By Guest Author Linda Bishop
[In this series, Linda considers how salespeople can adapt their approach to thrive even in a tough economy. You can find out more in her book, ‘Selling in Tough Times’.]
When the economy booms and people look at the future enveloped in a rosy pink glow of optimism that causes them to buy without blinking or thinking twice—then you can have the wrong people in sales and as long as they represent a small percentage of the total sales force, mediocre salespeople won’t be the downfall of your company.
When times are good, you wish Mr. and Ms. Mediocre saw more prospects, did a better job of penetrating current customers and knew how to get higher markups, but they keep their jobs because sales are up overall and there are plenty of other problems to solve.
Last year, you could live with some degree of sales force mediocrity. This year in the battle for wallet share, the consequences of inferior performance are more painful because customers buy less, shop more and are willing to listen to cost-cutting competitors.
Mediocrity comes in two flavors. Some salespeople are flat out horrible when it comes to account acquisition. Others are good at opening accounts—at hunting—but do a poor job of maximizing revenue once the prospect turns into a customer.
If you’re dealing with someone who is terrible at account acquisition, do they lack the temperament or the skills? If it’s skills, you can fix that and should do so quickly. If it’s temperament, you have a different problem and I would like to point out that it’s darn hard to turn a cat into a dog.
What if the problem is maximizing profitable revenue within current accounts? Ms. Mediocre has captured 3% of the total spend at a customer after three years, and you would like a bigger piece of the pie. Is the problem Ms. Mediocre’s skills? Or is there a bigger issue? A personality clash? Competence issues? Product misperceptions? Whatever the problem, can you afford to ignore mediocrity now?
This is a buyer’s market. Your best customers get calls four to six times a day, every day from hungry competitors. Even the greatest salespeople on the planet are losing business from long-time customers because of price, and second-rate salespeople lose more business and lose it faster.
In a buyer’s market it’s vitally important to have the right salesperson in place doing the right things to get opportunities and close sales. Unless you own 100% of the market, there are plenty of opportunities out there for your company if you actively hunt for them.
Now is a good time to hunt. In my book, ‘Selling in Tough Times’ I write, “Changing circumstances force customers to leave their comfort zones and consider new options. Smart salespeople find new ways to take advantage of the situation.”
In a buyer’s market, good salespeople use creativity and sales intelligence to turn opportunities into dollars. Mr. and Ms. Mediocre miss out because they lack the talent or the drive or the skills. Their inadequacies hurt the top-line and the bottom-line, and that’s a bigger problem today than it was in 2008.
Is it a problem you need to address?