I asked the group, "What are the main challenges you are currently experiencing?" There was a business having difficulty getting his salespeople to close at a rate above 10–15%. I replied that he should check his industry’s standard closing rate because maybe 10–15% was within the norm. Many a company I’ve consulted would be thrilled with a 15% closing rate. (The average sales success rate across all industries is 3%.) I also suggested some sales training, because while research has been mixed on the effectiveness of sales training, some studies suggest it can improve ROI considerably. Lastly, I suggested his sales staff read the book, “The Asking Formula,” by John Baker. It really is a wonderful little book for sales and I recommend that everyone read it regardless of what they’re doing. He rather sanctimoniously said that he already has three sales trainers that he feels are the best in the world. One of them made $33 million in commissions in 10 years. And that, someone will not rise to his level reading from a book. Obvious first question, Why not use that guy for your sales instead of as a trainer? Maybe he’s retired? So, Why is your sales staff still struggling with the $33 million guy training them? The following are the types of questions he should ask himself after the first two obvious questions I mentioned earlier. Keep in mind some of the questions here included what are called, hidden solutions. When you are processing, just ask questions. But for this story, I’ll include some suggestions along with the questions.
1. Again, what is the industry average closing rate? You didn’t answer that.
2. The $33 million guy might be a great closer, but a lousy teacher. That’s possible. Can he teach others? Perhaps he doesn’t like the task of training others?
3. Are the sales people you’re hiring any good at sales? Start keeping track of your sales data; who is the most successful and what are their methods?
4. If your sales people are underperforming, is there a problem with your product?
5. Ask top level interviewees that are declining to take a sales job with you, why? Maybe you need to offer a higher salary, commission rate or benefits.
6. In addition to training people to sell, are you training them about your products, all the benefits?
7. If appropriate, do you have a good prepared pitch? If not, maybe you need one. If so, maybe it needs to be better.
8. Are you providing your sales staff with good quality, warm leads? If not, maybe you could do that.
9. Is your product a commodity, based simply on price? If so, maybe you need to adjust your pricing.
10. If your product is not a commodity, have you developed reasons why customers should buy from you? Have you distinguished your company through customer service, or some other benefits?
11. Do you have a detailed marketing program to support your sales people? Do you have a marketing strategy at all?
I could go on. But after all these questions are answered I think his real problet would be along the lines of: How do I help my sales staff to be more successful? Then move on to the suggestions phase, many of which will be self-evident.
The CEO of a real company, we'll call it "ABC Co", had a problem. No matter what he did, his partner was never happy. Naturally, he kept trying different things and different ways to please his partner. The issues varied immensely. He wasn't happy with the trade show's results. He didn't like his company car. The employee health insurance wasn't satisfactory. Sales were not nearly what he expected last quarter. The partners were seemingly "Polar Opposites" and no matter what the CEO did, it was never good enough. So the CEO reached out to our private group in confidence. We listened and heard that he was trying to figure out the answer to, "What would make his partner happy?" As we processed his dilemma, the problem, we discovered that he really wasn't asking the right question. After processing the issue, we all concluded that the right question was, "How can he buy out his partner?" He was trepidatious for sure. However, he was ultimately successful in actually buying his partner out. Additionally, he was able to focus more on growing the company and making it even more prosperous in a very short period of time.