A LEADING U.S. PRODUCER/DISTRIBUTOR OF HOME, OFFICE, AND RETAIL BOTTLED WATER, WATER FILTRATION, AND OFFICE COFFEE PRODUCTS
As a bottled water and coffee supplier to both commercial and residential accounts in the highly competitive US market, our client was facing a number of challenges. New business growth was not meeting goal, and the customer churn rate was at an unacceptable level. In addition, current training for the 4,000 outside sales reps (OSRs), route sales reps (RSRs), inside sales reps (TSRs), customer service reps (CSRs), and national account reps (NA), lacked uniformity and did not adequately address the skills needed to compete effectively. As a result, employee retention in several of these groups became a concern, and the sales force, as a whole, lacked some of the basic tools and skillsets needed to successfully move into management roles.
After working with managers and reps in the field to better understand their selling environment and competitive challenges, and studying the 5 existing levels of sales and customer service operations, we designed a comprehensive, facilitator led, video-based classroom training program for each sales group. This allowed us to address the unique challenges that each group faced, while standardizing certain important principles and practices company wide.
The video designed for each group provided a “role model” in the form of a high performing rep who demonstrated the skillsets which were taught during the classroom presentations. Concepts were presented from Territory Plan Development, Prospecting: Search & Rescue, Breaking Competitive Accounts, Making Effective Presentations, T.H.A.N.K.S. (customer service), and Defending the Business.
These programs were rolled out in each district for each group. We facilitated the initial program roll out and then conducted Train-the-Trainer and Management Support programs so that our client could institutionalize the concepts taught. To build and maintain the learning curve, audio and video reinforcement programs were designed to keep the concepts fresh, while minimizing time out of the field.
Results exceeded the client’s expectations and goals in every area. The following letter received from a Division Sales Manager best summarizes the overall success of the program:
I cannot tell you how important your training has been to our sales group. We have had the most productive year in our Business Development group ever. Here are just some of our successes:
- We experienced the highest new customers sold per day per sales rep in our history.
- We increased our average revenue per customer to a record number.
- We have the best customer retention rate we have ever had.
- We have increased our specialty products sales to record figures.
- We have the best employee retention rate in our history.
- We have promoted sales training graduates to management.
I guess you get the point. There are other facets of our Business Development group that have benefited from your training. I feel we are just scratching the surface of what we know we can do if we continue to follow your selling principles.
Division Sales Manager
A GLOBAL LEADER IN WATER & PROCESS TECHNOLOGIES, INCLUDING PROCESS CHEMICALS, EQUIPMENT, FILTRATION, AND ANALYTICAL INSTRUMENTS
Few industries are as competitive as the water and process technologies industry. As the market was maturing, our client had already begun the process of entering new markets, such as filtration, allied products, and new technical services. In spite of this expansion, cost of sales was climbing while actual sales growth remained flat. Additionally, close ratios were low.
Our evaluation of the sales team revealed several problems. Because process chemical technologies among competitors are often very similar, reps must often set themselves and their companies apart by offering superior servicing. In fact, our client had developed an excellent track record in this critical area. We found, however, that sales productivity was low due to “over-servicing.” The balance between servicing and selling was addressed as part of the comprehensive training program designed for this client.
After working with reps and managers in the field, we recognized another problem which frequently occurs in technical industries where sales positions require an engineering degree. Sales engineers have a tendency to present a comprehensive solution or recommendation to a prospect far too early in the sales cycle, before they’ve established sufficient sales momentum and commitment. What often happens is that the solution is shared with the incumbent supplier by the prospect, who then makes adjustments in their existing program based on those recommendations.
Even in the complex selling environment of water and process technologies, the average length of this client’s sales cycles were far too long. The principle of maintaining optimal sales call frequency to create, build, and maintain sales momentum with a prospect was not a core part of the territory sales plan. This resulted in unnecessarily long sales cycles as well as many stalled sales cycles.
A final performance issue that needed attention was the need to compete more effectively, especially with the #1 competitor in their industry. They did not have the targeted win ratio against this competitor, and also had difficulty defending existing business from this same competitor.
The current process being used by managers to track sales campaigns was inadequate in terms of monitoring and correcting the various problems we uncovered, so, as with all of our solutions, management training was a key part of the rollout.
The solution we designed to address all of these issues was a comprehensive program that included Territory Plan Development, Prospecting: Search & Rescue, Breaking Competitive Accounts, Making Effective Presentations, Selling Within the Bid Process, and Defending the Business. Managers also received extensive support training in these programs, along with our Coaching, Leadership, and Hiring management training programs. One of the most important components of the management training we provided was Conducting Effective Rollups. This insured that a real-time accountability process was in place that included the metrics needed for real success. Field based reinforcement programs were also implemented to maintain the initial effectiveness of the training effort.
The success of the program was dramatic. The following excerpt from the documentation we received from one district manager typified what the rest of the sales teams were experiencing:
“…within the first 8 months of implementation, our close ratio had doubled, revenue increased 30%, and average sales cycle length was reduced by one third.” (See Client Success Stories.)