” he exclaimed. “Now let’s see if it makes any changes. Call me in two weeks and we will see.”

I called him back in two weeks to find that both had made tremendous gains in attitude, which was turning into more dollars in everyone’s pockets.

“What the heck do you guys talk about in these meetings? We’ve got to bring you into our weekly meeting to share it with everyone else!”

I explained to him that first of all, every meeting, like every salesperson, is unique and that SAM meetings contained no “special sauce.” People get out of it what they put into it. I next explained that while I would love to be a part of their weekly meeting, I didn’t think that was the best course of action and, in fact, suggested he scrap the weekly meeting entirely. “It is a waste of everyone’s time. Nothing new gets discussed and they don’t want you or the guys they are working with to know they have problems, especially when the problems are internal.”

I suggested that we put each of his guys in a different SAM group, reinvesting the time and money he had spent on weekly meetings and motivational speakers into something where his people were learning, growing and most importantly, knew that the company really did care about their growth and not just about how much money they were going to make for them.

Interested in seeing if you qualify to join a SAM group in your area? Contact us at info@randolphsterling.com for a schedule and application.

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