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Sales routes pt. 2

The route delivery sales person has a responsibility to the merchants on his/her route.  If not met, the merchant will demand a remedy and normally that remedy is a financial penalty to the supply company.  Fair enough?  If you were the manager of a supply company and your delivery sales person kept failing to go to his/her merchants what would you do?  How many calls would you take before you make the decision to fire that person from their route?  I suspect the answer is “not many”. 

I referenced in part one of this topic that I was recently in a station where the veteran sales person on the staff had 8 months experience.  One of the rookies had been there 5 months.  On the books from this person (the rookie) were 0 local/direct accounts.  None!  I don’t think this person is a bad person, but I do think this person is a bad sales person and I’ll go out on a limb and say this person isn’t exactly honest with respect to making sales calls during the day.  In defense, this person has horrible leadership at the station.  But let’s be real…anyone can get 0 accounts on the air in 5 months even without any training. 

Can you kind of see where this is going yet?  Poor sales people are a reflection of poor sales managers.  Yes, I said it.  It’s about accountability to the sales manager.  In the Army, we used to say there were 3 types of people; a) people that make things happen, b) people that watch things happen, and c) people that don’t know what happened.  We did our best to get rid of the B’s & C’s.  It’s the managers’ job to figure out what type of person you have on your sales staff and then train them.  The question regarding your sales managers is: Do they want to make things happen but do not know how?    Or are they trying but just ineffective?  If so…read on.

Like the route delivery sales person, follow these principles.  Set up a route, and go see your merchants every week.  Here’s how to get started: 

1.        Have your reps go see 25 merchants on every day M-F the first week they start.  It teaches your reps 2 things...first that they can see 25 merchants daily and second it teaches them your standard.  Imagine this…you have a staff of 4 sales reps currently making 25 sales calls a week.  That’s 100 weekly sales calls; let’s say your close rate is low at 5%.  So, at best you can make 5 sales weekly.  Now, jump that up to 25 calls daily X 4 and you have 500 sales calls per week and your income just increased 5 fold!!  Best of all, you didn’t increase your fixed expenses by anything. 

2.       On the first week out, all you want the rep to do is extend their hand and introduce themselves to the merchant.  That’s it!  Listen to the merchant for your clue as to what to do next. Otherwise, you are interviewing the merchant.  What do you do if the merchant isn’t there?  You are still interviewing them…is the person at the office the gate keeper?   Has the owner set the tone of the store to be nice and friendly or is it a little rude and edgy feeling?  All clues to your eventual outcome.  Your job on these first trips out is to make a friend.  After your day, each day, have the rep go over with the manager each merchant (have them get a business card if available).  Rate these merchants as an A, B, C, or D and follow what those letters would be as a grade.  Finally, in these first weeks, once the new rep has gone over these 25 meetings with their manager, let them go home.    

3.       On the second week out, the rep goes to the same people on the same days as the first week.  Here’s what happens…in 2 weeks your new rep will have been out to see 125 merchants and in some cases will have seen that merchant twice already and as an added bonus to your rep, since he/she isn’t asking for an order or peddling anything, they feel good about their job because they’ve not gotten their teeth kicked in like most other radio sales people do in their first week or two.  This second meeting, again nothing presented in the way of advertising or even the radio station, is meant to reaffirm the first week…maybe some of your grades were a fluke; D’s are really B’s, etc…

4.       On the third week go back like in weeks 1 & 2 and at this point, the rep needs to see if the meetings can go to the next level.  So, the reps say this: “Mr./Mrs. Merchant, I would like to sit down with you next (whatever day it is) and spend about 30 minutes and let you explain to me a little about your business and how you want to promote your business, who your competitors are and what’s different between you and them; as you see it. Out of 125 merchants, you’re looking for 40-50 appointments.  Make the appointment. 

5.       On week 4 go to the meetings and I strongly suggest that the manager go with the sales rep on every single appointment.  This serves as an accountability to the rep, a re-familiarization to the merchant and I believe 2 heads are better than 1 with promotions and when your reps are out for the first time, this will keep them from promising too much too soon, etc…which normally comes from someone that is unsure of themselves.  For instance, with a bank customer, sponsoring a news broadcast might be a great suggestion but the new rep may not know it’s available or times, costs, etc…You should close some business this week and it’s always good to have the manager be there to help in tight situations but the manager is also training his/her reps in addition to getting to know these merchants.  If you don’t close any business, set yourself up for the following week with a “let us go talk about this with our production staff and our creative people and see what we can come up with.  We will come back next week.  Fair enough?”  Now, go make up a sensible presentation that includes a demo spot. 

6.       On week 5 you’ve not only seen these merchants for the 5th time, showing them you are going to be a serious sales person, but you’re ready to close some business.  If you do things correctly, you’ll have 20-25 new businesses on the air after week 5 plus you’ve taught your new sales rep how to do it and they can continue on in the weeks following.  BTW – you still continue to go see those merchants that did not agree to an appointment these next 2 weeks, trying to get an appointment at least or even an order. 

Answer this…if after 5 weeks of doing this and 20-25 new merchants on the books for your new sales rep, don’t you think he/she will feel like they got trained, and they are being successful at this new job?  The symptom those former radio sales reps from the survey RAB did said they left was for a lack of training.  But, the real reason, the disease that killed them and ultimately was what caused them to leave was they were not successful.  Who wants to continue doing a job they are not successful at?  You’ll read it again…poor sales people are a reflection on poor sales managers.  Proper execution of this plan places the correct responsibility on rep and manager with the proper accountability.  It worked every time also. 

An additional benefit to this program is more coverage of potential advertisers.  It’s most likely that the 125 merchants your new rep goes to see haven’t had anyone from your radio station stop by in several weeks, months and need I say…years.  It’s a great plan for veterans as well and one of the easiest ways for a sales manager to get to know his/her sales people. 

Call me Phil @ (913) 221-2543

Luke 6:38