This is the first chapter in my upcoming book on lead generation, mentioned yesterday…
This should be a familiar problem to most business owners.
And it applies at just about every level. I don’t care if you’re a one-person business, self-employed, trying to create something on your own. Or if you’re an owner or sales executive with dozens, hundreds, even thousands of employees — including a sales staff already working hard to sell your products and services.
Sales are the lifeblood of business.
Without sales, a business is an expensive hobby. Forget the legal status of “corporation” — a business is only a business because it sells a product or service to customers, preferably at a profit.
But selling isn’t necessarily easy, nor is it automatic.
If you’re using sales people, or contemplating it…
When most businesses start, the founder or owner is the top salesperson, too (along with all the other hats you wore!). You’re by far the best salesperson. But you can only be in so many places at once. So, inevitably, you start to contemplate bringing in people to do the selling job for you. But there’s a problem.
No matter who you bring in, the results are never as good as you selling yourself.
First off, nobody is as capable at or motivated to sell your products or services as you.
Especially if you’re the entrepreneur who built the business. You know the business, products, and services from the inside out. You know your reason for being, the origin story of what got you here, and why customers should care. You know every problem your product was built to solve, and why your solution is superior to the others out there in the marketplace.
It’s extremely rare to find the sales superstar who will learn all this, really understand it, and be able to produce this information for customers at just the right time. Even if you find them, it’s going to be hard to keep them. Greener pastures await — they’ll soon move on to either a business who is willing to pay enough more to steal them away from you, or by going off and building something they can call their own.
And yet, the vast majority of sales people you find for your business will NOT be that sales superstar. Some will be horrible, and will be fired. Most will receive passing grades, but can seldom be counted on to do much more than meet quota. Hire enough, and you’ll have some star performers in the bunch, but even they won’t sell as well as you.
Salespeople are often thought of as a cure-all for the sickness of not enough sales. Just fill the seats. Get them dialing for dollars. The sales will come. It’s a numbers game.
In some cases, that can work. You can play the numbers game with moderately-skilled, moderately-equipped sales people. And if the economics of your business are good, you’ll do okay.
And yet, there’s a major flaw in the salesperson-as-employee dynamic that inevitably leads to more headaches than necessary, and less sales than possible.
Nearly every salesperson you could or would ever hire will go through their entire tenure with you with incomplete knowledge of your product or service. Most folks are simply not motivated to dive into their employer’s solution, the customer’s needs, and the 1,983 ways that together they’re a perfect fit. They do the bare minimum to get by. And as a result customers are often left feeling like the salesperson is giving “standard” answers to questions that don’t match. Even if the customer should feel like this is the perfect solution, they don’t.
Further, because salespeople are employees, and often have relatively high turnover, they never develop the decision-making ability to really create solutions for customers. They will often try to force the square peg into the round hole, because even though the customer would prefer a square hole, the salesperson isn’t authorized to sell square holes. It’s a metaphor, of course, but it makes the point.
This, combined with the last point, suggests that you’d benefit from fewer high-quality salespeople dealing with customer calls, and rewarding them better so they’ll stick around and provide long-lasting value to your business.
This can be challenging though, because of all the employees in your business, a salesperson is the most likely to be rewarded based on what they bring to the table. That’s what commission-based compensation is all about. They go out, get the leads, nurture the relationship, close the deal, ensure customer satisfaction, and come back around to sell to them again as future needs arise. The results of all this effort are reflected in the commissions you pay. (And yet, there’s a HUGE flaw in this, as you’re about to see.)
There are additional challenges that come from having a sales staff in place.
Salespeople are as susceptible as the rest of us to the ever-changing moods and motivations of being human. Nobody wakes up all sunshine and roses, every day. Nobody is as motivated to make their 37th straight cold call after 36 straight “no” answers to their pitch. Nobody is above letting this impact their performance. Sure, if you could deal with excited prospects all day who actually wanted to talk to you, this would be easier. But if you’re only dealing with excited prospects, classic sales “wisdom” suggests you’re not talking to enough people. (This “wisdom” is wrong — if you follow my recommendations in this book.)
There are many smaller downsides of hiring a sales staff. To address them would take too long. So I’ll conclude with the last big downside, and it is significant. Hiring any staff — even a salesperson who earns the brunt of their compensation through commissions — is costly. We’re not just talking payroll here, though that can be significant. Benefits. Office space. Supplies. Workplace perks. Computers. Phones (desk phone and mobile). And so on. For every employee you hire, you’re likely to spend another 50% or more beyond their compensation just to have them on board. Yes, a salesperson ought to pay for themselves — but if the role of one or more salespeople could be fulfilled in some other way, there could be significant cost savings here.
We’ll get to what you can do about it in a moment, but first…
If you do not hire sales people, and plan not to…
Lest you think I forgot you, I want to address folks who do not hire sales people. Maybe you’re like me, successfully running a one-person service business for over half a decade.
A lot of your time is spent in working with clients and providing the services you sell. But also, a lot of time is spent actually selling your services. The most grueling sales task, of course, is going out to find potential clients for your services.
Or perhaps you’ve launched one of those newfangled “internet” businesses (said tongue-in-cheek). Maybe you’re one of those millions of people who now work from home, selling things online. Who don’t have much of a sales force, but do deal with the same problem bigger businesses are attempting to solve in hiring salespeople:
How do I get more customers and more sales?
Every business needs to find more customers and make more sales to succeed…
Whether you’re looking for a way to get better performance out of your sales team, or to sell more of your own products and services without ever hiring a salesperson, this is important.
The easier, more consistent and reliable your sales process is, the more sales you’ll make, and the less headaches you’ll have.
If you’re the owner of a business with a sales team in place, or a solopreneur looking to make selling easier, there is a better way.
The trick — and that’s what this book is about — is in creating a selling system that automates as much of the selling process as possible.
Most likely, if you’re reading this, you’re the single-best salesperson in your company. But you’re also the bottleneck. If a business needs any one person, including the owner, to make it succeed, it is fundamentally limited in its potential. For a business to grow and scale, it’s absolutely necessary to create systems that will make that happen.
By the time you’re done reading this book, you’re going to understand perhaps the most powerful selling system you can put in place. It will minimize the amount of manual labor involved in the selling process. It will reduce or eliminate your need for sales people.
As part of this system, you will discover how to “can and clone” yourself. Because you are the single-best salesperson for your business, you should not be taken out of the selling process. Rather, you should be a critical part of it. But you don’t have to be there in the flesh to play this critical role.
You’ll learn how to create a system that functions without you being stuck in the middle of it. A system that puts you into the sales process, without requiring you to be there. A system that works the same every time (and can be made to work better through time).
Importantly, this is also a system that doesn’t rely on high employee skill or consistency to generate results.
The more of a sale that’s done before your sales team has to touch it, the better.
Done right, this leads to…
— More leads…
— Higher lead-to-sale conversions…
— More total sales…
— Lower per-customer selling cost…
— Smaller staff required to handle bigger order volumes…
— A lower specialization required for “order taking” versus selling
— Less sales impact from turnover in your sales department…
And all of this leads to less stress and more profits.
In the next chapter, we’ll get into what is the most important part of selling to systematize. If you take care of this one tiny selling function with a system — instead of just throwing time or people at it — it will completely change your business for the better.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
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