Be open to what lies beneath the problem

This organisation was turning over around £45M selling products into schools. It is an established company with a well-regarded range of products that schools need and buy on a regular basis.

The reason I was engaged was because the Chief Exec and Sales Director felt that the average order value achieved by their field sales team was too low and could be improved. Their request was to train their field sales team to cross sell and upsell to double the average order value.

During our initial conversations, it became apparent that both these people were open to a more open approach than delivering sales training and agreed to a more consulting/coaching approach. I spent two sales calls with each sales rep and the sales order value almost doubled.

Now, what we do is effective but not just by sitting next to the rep and asking a few questions on the way back from each meeting!

Something was not right here.

To cut a long story short, by examining their CRM system it became clear that the sales reps were entering their home postcodes into the system to indicate they were having an admin half day. The CRM took the total value of sales and divided by the number of postcodes to report the average sales order value. The sales were fine, the number of meetings were not. These reps received a great basic salary and bonuses for having one meeting per day. The knock-on effects of this piece of work were:

  • The Sales Director was asked to leave.
  • Several sales reps resigned and replaced
  • We restructured the sales force to reduce the number of field sales reps and recruited internal sales reps to sell via internet demonstrations at a markedly reduced cost
  • We restructured the bonus system to more fairly reflect the efforts of the renewals team
  • We trained the Sales Mangaers so they fully understood the CRM reports and acted on them

This was a particularly interesting assignment and lasted six months with our consultant being almost full time until the new Sales Director arrived and was up to speed.

We are not magicians. We are very open-minded, ask penetrating questions and are not engaged to make friends in the organisation. That said, we do take a friendly approach and are excellent at building rapport. It is very easy for full-time employees to focus on the hectic day-to-day activities of their work and not have the time to step back and wonder what on earth is going on. That’s what we do.