By Harrell Kerkhoff
Maintenance Sales News Editor
Successful janitorial/sanitary professionals who are responsible for overseeing frontline sales understand the importance of training procedures that work. Providing detailed steps, tools and structures to help implement an ongoing coaching and leadership process for a sales team was training consultant Jim Pancero during ISSA/INTERCLEAN.
Pancero provided an Advanced Distributor Program titled, Account Planning For Sales Team Success. This was one of several seminars he presented at ISSA.
When it comes to account planning, Pancero said most sales managers are spending all of their time on today-focused issues. They are not focusing enough on the future. Sales managers, therefore, need to ask: Where are we going and how are we getting there?
“The challenge for many sales managers is knowing how to properly coach their sales people,” Pancero said. “My goal is to show these sales managers how to implement an ongoing proactive coaching process.”
According to Pancero, there is a core set of skills involved to selling. Many sales professionals would list the following skills as necessary for success: attitude, energy, focus and operational knowledge. These skills, however, are just part of the equation.
•“The minimum skills necessary for successful selling are attitude and energy,” Pancero said. “You have to work hard and have a positive attitude.
•The second skill level is operational. This involves personal persuasive skills and abilities. Knowledge about the steps of the sales call is an operational skill. All of the industry and competitive product knowledge a person has, as well as all of the cleaning expertise they possess, are operational skills. They make a person personally persuasive.”
•He added the third set of skills involves tactical tools and controls. This deals with process and structure.
“From the time you identify new opportunities to the time you close is a tactical discussion,” Pancero said. “How to get higher, wider and deeper within your customer’s business by talking to multiple individuals” is also a tactical discussion.
What are you going to do to maintain and grow your existing customers over the next 12 months? This is a tactical conversation that deals with your processes, structures and “best practices.”
•The fourth skill level is a sales person’s strategic focus and positioning. This involves branding and philosophy. “When a customer says to one of your sales people, ‘Why, based on the competitive alternatives available to me, do I want to buy from you?’ I doubt that a good sales person’s response is to show all of the manufacturers that his/her company carries. It’s not going to be a product-focused answer. Instead, it’s going to be about your company’s philosophy, business approach and positioning or differentiation,” Pancero said.
“Here is the problem,” he added, “90 percent of all training conducted in the United States today is on product knowledge and operational structure.”
Pancero said this type of training is often conducted, in part, by representatives of manufacturers/suppliers.
“They come out and conduct a table-top presentation, pitching products at one of your sales meetings. They usually only say what’s new and great about their products, because it’s all product focused,” he said.
Of the remaining 10 percent of the training, most of this is focused on operational skills. This often involves training on the steps of a sales call, personality flexibility skills, questioning skills, closing skills, etc.
“Less than 1 percent of all training is done on tactics and strategy. The problem is, operational, attitude and energy skills will make you competitive, but they don’t give you a competitive advantage,” Pancero said. “Operational, attitude and energy excellence when selling are a lot like bathing. If your sales reps stopped bathing, eventually it’s going to hurt their sales. However, the fact that they took a bath today doesn’t give them a selling edge.
“All of your competitors are hard working. All of your competitors have professional people who can handle a sales call, know how to build a relationship and talk to a customer. These are minimum requirements. It’s like bathing. If you don’t do it, you are not competitive, but just because you do it, it’s a minimum entry to the game.”
Pancero said the jan/san supply industry is a tough marketplace where most competitors are selling very similar items and even the same brands. Therefore, tactics and strategy give companies the competitive advantage.
“And yet many sales organizations are still using all of their training time only focusing on attitude, energy and operational skills. This is still good training, but it’s not going to change your competitive edge or increase your profit margins. It should be more about tactics and strategy – especially with experienced sales reps,” Pancero said.
The Coaching Zone
Pancero said he is often asked about the importance of “ride alongs.” This is when a sales manager joins a sales rep on a call in order to observe how well the rep works with a customer.
“I think those (ride alongs) are great to do ... but my guess is the only value they really provide is to evaluate a sales rep’s operational skills,” Pancero said. “They do not focus on their competitive edge.”
Therefore, Pancero said, it’s important to spend more time, as a sales manager, focusing on three distinct areas that are centered around what he calls the “coaching zone.” This occurs when coaching conversations are kept tactical, strategic and future-focused.
He added that a lot of conversations with sales reps tend to be about what took place in the past or in the present.
“Think about the last job interview you had with one of your sales reps. I bet all you did was ask him/her ‘history-’ and ‘today-’ focused questions. You might have asked, ‘Tell me about some of your selling successes at your past job.’ However, we often don’t ask, ‘What would be your plan to sell to one of our customers? How would you approach this kind of an account if you had these kind of competitive challenges?’” Pancero said. “The goal is to be more future-focused, to talk about tactics and strategy, which can lead to you helping your sales rep identify a multiple-step selling plan that can provide a competitive advantage.
“If a person has sales experience of five years or more, I wouldn’t focus on his/her operational skills. Instead, I would focus on tactics and strategy.”
Pancero outlined three levels of competitive awareness. They are:
• Product focus – “My experience has been that when you ask most sales reps to define competitive awareness, they will say, ‘Competitive awareness is based on product knowledge. I know what products (a competitor) sells and how these products perform versus ours. I can tell a customer that our products are better because...’ This is product focus,” Pancero said;
• Pricing focus –“Competitive pricing awareness is when a sales rep says, ‘I know what (a competitor’s) prices are, and I know what kind of discount they are going to try to use to close the business,’” Pancero said. “I find that about 90 percent of the sales people I meet have strong product competitive awareness, while approximately 70 percent have strong pricing competitive awareness. They know all about their competitors’ prices;” and,
• Selling message knowledge – This is the third area of competitive awareness and one which Pancero said he sees so few people understanding. It’s based on what a company’s competitors are saying to customers in order to win over their business.
“I find that most sales reps have no idea what competitors are saying to current or potential customers. It has never even appeared on (the reps’) radar,” Pancero said. “These sales reps know in detail about product and pricing competitive awareness, but they have no idea about the selling message. In a lot of cases, the stronger they are selling their own message, the more it’s hurting them because their competitors might be positioning themselves against this message.
“How can you find out what your competitors are saying? Ask your customers. They have no loyalties anymore. They are happy to tell anybody because they think it’s going to create a favorable (outcome).”
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Pancero also recommends visiting a competitor’s website for valuable information pertaining to competitive awareness.
“A sales manager can raise the skills of all sales people by asking better questions. And one of them is, ‘How high is your competitive awareness?’ The coaching zone zeros in on three areas: tactics, strategy and future-focus. This helps the manager become a better coach,” Pancero said.
Focusing On The Top 5 Accounts
Even though a sales rep might be assigned as many as 100 or 200 accounts in his/her territory or area of responsibility, Pancero has found that for most of these reps, their top 5 accounts result in the bulk of their business. Therefore, it’s good to focus heavily on these accounts for future success.
To help with this, Pancero presented a twice-a-month one-hour sales coaching session agenda.
“I believe the gold standard of coaching is for you, as a manager, to meet with each of your sales people one-on-one twice-a-month for an hour,” Pancero said.
The suggested session agenda is broken down into six 10-minute sections focusing on:
• History – What is happening? What is the latest?;
• Crisis and transactional closing problems – What is it going to take to close a particular piece of business? What is it going to take to solve a particular problem?;
• Review and discuss planned actions with important account No. 1;
• Review and discuss planned actions with important account No. 2;
• Review and discuss planned actions with important account No. 3; and,
• Recap and summarize identified action plans and completion deadlines.
Pancero said these six 10-minute sessions are minimum meeting requirements. It’s OK to talk about anything else in these meetings, and it’s also OK to take well over an hour to complete the “one-hour” session.
“The first 20 minutes are basically spent trying to get (the sales rep) comfortable enough to talk, while the second part of the coaching process is to discuss important accounts,” Pancero said. “The final part of this session is to summarize identified action plans and completion deadlines.”
Pancero recommends sales managers use three-ring binders to contain the sales reps’ reports. He also provided a specific four-page account planning form to be used in the three-ring binders. The first page of the form helps the sales manager go over the first 10-minute “history” section of the twice-a-month, one-hour sales coaching session.
“This allows the sales manager to hold sales reps accountable for what plans were identified and see if they actually followed up on them,” Pancero said. “The account planning form and a workbook are available at www.pancero.com/issa.”
The second page of the form discusses where the sales rep and manager want to go with each account; what other opportunities exist with that account; who else should the rep talk to; and what other departments, divisions or other companies should be contacted.
The third page helps the sales manager and rep further plan how to win an account’s business, while the fourth page showcases a simple matrix design to help maintain the existing accounts being discussed.
“The idea (of the fourth page) is to identify what you are going to do with each account (based on four business quarters),” Pancero said. “The goal is to think multiple moves ahead and become more future-focused while talking tactics and strategy.”
He noted that the primary job of a sales manager is to, “Reach down and grab the sales person by the back of the neck, lift him/her up to show where he/she is going, and then drop that person back down so they can get the job done.”
Pancero said a lot of managers do the opposite.
“They either push the sales rep aside and say, ‘Here kid, I will show you how to sell,’ or they grab a stick, poke the sales rep and say, ‘Make more calls, it’s just 4:30 p.m.;’” Pancero said. “If you are an officer in battle, you are not supposed to be firing the gun. Generals aren’t supposed to be the ones using the weapons. They are ineffective in that job. The job of the general is to direct.
“How are you directing and coaching your people? How are you lifting them up? What is your plan? What is your process? What is your structure? I’m amazed how many sales managers have nothing to coach their people with. If you don’t have a selling process to define, then everybody keeps defining it differently. There is no consistent message, uniqueness or value as everybody is saying something differently.”
He added that if there is no tactical structure to define, sales managers can only work with operational elements. This often irritates sales reps, because the more experienced people feel, “I have my own style of selling, get out of the way.”
According to Pancero, when a sales rep complains about a sales manager micro-managing him/her, it’s usually because the manager is trying to coach on the operational level or to talk about attitude and energy.
“What you want to do, instead, is focus on tactics, strategy and the future,” Pancero said.
Building A Relationship:
It’s A Listening Skill
In his observations over the years, Pancero said that after a customer identifies a product or piece of equipment he/she is interested in, a sales rep will often hurry to get that product into the customer’s hands. The rep will also often give the price away too soon.
Since the 1960s, Pancero added, the order of a simple sales call consists of: greetings, asking questions, presenting solutions, asking for the order, and agree or set up the next contact.
“As soon as you give a price quote or get a demo product to the customer, what step does the customer now assume you are on? You are now on presentation, which means you may not be able to ask any more questions,” Pancero said. “The sooner you demo and the sooner you give a price quote, the sooner you are shut down and can’t do anymore research with that customer. The sales rep can’t gain a competitive edge through better positioning, better connections or better identification.
“How do we gain value perceived by the customer? We have to do more research than our competitors. Otherwise, we don’t come across very customer-focused. This is a major problem with a lot of sales reps. It’s their Achilles’ heel.”
He added this can lead customers to feel that the sales rep doesn’t really care about their business. He/she is not asking the right questions.
“So what is your plan? As soon as you contact a customer, how do you go higher, wider and deeper? How can your sales rep delay the demo a little bit to do more research? How do you get a plant tour scheduled before providing the customer a proposal?” Pancero said. “These are the tactical, strategic and future-focused coaching questions you, as a manager, need to be asking at coaching sessions with your sales reps.”
He recommends that sales reps spend 75 percent of their time lowering customer resistance and asking questions, and only 25 percent of their time closing the deal. This helps the rep come across as more customer-focused and caring about that customer’s business.
“The definition of an expert is, ‘Helping others discover for themselves what you already know without talking down to them.’ Is this your definition of an expert?” Pancero said.
Pancero conducted an exercise during his presentation to explain why listening is so important during interactions with customers.
“A customer will ask, ‘Why are you so expensive?’ There should be a 2-second response. How long does it take your rep to answer? It could be 20 minutes. What happens is, the customer asks a 2-second question and your sales rep provides an answer that lasts several minutes. Your sales rep does 95 percent of the talking,” he said. “This hurts his/her strategic positioning by coming across as too much of an expert. This is not a good focus.”
Pancero suggests those sales managers who are interested in implementing his account planning training techniques start with new sales reps. This helps provide managers with more experience before working with veteran reps.
“Once you get skilled with this and become more future-focused in your questioning, you will often find that most sales reps can’t answer any of your questions because they have no real plan, structure and message,” he said. “The problem is, there are distributorships that come across as independent silos. Everybody is thinking about his/her own job and not as a total single solution and single enterprise for the customer.
“It’s important to prove to the customer that everybody (at the distributorship) is interested in what (that particular customer) is doing and how (he/she) is doing it (to succeed). This is why coaching is needed. This is why you need account planning.”
Pancero specializes in advanced sales training and consulting through his company, Jim Pancero, Inc., which he founded in 1982. His focus is to help companies expand business-to-business sales while increasing their competitive advantage and profitability. Over the years, Pancero has helped strengthen distribution for over 600 companies in 80 industries.
Visit www.pancero.com or call 1-800-526-0074 for more information.
ITW Professional Brands Offers Advice
On Facility Maintenance Best Practices
ITW Professional Brands offers facility maintenance “best practices” tips to help protect the health and safety of building employees and guests.
“Community health starts with clean facilities,” ITW Professional Brands Marketing Director Tim Rasmussen said. “Organizations must ensure their spaces meet industry cleaning standards and provide employees with the necessary resources to protect themselves while on the job.”
ITW Professional Brands offers the following tips for maintaining a clean and safe environment:
1) Enforce Handwashing: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), proper handwashing is the most effective way to limit the spread of infection. When soap and water is not readily available, disposable hand sanitizing wipes that have the capability to destroy germs and MRSA are suggested;
2) Clean And Disinfect Frequently: Create a detailed, daily cleaning schedule that designates what will be cleaned, how often and who will perform the task. Beyond daily cleaning, sanitize germ “hot spots” often throughout the day. This includes frequently touched surfaces such as door handles, faucets, paper towel dispensers, toilets, etc. Providing cleaning staff with pre-moistened disinfectant wipes is suggested. Consider distributing wipes to all employees to help keep personal work spaces clean;
3) Select A Professional Strength Disinfectant: To thoroughly disinfect hard surfaces, select an EPA-registered, multi-purpose cleaner/disinfectant. ITW spokespeople recommend choosing a solution with a dwell time of 45 seconds or less to provide more efficient cleaning and reducing human error.
The solution should have the power to clean, disinfect viruses and bacteria, sanitize, kill fungus, deodorize, degrease and remove stains;
4) Protect Your Employees: Provide employees with the required cleaning gear such as gloves and goggles to protect them from cleaning solutions. If professionals are working outdoors, supply sunscreen wipes that can be applied to areas exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck and arms, quickly and easily. This can help reduce the risk of skin cancer and UV radiation exposure. If insects are a nuisance, offer insect repellent wipes. One-step wipes are recommended for use around the face; and,
5) Promote a Safe Work Environment: Address all workplace safety and security issues with employees on a regular basis and encourage them to stay home when ill. Ensure buildings are up-to-date with all OSHA laws and regulations. This includes testing fire and alarm systems on a routine basis and maintaining indoor air quality by providing proper ventilation and air filtration.
“ITW Professional Brands manufactures Spray Nine, a cleaner/disinfectant that disinfects in 45 seconds, SCRUBS® pre-moistened wipes, and Atlantic Mills® disposable food service wipers, along with other products focused on industrial and institutional hygiene markets for the industrial MRO (maintenance, repair and operations), jan/san (janitorial and sanitation) and food service industries,” according to the company.