By Richard Mulvey

A few weeks ago I was asked to go out with a sales rep doing a day of “ride-along” coaching. This is not my usual way of helping sales people improve their skills, I much prefer an audience or group sessions but I was asked by a good client to help in this way and who am I to argue with a good client.

Business Ties by marinThe day started well at 07:30 with a Mugg & Bean breakfast near our first call. I had already been given the call sheet so I knew who we intended to visit and what the objective of each call included, so I just had to go over how the sales rep was going to be measured during the day and we could get going.

John (not his real name) was understandably nervous. He is a bright young sales person with plenty of personality and had the reputation of being a good closer on the telephone. Being promoted to external sales from his job in the call centre was an obvious move but he was not performing on the road and I was asked to discover why.

We spent an enjoyable day together visiting five clients ranging from a major corporate to a few much smaller independents. John and I had a great deal of time to chat of course, in reception areas and  in the car, and we stopped on the way home to have a “non-alcoholic” beverage before he dropped me back at my car.

Very early on in the day I thought I knew what John was doing wrong and by the end of the day I was certain. My report to John and his Boss included the following:

I had an enjoyable day with John and I believe he will be an excellent external sales representative. The areas of improvement I have already covered with John include the following:

1. John needs to improve his dress sense.

The client will often make up his mind who he is dealing within a few seconds of the first meeting, and you don’t get a second chance. A good suit or even smart chinos with an open neck shirt would be okay. I prefer a suit then you can look appropriate for the corporate client and then remove the tie and even the jacket if you need to dress down.

2. John needs to slow down

John knew that he needed to make 40 telephone calls a day in the call centre so he has developed a habit of speaking too quickly and seems to be on the edge of his seat waiting to leave for the next call. This makes the clients uneasy and often ended the meeting before the sale was made.

3. John needs to practise listening more and speaking less

This was obvious from the first call. John has the habit of interrupting the client when he thinks he has the solution to the client’s problem. On three occasions John missed the point by talking more and listening less.

4. John is too impatient

In only one of the sales calls did we achieve the agreed objective of the call. In each case we could have stayed longer but John seemed to have lost focus.

5. We could have done better

It was easy to see that money was being left on the table. No attempt was made to up-sell or cross-sell, and John seemed to be delighted to get out with an order and get on to the next client.

I liked John and believe he has great potential and with just a little bit of training on the above points he will be a star.

My experience with John is not unusual. Sales people the world over seem to talk too much and listen not nearly enough. Even when you have listened carefully to what the prospect is saying it is important to confirm your understanding. For instance “Let me get this clear Mr Customer, Is your problem this?” Often the prospect will say, “Not really that, more like this.”

Take your time, listen carefully, confirm what you have heard and only then consider offering your solution.



Richard Mulvey will be addressing these and other issues at the Power Series Breakfast – Selling Face to Face, November 2014. Please see the link for details.


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