Are you a small business owner struggling to manage the sales team…?
How to Manage a Sales Team With or Without a Crisis (Part II)
Wendy Weiss, The Queen of Cold Calling®
I have been wondering about the challenges small business owners face when they manage a sales team. I set out to interview some business owners to see what they had to say. Between the time I came up with this idea and actually executed it, COVID19 arrived on the scene. That made me curious to find out whether the challenges faced by business owners in managing a sales team has shifted due to the virus. They had so many interesting observations that I had to create two articles! Below is Part II. Click here if you missed Part I.
MGF Services, LLC
Mona’s sales team consists of 3 independent contractors. The corporate office is in Wisconsin; however, the sales representatives are based in Chicago, North Caroline and California. The sales representatives have all been with the company for a long time. Some of them were originally Mona’s customers!
Mona said that before the current crisis, her #1 challenge in managing the sales team was communication, that is, making sure that her team had the data they needed to be successful. She said, “I know that it sounds simple, but it’s one of the biggest bottle necks.”
At the beginning of this year, Mona had a lot of plans for the business. Given the current crisis situation, “You just have to take out your plans, throw them up in the air and say, we’re going to start over. How do we move forward and how do we conduct business differently?” She went on to explain that a large part of that has to do with marketing and sales. For example, there were trade shows that were scheduled that have now been postponed. In addition, she and her team are used to meeting with customers and/or prospects and going on site. Right now, that’s off the table.
Mona said they are restructuring in order to accommodate remote sales and service. “We have to start re-thinking how to handle service and support if we can’t go to a site. How is our customer going to share their information with us? The problem is, this is new to our customers too. They have their own requirements of operations and policies not to mention changes due to COVID-19 that they have to deal with and now we’re adding more to it.”
One more thing that is new: Having to remind the sales team to take a softer selling approach. She said, “There’s a sensitivity here. Talk to people and ask how they’re doing. It’s not just about the sale. We need to redefine our operations and strategies to be a good team partner with our clients. Together we will build a better future of growth.”
My Smart Plans
Shelley is the CEO, co-founder and the sales team of My Smart Plans. She’s been in business since 2006.
Shelley said that her #1 challenge is telling their story to as many people as possible. It has been an adventure because she says they are disrupting the construction industry. She said her goal is to tell their story and to find her tribe of people that understand and support her vision of building the ability to have vetted knowledge whenever decisions are being made on a project.
Shelley’s primary business development tool is cold calling. She also uses LinkedIn to reach out to likely prospects and is involved in some industry associations. She says her biggest roadblock to gaining new clients is the status quo.
What helps Shelley succeed is her belief that she is serving the community and protecting the integrity of the project. She is not selling. These beliefs make cold calling easy for her.
The other challenge for Shelley is using the correct language. Every industry has its own dictionary of terms, so understanding and finding that right language is the key to success.
Re: The current crisis Shelley said, “This has been such an amazing journey. I am so sad that so many people have died, however, this crisis has been a blessing for me because it has made me focus back on what’s of value in my life. It has settled me down. I ran helter skelter for all those years. Now I’m able to sit down and articulate our story differently.”
Document Imaging Group
Jon has been in business for 14 years and it has always been a struggle to find and manage good sales people. He has hired and let go many different sales people over the years.
About 10 years ago Jon’s team consisted of 3-4 sales people. Over the course of a year or two they all left or were let go for one reason or another. Jon then went for 4-5 years without a sales team. He was the sole sales person.
Jon had such success in growing his business that he hired in other, non-sales-related, areas. He then realized he needed to hire sales people again in order to keep everyone busy and working.
About 18 months ago Jon hired a sales person, an industry veteran, and then 6-8 months later he hired another industry veteran. Jon told me that, “When you’re a small business owner and also the sales person and you handle the major accounts it becomes extremely difficult to manage the sales team. It became apparent to me that if I am going to hire sales people, I need to manage them more and hold them accountable. That is why I also hired a Director of Operations and made him responsible for managing the team.”
Unfortunately, Jon’s first hire did not work out so now he is down to one sales person.
Jon said, “I’m a very self-motivated individual and I look for people that don’t need a lot of management and that are also self-motivated individuals. What I’m finding is there aren’t a whole lot of people that are self-motivated and will take the initiative to do things on their own without someone managing them. I don’t want to be that type of manager. I now have one sales person other than myself and he is extremely self-motivated. It took me 14 years to find this person.”
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