The survey of 2,700 corporate buyers from varying industries found that 41% rated the overall quality of the sales profession as “fair” or “poor,” according to DDI, a global HR consulting firm.
Why the dissatisfaction? Buyers now expect more from their vendors and partners. In fact, 40% of buyers say they’ve increased their expectations of salespeople’s business and industry knowledge. And one in five believe the expertise of salespeople is getting worse.
“If salespeople can provide the support buyers are looking for, they can shift from being perceived as a necessary evil to an indispensable partner,” says Bradford Thomas, author of the DDI study.
To turn the tide, focus on these strategies to successfully manage your salespeople:
Ask customers what they want. On the first sales call, ask the prospect what kind of relationship he or she wants. Understand what they value in a salesperson. While many customers want you to be a trusted business advisor, some prefer that you simply take their orders.
Pick the right player for the play. Even the most gifted salesperson won’t thrive in every selling situation. So play to their strengths when handing out assignments.
Example: In the pharmaceutical industry, salespeople are increasingly assigned based on the level of relationship the physicians want. Doctors who want to participate in clinical trials and engage in dialogues are paired with knowledgeable, seasoned reps who are patient-focused. Others who only want copies of efficacy studies or their sample bins filled are served by recent college graduates.
Coach your sales coaches. Effective sales is critical to the success of your sales force. But most front-line salespeople get little coaching from their sales leaders, DDI research shows.
Make sure front-line staff receive the training they need to become exceptional role models and mentors. Reinforce training with opportunities to practice the skills learned—and then track behaviors associated with successful coaching.
Stress the importance of building trust. When the DDI survey asked buyers whether they feel more loyalty to the salesperson or to the company they represent, nearly half (46%) said the salesperson.
Don’t be afraid to send someone packing. Do you have salespeople who hit their numbers, but don’t live up to the standards of your company? Are they consistently resisting changes? You need everyone on the team enabling and supporting your sales strategy, not undermining your reputation in the marketplace.
Online resource To read the complete DDI report, go to: