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The NAPL Path to Success

In our evolving industry, continuing education is a necessity. Each month, the NAPL Discover newsletter highlights proprietary content and other select business resources recommended by association and industry experts to help you advance your business management skills. Enjoy excerpts from two books on sales and sales management this month:

From Strategic Sales Management
by Terry A. Nagi

“Planning one’s week is as important as planning a vacation or financial affairs. The better we plan, the more likely we will achieve. But sales representatives do not necessarily like to plan. Their excuse is, ‘How can I plan when clients call and change their plans for the week?’ The answer, of course: Have a plan in place and adjust it accordingly.

“Over the weekend, each sales rep should decide on the key customers to be visited or contacted in the week to come; the major sales strategy for that contact; major prospects to contact; and major sales strategies with each prospect. The plan should detail any other key event expected to happen that week. The objective is not to hold sales reps to these accomplishments, but to let them think ahead about major events they wish to pursue.

“In a 15-20 minute meeting on Monday morning, the sales manager and each sales rep will discuss their sales-by-objective planning sheet. It provides an opportunity to review the rep’s activities, offer helpful comments, and make sure he or she is planning for the future.

“In the Monday morning meeting, the previous week’s planning sheet should be reviewed for accomplishments. Over the weekend, each sales rep should list key events that affected what they had planned, new items that weren’t originally included in the plan, any events that management should be aware of, and any other significant events.

“The first five minutes of the meeting with each rep will review the past week’s accomplishments. The next 15 minutes should be spent reviewing plans for the week and addressing needs for assistance. Copies of the sales-by-objective report will remain in individual files for each sales rep so the sales manager can review consistency of effort. Major items of note to management should be dealt with immediately and reported back to sales reps as soon as possible.

“One of sales representatives’ major complaints is when they comment on important changes and never hear what was attempted or accomplished. It is not necessarily important for management to accomplish these changes, but it is absolutely important to pursue a representative’s ideas and let him or her know that you are doing it.

“A three-month trial should be initiated after fully explaining the purpose, objective, and the ‘how to’ for this procedure. After the initial three months, enhancements should be discussed and initiated at a sales meeting about the sales-by-objective planning system.

“The one-on-one quarterly meeting is the time to review the major current accounts of each sales representative, as well as prime prospects to be pursued. This is also the time to set specific sales goals. These should be discussed each quarter, between the sales manager and individual sales representatives, agreed to, and then put into writing.” For each account, they should discuss major sales strategies to be pursued with that account, major products expected to be sold, and approximate timeframes. All this should be put in writing and copies provided to both the sales manager and the sales representative.”

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From Red-Hot Customers: How to Get Them, How to Keep Them
by Paul S. Goldner

“The core/niche account penetration strategy starts with understanding the difference between a core business opportunity and a niche business opportunity.

“A core business opportunity is that portion of a customer’s needs for which solutions are readily available on the open market. You could supply a great core solution to the customer―and so could most of your competitors.

“Unfortunately, because core business opportunities are readily available in the open market, core business tends to be commodity-oriented and very price sensitive. When a customer starts negotiating with you about the price of a product or service, the company is really referring to the core business.

“Looking at it from another perspective, we have not done a good enough job as sales professionals to shift the focus from core business to niche business.

“Niche business is that portion of a customer’s needs for which solutions are not readily available in the open market. Because niche solutions are not readily available in the open market, and because the customer needs the niche idea, product, or service, niche business opportunities can go a long way to differentiate you in a competitive market. Niche business, because it is not readily available in the open market, also tends to be much less price sensitive.

“When you sell directly to the core, the major differentiating factor is usually price. The most common way to wrest core business from the competition is to lower your price. As you know, however, lowering your price is not the most effective long-run business strategy. Lowering your price will have an adverse impact on the profitability of your company, and this is something that we all must be concerned with over the long run.

“An alternative to selling to the core is to sell to the niche…The most effective way to penetrate the prospects in the market is by providing something that they need, yet do not already have. And this is what your unique selling points are designed to do. Your unique selling points can help you bring your value message to market. Your unique selling points should be your five greatest value ideas, your company’s five greatest strengths in the market.

“They should be developed to answer the question, ‘Why should I do business with you?’ In order to answer this question, your unique selling points must be extremely customer-focused and have a tangible bottom-line impact on your customer’s business.

“Your goal is not to sell as much of your product or service as you possibly can. Rather, your goal is to make your customers as profitable as you can. By helping your customers profit from their relationship with you, you will then be able to maximize the sales of your product or service. You will be deriving your success from the success of your customers.

“I believe that this is the fundamental principle of business success and the fundamental principle of selling success.”

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