Building a great sales team starts with hiring and finding the people with the right attitude.
Those were some of the tips gleaned from the Hawaii Business Lunch & Learn: Sales Strategies for Small Businesses event, presented by Hawaii National Bank and Oceanic Time Warner Cable Business Class. The panelists included Layla Dedrick, owner/CEO of Bella Pietra, Cyrus Driver, VP of Business Service at Oceanic Time Warner Cable Business Class, and Bill Riddle, President and CEO of Visitor Video Hawaii. David Tumilowicz, publisher of Hawaii Business magazine, moderated the discussion.
Here are some of the key takeaways.
Tips for Salespeople
- Get the appointment by asking for a unique amount of time, Riddle says. For instance, he asks potential clients for 6 minutes, instead of something standard like 30 minutes. It usually gets a laugh, breaks the ice and can start a conversation.
- Take the time to listen. Riddle thinks most salespeople do not take the time to do that. “Listening is a skill that must be learned,” he says.
- Understand that business owners are the ones writing checks and if you can help their profit margin, they may be your customer, Driver says. “At the end of the day, he doesn’t want to save money, he wants to make money,” he says.
- Go into a sales call with three prices in mind, Riddle says. No one wants to be cheap or extravagant, so they’ll usually go with the middle price.
- Know your “walk away” price before you go into a sales call, Riddle says. It should not be nebulous. This can be discussed with your boss before you go on a sales call.
- Realize you may not offer what a client needs at a particular time, says Riddle. He says you can earn respect just by saying, “You know, I don’t have what you need today.”
- Review your performance after each of your sales calls, says Riddle. Following each sales call, he always asks himself, “How did I do?”
- Set realistic goals, says Riddle. “You don’t want to sell the sun, the moon and the stars when all [the client] needs is the sun,” he says.
- Write down your goal and look at it everyday, says Dedrick. When she was looking for a news salesperson, she and her team wrote down a list of attributes, asking, “What will the perfect salesperson look like?” Afterwards, each team member drew a picture for each attribute they were looking for, like drawing a dog for loyalty.
- Visualize the goal and remind yourself everyday of it, Riddle says. Once you have your goal and visualize it as something tangible, it can be converted into a picture. Put that picture where you cannot avoid it, and it will be seen all the time.
Closing the Sale
- When you close the sale, end the conversation and leave, Riddle says. He doesn’t know why salespeople would take up more of the client’s time, and suggests coming back the next day with a contract.
- Driver disagrees, and says salespeople should have a contract waiting in the car to have them sign before leaving. Salespeople do not want to allow a competitor to make a visit before coming back.
The panel also had some pointers for sales managers and CEOs.
Hiring Great Salespeople
- Hiring is sometimes like speed dating, but it shouldn’t be, Driver says. In speed dating, you’re talking to a lot of people, and you try to find the person you connect with immediately. The hiring process should dig deep and take time. If you don’t, you could end up wasting months training someone and getting no results, or worse, dealing with HR and trying to get rid of the person.
- As the hiring employer, ask people you trust to refer quality people, Dedrick says.
- Find someone with the right attitude, says Riddle. Other attributes like product knowledge and communication skills can be taught, but you cannot train someone on attitude.
Other Tips for Sales Managers and Business Executives
- Sometimes you need to put your ego away and find someone who can fill those needs. As a former teacher, Dedrick says you have to know what you do well, and realize what you cannot provide. The same is true for business.
- As a sales manager, you are responsible for your sales team’s livelihoods, Driver says. When you think of it that way, you will invest more in training.
- For retailers, customer service needs to be on par with any business, not just your competitors, Dedrick says. At Bella Pietra, a natural stone company, she knows that her employees need to provide better customer service not just better than other stone companies, but on par or better than any business, like Starbucks. It is what consumers have come to expect.
Photo: Jason Ubay