The Future of the Sales Rep – Part 2
The New Sales Representative
07:30 The Corporate Car Park. The New sales representative is sitting in his car waiting patiently for the minute hand to reach the upright position.
This is his first day on the job and while he decided to be early to miss the traffic he doesn’t want to be sitting in an empty reception for 30 minutes saying good morning to a variety of strangers with a cup of strong coffee and an empty smile. Poring over the company website on his iPad he re-reads about of the senior people in the company trying to memorise their names and achievements, cross-referencing them with their LinkedIn accounts and seeing if they and he have any mutual friends.
07:45 The Corporate Car Park. The new sales representative looks back at the final interview he had with the Sales Manager. Two hours over a light lunch talking about his experiences, his family and achievements. The new sales rep is experienced in sales and in the new products he will be asked to sell but he is still nervous. The Sales Manager tells him that he will not be called a Sales Representative, rather he will have the title of Customer Consultant to let the customers know that he is on their side, looking after their interests.
07:55 The Corporate Reception Area. Announcing himself at reception the new sales representative is asked to take a seat and wait for the Sales Manager who is on an International conference call. Taking the opportunity to read the corporate newsletter he tries to absorb the culture of the company.
08:10 The Corporate Sales Managers Office. The new sales rep sits in an unfamiliar office waiting for the Sales Manager to start.
How does this make you feel?
Do you remember the feeling of starting your last new job? If you are a seasoned sales representative you will have had a few different jobs by now. The average Sales rep will have 12 different jobs in his working life or one every three and a half years. Hunters will have 15 to 20 while Farmers will have 8 to 10. The new sales rep will have a variety of experiences with a variety of products or services, but each time they move on it will be different.
The Sales Manager has to expect this and still plan for the first few months of the sales reps stay with the company. If the Sales Manager can have a new representative performing at his peak within 4 months of starting with the company he has done very well.
In the past there were just two things that the new sales representative had to come to terms with:
• Product Knowledge
• Customer Knowledge
The first few weeks of the new sales representative’s life was to immerse himself in the product and get to know the customer base.
Today it is different. There are four things that the sales manager has to plan, for the new sales representative:
• Product Knowledge
• Sales Training
• Customer Relationships
• Company systems and procedures
This part of the new sales representative’s training hasn’t changed very much for the last 50 years. Every product or service is different. You may be tempted to think that toothpaste is toothpaste and all toothpastes are the same but this is certainly not true. Toothpaste salespeople (I am sure there are some somewhere) will have to know, not only their own product in the finest of detail but also, all the competitive products and the comparison between the two. Product knowledge is always part of the new sales rep’s diary but that will go alongside the next item
If you want your new Sales Representative working at his or her peak within a few months this is one area that cannot be skipped but so often is. The Financial Director will tell you “We employed a skilled sales person why should we spend more money on training?”. The fact is, you employ for attitude and then train the skills.
People outside the sales fraternity will tell you that selling is easy. I was asked many years ago to train 20 attorneys in the art of selling their service. I put together a training course for them with a series of full day interactions combined with assignments, a reading schedule and tests. When I presented the course to the senior partner in the firm I was told that I had missed the point. He just wanted a one day course on how to be a sales person. It takes 7 years to become a qualified attorney and he expects his attorneys to learn how to sell in one day.
Selling is not something that you just learn in a two day course or even 5 years experience on the job. Learning to sell is an ongoing process of improvement. Good sales people know that they have to contumely “Sharpen the Saw” by attending training courses and seminars, reading new ideas from the great authors and learning from their peers.
The New Sales Representative, however, has also got a wide range of other avenues to explore.
Webinars are working are the modern way to top up training. Webinars are not new of course, but it has taken time to get the bandwidth to a point where they are effective. Instead of getting the delegates together in one room with the trainer, training can just as easily be achieved over the internet. Typically webinars are shorter than traditional training because it is very difficult to keep the attention of the delegates while staring at a screen for longer than an hour. Webinars, therefor will replace traditional training with regular shorter sessions.
One way of using technology for training has been in use since the internet started. Shorter sessions can be downloaded with video, audio and text. These can be run at any time that suits the delegate followed by a test to check for understanding. E-learning has taken a huge step forward with sites like Udemy.com. Here you will find training on a wide variety of skills and easily accessible on your laptop, iPad or smartphone. You will find many of my courses available here and this site and others like it, may well be the future up-skilling your team.
Sales representatives, like others in business, can get a constant drip feed of new ideas and techniques by viewing regular articles from people they respect. This article will be read by hundreds of people around the world the moment it is published.
Conference call training
Traditional training in a conference room can easily be replaced by a series of conference calls. Delegates can gather at venue near their home and join other delegates and the trainer who is situated in other towns around the country or around the world. This option is still quite pricey but the investment has to be compared with the price and down time of traveling to a central venue.
I have started to explore Second Life and I am fascinated by the concept. Second Life is a virtual community where you choose who you want to be and interact with other people in a huge variety of virtual settings. They have their own currency, with a real life exchange rate, that you can use to buy virtual properties, virtual furniture as well as designer clothing and watches etc. There seems to be nothing that you might want to do that is impossible in second life, much of which is impossible in real life.
This raises an interesting opportunity for training. There are virtual training rooms set up with real trainers and delegates each of which has a virtual identity. The training is done in real time and I am looking forward to the day when this technology is more advanced and we have larger bandwidth so that realtime is in fact real time.
There are no excuses any longer. The new sales representative has, literally at his fingertips, all the worlds best selling skills on the internet. Self improvement must become a daily event for our new sales representative and the sales manager must encourage this process as part of the company culture.
Tomorrow we will explore the rest of the first day as a new Sales Representative
This is Part 2 in the series “The Future of the Sales Representative”. If you want to read the others in the series go to my blog at www.richardmulvey.com.
Over the next 30 days, I will be expanding this train of thought, taking each step of the selling process and explaining how the 21st Century Sales Representative maximises his or her performance using all the tools available. While most of the selling process hasn’t fundamentally changed, the way we do what we do has changed immensely.