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Yaneek Page | Building a sales force that’s willing to sell

Published:Sunday | July 7, 2019 | 12:00 AM

QUESTION: I am a young entrepreneur who conducts a mobile upholstery cleaning service. Our clients set appointments any time during the week – from Sunday to Sunday – and our team completes cleaning at their location. Our services include sofa cleaning, vehicle interior cleaning, and general house cleaning. Upholstery cleaning, unfortunately, is seasonal. During the Christmas period, we require up to 10 staff. However, during the non- peak period, the jobs schedule drops to one appointment per week. That only requires a maximum of two staff. My workers are paid per job versus a monthly or fortnightly salary. I have created a reward scheme for them to be sales reps and earn 10 per cent commission on work they bring in, but they have not been forthcoming in doing so. The challenge I am faced with is how to maintain workers in an appointments-driven environment with a level of uncertainty. Should I consider diversifying into babysitting services? – Kingston


BUSINESSWISE: Based on the information you’ve shared, there are two major issues you are faced with: revamping your business model – possibly adding babysitting as a new potential revenue stream to plug the gaps with seasonality; and building out your sales strategy and infrastructure to increase sales.

Here’s a very important point. Before you consider adjusting your business model to add any new services, know that implementing a new and effective sales approach may transform your business entirely and bring greater consistency throughout the year in sales and profits.

While some of your services may appear seasonal, such as upholstery cleaning for householders, others like vehicle interior cleaning are not. In fact, if you expand your target market for upholstery cleaning to other segments of the market – such as small and medium sized professional offices, large corporations, educational institutions, and health facilities – you may find that that area of the business is in fact not seasonal.

As you become more experienced in business you will come to recognise that unless you have a robust sales system, any push for new revenue streams will likely fall flat.

No matter how good your business, model may be, or how attractive the industry opportunity, driving sales will be fundamental to your success and continuity.

Let me say this again: if you aren’t selling every day, you’re stifling the business. On the other hand, if you create a well-oiled sales machinery, it will position your company to better exploit new opportunities.

So, let’s address your approach to sales. Currently, the core of your sales strategy is to provide incentives to about 10 seasonal cleaning workers to multitask as sales representatives with the potential to earn 10 per cent per job they bring in. This is not nearly enough.

You need the right people, properly equipped, supported, and managed to drive sales. For example, does your cleaning staff now have the skills and competencies of effective sales executives? Are they driven, consistent, confident, entrepreneurial, resilient, excellent communicators, and networkers? Did you recruit them with those fundamentals in mind? Did they have prior experience or a track record of success in sales?

Have you done any sales and customer service training for them? Do they understand sales psychology? Are they aware of the consumer decision-making process or the buying cycle? Do they know how to prospect for new clients? How to identify and qualify leads?

Have they learned how to build strong personal brands online and in person – and especially how to use digital platforms, particularly social media, to support their sales targets? Have they learned how to manage objections, rejections, and troughs, which can be the hardest part of sales? If not, your team is not equipped to sell.

When it comes to management, coaching, and support –which are important to performance – have they been given sales targets? Has anyone segmented the country by regions and assigned specific market segments or geographical locations to the team? Have they been coached around upselling and bundling? Has your company packaged products and services to encourage selling more to existing customers? Is there a sales manager that they report to each week? Are you supporting their efforts and creating opportunities through the right marketing activities and channels?

Other key questions: Do they have the necessary tools and resources to deliver new customers? For example, do they have sales collateral, smart mobile phones or tablets, enough credit and data packages, sales applications, travel allowances, and so on? If not, your team is not equipped to sell.

The questions I’ve posed are meant to get you to think, reflect, and to introduce you to the complex universe of sales force excellence.

I can’t stress enough that your business requires a full-time sales effort. Your immediate task as the leader of this business is to develop a comprehensive sales strategy and build out the right sales team, that is equipped and prepared to work, right away.

Launching a babysitting service is not going to address your most pressing problem. It may only make things worse. Fix your core internal business operations first, then you will be in a position to take advantage of market opportunities in your current industry and others in the future.

Good luck and one love!

- Yaneek Page is the programme lead for Market Entry USA, a certified trainer in entrepreneurship, and creator and executive producer of The Innovators and Let’s Make Peace TV series.