Bt Mike Southon, The Beermat Entrepreneurs
Sales is too important to be left to just the sales force. Of course, everyone should an ambassador for your company, being enthusiastic about what you do at trade show or networking events. But it is possible to get everyone involved in the sales process, without their coming across as insincere or even sleazy and unpleasant.
We all need to sell and it’s all about style, or more specifically, understanding which of the three sales roles you personally find the most comfortable.
Everyone assumes sales is only about the generation of new business, the kicking down of doors and persuading people you haven’t met before to buy products or services they didn’t realise they needed, from people they don’t know.
This is only one part of the sales process, and the people who do this are often called ‘Hunters’. My own view on ‘Hunters’ is that they’re born, not made. They are the natural networkers, the people who seem to have an unlimited social circle and who are always organising ski trips and charity events.
Every company needs Hunter salespeople as we all need business from new customers. But not everybody finds this role comfortable or appealing. Fortunately for these more reserved individuals, there is a sales role which will fit them like a glove — the ‘Farmer’.
Farmers are sensible, modest people who are popular and much liked, not for their loud jokes or their latest party trick, but for their technical knowledge and considered opinions. If the ‘Hunter’ is stereotyped by someone with a loud tie and even louder aftershave, the ‘Farmer’ can be seen with a tweed jacket, sensible shoes, and a comforting pipe, never lit nowadays, but always there for effect.
The good news is that customers like ‘Farmers’ more than they like ‘Hunters’, who they suspect may have a slightly tenuous grasp of reality in general and the truth in particular. They like ‘Farmers’ for their honest opinions, and track record in delivering exactly what they said they would.
The better news is that your company is already full of ‘Farmers’, especially those that actually deliver your products and services, such as engineers, lawyers and accountants. They have to be good networkers (as detailed in the last article), but they must also be trained to be commercially aware — not to a deep level, but simply so they listen for ‘buying signals’ and remember to pass this information back to Head Office.
‘Buying signals’ are simply pieces of information that express a customer need, or describe a problem that they’re having, which might possibly be eased by the provision of your company’s products or services.
It’s always an idea to incentivise people for bringing back these commercial golden nuggets either with money or with recognition , but the best way to encourage ‘Farmers’ to be enthusiastic about doing this is to take away the burden of ever talking about money.
Few people (even most ‘Hunters’) are comfortable talking about money, so you should make a rule that if the prospect asks about how much it would cost, the enquiry is invariably referred back “I’ve no idea, I’ll ask someone in the office to talk to you about that”. This not only takes away the possibility of their descent into the mire of commercial grubbiness, but it also ensures consistency of price quotations, and sensible time for reflection on the price to be charged.
‘Farmers’ should also be taught never to discuss possible starting dates of projects or their likely duration. This definitely should be deferred for further discussion internally. Many small companies have dug themselves into almost terminal holes, as a result of a rash promise like this, made at a weak moment.
The best news is that ‘Farming’ activity typically represents 85% of a company’s revenue, and of course includes all repeat and referred business. This is the best business of all, representing a minimal cost of sale, and a good understanding on the client’s part of what you deliver (“I’ll have exactly what he’s eating”). I often meet successful companies with around 20 employees who have good revenues and no visible sales force. All their business is repeat and referred business and is brought in by the steady and much-loved ‘Farmers’.
There should always be some ‘Hunting’ activity to ensure some new clients, but if you spend most of your time ‘Farming’ existing, happy customers, you’ll have a great business and none of your staff will feel as though they’re actually ‘selling’.
Freshbusinessthinking.com has teamed up with Sales and Marketing experts Mike Southon and Chris West – ‘The Beermat Entrepreneurs’ to produce a high impact one-day ‘Sales and Marketing Workshop’. If you don’t consider yourself a salesperson and hate to sell, but you have to sell to make a living, then this course is for you!
If you love to sell, this course will still help you develop your skills. The : ‘Sales and Marketing Workshop’ is a highly effective workshop, appropriate for both sales and non-salespeople. To find out more information visit ‘Sales and Marketing Workshop’ — Book before 15th March and get two places for the price of one!