Upping the Numbers

How to be a great sales executive in a tough environment

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During challenging times, you can expect the competition to be targeting your good customers. So it is important that you take the necessary steps to super-charge your sales team. “This is the time for companies and their salespeople to re-evaluate everything that they are doing, to get rid of fat, and to take care of their key customers,” says John Treace, business turnaround specialist and author of Nuts and Bolts Sales Management: How to Build a High Velocity Sales Organization (Emerald Book Co.; $19.95).

He further notes that what we are going through now is really no different than what the country was going through in the ’70s, although it has lasted longer. “When there is an economic downturn, it forces marginal producers, those people who really aren’t that good, to find another job,” say Treace. “High performers will continue to work hard.”

There are several strategies managers can employ without increasing the expense budget, such as making sure your sales team is well-read. Effective salespeople are constantly reading at least one good sales book a year, he says. “For every good book they read they will pick up at least one good tip or concept to use for the rest of their careers.” Here are five other suggested plays that aren’t always obvious.

Review your sales process.
This is everything from the samples and presentation a salesperson uses to the way the company processes and delivers the end product or service. “The first thing a company can do to impact its bottom line is to review the whole sales process from A-to-Z and to make sure that it is streamlined.”

Relieve unnecessary paperwork.
Eliminate paperwork and tasks that don’t directly contribute to a sale. “For instance, at one company I ran, salespeople were required to collect past due accounts,” explains Treace. “Upon review, I discovered that they spent 10% of their time on this task instead of selling, so I hired outside people to handle accounts receivable.” The increase in sales far offset the additional cost of the three new hires, he adds.

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