April 18, 2016

The Silence on Your Sales Floor is Deafening

The Silence on Your Sales Floor is Deafening

Here in Singapore, you often hear these comments from business leaders: “I walked on to my sales floor and could hear crickets chirping.” Or, “I thought I was in the accounting department it was so quiet.” Whatever the remark, the point is the same: A noiseless sales team means people aren’t selling. You don’t need a fancy business degree to know this means trouble.

The most common excuse is that the sales person is ‘doing research’, sending prospecting emails or ‘social selling’ on platforms such as LinkedIn. All three of these activities can help drive sales, but they can also be crutches used to avoid the hard responsibility of most selling situations, which requires picking up the phone and speaking to strangers. These non-phone based approaches can also be ineffective if not used correctly within a larger, organized sales system.

This “silent sales floor” challenge exists across the globe and there are three main reasons why it happens. However it is particularly acute in places like Singapore as you’ll see below.

If you’re hearing crickets, it’s usually due to gaps in one or more of these three areas: Attitude, Behavior, Technique

Attitude: Calling prospects is difficult because most of the time sales people are going to get rejected. No matter what anyone says, sales is a numbers game and you’ve got to talk to a lot of people before you find someone who is ready to buy now. Culturally, Singapore is not a country accustomed to losing. Children are introduced to competition at an early age and the pressure to win is part of the fabric of this little island. If you grew up pressured to always succeed, how does a 90%+ rejection rate feel? It kind of makes you not want to pick up that phone. 

Fear of rejection is like kryptonite to a sales organization. By focusing on having the right mind-set – the right attitude – sales people can overcome this costly enemy. It isn’t always easy and it takes work, but it’s well worth the investment. 

Behavior: Does your sales team have a plan? Does each sales rep have their own plan? What’s the first thing they do every morning when they get to the office? What’s their morning objective before they go to lunch? Before they leave for the day? What are their weekly goals? Monthly? You get the idea.

Ironically, sales reps who have a great attitude and who aren’t afraid of picking up the phones and talking to strangers, often lack discipline. And discipline is about following the right kind of behaviour. It starts with a plan. What’s yours? 

Technique: Prospecting for new business is like venturing into the unknown. Sales people who transition from managing and growing existing account to hunting for net new business quickly learn how different this job is. It requires its own set of tools. If they don’t have those tools, failure quickly follows.

Improving sales techniques is usually the easiest piece to address. There are plenty of sales training programs out there. Some of them are even good. A sales process diagnostic is a great way to identify skills gaps for your team. Some sales people may be strong at developing new leads but falter when it comes to closing deals. Others have the opposite problem and others still have room for improvement throughout the sales process. Identify the issues and give your team the tools they need to win.

Skills gaps under any of these three areas – Attitude, Behavior, Technique – will reduce your sales success and increase rejection. The more rejection the higher the likelihood your sales people won’t pick up that phone.  It’s a reinforcing negative spiral. “Doing research” becomes the safe short term solution. Unfortunately, that doesn’t result in long term success. Listen for the deafening silence and act before it’s too late.

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