Preventative Maintenance for Sales Reps: Keep Your Team Running Like a Well-Oiled Machine
by Linda Kester July/August 2018
Everyone knows how important preventative maintenance can be for a piece of equipment. The same rules apply to salespeople. Chasing after more volume without regularly scheduled checkups will eventually lead to burnout. Linda Kester shares the top five reasons salespeople stall and provides tips to keep them cruising in a higher gear.
Something happened last year, and it completely changed how I think about sales management. Sue was a top performing rep who had just submitted her resignation. Hired three years prior, she was burned out. On what felt like an endless quest for more volume and more customers, the results she produced were never enough. The day-to-day pressure to sell more, earn more and get more was consuming her.
To me, Sue seemed like an automobile that never had an oil change — her engine seized up. The rush for more left her feeling like a stalled jalopy. While talking with Sue to see if she’d reconsider quitting, I realized the importance of preventative maintenance for sales people.
Auto maintenance basics, like changing the oil, checking tire pressure and getting scheduled inspections, are comparable to reps receiving regular coaching sessions to ensure their sales strategies are in working order. This keeps sales skills fresh and provides the rep and the manager a chance to catch any minor issues before they become major problems.
Since it’s natural to see maintenance in terms of a car, looking at a sales rep this way can make it easier for them to make progress in a clear direction without emotions getting in the way. With that in mind, here is a top five preventative maintenance checklist for sales people.
1. Stuck in Traffic — Not Getting Through to Prospects
One of the biggest challenges for today’s reps is getting in front of a decision-maker, especially over the past 12 months. Vendors and lessees are bombarded with emails, texts and calls. They rarely answer an incoming call without knowing exactly who is calling.
Getting through to high-quality prospects may be more daunting than ever before, but it can be done. To get out of the traffic jam, start by getting referrals. Then leave better voicemails, specifically mentioning the name of the referral or of someone else in the prospect’s organization.
Decision-makers will respond to and meet with salespeople who are referred by colleagues or someone they trust.
Connect with prospects on LinkedIn and Twitter and start a dialogue you can reference when you call. When you highlight your similarities with prospects, they lower their guard. Just like the popular app Waze helps you outsmart traffic, landing referrals and knowing key details about your prospects will help you customize your message and get sales moving again.
2. Faulty Spark Plugs — Combating Status Quo
How many times have you heard “We’re happy with who we’re using”? This objection arises often because prospects are more likely to stick with the status quo and keep using the bank they already have, even if they are unhappy.
Great sales reps help lessees understand the risks of avoiding a decision. Reps must help the prospect develop a proactive mindset and shape the equipment finance process around the fewest steps possible, making it easy for the customer to move forward.
If a prospective vendor is afraid of change, ask questions like, “What will happen if you don’t solve the challenge of low approval rates right now?” or “If you choose not to address the issue of progress payments today, will you still have to address it in the future?” For a lessee, ask, “What is the cost of leaving this problem unaddressed right now?”
Point out the strengths your company offers and remind them of the weaknesses of their current program. You can’t make a prospect submit a credit application, but you can change their thinking with targeted questioning techniques.
3. Broken Side View Mirror — Time Management & Team Selling
Side view mirrors allow you to see obstacles around you, and time management works the same way. Feeling like there’s never enough time to do everything is pervasive among equipment finance sales professionals. How you think about time makes all the difference. Continually ask yourself, “What is the best use of my time right now?”
Think about your prospect’s time, too. The simple practice of asking vendors and lessees about their number one priority for the day gives you specific information about their workload and provides you with an opportunity to offer assistance.
Equipment finance professionals are learning the value of team selling. Teamwork helps with proactivity and managing time. If we have each other’s backs, we can delegate appropriately, get more done and feel like we’re not in it alone. Working as part of a team brings about greater trust, mutual respect and visible support. For a different perspective, have someone from credit go on a sales call. Where salespeople may only see a one-off deal, the credit department may see bigger opportunities, like a master lease.
Involving the credit department will also work to engage multiple decision-makers at the prospect’s location. A wise strategy advises sales people to strive for in-company connections to be three-wide and three-deep. This means a sales person should have at least three contacts at the company, and these contacts should be able to open an inroad into the business three levels deep, toward key decision-makers.
When you act as a team, you earn more contacts, and reps learn from each other by sharing their own best practices. This is one of the best team building and training tools I’ve witnessed.
4. Flat Tire — Spending Too Much Time on Administrative Activities
We all know CRM systems are valuable, yet sometimes sales people feel deflated by inputting tedious amounts of data. Sales managers must evaluate which tasks can be streamlined to save reps precious time. What can move reps toward greater results without sucking the joy out of the sales experience by having them stare at computers for hours on end?
To keep productivity high, use technology to reveal the location of a prospect in your sales funnel or use prospect mapping to determine where the team’s time is best spent.
Like sports cars, reps want to accelerate and cover as much ground as they can in the shortest possible time. Tying a salesperson to a CRM is like putting a boot on one of their tires. You can get data from a car with a boot on it, but it won’t be helpful.
Find a way to put the CRM on cruise control, so reps and management can feel like they are making progress at a reasonable speed.
5. Dead Battery — Chronic Stress
Salespeople are not machines; they are precious living resources. To keep them healthy and productive, they need tools to deal with stress.
Selling can be emotional. In a single day, reps can go from feeling angry, stressed, frustrated, disappointed and afraid to hopeful, satisfied and fulfilled. Stressful thoughts include:
Why are people so inconsiderate?
This is too hard. I don’t want to do this.
I stink! I keep failing.
This shouldn’t be happening to me.
Reps tell themselves a story, and the story causes the stress. Once you notice this, you can simply drop out of the story and into the present moment. Do this by asking yourself, “What is happening right now?” and “What sensations can I notice in my body?”
The simple act of relaxing your shoulders and taking a deep breath can stop feelings of stress and anxiety.
These are the strategies Sue and I worked on together. She started focusing on the positive aspects of her job, and she used stress management techniques to feel better herself. She stuck with it and now mentors new reps to help them avoid burnout.
Maintenance in the form of monthly check-ups is like giving sales people high-octane, nourishing fuel. This sales management practice results in abundance for both the rep and her employer.
Is your sales team overdue for preventative maintenance? Bring this article to your next sales meeting. Ask your team if they are experiencing other pressing challenges. Then brainstorm for solutions and show appreciation and gratitude for their feedback.