Our sales staff is the first line and usually the first contact our clients have with our company. They represent our company each time they speak with our potential and existing customers. It is this initial impression that is going to be the basis for their decision to do or--in the worst case--not do business with us.
We all have a job to do, and micro-managing our employees is a bad use of our time as owners and managers. Our companies are built on past clients' good experiences, so it is imperative as business owners and managers that we impart the knowledge we have gained to our sales staff.
Your most significant selling point internally is your corporate culture. If potential employees come to you because they want to be part of your team, it may be that your corporate culture precedes you, and it invites people to participate.
What is “corporate culture”?
According to Evan Tarver of Investopedia, “‘Corporate culture’ refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company's employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. Often, corporate culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires.”
I firmly believe that having a happy staff creates a positive experience for clients. So simply put, happy people make people happy! And how do we make our sales staff into happy people? It's training. Happy people are people that know how to do their job and have a road map for success.
“Hospitality” implies that we are all focused on customer service, but when we get busy, we forget the most fundamental piece of service. When we hire a salesperson, we are hiring based on the basic ability to sell. Now it becomes incumbent on us to take them to the next level. The best thing we can do to ensure our leads become clients is to allow these leads to speak with an informed and confident representative of our company and its culture.
Get the fundamentals under their belts before you push them out the door. Knowledge is the best place to start. Why did you come to work for this company? No, the answer is not money. Did you believe in the mission or because you love how it can transform or enhance the client's life? These are the things that feed our culture and the things we want our sales staff to understand and feel.
What are we selling? If you work in weddings and events, you are not just selling a venue or a linen or a party. You are selling a feeling and, more importantly, a memory. In the case of a wedding, you are selling the reveal of a new family and the beginning of their new life together. The sale of a moment requires attention to detail.
To sell the details, a salesperson should know all about the product and how it is produced. They should be able to inform the client how the product is cared for and delivered. The best way to learn these things is to work in all areas of the business, understanding how long it takes to get the product, how the product is cared for (laundered, cleaned or put together), how it gets to the location, and how it is installed.
Remember the saying: “Under-promise and over-deliver.” Understanding makes over-promising less likely; educated salespeople knows how to reasonably ensure what they are selling is accurate and deliverable within the proper time constraints. A knowledgeable floral representative will not sell iris and cherry blossoms in winter because they know the limitations of the seasonality of the product. In the same vein, a rental company would not promise delivery and set-up of 500 chairs to the second floor of a building with a small elevator and only a one-hour delivery/set-up window.
Great salespeople listen to what is being said and hear the concern or desire behind the client’s request. They let the client know we understand and we are here for them. Clients want reassurance that we will treat their event as if it is our own. Great salespeople create a relationship, because most people would rather do business with a friend than a stranger.
Many companies feel the strain of bringing on a new salesperson. Can we afford it? Will we have enough business for them? The answer to both of those questions is “yes” if we give them the tools to be successful. Please don't rush to get them out in the field. Give them ample time to work in all areas of your business, not just one day-long overview. Let them learn the company’s culture and its abilities.
Salespeople want structure and to know that the company they represent will deliver on the promises they make. Remember that knowledge brings confidence, and a confident salesperson is a happy salesperson, and happy people make people happy! Satisfied clients tell their friends, which creates referrals, and that is a success.
Lisa Krumm Anhaiser is the founder and president of LBL Event Rentals, based in Houston, Texas, which has been providing quality linen and event rentals to the area for more than 20 years. She is also a graduate of the prestige Goldman Sachs “10,000 Small Businesses” program; she enjoys sharing her knowledge with other business owners through educating via one-on-one consultations and speaking engagements.