Investing in the Sales Team

A reader writes, "When I approach my direct supervisor with ideas for improving my group's sales performance, he listens for less than 30 seconds, and then rejects the idea with a wave of his hand. He makes comments like, "That's not a good idea," or "I don't think that will work." We then move on to what he wants to discuss. How can I break this routine we seem to be in?"

At one point or another, most of us have reported to a boss who rejected most / all new ideas. It's demoralizing.

Change Tactics

Approach him in a different way. Put together a two to three page document outlining your idea, establishing your goals, and backing it up with supporting points from an independent source (wherever possible).

The Document

Take your time with this project. Break it into manageable pieces. Begin by writing a paragraph or two describing your idea.  

Establish Goals

Suppose you want the five reps you manage (one "A" performer, three "B" performers and one on written warning) to convert more product demos to proposals. If you offered presentation training, you estimate the "A" and "B" reps would increase their numbers of proposals and sales as follows.

"A" Rep

  Monthly Sales Activity Increase Percent Increase New Monthly Sales Activity
Demos 15 -   15
Proposals 5 3 60% 8
Sales 3 1 33% 4

"B" Rep

  Monthly Sales Activity Increase Percent Increase New Monthly Sales Activity
Demos 10 -   10
Proposals 3 2 66% 5
Sales 2 1 50% 3

Looking at the average selling price for each member of the sales group, there is the potential to increase sales across the group $334,800 annually.

  Additional Annual Sales Volume Average Sale Additional Annual Revenue
"A" Rep 12 $8,500 $102,000
"B" Rep 12 $6,600 $79,200
"B" Rep 12 $6,500 $78,000
"B" Rep 12 $6,300 $75,600
TOTAL 48   $334,800

Deduct the cost of training to determine the gross revenue gain. Provide conservative and estimates. People take the proposal more seriously when you do.

Independent Source

Spend an hour or two at a public or business library or online. Work with the reference librarian to search for an article or study to augment your recommendation.  

If one of my clients has difficulties with turnover I might find a reputable study about sales reps who receive ongoing training and development enjoying longer tenures with their employer. 

Approaching the Boss

Present the completed the report to your boss at the end of a one-on-one meeting. Very calmly say something like, "I have an idea and put some thoughts together. I'd value your opinion on it. Maybe we can talk about it in a week or so, when you're ready?"

Refrain from emailing or texting to follow-up. Let them come to you. They will.

Assuming the Worst

I've advised many sales leaders to take this route to introduce or re-start the conversation about a previously rejected idea. Most assure me, "He'll just say 'No' to this, too. Why put in all the effort?"

After trusting me and giving it a try, all have expressed surprise when their boss follows-up with them, typically in less than a week!

Why it Works

When you take the time to put your thoughts in writing and back up your points with facts and figures, a supervisor knows you're serious.  

By giving them time to consider your idea, you've told them you can handle a discussion on the topic. This changes things.

Compromise

The sales reps may need targeted training on making presentations and your boss may feel they don't spend enough time making prospecting calls. Negotiate. If the reps improve the number of minutes spent on the phone by 20%, would your boss revisit the idea of presentation training?

Final Thoughts

Whether you want to replace an antiquated CRM system or create an inside sales group, take the time to put your thoughts in writing. Sales leaders trying this find that, win or lose, it changed their relationship with their bosses.  

Though their ideas weren't always given a green light, they reported an increase in mutual respect. Going forward, they engaged in more positive discussions of potential ideas.  You have everything to gain by approaching the problem this way.