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In order to Improve Profits, Stop Your Sales Teaching Now
13.03.2018 11:57


About as recent simply because 5 years ago, sales teaching wasn't a generally hot topic amongst companies in China. Most foreign corporations were merely setting up manufacturing bases here, and sales was carried out overseas. As domestic requirement for services and products was so high, sellers were able to sell almost anything, and the domestic market just bought all of them.


Fast forward to the market place today. What we see now could be very intense competitors between sellers. Buyers, on the other hand, have been pampered by increasing choices of different customers. It is now a customers' market, and sellers would have to do something different to win over buyers.

Hence, the current high demand for sales training. Several companies, whether foreign or locally owned, are usually engaging trainers (externally or in-house) to train their sales push to cope with increased competition, and as well as increasingly sophisticated customers.


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However, few companies can actually claim that their sales performances improved due to having sales training. In fact, there are some who claimed that after investing lots of money and time (esp. if they go for the premium brand names of sales teaching), they don't see any significant adjustments in their sales people, and as such, no significant improvements in profits either.


So, what else can be achieved to help sales people increase sales (and margins)?

In the 2007 World Class Sales Excellence Research Report conducted by HR Chally Group, the top 3 benchmarks used by world class sales teams are:


1. Creating a Customer-Driven Culture;

2. Recruiting and Selecting the Right Sales Talent; and

3. Training and Establishing for the Right Set of Skills


Creating a Customer-Driven Culture


Although there is another old adage that says, "The business of business is to create a customer", several companies don't really behave the same way. There are companies that:

* Focus on coming up with new technological applications;

* Can sacrifice anything to drive up share prices; or

* Simply drive what provides been produced to customers, regardless if there exists a need or not

In other words, such companies are either too self-absorbed in their own world and forgot who actually pays their bills (i.e. the customer); or that they are more concerned about getting a good "valuation" so as to fatten their pay packages without supplying anything of genuine value to customers.


If you were to out a sales person with the skills and attitudes to understand customers' needs and put together a solution which will deliver what customers' want into any of these companies, that sales person won't last very long.

Although many of such companies recognise the importance of being customer-centric as a sustainable long-term strategy, they are not able, or are unwilling, to make the change. Here are some reasons why the inertia:


* Unwillingness to risk (one's career);

* Lack of a customer-centric management team


When a colleague and I were talking to the Chinese JV partner of a prominent German automobile manufacturer, we faced the following concern. They were looking for consultants to help their sales force improve sales at their showroom, especially when they believe they can do much better with their current market share. At some time in our discussion, the client told us that they need to work with consultants with car sales experience, as they have a good understanding of cars.


What we replied was that we will observe and conduct research on how their prospects and customers want their sales people to behave, and then help their sales people get the right behaviours that fit the needs of customers. However, the ensuing reply had been that they would need consultants who understand cars (not customers) to conduct such a research. The reason is simply that the client perceived he will have a much easier time explaining to his bosses if the consultants he engaged know cars.


I have seen similar situations happened many times, and in most cases the project was cancelled by the client to improve sales team performance, as they were unwilling to risk (their careers) to bring about positive changes in their companies.

In additional cases, foreign companies who are customer-centric in their home countries may find it challenging to implement a customer-centric culture in China, because they might have a management team who are not customer-centric. This could be attributed that the concept of serving customers is rather new to China. The other possible reason could be that most of the management employees have got risen through the ranks when the China functions were very production-oriented, and therefore have limited publicity towards serving customers.


In any case, adapting one's corporate lifestyle to suit the needs of the market has been a major challenge for most companies, and is obviously No area that training can solve. Still, other problems lie ahead which need to be resolved.

Selecting and recruiting the Right Sales Talent


In the last issue (Getting the Right Horse on the Right Track), I mentioned about putting in place a Hunter for a Hunter's job, and vice versa for a Farmer.


When you are identifying the right sales talent, be it Hunter or Farmer, there is something even more fundamental than a person's aptitude, past encounters or even personality. It has to do with the person's value system.

In short, anyone who wants to work in a customer-facing position must want to "pro-actively help others getting from where they are to where they want to be, and be justly rewarded for it". That, I believe, will be the most fundamental requirement.

Unfortunately, most sales people in China fall under one of these two types:

* People who will get money from customers, by fair foul or means; OR

* People who will stoop down low and be a doormat to customers, provided that the customers give them the business

Either type is not healthy, and chances are that you will have problems in consumer retention and in generating a reasonable profit margin from each sale.


Worse still, most sales people are in a sales job largely because they couldn't get any other job. Not that sales is such a bad job, but several Chinese perceive serving customers as something serfs do, and don't hold it in high regard. The lack of a proper sales force development process in most companies make such perception a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As part of the whole complicated story, the expense of replacing one sales person (whether the departure is voluntary or otherwise) is at least 6 periods the what you are paying him/ her each month, as you will have to search, orientate and train the new staff before he/ she can be effective. If you were to add the opportunity costs of lost sales due to poor hiring, your losses can be much higher even.


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