Customer relationships are the key to sales so staff who understand and drive relationships are the most valuable staff, whatever your business. Identifying people who are natural relationship-builders and training them on product and sales techniques should be key steps in building a successful sales team and thus a successful business.
So if it really is that easy, why do so many companies struggle to develop a powerful sales force?
The recruitment of a strong sales staff involves assessing and evaluating attitudes and emotions as well as considering skills. The retention of a strong sales staff involves actively incentivizing and motivating the staff. Add in the complication of cultural factors and we can see why many companies fail to rise to the challenge.
For many traditional companies viewing sales as a relationship process is a radical, new idea. To build client relationships built on trust means that the company must underpin this with internal (owner-manager-staff) relationships which are also built on trust. Trust and respect must filter from the top down; they don’t grow from the bottom up.
Sales incentive schemes have to be constructed so they are exactly that, an incentive to sell. Many incentive schemes are built as add-ons, something which management feels should be there but which are considered as a cost, rather than an integral part of the company’s strategy for success. A good sales manager should spend most of his or her time slowly and steadily training the best performers up and swiftly managing the weakest performers out, effectively, sales management is an HR role.
In sales, past performance can be a useful tool for assessment during the recruitment process, but everyone knows you’re only as good as your last sale. This is why the recruitment of a salesperson must be looked on as the recruitment of a potential salesperson rather than the recruitment of an immediate winner. A salesperson may act as an individual unit but the company environment and the company culture have a huge impact on performance. Training, support, nurturing, empowerment, respect, trust – these and other factors make the company culture and can impact sales more than product and pricing. This is the reason why a company which recruits a competitor’s best performer often fails to see great impact. Solid companies grow their own talent. They nurture and train junior staff and treat trainees as having the potential to be the most important people in the company.
Many foreign companies have problems accepting that the actual technique of sales has to be attuned to the culture. Many Cambodian target-consumers are not used to being ‘sold to’. For many Cambodians it is a new experience to encounter frontline sales staff answering questions on product features, directing potential buyers to appropriate choices and then closing the sale. Many Cambodian consumers are unused to sales staff with any kind of sales-pitch, any kind of ‘love of a sale’ or any kind of passion for the product.
This situation is changing rapidly. Modernization and development are leading to these new concepts being presented in the market and it is clearly obvious that it is a question of modernize or die. In traditional companies the staff believe that the owner or the boss pays their salary. These companies are losing business to competitors with a sales-force that is trained to know that the customer is king and the customer pays their salary. Companies with an empowered and dynamic sales-force and a belief in customer service are beating those where the sales process is not based on a value-proposition. Companies which make the customer king and train the staff on the idea that the customers pay their salaries will thrive.
In the rapidly emerging Cambodian consumer environment we are seeing lots of innovations and fast-moving companies are profiting from taking risks. Companies have woken up to the fact that sales staff need training on price-value issues so they can present them clearly and effectively to potential buyers. Staff training on opening, closing and up-selling, on customer service and building client relationships to foster repeat sales will soon all become normality rather than the exception. These innovations are starting to apply to all aspects of sales outside consumer sales.
It’s exciting times for people in sales and the winning companies will be the ones which treat sales as an HR issue.
The writer is the owner and Managing Director of TOP Recruitment, which has been in the market since 2006 and is Cambodia’s leading recruitment and staff outsourcing company.