November 29, 2015

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11/05/07 Are Your Salespeople Feeling The Love?

“Actions speak louder than words,” says my wife, Laurie. “You can tell me you love me all day long, but when you show me by your actions, I know you really do love me.” With family, showing your love starts with devoting time. It’s true in business, too. Do you show your salespeople that you love them?

Somewhere along the line, we got the idea that salespeople are expendable — that if they don’t perform quickly, or if they slip below budget, they should be terminated. Meanwhile, everybody complains about how hard it is to hire and retain great people.

The radio-sales meat grinder goes something like this: Hire them, hand them a training book or tape, put them on the streets, and give them 90 days to sink or swim. Most sink.

First we have to look at the level of people we bring in. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. In theory, higher-grade people — who cost more — will perform better and return your investment sooner.

Then, we should consider the person’s selling style. One of my salespeople closed very few sales in his first six months. But we saw that he was relationship-driven, so we didn’t fire him. Within the first year, he’d brought in more business than we could ever have expected — and 20 years later, he’s still with us. Had I fired him in those first 90 days, I would have lost one of the best people I have ever worked with. If selling is indeed about relationships, how many great relationships can be built in 90 days?

If you hire me as a seller, you owe it to yourself to help me be successful. You owe me opportunity, training, a job description, and a product to sell.

Most stations don’t have job descriptions for salespeople. One manager told me: “Of course we do. Their job is to sell. Period.” No! A salesperson’s job is multi-faceted: building relationships, prospecting, delivering the station value proposition, maintaining the station’s image to the clients, servicing business, managing the creative development of commercials, and closing deals.

“I cannot invest in training until they prove themselves,” one manager told me “That guy was a terrible seller. I’m so glad I didn’t waste any money training him.” That manager should be taken out behind the station and shot for stupidity. Does an airline pilot receive training only after he makes it from San Francisco to New York?

Before you fire salespeople for non-performance, ask yourself: Did I provide them with the tools they need? Did they have a job description? Did they follow it? Is the failure their fault?
Also, think about this: How much time do you spend with your salespeople? Your radio station’s success relies on a handful of people, but they often receive minimal time from management. Managers and sales managers are loaded with shuffling paperwork, watching inventory, and dealing with clients and other departments. One consultant told me he secretly tracks the time that he sees the sales manager spending with sellers. The average per day for all sellers is 42 minutes.

If you have a sales problem, ask yourself: I am showing them the love? Am I giving my time, attention, training, and respect? Am I beating on them, hoping they will do better, when they don’t know how to do better? Am I pushing good people out because they’re taking too long to succeed?

Of course, we have to push for results, and at some point we have to end our relationship with non-performing people. But first we owe it to them, and to our success, to make sure we have shown them the love with our actions, not just our words.

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