My company offers five different products. Three account for 75% of sales revenue. To achieve their goals, the reps all sell different combinations of the products. Most sell almost none of at least one - but the one they bypass differs from rep to rep. How do I go about achieving greater consistency in product sales throughout the staff?
Perplexed managers wonder why some reps rarely discuss certain products with decision makers. Suggestions for dealing with this issue include:
Do the Research
Take a look at the numbers. Determine exactly which rep sells how much of each product. Get ready for a few surprises. Identify the top one or two and the bottom one or two salespeople for all products.
Think about potential reasons for the differences. Does your Florida rep sell fewer of an item more suitable for colder climates? Do some products fit better with certain industries?
Start With One Product
Look for the most underserved product. That might include one with:
- a higher than average profit margin
- fewer competitors
- a growing market segment
Select the Reps
At the next staff meeting, ask the two reps selling the most of this product to give their presentation to the group. Record it for future use.
Have these reps talk about:
- how they introduce the topic
- typical questions that get asked
- the most common objections
Most peer-led presentations generate a lot of interest and questions from the other salespeople.
Often, an average rep on the sales staff sells the most of a product neglected by the better producers. I've seen this time and time again. I don't know why it happens, but take advantage of it. Give the mid-level producer who's a superstar with this product a chance to shine. Ask them to give one of the presentations.
Involve the Experts
At another staff meeting, ask the product manager to give a presentation and answer questions. But first listen to their presentation one time, just the two of you. Take note of information that's too complicated or technical. Request that they keep their presentation sales-friendly.
Several weeks later, ask the same two reps to give their product presentations again. The other salespeople will get even more out of hearing the material the second time around.
At subsequent meetings ask another one or two reps to present to the group. Select two more for the next staff meeting. Continuously reinforce the process.
Incent, Incent, Incent
After a month or so of this immersion, work with the product manager to create a quiz. Warn the reps in advance. Hand it out at a staff meeting. Offer a prize for the highest score. You'll learn which reps are really paying attention.
Create a sales contest. Make it easy to win. You want reps moving more of this product. Offer a group and an individual prize. Ask the two reps showing the most improvement during this process to serve as team captains.
Many companies attempt to solve this problem by assigning each product a separate quota. Generally, reps ignore the quota, hitting their goals by selling the combination of products they feel comfortable with. If they achieve or exceed their overall sales goal, most managers look the other way.
I believe in separate quotas for products. But put those quotas in place after several months of dedicated training and practice. Integrating a product into a salesperson's "bag" takes time and consistent reinforcement.
Sales leaders with this dilemma sometimes go on a rampage. They deluge the sales staff with PDF fact sheets, competitive information, and presentations from marketing or product management.
Actions like these overwhelm the salespeople. Often, they end up right where they started: selling the products they were most comfortable with from the beginning. Give the reps the time to learn the product and incorporate it into their sales presentations.