Why aren't you hitting your numbers?
This article by commercial tire sales expert Jason Miller is the third installment in a multi-story series about successful commercial truck tire selling. In this article, Millers discusses the sales process. His book, “Selling by the Numbers,” is available from Amazon.com and other online booksellers. For more information about Miller and his company, TheTireConsultants, visit www.thetireconsultants.com.
Years ago, my wife and I decided to drive our old classic Mustang from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. In hindsight, it was not one of our smartest ideas. Saturday night on the way down, the car sputtered to a stop an hour outside of Valdosta, Ga. We had it towed to a garage. The service tech had left for the weekend and wasn’t going to return until Monday morning. The tow truck driver, who was sympathetic to our plight, tried to fix the car.
Since the vehicle had no power, he figured it might be a bad battery. With the new battery installed, the car started and we resumed our journey. The car ran just long enough for us to reach the south edge of town. The tow truck driver came out again to get the car and take us back to the garage.
Since the car once again had no power, he figured it must be the alternator. He replaced it, but that didn’t solve the problem either.
The only part left to replace was the regulator, but still there was no power. We now began to wonder if the problem was undiscovered or if the replacement parts were defective. Having replaced parts that were not determined to be malfunctioning, the driver may have created additional problems that did not originally exist. With no more ideas, he left it to the technician and we checked into a hotel next door.
When the tech arrived Monday morning, it took him 15 minutes to determine that the problem had nothing to do with the parts that had been replaced. There was a loose terminal end on one of the ground cables. It took him two minutes and a one dollar part to fix the problem.
The lessons we learned from that episode have stayed with me throughout my career in the tire industry. If things aren’t going well, the worst thing you can do is randomly start changing things, hoping to fix the problem. While you might get lucky, more often than not you will spend a lot of time and money before you ever see results.
Like a technician diagnosing an engine, master salespeople follow a process. Having a process enables salespeople to troubleshoot problems and build durable successes. A process also minimizes the time and expense involved.
Develop your selling system
Let’s look at a sample sales process. Remember, this is only a sample. You should use this to guide you through the development of your own selling system:
Step 1: Identify your sales, gross profit and revenue goals for the year and have a method for tracking progress. These numbers should be so deeply ingrained in your mind that if someone shook you out of a deep sleep, you could list them without hesitation.
Step 2: Calculate where your sales and gross profits are now. This is your starting point. The difference between your starting point and your goal defines the magnitude of your journey. A detailed system for doing this is outlined in my book, Selling by the Numbers.
Step 3: Determine your average sales and gross profit by account. Obtain a list of your total sales and gross profit for the year, account by account. Include only active accounts. The term “active” can be tricky. This list should include all accounts that buy from you on a regular basis and are likely to continue doing so.
Step 4: Determine how many new accounts you will need. As an example, let’s say you are doing $1 million in sales and $200,000 in gross profit. Your goal is $1.5 million in sales and $300,000 in gross profit. You will need $500,000 in additional sales and $100,000 in additional gross profit to reach your goals.
At the same time, you have determined that you have 40 active accounts. Your average account generates $25,000 in sales and $5,000 in gross profit. To reach your goal, you will need 20 more accounts.
Step 5: Approximate how many prospecting calls will be needed to find enough good target accounts. This may be little more than an educated guess if this is the first time you’ve done it. As an estimate, let’s assume you will have to visit at least 10 prospects in order to find one worthy target.
Step 6: Determine how many sales calls you will probably need to make on each of these prospects before they are likely to start buying from you. If you’re new to selling, it might take an average of 20 or more calls to land an account. For an experienced salesperson, that number may be as low as five or six. Let’s assume it will take you an average of 10 sales calls on a target before they agree to buy from you.
Step 7: Estimate how many sales calls per day will be needed to maintain your existing business. Then, using the above calculations, determine how many calls per day will be needed to find and land this new business.
Step 8: Build a system to track how many sales calls you are making per week. If I were to choose the most common process failure for most commercial salespeople, it’s the absence of individual call records. Without documentation, lack of progress goes unnoticed.
Step 9: Identify the 10 top problems most of your prospects will have. Write them down. Over time, you will have developed lists that are specific to given industries. For example, waste companies get a lot of flat tires. Cement companies lose loads of concrete if their equipment is broken down for too long once it’s loaded. When you know the types of problems a fleet is likely to have, you will know which questions to ask, which will enable you to move the process forward.
Step 10: Determine the best way to uncover the problems within each prospect’s operation. If you suspect the target has problems with inflation pressures, don’t ask them how their air pressure is — ask for permission to look at their equipment.
Step 11: Build a profile of your strengths and weaknesses in relation to your competition. If you have followed your process, you will identify targets and uncover opportunities within those targets.
Unfortunately, the mere fact that you have identified problems does not guarantee you will be given the opportunity to solve them. Before you present your findings, it’s helpful to know if your competitors also are positioned to solve the same problems.
Step 12: Identify five ways that you and your company are better than your competitors at solving the problems you have identified. Be as objective, specific and concrete as possible. Here are a few examples of vague puffery turned into explicit advantages:
• Puffery: “We provide better service.” Advantage: “We have three service trucks for every one of theirs.”
• Puffery: “Our retread quality is superior.” Advantage: “Our plants are ISO 9001 certified, assuring the highest level of quality and consistency.”
• Puffery: “We can save you money.” Advantage: “Through the use of our tire performance tracking system, we can identify which tires provide the lowest cost per mile in your specific operation.”
Step 13: Determine how you will present the problem and solution. You can use retread plant tours, graphs, charts, purchase history reports, cost per mile reports, photos, PowerPoint presentations, and other methods.
Step 14: Identify the 10 top objections you are likely to encounter and decide how you will respond to each of them once they have been voiced. An objection should never take you by surprise. This exercise is an eye-opener for most salespeople.
Take a piece of paper and write down all of the reasons why 99% of your prospects won’t buy from you. I will be genuinely surprised if you can think of more than 10. Try to pre-empt the objection whenever possible.
Step 15: Schedule a meeting at least once per quarter to review all of this activity with a boss or mentor. Evaluate your activities against the metrics you have determined earlier in the process:
• Are you on track to achieve your goals from Step 1?
• Is the average sales and gross profit generated from these new accounts consistent with the number you calculated in Step 3? If not, why?
• Have you sifted through enough potential prospects determined in Step 5 in order to develop a strong target account list? If not, why?
• Have you been able to take an account from prospect to active client in the specified number of sales calls planned in Step 6? If not, why?
• Are you making as many calls per day as you had planned in Step 7? If not, why?
• Which of the presentation methods from Step 13 have been the most effective? Which have been the least effective?
• How well have you been able to address objections? Do you need better answers?
Finally, ask yourself: If I am not hitting my numbers, do I know what I’m doing wrong? Working harder may not be the answer. ■
In the August edition of CTD, Miller will tell you how to bring out the best in your salespeople.