Losing Business in a Changing Market?

I was talking the other day to someone who, given that he realised he was was asking a question, the answer to which could well be “How long’s a piece of string?” nevertheless was trying to get a ball park figure on what would be a reasonable investment for sales training.

He wanted (he thought) face to face training for between one and four of the company’s associates and had been given wildly differing quotes: From the £hundreds to the £thousands – was one a joke and a non-starter or the other taking the mickey?

So I felt the first thing to establish was:

What’s happened that’s led to the search for sales training?

The company has been in business a good few years and, up until now, anything from a third to a half their client base has been from public sector – an area they all know really well.

That, obviously, with the economic scene as it is and with the public sector taking its first real cutback in funding for years, is changing and that side of the business is already shrinking.

On the private sector side, what they’ve had has come to them in the past, and they haven’t had to do go out and prospect or do any real selling. But that, as it stands won’t be enough to take up the slack caused by private sector cutbacks…

So the need is?

To replace business that was a given – and enough to keep the four associates pretty well gainfully employed – and they’re worried that they don’t have the skills between them to do that, bearing in mind there’s never really been a sales element before…

So they’re (wisely) planning now for when they’re likely to really feel the bite, which is looking as though it’ll be around November.

Hence the sales training idea: One thought was, with the potential doldrums of August approaching, maybe one or all of the four ought to beef up on the skills they would be likely to need if they were now actively going to have to approach the private sector ‘cold’.

Shall I let you into a secret?

Okay. But I probably need to get this out of the way first:

A friend of mine says that when I put this in writing, as opposed to saying it to someone in conversation, or a group in an audience, it can come across as sarcastic or patronising. The intention couldn’t be further from either, so bear that in mind and here goes:

If you’re a business owner the chances of you completing a traditional sales course without a business crisis interfering, and, if you do, consistently and successfully applying everything they’ve tried to cram into it, are minimal. AIDA and The Pattern of the Sale? Attention? Interest? Desire? Action? Overcoming objections? The Art of Negotiation? Spin? Sandler? You must be joking! :-(

I have created and run courses that are focused on winning, keeping and growing business. Those for business owners are very different from those for employees such as

  • Dedicated sales people
  • Dedicated telesales/ telemarketing people
  • Split-role employees

Business owners have, by and large, not actively chosen sales as their profession, though a few are quite good ‘naturals’. Their business offerings are what they are maestros at researching, creating and delivering. There is no way they want, or have the time, to invest in becoming maestros at sales: “Need to know” is what they’re after.

And the good news is that “need to know” often entails easier and more enjoyable activities than you would term ‘selling’ once you get a healthier perspective, instead of your nosed pressed right up against the window pane: We often refer to ‘eagle-eyed’ meaning being able to spot detail. Whereas though the eagle can see a small animal hundreds of feet below on the ground, it can also see the bigger picture from its high vantage point…

Multitasking, anyone?

It’s a myth that only women can multitask: Look at the owners of any small business, male or female, and tell me they don’t multitask and I’d say you’re a fibber! ;-).

And another myth (perpetrated by guru consultants and trainers) is that sales & marketing are complex subjects like higher mathematics or rocket science… the former don’t necessarily need to be… once you get your head round the main issues for you and your business.

My advice?

To this guy it was to start with a couple of activities I suggested that he and his associates could easily do without entailing any specific training and they’ll enjoy doing them. Then they can regroup and decide on strategy and tactics.

I’m not going to say what those were here:

  1. That would be giving away the years worth of experience that has enabled me to provide the eagle-eye view and the practical wherewithal advice to follow – and save clients countless time and money going off on unproductive tangents…
  2. The answers are not a ‘one-size-fits-all’: If they were, you’d be able to find them anywhere 😉

When and if you’ve grown your business to a point where it requires a dedicated individual for the roles of sales and/ or marketing, you’ll know enough from your own experience to set fair targets and expectations of that employee. You can put them on a specific, structured course to help them as necessary… and they‘ll do the maestro stuff and get the results you both want… or decide it’s not worth the effort and go find pastures new! :-)


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