This is the third and last installment in this series, Growing Bench Strength. In the previous 2 articles, I discuss finding young talent and developing sales training. All these are key to any sales representative’s success, but the most important is calling on customers and covering a sales territory effectively. Unless the sales rep hired is a seasoned veteran and has covered that same area for years, they will not know the established customer base, the conquest accounts and what relationships need to be built or repaired. Leaving a young and highly impressionable sales rep to their own devices isn’t always the best practice.
For many of you, the memories of your first day in the ag equipment sales business foster a bit of nostalgia sprinkled with a bit of creative freedom. If that is the memory you have, your memory is drastically different from mine. I remember the first day on the job thinking, what in the hell have I gotten myself into! You don't know anything about farming, much less about equipment moreover, the only thing I knew for sure was combines have big wheels on the front.
That might sound like a funny joke, but it’s the truth. Like many sales reps before, I received the three main company tools issued to any new sales rep — a pen, a notebook and a cell phone. Oh, I forgot one more thing, that slap on the back followed by “we all know you can do it” as a sign of confidence. Don't get me wrong, and I had the 30-minute crash course on how to look up equipment and another on building and submitting a quote but never on finding prospects. Where do I look, what am I looking for, and when I find it, what do I do with it? All questions a new sales rep should have answered before they go to the field.
Prospecting is the most overlooked thing when training a new sales rep. I get the new sales rep has to pass out business cards the first month and get to know the territory. They will need to talk to the existing customer base and start building relationships and building relationships with conquest customers. Giving the sales rep a solid vetted customer list on day one is the most important tool the sales rep can have; moreover, they also need to understand where the list came from and how to mine their own data.
I agree they need to make themselves known to the customers and start building the relationship that turns into a sale. We are dealing with business people who have a finite amount of time, and after the first lap of passing out cards, they better have something to talk to the customer about and have at least a very high-level understanding of what the customer is doing. Not all of this is in the business system but is in the heads of many inside the dealership.
Ensuring the new sales rep as some very early and quick success is a must in building the confidence needed to handle rejection day in and day out. Making sure the sales rep understands where to find information about the customers they are calling on will increase their success rate and keep them coming back for more.
Managing a sales territory is the hardest thing any sales rep does. I don't care if it is day one or 100,000; it is hard to keep up with demands. Many new sales reps fail because they don't understand how to manage their time and how they need to manage their territory. I like breaking things down into 50 accounts and then breaking them down into zip codes. These zip codes allow me to route the most efficient use of time-based appointments I have set. If I have 3-4 scheduled meetings set for the day, I can see whom I need to stop by and visit and whom I need to cold call.
My newest sales professional and I spend time discussing whom to call on and why. The more time spent building a weekly call plan, the more successful calls will be for your sales professional. Weekly call planning is the difference between the sales rep and the sale professional.
Whether at the corporate or store level, the better sales managers spend time giving new sales reps the tools and explain the what and why that will help them become better sales professionals. Leaving them to make pointless second sales calls isn’t doing the dealership or the new sales rep any favors. I have found a new sales rep has 5-6 months to gain confidence, and if it doesn't happen, they won’t last a year. The cultivation of how new sales reps are grown is the difference between total success or total failure.
Growing Sales Bench Strength Part 1: Finding Young Talent
The hardest part of any sales manager or sales lead’s job is dealing with salespeople. Typically, salespeople are hard to keep between the ditches. However frustrating this might be at times, who would want it any other way? They are trying to make a sale and move to the next sale as fast as they can. So, by nature, they will cut a corner here and there, but everything works out. A salesman once said, “I win some, and I lose some, but I work off of averages, and my average is high.” If you let the training of new sales personnel slip, the bad habits will outweigh the good habits, regardless of how successful the salesperson is. Read more.
Growing Bench Strength Part 2: Cutting Out Bad Habits
I started this series off by talking about where to find young talent. As discussed, there are several different places and ways to bring good, young talent from colleges and technical schools to the dealership. Now that you have landed the right person, how do you not throw them to the proverbial wolves? Read more.