Achieving Sales Success & New Business in a Shrinking Industry

In 1933 my grandparents, Armand and Virginia Govin, founded MarkMaster as a rubber-stamp manufacturing company in Tampa, Florida. While stamps are still a big business for us (we make upwards of 10,000 to 12,000 stamps a day), we’ve since evolved into one of the largest custom-marking companies in the world with a basic product line of custom banners, signs, and name badges.

My brother Mark and I still value the same prospecting tools that our grandparents used – trade shows, networking, and referrals. At the same time, growing new business and achieving sales success in a shrinking industry is tough, particularly when marketing and IT resources are limited. Still, we’ve managed to pull off some significant growth, even during the economic downturn. Here are the three keys to our success.

  1. Streamline. The biggest barrier to our sales is that most prospects and customers dread the process of ordering our products. Managing layouts, text choices, and art placement can be a frustrating experience. We launched an initiative to redesign our new ordering platforms to make the process as easy for the customer as possible, while still giving them plenty of options. We also decided to add features behind the scenes to make our systems interface with other retailers online that sell our products.
     
  2. Innovate. While our product line continues to grow (in the next few months, we’ll be adding high-end items to our recognition line, including embedded and engraved crystal awards) there’s no escaping the fact that we’re living in a digital age. I even pay my own bills online instead of using stamps. To keep pace with today’s customer, we’ve begun to create collections that we’ve named the Impress Line. The first collection focuses on tradeshows and events. Now our customers will have a single-source manufacturer who will handle it all, from floor to ceiling. Not only will this make the process a less-stressful one, it will also mean a great deal of savings.
     
  3. Embrace Technology. We have a small sales team: three reps, a CSO, and a National Sales Manager. Thanks to our decision to establish an online sales channel, we’ve managed to see a huge return on our collective efforts. Using Ariba Discovery, we’re able to deliver speedy, reliable products to our existing clients and generate qualified leads for new business. As a result, we’ve created a robust, online sales channel and expanded our base of new customers by 65 percent and grow our overall business 20 percent year-over-year. We sell to 60 Fortune 500 companies, and we do almost all of it do through Ariba Discovery. The best way I can describe the service is like a Yellow Pages directory on steroids. We’re now so intertwined with this technology that it’s impossible to think of finding prospects without it.

In fact, Ariba Discovery recently helped our company land a deal with a large bank that had not considered us before due to our small size. We now service nine of the top 10 banks and eight of the top 10 insurance companies in the U.S. These are still important industry focuses for us, but we’re also seeing a turn toward retail, as our product mix has been moving toward signs and marketing items instead of strictly stamps.

Like any good company, we want to provide value to our current clients and find new ways to reach prospects. The traditional sales team is finding new ways to accomplish both of these goals. Sales teams today are more flexible, adaptive, and creative. They’re driven by collaboration and social business. Our business is no exception. By embracing new technology, our family business has managed to navigate around some pretty significant challenges, see significant growth, and achieve sales success, even during the economic downturn.

Now is a great time to invest in new technologies and new ideas. As a minority-owned company in the United States, it feels good that we’re able to offer products that are made right here. We’re not only investing in our company, we’re investing in the future of our families and the families of our employees – many of whom have been with us for decades. That means everything to us. 

Kevin Govin
Kevin Govin is CEO of MarkMaster Inc.

Why Sales Success Starts with Credibility

There are four very basic sales management questions that a great front line or senior sales leader should be able to answer “yes” to:

1) Do your people trust you?

2) Do they have clarity on overall strategy?

3) Do you make yourself available to them?

4) Do you exist to unleash their potential?

These questions might be basic, but the execution is always complicated. In a world where the speed of sales increases year-over-year, it’s easy to forget that when you peel back all the technology & innovation that have helped increase rep productivity, sales is basically about making connections. Connections with partners, with customers, and—most important—with your team.

Connections create credibility, and credibility drives sales success. But how do you become credible as a sales leader? Start with these evaluation questions:

Is it important for a sales leader to have first worked in sales?

Would you get in a plane with a pilot who has never flown? Of course not. Sales is the same. It’s essential that sales leaders and sales managers have a background in sales. Steven Covey says trust is built through competence and character, and both are only achievable after you’ve walked the walk. That’s why I only hire high-potential, top-performing sales leaders as part of our leadership development academy. With a sales force of 6,500 associates at ADP, it’s critical that we train the best with the best.

Do all great salespeople make great leaders?

No way! The question to ask yourself is, “Do you get more excited by closing the big deal, or seeing someone you coached close the big deal?” The traits that put the best salespeople on top are the same traits that make them terrible sales managers. They tend to overachieve because they’re selfish with their time and accountable to themselves. On the other hand, the great sales leader can channel that overachieving spirit and create one collective unit focused on team results. Being able to identify salespeople who have leadership potential is an art and a science. Fortunately, there are a number of selection tools that can help you identify sales leadership traits.

What should you consider as you move into a leadership position?

Your time is not yours. You exist to drive the performance of others. The great sales leaders who build trust, set a vision, and inspire their teams are the first to arrive at the office in the morning and last to leave at the end of the day. They have a servant’s heart and the clock never turns off.

What do you think it takes to succeed during a transition from a sales role to a leadership role?

I refer to this as “relationship reengineering.” Others need to see you in a new light. Focus on redefining sales success, setting time-bound, realistic goals, seeking feedback, gathering insight, and building a new sense of trust. Most important, new sales leaders that try to lead with the idea that “This is how I did it” generally fail. Be humble, observe others’ strengths, and lead each salesperson with an individual style.

Ken Powell
Ken Powell is Vice President of Worldwide Sales Enablement at ADP

Where Do Great Front-Line Sales Managers Come From?

Managing a sales team is one of the most important positions in a company. Great sales managers have a profound impact on the productivity of their sales teams and produce better sales results. Managing a sales team is also one of the most challenging positions in a company, and it requires a unique set of skills. Unfortunately, most front-line managers start their sales management careers ill-equipped to effectively manage a team of salespeople. So, where do great front-line sales managers come from?

Star-Athlete Syndrome
I hear about the “Star-Athlete Syndrome” frequently in sales organizations. A star sales person grows tired of the daily grind of being an individual contributor and aspires to something “greater,” such as sales management. Meanwhile, the vice president of sales is under time pressure to fill a vacant sales manager position. The vice president assumes that the star sales rep will know how to produce great sales results from a sales team.

The challenge is that salespeople are frequently unable to make the transition from being an individual contributor — achieving results through individual expertise, effort and determination — to being a manager, achieving results through the performance of others. This problem is not unique to sales. Think of all of the great athletes who never developed into great coaches.

Key Sales-Management Abilities
While a sales manager needs sales experience in order to have credibility with the sales team, the key driver of long-term success as a manager is mastery of specific sales-management skills. In order to produce exceptional sales results from the team, a sales manager must excel in the following critical sales-management abilities:

1) Managing sales performance by focusing on the underlying behaviors that drive sales results.

2) Sales coaching to help salespeople develop their full potential.

3) Building a team of great sales professionals with the requisite competencies to succeed.

4) Leading and motivating the team.

Return on Investment
Often some training is needed to develop these critical sales-management abilities. I find the return on investment training sales managers offers truly exciting. A sales manager can leverage improved management skills over the entire sales team. For example, if a sales manager manages 10 salespeople, improving that manager’s effectiveness represents a 10:1 return on investment opportunity.

Just think about all that untapped potential.

Norm Behar talks about developing highly effective sales managers with Gerhard Gschwandtner, CEO of Selling Power.

Norm Behar, sales management
Norm Behar is CEO of Sales Readiness Group. This post originally appeared here on his blog. Follow Sales Readiness Group on Twitter @SalesReadiness, or email Norm at nbehar@salesreadinessgroup.com.