OWINGS MILLS, Md. (July 3, 2012) — Many people dream of owning their own company, but starting a business can be risky. The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that of the 600,000 new businesses which are launched in the United States every year, more than half will not last five years. So, how does a new business generate enough revenue through a solid client base to keep a business going and growing? The key to survival is sales.
David Mattson, CEO of Sandler Training, one of the world’s largest sales training firms, offers these five tips for developing sales strategies that can help make your startup a success.
1. If you are going to hire a salesperson, hire according to the person your business requires, not according to a business need.
This might sound contradictory at first, but let’s think about this process. Entrepreneurs normally hire to fill an existing need; they don’t necessarily hire with a view to growing their startup company. However, there are serious ramifications to making a bad hire. First, it not only takes up an exorbitant amount of time and energy, but it also uses resources that the company simply can’t afford to waste. These ripple effects could cost your business more than you could ever realize. To avoid this, I suggest you create and implement a SEARCH model to evaluate potential candidates:
• Skills – What skills does the person need to succeed in this position?
• Experience – What previous experience does the person need to succeed within your company?
• Attitude – What type of attitude should he or she have?
• Results – What results should the person have demonstrated at a previous company in order to be of potential benefit to your startup?
• Cognitive – What cognitive skills does the person demonstrate?
• Habits – What work habits are necessary for success?
Carefully considering these six elements can help entrepreneurs create a good hiring model that is aligned with the business’ needs. You should also design a set of criteria that will help you identify whether potential employees meet the objectives set out in your SEARCH model. Assessments will tell you more about people than you can uncover in an interview alone. Using the SEARCH model along with your assessment criteria will help you determine if you have found the right person for your company.
2. Create a common sales approach.
The launch of your startup is the best time to create a common sales approach. You’re going to be hiring from the outside world, and eventually you’re going to be promoting from within. As a startup entrepreneur, you may be the only salesperson available at this point in time. You need to fully document what you do, and how you do it. If you have already demonstrated some successful results, you need to understand what actions led to this success.
Most entrepreneurs start out as the only salesperson, but if they wish to grow their business they will have to hire someone. This requires a solid sales approach. When you do hire someone that person can then follow the steps laid out in your sales process document. This will allow you to evaluate if they’re doing a good job and where they need help. However, while you encourage new hires to implement proven techniques, you should avoid telling them to, “Do what I do.” That is very ambiguous — especially if your new hire has great technical ability but poor sales and communication skills. You need to provide a road map to follow and, at the same time, you need to incorporate some of their own learning experiences into this roadmap so that you too can continually learn and develop.
3. Create a behavioral plan.
As an entrepreneur, you wear many hats: the chief bottle washer, the parking attendant and the CEO. You’re doing a thousand things. The same is true for all of your team. To make sure everyone is on the same page, it can be helpful to create a behavioral plan. This plan defines, each job function: what needs to be done every day to produce revenue and/or customer satisfaction. This has to be clearly identified and defined in a manner that is easy to understand. Employees need to know what’s expected of them and, in the majority of cases; you need to tell them what to do and how to spend their time. For example, if you don’t tell people they are expected to spend 30 minutes each day proactively attempting to identify new accounts, the majority of them will spend their time doing things they prefer doing. The danger of this is that they may fail to complete the activities that you think are important. Many people, given the choice, would rather “schmooze” existing customers than cold call or find new ones. However, if the behavioral plan specifies that each employee must spend two hours each day finding new accounts, you will very quickly know whether your employees are succeeding. As a startup entrepreneur, you really don’t have resources to waste. The behavioral plan makes your expectations clear.
4. Train and coach to a process.
If you have a common process, you should be able to help your people grow while simultaneously growing your business. You need to develop your staff and measure the results; this requires a solid training plan. Many supervisors manage their staff through emails or brief weekly meetings. This is not recommended. Training and coaching your staff should be a daily activity that is seamlessly incorporated into the management responsibilities. Focus on how much time you’re spending on staff development and then ensure that you measure performance and use the outcomes to promote improvement.
5. Create a culture.
Most startup companies don’t have a culture. Entrepreneurs should ask themselves this: What is the culture that I want to create? How am I going to do that? How am I going to set the example for this culture? How am I going to communicate the culture to my people? What do I want them to do?
The creation of a positive and productive culture should be a top priority for startups. When companies progress, but neglect to understand the culture they are developing, they can become faceless with no real leader or direction. If you and your staff are all moving in a thousand different directions, you are failing to establish a unified framework that makes the most of your resources. This could lead to a lack of congruency with the culture you aspire to and, worse still, it fails to educate employees on what they should be striving to emulate. Developing culture as early in the life of your startup as possible is extremely important. Never overlook it.
Many of you have probably heard about Southwest Airlines’ culture. The culture the company has developed has been very successful and has helped them to achieve what previously seemed to be impossible: they have hired good people. They accomplished this through the design and implementation of a common process. They have a behavioral plan: everybody knows what they have to do within the 20-minute period they have to prepare the plane. There is no misunderstanding. To ensure this, Southwest trains and coaches its staff in the skills necessary to succeed. Southwest is a great example of a company that follows all five of these strategies and its success proves that such strategies really do work.
About Sandler Training
Sandler Training offers customized recruiting and training solutions that help companies identify, train and equip their salespeople for success. Sandler Training is the leading provider of sales and management training, with over 250 licensed trainers in 29 countries. The company provides a full range of sales and management training programs, with powerful coordination and customization benefits throughout its extensive franchise network. The company also recently released its latest book, Sandler Success Principles — the companion book to the best-seller The Sandler Rules — which became available April 17, 2012. Among its many achievements, Sandler has been awarded the #1 ranking for training programs in Entrepreneur Magazine’s “Franchise 500” nine times since 1994, most recently in 2010. The company website is located at www.sandler.com. Follow Sandler Training on Facebook.com (Sandler Training), Twitter.com at Sandler Training, and at Sandler Worldwide on YouTube.com.
Melissa Watkins, Public Relations
Bergman Group for Sandler Training