Stein on ... Stepping up your sales effort

In a question and answer session at the recent Contact 2011 conference, the panel - consisting of Steve Bradley, David Milner of Tyrells and yours truly - was asked: "What will be the key area to work on in your business this year, considering the difficult times ahead?"

As I have a view on virtually everything, I was pretty quick to chip in and comment that it will be the quality of your people that will make the difference in your business. David Milner expanded on this, stating that what businesses really need this year are great salespeople.

Actually, I am inclined to agree with him. Robert Louis Stevenson once said that "everyone lives by selling" and how pertinent that is for this coming year. We are going to have to sell hard in 2011, with effort, creativity and persistence. I believe, however, that this is quite alien to our culture and that we need a bit more of the US style and character in our businesses - a culture where being a salesman is not only well rewarded but the role itself is desired by many people. People are proud of being salespeople in the States. They see it as a worthy occupation.

Just imagine this: I came across a salesman working for a top-rated furniture retailer who was working part time but earning a six-figure sum each year. Don't you just want those types of people in your business? Perhaps you are recoiling at the thought of the pushy, suave and superficial - won't take no for an answer - sales stereotype. Let me reassure you that in the States they can and do combine active successful selling with ethics and good customer service, and we can do this too.

We all need to up the sales effort this year, but obviously in a way that is appropriate and comfortable within our culture. It is a mistake to think that your customers, whoever they are, do not want to be sold to. They do. They are looking for better value, solutions to problems and opportunities to better their lives. The opportunities are there, so unleash your staff and train them how to sell well. It will pay dividends.

- Neville Stein is managing partner of the Ovation Business Consultancy.

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