Selling records- management services requires managing the sales process and the salesperson, which entails measurement, comparison and action. This article discusses how this can best be done in an entrepreneurial environment.
The Hunting Trip
A salesperson and his operations manager set out on a hunting trip. The van is packed with all their supplies and they reach the campsite. The salesperson tells the operations manager, "You set up camp, and I'll go get us some lunch." The manager takes all the supplies out of the van, sets up the tent, and gets the fire roaring and everything in its place. Everything is ready for the hunt.
A few minutes later, the manager hears a loud noise coming through the forest. It's the salesperson running like crazy with a grizzly bear close on his heels. As he runs though the campsite, the salesperson yells to the operations manager, "You shoot him, skin him and cook him! I'm going to get us supper."
This story may be funny but it is also true to life. My experience has been that salesmen and operations managers have totally different points of view and personalities. The salesperson in this story is the hunter. He doesn't want anything to do with the campsite or the care and handling of the bear. His job is to get the bear. The operations manager's job is to deal with it afterward. In business, we all have certain skills and talents. It would be a boring world otherwise. In selling, we must understand these differences and deal with them.
Getting Things Done Through Others
The above story doesn't contain the most important character: the sales manager. The salesperson gets the bear and the operations manager is ready to take action; but grizzly bears can kill and eat you. The salesperson needs a framework from which to operate. He just can't dump a live, dangerous bear on your campsite.
One of the basic concepts of management is it requires others to do tasks the manager oversees. Literally thousand of books have been written about how this is done in the context of business selling. There are several management issues we should discuss.
Setting Realistic Goals. Under- standing the owner's expectations is the first step in managing sales. The expectations must be set based on realistic and reasonable achievement levels. The owner, sales manager and salesperson must agree on these expectations and goals before the process begins. The goals act as a standard of performance. Without these, there is no way to measure the results. Generally, this is a negotiated process based on experience, industry standards and the resources available to the salesperson.
Monitoring the Sales Cycle. There must be a window to the system that enables the owner and sales manager to look at the progress of the various sales cycles of each client. Without this window, you will never have a realistic picture of the present status. Each step of the sales cycle must have a time frame related to it. Understanding how long prospects are in each step allows for more effective management.
Measuring Performance. Comparing the expectations against the actual performance enables the owner and sales manager to bring additional resources to the sales effort. The salesperson must always know where he is in every prospect's sales cycle. If he doesn't, you can expect failure.
Coaching and Mentoring. No salesperson can expect peak performance without the outside influence of a sales manager. The sales manager's primary job is to reduce or clear obstacles from the salesperson's path. This is done by providing resources as well as coaching and mentoring activities. These enable the salesperson to do his job most effectively.
Closing Assistance. The most important element of the sales cycle is the eventual close of the deal. Salesmen may need an additional boost or some assistance from the owner or sales manager to conclude the sale. The sales manager must determine when this is reasonable or necessary.
Tracking Results. How we judge the results is important--whether it be the number of sales, gross revenue, net income, size of the account or some formula that combines these factors. Regardless of the measurement method, you must know how to determine if the expectations equal the results.
Rewarding Success. Salesmen are driven by rewards. Generally, the reward is cash; however, there are other ways to reward good salesmen. Without rewards, you will not keep them, and the cost of finding, training and mentoring salesmen is high. Be sure you keep the good ones.
The Dilemma: Managing Commercial Records Sales
The commercial records industry is, for the most part, entrepreneurial. Most records centers have only one salesperson, and the owners are generally busy developers or entrepreneurs. So how does an owner manage for success?
We expect a records center can reach the plateau of 100,000 cubic feet of storage in approximately 30 months, with gross revenue of roughly $500,000. This isn't easy. It requires diligence, patience and three very important ingredients:
1. A full-time salesperson.
2. A measurable consultative selling method that works.
3. Sales management that addresses the issues listed in this article.
Today's technology enables a single-salesperson environment without a full-time sales manager. Effective sales training for the industry, Internet-based sales-management tools, the "Distance Sales Manager" concept (developed by Amalgam Solutions LLC) and other cost-effective methods enable records centers to achieve these results.
Regular columnist Cary McGovern, CRM, is the principal of FileMan and FIRMS (FileMan Internet Records Management Services), which offer full-service records-management assistance for commercial records-storage start-ups in self-storage operations. If you would like more information about start-up assistance, sales training, Internet-based technology or the Distance Sales Manager concept, call 877.FILEMAN, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; www.fileman.com.