Inviting a vendor's sales representation to present a product training program never hurts, but if product knowledge were the criteria for success in sales, about 90% of the fledgling salespeople in North America who are about to lose their jobs would be top performers. While product knowledge is important, it won't turn a mediocre performer into a top producer.
What's missing in most of the salespeople I meet is a general lack of sales skill. But rarely do I see sales meetings focus on teaching salespeople how to sell more products to existing customers or how to penetrate a prospect who is giving the lion's share of his purchases to the competition.
Here are several ideas that will allow your sales force to leave their next sales meeting with enough ammunition to improve their performance:
1. Ask two or three of your top salespeople to join the manager or sales manager on a panel. Give the sales force enough advance notice to identify several sales obstacles they are facing and jot each of them down on a separate piece of paper. At the sales meeting, call out the question and allow the panel to respond with their most effective ideas.
2. Invite three loyal customers to attend your next sales meeting and answer questions from the sales force about what services they most appreciate from a salesperson and what it is about your company that makes them such loyal customers.
3. Invite each salesperson draw a number out of a hat to determine the order each salesperson will present a 15-to-20-minute sales presentation on a key product line that the company is emphasizing. What makes this approach especially effective is to capture each presentation on video. When the presentations are over, replay the video and ask the audience to critique each presentation.
4. Ask each salesperson to present to the sales force background and details on one of his or her key prospects. Invite the sales force to make suggestions as to what the salesperson might do differently to penetrate this account.
5. Buy a copy of the One-Minute Salesperson for each salesperson to read, then at the sales meeting, go around the room and ask the salespeople to tell the group what they plan to do differently after reading this little book.
6. Announce a sales contest that will reward the sales force with a weekend getaway if they achieve a measurable goal over a measurable time frame. Goals could include:
? Bring in five new credit-approved customers who purchase a minimum of $10,000 over the next 120 days.
? Identify each salesperson's year-to-date gross margin. Improve individual gross margin by one percentage point over the next 120 days.
? Achieve a sales goal on an emphasis product line over the next 120 days.
7. Identify specific problems your company's typical customers frequently face and brainstorm specific techniques to help your customers overcome them.
8. Brainstorm what your company has to offer customers in your industry that your individual competitors cannot match. What sets your company apart from each of your key competitors?
Set a personal goal to make your company's sales meetings more fun and more effective in 2005.
Bill Lee is author of Gross Margin: 26 Factors Affecting Your Bottom Line. $29.95 plus $5 S&H. All credit cards accepted. or email