Managing, Monitoring Sales For Success

Originally published: 10.01.07 by Jackie Rainwater

Properly training retail sales personnel and making sure they are performing to expected levels is essential.

A sales lead is a terrible thing to waste. I am sure you will agree with that statement. However, it has been my experience that only a very small percentage of retail contractors effectively manage sales leads and sales personnel. (I call them comfort consultants).

By properly managing the sales force, you can be certain that all sales leads are carefully tracked, and promptly pursued— thus bringing more money to the bottom line.

At Peachtree Heating and Air Conditioning, the Atlanta-based retail hvac and IAQ company I operated from 1990 until 2002, we had a residential retail sales team comprised of eight professional comfort consultants. Expressed in 2006 dollars, our consultants averaged $1,232,305 each in annual residential retail sales from 1995 to 2001. Their average sales "ticket" during that same period was $5,047. Complete hvac system replacement sales averaged $6,200 each. I would estimate, given today's increased hvac equipment efficiencies (and higher costs), combined with heightened consumer awareness of residential IAQ problems, the average complete hvac system replacement sales in 2007 would be greater than $7,500 each for that same group of comfort consultants.

In order for your company to achieve the same or greater success, here are the key components necessary to develop a stellar retail sales organization:

Put In Processes: In order to attract, hire, and retain a top quality salesperson you must establish an ongoing, year-round sales-lead-generation and sales-lead-tracking process that includes company generated sales leads as well as leads generated by comfort consultants. (To research this in detail, refer to my April and September 2007 HVACR Business columns).

Motivate: Create a sales compensation program with clearly established monthly and annual sales and profit margin goals. A key component to any good sales compensation plan must include stimulating incentives for exceeding sales and profit margin goals. (Refer to my July 2007 HVACR Business column for more on this).

Track: Establish a sales lead tracking and reporting system. (See Exhibit A, in the Download Center for the form Peachtree Heating and Air Conditioning used to register and track each sales lead.)

For Peachtree, each pre-numbered sales lead was entered into a computerized lead-tracking program after it was assigned to a comfort consultant. A sales lead status report was generated each week to enable me (acting as sales manager) to review the status of all sales leads by individual consultant.

Train: To ensure newly hired comfort consultants have all the necessary tools to succeed, offer extensive training.

At Peachtree, our consultants were trained for 15 to 20 days before they were allowed to run sales leads on their own.

The training involved five days inside training on company culture, policies, processes, and procedures, which included spending time with each department to become familiar with their operations. This was followed by three days in the field with service and installation personnel. The last seven to 12 days of training involved product and sales training, which included "role playing" and accompanying experienced comfort consultants on sales calls. The last two days of training also involved running sales leads while being observed by an experienced comfort consultant. After a successful review of their performance during the orientation and training period, they were then entered into the "sales lead rotation."

Monitor: The only way to properly coach is to review actual results. To do so, have consultants submit a Weekly Sales Activity report. (See Exhibit B in the Download Center.)

During my tenure, I would carefully review the reported activities and results and would act quickly when I saw areas that required my attention.

For example, if I spotted activities such as sales closure rates, percentage of sales leads ran versus the number of sales leads assigned, or average sales dollars per sale that fell under our norms, I would take immediate corrective action. A copy of this report also was submitted to the person responsible for the computerized lead tracking program and the lead status report was updated each week.

Report: Understanding where your company currently is and where it needs to be is key to continuously improving sales.

At the end of each month I would prepare a Residential Comfort Consultant Performance Comparison. (See Exhibit C in the Download Center.)

As an integral part of our monthly sales meeting, I would distribute this report to each of the comfort consultants and I would lead a discussion of our monthly and year-to-date sales performance versus our sales goals. Following the team sales meeting, I would meet individually with any consultants whose monthly or year-to-date sales were under budget or whose performance "norms" were unsatisfactory and we would come to an agreement on a positive solution for any problem areas.

Solutions might involve additional inside training, accompanying a top performing comfort consultant on sales calls, or another top performer accompanying the consultant on some sales calls. I would meet individually with each "underperforming" consultant on a weekly basis until the problem was resolved.

Remember, a sales lead is a terrible thing to waste.

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