Distributors are experience declining profit margins. And although online competitors and big box stores are making it more difficult to do business, they are not solely to blame.

Poor sales staffs may also be the reason for sluggish performance. Here are some ways to improve your teams.

1. Presentations: Have you ever listened to some sales people make a presentation and wondered how they are still in sales? Many sales people do not know how to make a presentation or even demo a product. They recite some facts and figures about the product but never demo the product or worse yet they don’t have the product with them, they show a video on their iPad. Most of the time the product they are presenting will not solve the customer’s problem, because they haven’t asked the customer enough questions. Presentation without Demonstration is merely Conversation.

2. Negotiation: Negotiation is a lost art. The very first lesson I learned about negotiation is you start high because you can always come down, but you can never go up. Most sales people are terrified of this concept of pricing because they have no idea on how to negotiate. Negotiating your price based on your products performance and solving your customers’ needs makes the price of your product look affordable. Teach your staff how to negotiate and you can be guaranteed more profits from sales.

3. Core Products: Most jan/san distributors sell over 4,000 items. How can you expect your new sales people to be proficient in selling that many items? Teach them to stick with your core product lines and you will find more sales and more profit. They must know these products inside and out. They must be able to make a presentation and negotiate a fair price for the quality of products you’re selling.

4. Value: Selling value comes from knowing what value you sell. Does your company have values that your sales team knows how to sell? Does all your team know how to present that value? Are they all on the same page? If you haven’t told them they don’t know? Ask the question in a sales meeting, “What are our values?” I’ll bet you get many different responses. That’s because the sales staff will sell their perceived value because they don’t know the values you want them to sell.

5. Sales Meetings: Make your sales meetings worth attending. Use this time to educate your sales team. The manufacturers come in to show them new products. The rep spits out the features and benefits of that product. Normally the important info is left out. Your sales staff needs to be educated on more than the features and benefits. The reps should also cover: what need does this solve, where does this product work, what competitors have similar products and why is this better, are there negatives to this product, and make a presentation on the product. (Role Play)

6. Consultants: There is a need for consultants. The question is which one. Some consultants have tremendous ideas and sound advice but have never worked in the jan/san business. Others have worked in the industry but can’t get their message across to your sales team. The goal is to find a consultant with a good combination of both.

7. Sales Tracking Systems: Sales tracking systems have their place in the market. Some industry people believe the system loses its effectiveness when we start putting demands on the sales people to make a certain number of sales calls a day. The number of sales calls a day you make does not translate into to sales greatness. What it does do is make good sales people lie. I was taught by a great sales manager that it is not how many calls a day you make but how many quality calls a day you make. He said all you need is one good call a day and you will be very successful.

If you agree or disagree I would love to hear from you. Contact me at corkerdj@yahoo.com.

David Corker is a sales manager for Arnold Sales in Zeeland, Michigan.