AIM TO BE PERFECT
Companies that have adopted this method find that it produces results. A year-and-a-half ago, for instance, Lindus Construction, a salesforce of 16 salesmen who achieved a sustained companywide close rate of 47%. He had every reason to believe there was little room for improvement. But in January 2006, Lindus decided to change his company's sales presentation. And with that, he also began to rethink his approach to sales meetings. Lindus says that techniques such as the “hot seat” are similar to those he uses in coaching local hockey. As a hockey coach, he advocates three practice sessions for every game, and uses “overspeed training” to “get [the players] out of their comfort level and into faster situations than they experience in a game.”
What that means, he says, is that the actual game is relaxed compared with practicing for it.
Getting reps to sign on to the new regimen wasn't necessarily easy, he says, but his salesforce is young — average age 27 — and is fiercely competitive. Lindus set out to get the top closers to commit to the new system right away, figuring that the rest would follow.
They did. Especially when close rates began to go up. “It took a few weeks of practicing three times a week to convince our salesmen that the system could really make a big difference in their close rate and income,” Lindus says. “My best salesman, a 10-year veteran, had been closing at a respectable 51.9%. After three months of practice, he's now closing at a sustained 69%, and a number of our newer salesmen are approaching that level.” The company, he says, has seen no sales turnover since he implemented the system.
The trick in creating a three-times-a-week sales-training system is making the meetings fun as well as productive, which Lindus does by sponsoring contests. But mostly the sessions involve role-playing presentations.
“All this is about practicing so that you know your product and your presentation better than anybody else out there,” says Lindus, who has been the company's sales manager for five years. “We were good with one sales meeting a week. Now we're meeting three times a week with the aim to be perfect.”
—Rodney Webb is a speaker, sales trainer, and home improvement company owner in Georgia. Reach him at email@example.com.
IN THE HOT SEAT
- Schedule meetings to run an hour to an hour-and-a-half three times a week.
- Insist on punctual attendance and never set appointments during meetings.
- Run the meeting with a firm hand as a professor not a peer.
- Practice the standard presentation with you role-playing objections.
- Put one salesman in the hot seat to deliver his presentation with peer critique.
- Play hot potato round robbin with each rep prepared to pick up where another left off.
- Identify problems through phone drops and address them with role-play.
- End meetings on an up-note. Spotlight highest closing percentage and biggest paycheck.
- Make it cheerfully competitive so that salesmen actually compete for the hot seat.