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Five ways to build a successful sales culture

paul_black_ceo_sales-iBy Paul Black, CEO, sales-i

Even the most successful sales pitch gets worn out with repeat use. A lack of innovation and motivation prevents good salespeople from becoming great. Instead, they rely on routine orders from existing customers and stop looking for new opportunities. They use the same old processes to bring in predictable results and lack any real purpose to try harder.

Eager to gain a deeper understanding, we recently surveyed over 280 salespeople from a range of industries (including cleaning supplies) about their biggest daily challenges – those which hold them back from being more proactive, and thus successful, in their roles.

Eleven per cent of those surveyed said that having to complete general administrative tasks, such as compiling sales reports and preparing for meetings, took valuable time away from new business activities. A lack of transparency within teams was highlighted by 17 per cent of salespeople as a significant issue. Without visibility into colleagues’ activities across the business, salespeople can’t always access the important customer or prospect data that could inform an upselling or new business opportunity.

Further IT issues which prevent salespeople from working smarter and achieving better results include the use of Excel for manual data entry, reporting and analysis, the inability to access key company and customer information from anywhere at any time, and the storage of data across too many different systems. Half of respondents said that their main problem was an inability to identify new opportunities, or see which existing customer accounts were falling in sales before it was too late.

So, how can sales managers in the cleaning industry empower their teams to overcome these challenges and boost their numbers? A successful sales culture is one which encourages proactivity and efficiency through the following five initiatives.

Many salespeople are reluctant to adopt new technology, viewing it as just another laborious task. It’s imperative to set the tone and treat new technology as an opportunity to improve sales performance, on both an individual and team basis.

When used correctly, the right tools can solve many of the daily challenges outlined by our research. Software is available to automate routine reporting tasks. Customer relationship management (CRM) systems can improve visibility into the health of key customer accounts, and mobile technology allows salespeople to access the information they need on the go.

Advanced data analytics platforms can help you and your team make sense of customer information and identify new selling opportunities in real-time. For example, if your historic customer data shows that a customer buys new floor mopping pads at regular intervals during the year, you can use this information to offer them a well-timed promotional deal on cleaning products. Essentially, when you have a better understanding of your customers’ buying habits, you can identify up- and cross-selling opportunities much more effectively.

Adopting new technology successfully is a process that involves everyone. Before implementing any new system, make sure that you engage with your team. Review all your technology options with them and discuss the pros and cons of each. Ask them for suggestions and listen to their feedback at every stage of implementation.

Unfortunately, training and mentoring programmes do not come as a standard at all companies. If you want to help your salespeople enhance the skills they already have, you need to establish a culture of ongoing personal and career development.

Offer relevant courses to coach your team to greater success. Monitor their progress to make sure that their key skills are sharpened and new ones are tested. Be actively involved in designing and delivering the course content, and be sure to communicate the benefits of the training. As your team progresses along each course, encourage feedback and acknowledge positive results.

Use your company’s innate diversity to make your training sessions more interesting and illuminative. For example, get your industry veterans and marvellous millennials to present to each other on a work-related topic of their choice. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll all learn.

Millennial salespeople may have their downsides, but they also have plenty of advantages. Most of them are more tech-savvy than your traditional salesperson and understand how to use various digital platforms to successfully engage with prospects. Social media is one such tool that can be used to communicate with your customers and prospects in an easy, personalised manner.

Millennials are typically eager for training and they learn new skills enthusiastically. Your more experienced salespeople, possibly a bit stuck in their ways and reluctant to change their habits, could learn a thing or two from their millennial colleagues. The converse is true too: a new salesperson could benefit hugely from the knowledge of your more experienced team members.

Salespeople are rather competitive by nature. Why not up the stakes and run sales contests at work? Or pit colleagues against each other for a prize or even an extra day’s holiday? Gamification, the use of game design elements such as points based league tables and ranking systems in the workplace, is inspiring healthy competition and collaboration among many sales teams – and achieving impressive results.

Recognition is an important reward; some may say more so than a cash bonus or all-expenses paid holiday. When a salesperson or team performs well, acknowledge it generously and this will motivate others to try and achieve the same level of productivity.

Get your team out of the office from time to time and encourage them to get to know each other. Help your salespeople understand each other’s strengths and weakness, and how to play to the former and minimise the latter.

istock_83195451_xlargeBack at the office, make sure that you have solid operational processes in place that are clearly understood by everyone. You need your team to work together efficiently with as little distraction as possible. If they are communicating well, they will collaborate successfully. It’s vital to ensure that no one is left in the dark on any matter that will impact their work. If you’ve made a new hire, pitched for a new customer, or implemented a new CRM – everyone needs to know before the fact, not after.

No matter how successful your sales team, their approach to selling will need a regular refresh to stay relevant. The cleaning supplies market is highly competitive and salespeople are already being challenged by a lack of technology and training. Unless your company builds a culture of success and embraces change, it risks going backward rather than forward.

About Sarah OBeirne

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