Almost a tongue twister
Remember when we had a dozen or more candidates per open territory? Today, it’s more likely that you have a dozen openings per candidate. It’s too expensive, time-consuming, and frustrating for your customers to turn over your sales team. Here’s a very important component to solving that problem in your business.
This article is written for those of you that are looking to develop your sales team or develop your own selling skills. Especially if you are trying to solve these problems with you or your team:
Problems I solve through training and coaching:
- Cold Calling Reluctance/Prospecting Skills
- Closing Skills
- Objection Handling (most often from pricing)
- DISC assessments and how to use them to sell.
- Differentiating themselves in the market so they can confidently sell themselves and get paid what they are worth.
- Not digging deep enough in the Discovery phase, which doesn’t allow them to close or overcome objections.
- Lack of follow-up skills…they give out the price quote and then think it’s over.
- Overall disorganization leading to dropping the ball, lack of follow-up, and no structure in their approach to the market.
Every week for the past seven years, I’ve sent you my weekly blog and for the last four years, I have included them in podcast format. My hope is that each week you find value in them and help you solve some of the problems just mentioned. I write them from the view of a front-line salesperson or sales manager. As that’s what I currently am and have been for more than 30 years. The last seven of those years have been spent as a salesperson selling sales training to salespeople.
So, I hope you can indulge me this one moment in time to sell myself. Doing so might also help you when you are out there selling yourself. As with all my customers, I am very transparent and share my motives. By the way, customers love that. A Purdue study found that being straightforward with a transparent approach is actually the #1 trait farmers wanted in their salesperson. If you have a quality product and you know that you can help a specific market segment, then never be afraid of telling them. Let them know you are focused on helping people like them and at a minimum, they should know who you are.
First, there is a tremendous need in our industry for sales training. Agribusiness has its unique challenges in hiring, developing, and retaining good sales talent. New salespeople are brought on board and given the traditional set of keys to one of the pickups in the parking lot. Then they get the one-sentence sales training. “Here’s the price list in case you sell something”
Many are not given a specific geography or a list of their customers. They leave the office on day one and have no clue where to go, what to do when they get there nor how to even put an order in if they do make a sale. The training theory is that the good ones will figure it out. If not, their replacement will. The problem with that approach is we don’t have enough candidates to burn through them like we used to.
Why Training and Coaching?
- Increased sales results. Almost every sales training program out there is better than no program or training at all. Selling is not something we are born with. Granted, some of us are better at figuring it out. But managing a large Ag territory with multiple go-to-market strategies is not in our genes. We have to learn it. Someone has to teach us the steps. Far too many salespeople will remark to me after a workshop that they were happy to learn the process. Nobody had ever explained it that way. Those are great moments!
- Employee retention. Without some form of development, failure rates will be higher for our Ag salesperson. Managing a large geographic territory will be more difficult. They will struggle, not have as much success and eventually leave to work for another company. They conclude that there is a problem with the product or a pricing issue. So, they move to one of the hundreds of companies out there trying to hire Ag salespeople.
- Learning + Accountability = Actions = Results: Training is necessary as mentioned. However, it’s only one moment in time. It’s one or two days with a lot of content which we hope sticks. What’s the secret to making it stick? And by stick, I mean they take the training and apply that knowledge when out there selling. Repetition and accountability are the secrets to take learning all the way through to increased results. We need to practice it over and over again.
- The accountability piece can come from multiple places in a salesperson’s life. The best is when the salesperson actually holds themselves accountable to put the training into practice. But this is difficult and only a few will. Another option is an internal coach, one within your company. That is most often our salesperson’s manager. A third possibility is a hired coach like myself. There are advantages and disadvantages to both an internal and external coach. However, some form of accountability needs to be applied to the classroom work or much of it will be lost.
And Why Now?
There’s a saying, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.” It’s the same with sales training. The best time for it was years ago. However, our work life is busy. We get caught up in the daily execution of our jobs and fail to take time for development training. Yet, that is exactly what is needed when times get tough. Well, times are tough now and that doesn’t look like it’s going to change.
Last month at the Ag Retailer’s Association conference, most of the Ag economist speakers painted a challenging future for farmers (lots of doom and gloom). But remember, we are all going to eat every day. So farming is not going away. However, it’s going to require a more knowledgeable farmer to navigate their business practices. And that’s why it’s important right now to learn how. How to become a trusted advisor. Right now, is when you train your sales team for those challenges. Right now, they need to become your customer’s best resource to navigate the tough times.
Below are some of the aspects for you to consider working with me on a sales team development program.
- 3 components of a sales career:
- Selling Skills: What to do when you are on a sales call. How to get the call, what to ask about, how to position your solutions as solutions and then close/follow up, and how to hold better conversations in less time.
- Territory Management: who to call on, where to go, and how to organize a territory. Customer segmentation prevents the #2 salesperson killer in our industry. Search my blog articles for “The #1 and #2 salesperson killer” if you want to know what those are. Hint: it’s not closing or prospecting skills!
- The Trusted Advisor: This program takes you beyond just selling products. Learn how to become part of your customer’s board of directors and entrenched as a leader in your market. The benefits of going from a good salesperson to the role of a Trusted Advisor are higher margins, more share of wallet, and more referrals, which leads to a much faster and longer-lasting selling relationship.
- Most requested programs
- Full program: designed for taking the salesperson through the full program in 2-3 days. It includes Selling Skills and Territory management. Half/Full Day Programs: These sessions are focused on specific sales topics or problems your team has: Cold calling, time management, closing skills, the discovery process, etc.
- Coaching Programs: Most often done through zoom on an individual basis or as a group in mastermind format. These are for development purposes and not behavior problems. The salesperson or sales manager being coached must want to be there. If so, we make great progress in a short period of time (3-6 months). I become their accountability partner, mentor, advisor, and consultant and wear all those hats at once. Again, this is perfect for the salesperson or sales leader who is hungry for developing themselves.
Why Me? Why Ag Sales Professionals?
That’s what every customer asks when you call on them and I am no different. Your question might be, “Greg, that sounds great, but why should I work with you?
- Customized: I don’t do standard programs. Each workshop or speaking engagement is tailored to your sales team/audience and your product line in your geography. Much of the core concepts are the same, but the execution of those concepts varies with each sales team, sales culture, product line, and region of the country.
- Thorough Prep: I prefer to spend 30-60 days in preparation for a workshop. Although, I have prepared for a training session at the last minute when a customer had an emergency for an upcoming sales meeting. The prep allows for the use of assessments and phone interviews to insure a better understanding of your sales team. This is not extra. It’s just part of working with me to get the best program for your team.
- Agribusiness focused: I stay within the agribusiness industry, which gives a greater depth on the training and coaching for your team.
- Experience and Confidence in the content which I deliver. I talk from my experience in sales, sales leadership and from 30 years of developing myself and teams. I currently do and did everything I train on. This confidence allows me to work with more experienced sellers who don’t always want to be in training.
As mentioned, I would like to have a conversation with you about your selling skills development or your sales team’s development. Here are the ways to reach me:
Ph: (608) 751-6971