Are You Expecting Too Much From Your Sales Force?

- Rod Osthus

What do you expect from your sales force? Most company managers would say, “Sales, of course. We expect our salespeople to sell.” But as obvious as that response may seem, for most it’s not the right one — you’re expecting too much.

We expect too much from our field sellers today because we haven’t adequately prepared them to face the 21st century farmer. Today’s growers are the most sophisticated in history—many have had as much or more education than the reps calling on them. Farmers have gotten significantly larger and fewer in number. The sheer scope of their needs, along with their sophistication, makes them very powerful and much harder to sell than in the past. Years ago, you could hire field sellers, give them an order book and a pen and tell them to go sell. Many succeeded. But not today.

The marketplace has become increasingly dominated by companies whose only method of getting a sale is offering a cheap price. That strategy neutralizes unskilled sales reps, but gives the skilled sellers the opportunity to differentiate themselves, sell value, and keep their margins. The bottom line is that we expect too much from our sales force because we haven’t adequately prepared them for what they’re being asked to do.

I train field sellers all over the world and see many companies throw away opportunity because they aren’t giving their sales forces what they need. Reps need to know how to get appointments, lead the conversation, and get sales without giving up their margins.

Here are three things you need to do with your sales force starting in the new year:

  1. Conduct ongoing monthly tactical sales training sessions on how to sell today’s farmers (not just training on products, technologies, and services).
  2. Tell them to “think bigger” and set higher sales goals than ever before.
  3. Create an actual plan (not a program or gimmick) for them to achieve their new sales goals and give them the skills they need to reach that goal.

If you’re not conducting on-going monthly tactical sales training sessions on how to sell to today’s farmers, you’re expecting too much from your sales force. Companies need reps who can sell themselves, the value of their company and the value of their products.

Are you expecting too much from your salesforce? I guess it depends upon what you really expect—success or mediocrity.