To maintain a competitive advantage, jan/san distributors are becoming more sophisticated in every facet of business — and sales is no exception. What works for one customer may not work for another. As a result, sales reps need to be adept at anticipating customers’ needs, adjusting to their personalities on a whim, and solving their pain points — all without breaking a sweat and while selling a ton of product in the process.

If sales reps fall short of these aspirations, however, distributors need not despair. According to the experts, managers and their sales teams can take concrete steps to improve their sales approach, thereby gaining new business as well as closing more deals.

Assess your sales team.

According to Jim Peduto, managing partner and co-founder of Knowledgeworx, Endicott, New York, most distributors think that they know their salespeople when, in fact, they don’t. For this reason, he recommends analyzing the sales organization, including leadership, to identify areas of concern that could be holding the team back.

“One of the things we’re seeing is that the traditional model where the salesperson is a generalist isn’t working very well,” says Peduto. “You need to assess your sales force to figure out where your strengths and weaknesses are: Decide who’s going to hunt, who’s going to farm and who’s going to work inside sales.”

Indeed, consultants recommend that distributors evaluate sales team members as part of the hiring process, and spell out their expectations for each new hire.

“Be very clear about what you want a salesperson to do,” advises Tim Miller, president of Business Development Associates in Highland Park, Illinois. “You want to make sure that you’re tying the skills that you’re looking for to the tasks that you want them to perform.”

Know the steps of a sales call.

According to Jim Pancero, a sales consultant and speaker in Dallas, 90 percent of sales reps are unable to write down the steps of the sales process.

“Post-COVID sales calls are shorter, so you have to be persuasive faster and maintain control of the call,” he says. “Knowing the steps of the sales call can help you achieve this.”

Sales experts recommend that distributors provide new hires with step-by-step procedures outlining the company’s sales processes. Doing so will ensure productive calls.

Provide coaching.

Once distributors establish their sales processes, it’s up to the managers to coach their teams.

“For most distributorships, sales management is non-existent or inadequate,” says Miller. “At least 50 percent of sales management should be coaching — and if you don’t have a sales process, how are you going to coach your team?”

As a rule of thumb, Peduto recommends managers spend about 30 minutes a day with each rep to review pre-call planning, post-call debriefing and lessons learned.

“Most folks we’ve dealt with aren’t anywhere close to spending that amount of time with their sales force, but it’s the single biggest thing they can do to increase sales,” he says.

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