Working On Your Business: Getting Off the Truck, Part IV

Getting Off The Truck To Work On Your Business, Not In It

Getting Off the Truck, Part IV

Sales and marketing as a profession in the trades results in some of the happiest individuals in a company. However, for most operationally minded owners, this position feels impossible to perform consistently or manage well, resulting in many of them outsourcing the function to a third party … or ignoring it all together. Not understanding how to appropriately manage one of the greatest challenges in business—knowing where the work is coming from, how it’s acquired, and how to sustain the process—can be detrimental to a company’s success.

Many small business owners opened their companies with a name and simple documentation, asking strangers for money in exchange for their services. Some found what worked for them and grew their business, filling in time where they could with marketing or sales activities. For an owner, there is a level of comfort with being the one to decide how to acquire business and from whom. So the next phase is challenging, because hiring a marketer who is not the owner of the company can be unnerving.

Many of the owners we’ve worked with over the years hired their first salesperson/marketer “green”—with little selling experience and a heavy training burden—so it was up to them to choose a method of how they wanted the salesperson to prospect, ask for the sale, and then continue the relationship.

From our experience with owners and numerous marketers, the first phase of prospecting is time-consuming, intense, and full of the word “no.” During this phase, the owner’s job is to keep their new salesperson motivated and focused on the objective of meeting new people and asking them for money. This phase is a sprint in the salesperson’s teaching and training over the first 90 days or so of employment.

If learning how to develop full-time skills for sales and marketing or spending a large amount of hands-on time is less than appealing for an owner, they should consider this phase as a sprint in their learning as well. Once it ends they will enter the training phase before coaching. Their goal is to create a rhythm with their person that rewards success and removes obstacles that the salesperson has often created. But once the right candidate is in place and the owner has disciplined themselves to the challenges of sales and marketing, the work completed through this function will provide returns for their business into the future.

When hiring a sales professional, the first hurdle for an owner is the financial obligation. They should consider the risk period to be the first three months of employment, which is when the most work on their part will be required. At the end of three months, the employee will still be learning about the sales process as well as the products and services they’re selling, while also working with the owner and overcoming objections.

Unlike with many other positions, there is usually a lag time between the effort the salesperson is putting in and tangible sales results. At the same time, if it just doesn’t feel like they’re “getting it,” it may be time for the owner to have a difficult conversation and consider releasing the employee. Assuming this doesn’t happen and everything moves forward, then coaching is the next stage after training.

Coaching an inexperienced sales professional will likely provide some challenges as well as opportunities to learn how the sales function can work in the business.

The opportunities, of course, include increases in sales, relationships that will (hopefully) continue for years, and the resulting growth of the company.

Some of the challenges are an owner’s lack of understanding of the fundamentals of selling or of a selling process, placing blind faith in the new employee’s sales abilities and motivations, and being unfamiliar with how to manage a salesperson.

Throughout these challenges, the owner should be a cheerleader, pointing out the “small wins” to provide encouragement. After all, building relationships takes time, and many owners underestimate just how much time, along with the level of activity required for a new employee to become successful at selling the company’s services.

Once a small business owner has a solid salesperson in place, it’s another huge step in their journey to business growth and staying off the truck.

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