Revenue from successful sales is the lifeblood of your business, so what can you do to make sure it flows smoothly? Our last few articles have addressed distributors, the sales compensation plan, and the “insight sales” technique, but these cannot guarantee successful sales. They are only part of the mosaic.
Even when you have attractive products, competitive pricing, good market communications and promotions, and well-designed sales compensation, your mosaic is incomplete without effective sales support. Too often, sales support is the last consideration, when it should be one of the first.
Just as a building needs a frame for support, and a craftsman needs the proper tools, your sales channels – distributors and salespeople – depend on sales support to reach their potential. They know this better than anyone, and the best will join your business only if you provide the proper tools. This means sales support is a condition for hiring a high quality sales force or distributor.
Two Types of Sales Support: Helpers and Tools.
Helpers are work groups or functions that enable sales success. These include:
– Lead Generation: Finding qualified potential customers for the salesperson to contact. The company can buy lists, hire lead qualifiers and appointment setting services, gather leads at trade shows, use email campaigns, social media, or executive networks, and other methods. The whole company should consider it their job to find leads for sales.
- The best leads are those who bought from you before, so your customer database must be able to identify prior customers and those without recent purchases.
– Training on both products and sales techniques by skilled practitioners.
– Readily-available technical support, from product specialists to experts on applications for particular industries.
– Customer service that the salesperson can count on to be accessible, helpful, and effective.
– Active market communications opens doors for the salesperson. Techniques include advertising, promotions, and public relations. If the prospect is aware of the company, the sales contact has a much greater chance for success.
Tools are documents and software that make the salesperson efficient, knowledgeable, and confident. Some examples include:
– Videos and presentations
– Statements of benefits
– Answers to common objections
– Software calculators to show cost/benefit using the customer’s own information
– Computer-aided design (CAD) on the salesperson’s laptop, to define the customized application, develop a quote, and communicate requirements clearly to the production department
– Paper and/or electronic leave-behinds: brochures or collateral materials for customer reference after meeting with the salesperson
– Standard proposals and contracts
– Contact management software, often with an email generation feature, to help the salesperson with timely follow-up, and keep management informed of progress through the sales funnel (see Sales Funnel | Thomas H. Gray – Consultant, CEO, Director).
– A portal where the salesperson can see order status, check on his or her own progress toward sales and commission goals, download materials (tools), and request technical or customer service support.
Sales Support Is a Great Investment!
With the right helpers and tools, salespeople close more sales, waste less time on administration, and stay with the company because they feel valued and supported. The top salespeople look for this type of support before joining a company. Thus sales support is the foundation for an effective sales force.