Do you need to fire a sales representative? Should you slaughter a “sacred cow”?

Reading time: 2 – 2 minutes

If you are in charge of sales at a small to medium sized medical device company, have you taken a hard look at your sales team and how they are performing?  It’s August.  You have four more months left in the year.  Is this team going to get you successfully through the trade show season and to the end of the year?  Will they effectively follow up on all the leads you take?  Is one person dragging the performance of the sales team down?

The thought of firing or terminating someone is not a popular subject.  However, it is a fact of business life.   This blog post started with a call from a past client.  They are a small medical device company with a high tech software oriented product and one salesperson.  A non-sales executive manages this salesperson.  When I say “non-sales” executive, I mean an executive that does not have professional sales management training and experience.  This is a very common situation in small companies.  They hire an experienced salesperson, give them a decent compensation package and assume the person will be somewhat self-managing.  Then they rarely circle back to try to evaluate and coach this person.  Expectations are not clear.  Sales performance may not be optimal. This can go on for years.

Continue reading “Do you need to fire a sales representative? Should you slaughter a “sacred cow”?”

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Medical Device Sales Science at Work – The Field Sales Evaluation

Reading time: 4 – 6 minutes

In the last post “50% of sales success is showing up”, the concept of sales as a science was discussed.  If you can motivate a sales person to show up more often and more consistently, then how can you influence him/her to be more productive and effective with the customer?

The Field Sales Evaluation is one sales management tool that can help make sales people more productive.  It is easy to do.  It is constructive in its approach to the manager and the sales person.  There are many more tools.  But this is what will be discussed today.  This tool is an important part of closing the loop in sales management and leadership. To help make this clear I have created a basic Field_Sales_Eval_Form in MS Word.  Feel free to download it and modify it for your use.

A Field Sales Evaluation occurs when the sales manager (or person serving this role) works in the field with the sales person.

My past experience with small and medium sized medical device companies is that the sales representatives don’t get enough management support IN THE FIELD.  Managers get so tied up in the office that they almost forget the sales reps exist until it is the end of the month, end of the quarter end of the end of the fiscal year.  At the same time, most good sales representatives will admit that they would like management to experience what they do in the field and meet the customers.  Furthermore, most good sales reps will by happy to hear constructive feedback and ideas to help them achieve higher sales.  Working in the field with a sales rep is a small investment that can pay great dividends.  With some minor alterations this can work with distributors and distributor representatives as well.

The process:

  • The manager notifies the sales representative well in advance of the fieldwork.
  • The manager sends the sales representative the Field Sales Evaluation form with instructions.
  • The sales representative completes the Fieldwork Goals and Targeted Accounts and returns the form to the manager.
  • The Fieldwork takes place and the Field Sales Evaluation Form is completed by the manager and representative together.
  • The manager should always ask the rep what he/she thinks went right and what needs improvement first.  Then the manager can agree and offer more observations.
  • Both sign the form and agree to use it as a baseline for further work and discussions.

As you read of the impact of a properly executed Field Sales Evaluation, consider the positive psychological effect on the sales representative.  This is sales science at work.

A properly executed Field Sales Evaluation visit will result in:

  • For the Sales Representative:
    • Improved productivity in advance of the visit because as the rep thinks about the upcoming visit and how he/she might perform, this more alert sales mentality is transferred to current sales calls.
    • Improved productivity via better pre-call planning and account targeting as the rep concentrates harder on preparing for the visit of the manager.
    • Improved productivity via higher rate of decision makers seen.  The rep will try harder in the presence of the manager.
    • Higher sales as the rep puts more focus on the sales process prior to the arrival of the manager and in the presence of a manager.
    • Learning from the manager regarding product benefits, sales technique, etc.
    • All of the above will impact sales activity by the representative for weeks to come if not longer
  • For the Manager:
    • Improved relationship with the sales rep.
    • A better understanding of the competition.
    • A better understanding of the product improvements and sales tools needed by the sales representatives.
    • Creation of a baseline for the next field work with the rep or a follow-up conversation.

It is not uncommon in smaller companies to have the sales people reporting to a non-sales executive like the President or COO.  Sometimes these executives feel like they don’t have anything to offer the sales representatives in terms of guidance and shy away from fieldwork and sales evaluations.   Non-sales executives can successfully implement the process described above and be very effective.

What would you add to the Field Sales Evaluation process?

If you aren’t doing anything like this at your company, start implementing it today.

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“50% of sales success is showing up.” The Science of Sales

Reading time: 2 – 4 minutes

There is an old saying that is still true today.  “50% of sales success is showing up.”  It is a great quote because it reflects the science of sales.  “Showing up” has nothing to do with being persuasive or charming or handsome or pretty.  It is part of being methodical.  It is about being in front of a prospective customer.  It is part of the science of selling and sales management.

Is there a scientific component to the way your company addresses sales and sales management?  It is surprising how many small to medium sized companies do not have any methodology to support their sales efforts.

“Yes, there is a science to selling. In fact, there is a science to just about everything. Science is defined as a “branch of knowledge conducted on objective principles involving systemized observation of and experiment with phenomena.” Sales can be treated as a science.  The most successful businesses in any industry do just that.  They give their salespeople very good direction and excellent selling tools to use with customers. In the Sales Manager’s Problem Solver, publisher Gerhard Gschwandtner of says, “There is no such thing as a ‘Natural Born Salesperson,’ like there is no ‘natural born surgeon.’ Research has proven that good selling skills are the result of ongoing learning, professional coaching and continuous practice.” He is talking about implementing what we call the science of sales.”

From the book Sales Careers: The Ultimate Guide to Getting a High Paying Sales Job by yours truly – Ted Newill and my co-author Louise Kursmark.

Applying basic sales science is not difficult.  And, it is not expensive.  It doesn’t have to be fancy.  It just has to be effective.  It does requires effort and follow through.  Examples of tactics companies should employ in their sales management system are:

  • Salespeople create their own sales plan and sales forecast for the year.  Believe it or not, you may have to reduce the forecast they create because salespeople typically over-forecast.  That’s OK.  They end up owning their plan.
  • Sales compensation tied to company revenue, profit and activity goals.
  • Closed loop sales management system that includes coaching and reporting.  This may be the most important tactic to implement yet the most difficult to employ consistently (consistency is a scientific element of sales).
  • Define a clear sales process for all products.  While defining the sales process, decide on the tools needed to help the salesperson succeed in implementing the process.
  • Employ a customer management and/or data system.  Some call this a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.
  • A recognition program with regular updates.  Even for a sales force of one or two or three people.
  • Profile based recruiting of salespeople.

What do you think?  Comment at the “leave comment” below.  And, if you like this blog post, forward it to a friend.

Follow me on Twitter @TedNewill

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