On 15th January 2019, the Marketing and Sales Manager of the regulated financial institution based in Kampala entered the boardroom for a Tuesday morning sales meeting.
She found all her colleagues seated. As she moved to take the Chairperson’s seat, the colleagues stood up, in acknowledgment of her arrival. She reached her seat. Stood up, slightly bent forward and placed her hands on the table. She said “You may take your seats. Good morning to you all.”
The team replied in unison, “Good morning Madam.”
After taking her seat, she said “Quarter two performance is 40% below budget. This is unacceptable. The weakest link in the team is him (pointing at the Sales Manager in charge of the Southern region which had failed to hit half of the set targets. The strongest link is that one, (pointing at the Eastern Region Sales Manager, who had exceeded targets.)
“Can we all show some appreciation to the Eastern Region Manager. She has consistently exceeded the already high targets. Join me in welcoming her to share with us the secrets of being a star salesperson”, she said.
The Eastern Region manager stood up and said: Thanks, Madam for this opportunity. In my two years of experience mobilizing deposits, opening new accounts and giving loans to customers, at the Eastern branch, I have learned three lessons that are critical to succeed in this role – product knowledge, consistent action, and strong networks for referrals. She went ahead to explain each in turn.
(i) Product knowledge. No one can sell a product or service which they don’t understand well. What are your products? Who is the target market? What are the pains or worries or challenges of your target market and how do your products or services solve them better than any other product on the market? In simple terms, what benefits do customers get when they use your products and services instead of other providers? If you want to sell more, invest time in understanding your product features and benefits and how they add value to your customers.
(ii) Consistent action. A sale is a result of consistent effort. You must have a clear sales plan, where you identify your critical target audience and market to them consistently. A beverages company creates demand for their products by running adverts informing the public that if you feel thirsty, you can buy our water or soda or fruit juice. Anyone who feels thirty as an awareness of what to do to solve the problem. Since people can become thirsty anywhere, the second critical activity a beverage company must do is aggressive distribution using multiple channels so that customers can easily find a sales outlet in any location they feel thirsty so that it is convenient to buy. If you market but fail at effective distribution to have your products available at various outlets countrywide, you will lose customers.
But that is not enough. You must work with your distributors to make sure your product is more visible in their outlet. In a supermarket, for example, form relationships with the Tellers, cleaners and all folks who display items on the shelves to give your brands prominent visibility to aid customers walking through the supermarket or shop to see your product.
(iii) Networking. As a bank Sales Manager, I know the key business people in the region, the leaders and the key influencers. The best way to network is by offering the prospect something of value to them. It could be a free training to their top management team or sharing with them newspaper call for the tender advert. If the tender is relevant to their business, that will form some sort of connection even if they have already noted it.
With those words, the manager thanked the team.
“The lesson: stop sweeping issues under the carpet. Point fingers on the behaviors that must be stopped to grow the business as well as on those that must be practiced to thrive.”
All team members deserve to know how ‘work well done’ is measured and demonstrated.
Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2019. All rights reserved.