A prescription for – FDaH
Let the Good Doctor help you ‘kick’ this dreaded disease
A couple of weeks ago I ran into him after work at a local watering hole. A client and I were meeting for a last minute coaching. Tom and I recognized one another from a training session he had attended. After a few moments of social niceties, our talk turned to business. Business was good. His accounts were tracking well above last year. In his mind, there was but one reason for the increases – his shining personality and natural-born selling skills. Hopefully, this will give you a flavor for the conversation.
“Well Tom, it sounds like your territory is growing nicely. Where do you believe the business is coming from?”
“Man, I am killing the competition. I am up 17% for the year.”
“But Tom, have you read any of the trade magazines? Some of the publicly traded distribution giants grew 19, 20, and even 24% for the year.”
“You’ve got to see me in action. No need for any of those fancy techniques, I am a natural.”
The Lottery of Life
Tom has won the lottery of life. He has been a salesperson for just shy of four years and his sales numbers have grown each and every year. Tom started off as a hard worker. In his first year out, he spent long hours getting to know his customers. And, his customers liked him. That was 2004. In the time since he has contracted a bad case of Fat, Dumb, and Happy (FDaH).
There are literally thousands of salespeople just like Tom. Our economy has enjoyed four years of growth. And, so have they. If they ever experienced a downturn, they have forgotten the lessons of the down years. Because they have grown their top line sales, they believe this is no need to develop their skills. To them, sales growth equates to perfection – and nobody messes with perfection.
Tom and thousands of others are suffering from FDaH.
The Good Doctor’s Secret Cure
Don’t be confused by the hype. Don’t believe the infomercials. Medical technology has taken off like a bat out of Hades, but the cure for FDAH requires time and multiple steps. Don’t expect instant cure. Instead, take these 5 treatments regularly. And, call me if you don’t feel better in the morning.
The Account Position Pill
Take a long hard look at your top accounts. These are the very folks who pay your bills. You must understand exactly where you sit within each of these accounts in order to gage your true position. Can you answer these questions?
- How much of their business do your really get?
- Do your numbers “jive” with the industry figures?
Experience dictates that salespeople are a very optimistic lot. Even seasoned salespeople will “over estimate” their share in an account. I suggest cross checking your numbers with industry figures often published through trade associations and other sources. The information can be further explored by looking for “gaps” in the product lines you are selling. As an example, if you sell office supplies and your customer uses thousands of reams of paper, would it not make sense they also use printer cartridges?
The Territory Transfusion
With the possible exception of Tom, I have yet to meet the salesperson who claims 100% market share. This means future targets loom in the horizon. Very few salespeople really know their competition. Oh, they can bloviate on the competition in abstract. But, when I ask specifics – like the name of the account manager they face at their largest account – they start waving their hands and speaking in generalities.
Know your competitor and know your territory.
- Who specifically is your competition? (Think person – not company)
- Where is your competitor strong? Why are they strong there?
- What is your position?
- What plans do you have to attack their weaknesses?
Just the thought process of answering these questions will guide your steps as you attack the competition’s favorite account.
The Real Plan Rub-on
Let’s think about this together. We have heard about plans since we started in sales. Our boss forces us to submit a “plan” at the beginning of each year. But, do we really have a plan? A sales plan needs to contain the following points:
- Targets for future growth
- Accounts that provide easy return on investment
- Accounts where we could leverage existing contacts
If the economy cools down (experts say 2008), where will you make up your losses?
Remove the Warts
One expert urges distributor sales people to look for the fast moving gazelles – the companies that are healthy, growing and ready for the future. Unless you happen to fall into a very lucky minority, you have at least one account that is sick. Maybe they were part of merger, maybe they are the last of a dying industry. I can think of one salesperson who continued to call, week after week, on a manufacturing facility that had already announced their future closing. Very surprisingly, he even accepted product returns from their crib – just weeks prior to their final day in business. While he was able to continue selling a few MRO products, I can’t help but wonder what new (long term) business he might have found during those many hours spent servicing a dead horse. A salesperson working with a full compliment of inside and customer service folks can pick and chose the places to invest time. Step back and let customer service run the show on accounts that are failing. Remove these warts from your account list before they infect your results.
A favorite business author of mine developed the philosophy of business process. Statistically a new franchise start-up has a five year life span that is 415% more favorable than other new businesses. One key difference is process. McDonalds proves (in my mind at least) that customers want consistency more than they want quality. The food at McDonalds isn’t world class, but it is exactly the same time after time, trip after trip, and location after location. I suggest you develop your own sales process. If a customer calls you, when can he expect a call back? Do you consistently have the right information with you? And what is a process? It is a measurable procedure for doing things that can be evaluated and improved over time.
Do you annually review your use of technology? The availability of affordable technology is accelerating around us. Do you take time at the beginning of each year to evaluate what technology you could add to your sales plan? According to research conducted by author Don Tapscott, an estimated 80 million young people in the U.S. alone will come into the workplace (including your customers) with a far different set of technology skills. They expect you to know how to send them information via email, website, blog, or wiki. Are you prepared?
A Regular Exercise Regimen
No trip to a medical professional is complete without a few words on regular exercise. What you do (to improve you) becomes the most important step in curing FDaH. Here is a quick check list:
- Read the trade publications of your industry - what are others doing?
- Analyze your sales calls – what went well, what didn’t?
- Talk to your insides sales and customer service folks – how can we make the hand off more smoothly, how can we minimize overlap?
- Work with your Product Specialists – do they have your accounts in their own master plan?
- Ask for time with your sales manager – what new initiatives are coming, how can you prepare for them?
- Invest 20 minutes once a week for planning – a plan for you.
Kindly words from the Good Doctor
Fat, Dumb and Happy can be cured. You aren’t the first person, and you won’t be the last to develop a bad case of FDaH. If you read through this whole article, you are well on your way to a cure. Just taking time to think about your own professional situation is a great start down the road to improvement. We here at the River Heights Consulting clinic for FDaH always enjoy hearing about your progress. Drop us an email or give us a call.
About the Good Doctor
Frank Hurtte (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a consultant to distribution and the sales channel at River Heights Consulting. He has 28 years of real world experience and is available as a speaker and executive coach. He has written a number of articles and white papers on distribution and the selling process. Frank has helped a number of businesses and not-for-profit corporations through the strategic planning process. And, he will help cure a bad case of FDaH. You can contact Frank at 563-514-1104 or through www.riverheightsconsulting.com.