You have two salespeople who are doing extremely well and beating their sales targets on a regular basis. On the flip side, you also recently lost two good salespeople. The remaining two realize that you cannot afford to be without them at this time and have started making extra demands for additional commissions and benefits. One is rumbling about quitting if he doesn’t get what he wants. Your business is not doing as well as you would like and you are not in a position to meet their additional demands.
You feel they are taking advantage of you and capitalizing on the situation.
What can you do to keep both of them without giving in to their unreasonable demands?
Your company is facing stiff competition from a competitor that is importing your brand from a foreign country. It seems to be the exact same product as yours, and now you learn that the warranty is valid as well. For some reason, they are able to import equipment and provide services for less than you can.
They are aggressive in the marketplace with reduced prices, and are calling on customers who have been loyal to your company for many years. You have already lost some key customers to them. Your salespeople regularly get beaten up on price. Sales are slipping and your sales team is complaining, but they have no answers. There is a sense that the market is no longer there, and some even believe your company will eventually be run out of the market.
You know better. You know there are many opportunities out there, but your salespeople have become gun-shy and are no longer following up on leads, even hot ones. It is time for drastic action.
How would you handle this situation?
“I don’t care! You can fire me, but I will not tell anyone where I’m going or what I’m doing!”
This bitter outburst came as a result of a sales manager asking his salespeople to submit their weekly plan. This was the first step in developing a reporting system for his sales team.
The salesperson was serious too. He was the company’s best salesperson. Because he is so well-known and very well-liked by the customers, he is also featured in their advertising.
The sales manager knew he had a problem. If this salesperson refused, the other salespeople would feel unfairly treated if they had to complete the reports. He could see his plan fading away like a morning fog.
This salesperson is normally not that aggressive, although he has been difficult to manage in the past.
If you were the sales manager, what would you do?
The Sales team just had a meeting talking about dealing with the next generation of customers who were taking over the farm. They were, as a group, brainstorming on how to deal with them.
Just then, Frank and Sean, a local farmer and his son, entered the branch looking for a piece of equipment and asked for Gordon, a long-time salesman of this farming operation. They had been interested in a new tractor over the last while and were talking about it and what the operation needed. It was now time to make the purchase and they had stopped in to ask for a quote. “Just email it to me and I will look it over.” Sean said quickly. “When should I follow up with you?” asked Gordon. Frank, the father, started to say something, but Sean cut him off saying, “Don’t bother. If we want it, we’ll get in touch with you” as he headed out the door. Gordon looked at his friend and long-term customer Frank with disbelief.
What would your next steps be?
Eddie has been a salesperson for a few years. The transition from his previous role in the service department has been a tough one. He has been selling more and more and is determined to not be a “typical sales person”.
Joe bought a combine from Eddie at his local dealership during the summer. In the middle of combining season on a Friday afternoon, Joe comes storming into the dealership. He confronts Eddie and tells him, “That combine you sold me broke down and I want it fixed now!” Eddie knows that the service department is swamped. He responds, “Let me see who I can find to help you.” Joe blows up and demands, “I bought this combine from you…what are YOU going to do about it?” Eddie sees that he has two choices: one, let Joe deal with a service department that is booked up or two, see if he can fix it himself.
What would you advise Eddie to do?
A very good customer of the dealership tells you in confidence that he does not like dealing with one of your sales people. He threatens to take his business somewhere else unless you assign another sales person to him. Your dealership has had assigned territories and has strict rules on that.
This is your most experienced sales person. Other customers have love him and the reports are great. He also produces consistently well and his sales numbers are usually increasing rather than decreasing. You know he will be upset if you assign someone else to his account.
How would you handle this situation?
Recently, I have been having conversations with various dealers about issues they were struggling with. One conversation we discussed the changes that he implemented in his dealership. John had a small dealership that sold and serviced “specialized” farm machinery. With ever an ever growing client base, and overall changes in the industry John and his wife were faced with more problems than solutions as one of his seasoned sales people had left also. Maintaining leads, closing deals and organizing clients became more and more difficult to manage alongside the newest problem, needing to hire a new salesperson.
Like many other dealers, traditional methods like whiteboards, spreadsheets and personal records was a easy way to keep track of the dealerships operations.
At this point he needed to evaluate – stay the same or adapt.
How are things organized at your dealership?
Is analogue (non-electronic), a thing of the past?
Where do you think analogue applications should apply in the sales industry, or should it still be used at all?
Is what you are doing considered to be analogue, or are you seeking to change to become digital?
Is the process you are using working or does it need to change?
We had quite a few discussions on what a sales department and its processes should be. I challenged John to listen to two audio books that I love. They provide a tonne of insight and a broad scope of potential solutions to his problems.
Your salesperson has been working real hard on a large multiple unit deal. All the competition is on the deal and the customer has been eliminating them one by one. You were out seeing the customer with the salesman and the finish line is in sight. Your service manager learned about it and has come to discuss the deal with you. He feels the service department may be too busy and is concerned about the work this will add to his already taxed department. He would rather that this deal would not happen as it may be at the expense of other sales with the companies other clients and asking that the salesperson to consider the implications.
You do know and agree with him that it will make it difficult on the already busy service department.
You agree it will add stress but you hate giving up this selling opportunity.
What do you do? Do you stop the sale? Can you mitigate the risk of overwhelming your service manager?
Or perhaps do you take on extra work load and increase the problem for your service department?
Recently I returned from working with a great group of salespeople on developing their skills. Let’s call it ‘Professional Development.’ They themselves are taking the time out of there busy days to ensure their customer the best possible service offering. It quickly became evident that this was extraordinary group of people! They dedicated time during training for in-depth conversations and constructive dialogue during training. We took a majority of the time to determine what sets them apart from everyone else in this industry. This included comparing many variables including people from other departments of the dealership to their competitions standards. We were looking for things that made the company stand out in the industry in comparison to everyone else. The conversation encompassed many subjective areas; having the best parts and service offering, the best equipment, or even that we have the most skilled sales-force in the area.
Here is the problem… after reviewing everyone’s ideas there was a noticeable trend with the information they gathered. They realized that they were most likely saying the exact same thing that their competition was saying.
So what is their “Point of Difference” or what really did set them apart from the competition?
In an industry with so much related direct and indirect competition, what can sales managers do obtain a competitive advantage for their company?
What can a sales force use as leverage to obtain a greater market share?