Take a minute and think about your own practice and ask yourself these questions: Who manages your sales operation? What is their level of expertise in managing sales activities? Can the existing staff manage sales as business conditions shirt?
Executives who run benefit adviser practices should be aware that different market conditions call for different sales management skills.
In a growth market, recruiting is rapid paced and often selection criteria is sacrificed due to increased competition for talent. New hire product and sales training is more basic to get the new resource productive more quickly. And, management’s focus is typically on gaining market share.
By contrast, in a slow economy new hire standards are much more selective, as there are more qualified candidates. There is greater emphasis on multi-lines selling and expertise to secure more revenue per client and improve client retention, and emphasis is on improving profit margins and creating value.
Similarly, sales during a growth market mean focusing on gaining market share, speed to market and critical time management. Product knowledge is focused on the best-selling products with an emphasis on product innovation and new needs.
In a slow economy, establishing client needs and account rounding activities are essential to the sales process. sSower client decision-making resulting in “stalled” sales and a longer sales cycle. “Value selling” and providing greater value for clients will offset client budget cuts.
You need to adapt your management emphasis to match the market conditions. In this business and political climate, we need to be optimally adaptive, flexible and prepared with contingency plans. We cannot remain static in our comfort zone. We must be proactive and open to new sales management techniques. And remember: You cannot manage results; you can only manage activities.
I am reminded of some of the content I used in teaching sales management courses to dozens of successful sales managers. It applies now, more than ever before. Please think about these “sales management axioms” in the context of your professional experiences:
10 axioms of sales management
- Think of your clients’ best interests first. Think of your employees’ best interests next. Then think of your personal interests. Build long-term relationships and become the trusted adviser.
- Prospecting is the difficult part; selling is easy. Develop centers of influence. Request referrals. Institutionalize prospecting to secure introductions to multiple, qualified prospective clients.
- Differentiate your practice. Develop expertise in a market segment. Create proprietary products. Develop benefits strategic plans. Just find a way to bring value to your clients in a unique and meaningful manner.
- Develop client needs first. Understand your clients’ business issues. Then create solutions that are pertinent and relevant. The product selections will become self-evident.
- Closing should be less than 15% of the total sales process. Visualize a funnel. The time spent closing the sale should be the narrow part at the bottom. If you invert a funnel, it doesn’t work. Likewise, this applies to the sales process.
- We all recruit in our own image. Know yourself well. And know your deficiencies even better. Then hire to your strengths.
- Your best sales people call you. And when they call you, they provide specifics about results. Poor sales people rarely call you. And they avoid your calls. When you hear from them, they speak in vague generalities.
- Poor performers pull down good performers. Good performers cannot improve poor performers. Don’t be reluctant to eliminate poor performers expeditiously before they impact your entire team.
- There is no sales management problem that you cannot recruit your way out of. You should always be recruiting so that ultimately you can select, not settle
- The primary responsibility of sales management is to replace itself. Mentor your replacement, and develop a winning sales management team.
Please consider these sales management axioms and how they apply to your business practice. We understand that you may need new tools, or product solutions, or skill sets to help your clients to succeed in their respective businesses. But this is how to remain relevant regardless of the changes in the benefits landscape. Contact us if you need help getting started. Yes, we must multi-task. And yes, it is challenging. But for those that adapt, remain focused, and work smart, the future will be filled with sales success.
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