Last Sunday I attended the auto show in Kingston Jamaica, and with time on my hands I stopped at the booth of a firm that offers a service to motorists. A neatly attired young man invited me in and enquired if I was a member of his organisation. In response to my “no,” he asked, “why not?” I was disappointed, for what could result was a number of negatives from which he may never recover.
For a moment I reflected on the importance of a sales force and my mind drifted to Howard Stevens, who, in his introduction to his 2000 classic, Selling The Wheel, noted: “Today, the single most potent resource for gaining a competitive edge is not the product being sold or the guarantees you attach, it is the quality of the sales force selling that product. In fact we are now seeing that the closer products in the market-place move toward parity with one another, the better the sales force has to become if the seller’s company is to succeed.”
It didn’t require much of me to learn that the people in that booth had been given very little sales training, no coaching, and that their trainer himself needs to be trained in contemporary sales practices; but other factors were also at work.
The performance of the sales force reminds me of a truism in Major League Baseball: the best team wins about 2/3rd of their games every year while the worst team wins about 1/3rd of their games. The 2014 season was closer than the norm with California Angels winning .605 and the Diamondbacks .395. Which takes me back to the sales force, for the same rule applies. Once a sales force is in place, no matter how ineffective they are they will get some business. But how much?
So, if Stevens is correct, here’s what every Entrepreneur, CEO, CFO, COO, CIO, CMO, Sales Director, HR Director and everyone else in management should know with a high degree of accuracy:
- How well does your sales force mirror your desired brand personality?
- Is your sales team performing above or below .500?
- How much are they leaving on the table?
If you cannot answer all three you may never know to what extent your sales force is propelling or retarding your company.
Herman D. Alvaranga is president of the Caribbean School of Sales Management.