September 2021 Chairman’s Column
By: John Chipman, Jr.
Eat the Frog. Does your sales team eat frogs? I’m completely serious. In fact, I’ll double down and posit that frog consumption is the habitual activity of every successful sales representative (“sales rep”) in the moving and storage industry. To paraphrase Samuel Clemens: If your job is to eat frogs then its best to do it in the morning. If you have two frogs to eat, better to “eat” the big one first. Yummy.
Ok, so the frogs are only metaphorical. Even so, the advice is still spot on. For example, each day sales reps are confronted with a long task list of to-dos. Regular tasks include cold calls, pending order follow-up, RFP response, collect an aging receivable from an O&I customer who’s upset about an outstanding claim, and (my favorite) explain a 10-day delivery delay to family of five, who are camped out on the living room floor. If the task is big, slimy, green, and prone to being an object of procrastination, you know which one to “eat” first.
Need more free sales management advice? How about this one: Have you “hugged” your sales team recently? You should. Your sales team wrestled its way through a very tough Peak Season. This Summer sales reps have explained sky-high van line pricing to incredulous prospects, implored coordinators to slip in last-minute registrations, and pled with ownership to find more capacity. Seeing an interstate driver load directly at residence is rarer than spotting a unicorn prancing through stalled traffic on the Nimitz Freeway in Oakland. After the Summer of 2021, our sales teams have earned a big “hug.”
Don’t believe me? Then ask Steve Komorous, President of the King Companies in Santa Fe Springs. Komorous sees it like this: “Nothing happens until a move is sold. Sales reps are essential to our business success and the livelihood of everyone in the office, warehouse and on the vans.” For Steve, the better question is: “How best to help reps sell more.”
Support & Encouragement. Here’s what other California Moving & Storage industry leaders have to say about helping salespeople succeed. No one is suggesting management pack each sales rep’s lunch and walk them to the bus stop. It’s not the first day of school after all. But there are helpful steps management can take. In Corona, VIP Transport’s President, Brittany Johnson suggests: “With all of the challenges in our industry, it’s important to communicate, listen and get your sales team the best tools and information. That’s the recipe for success. At VIP, we encourage creativity, including selling across business lines.” Tori Ferrante, President & CEO of Crown Worldwide in San Leandro sees it this way, “Our job is to assess and remove obstacles that salespeople encounter in the service of the customer. Our sales team’s ‘wins’ are the life blood of the Crown organization.”
Todd Messerle, Sales & Marketing VP at Chipman Relocations & Logistics in Alameda uses this approach: “Stay positive. It is challenging for salespeople to keep confidence levels high when most of the time they hear ‘no’ or are exposed to negative comments. Focus on looking forward and not back, set a vision for success and what it can look like for a salesperson that is willing to work hard and go the extra mile.” (Reminds me of Coach Ted Lasso’s “Be a goldfish” advice to his players at AFC Richmond. Go Greyhounds!!)
Goal Setting & Follow-up. As the Peak Season sunsets and the dispatch phones are simmering down, it’s time to set your company’s goals for 2022. We are not talking about reorganizing the packing cage and ordering new pads. Management should be reviewing the current year-to-date performance of each sale rep. Based on the first eight months of 2021, management and sales can set monthly sales goals for 2022, including interstate linehaul, local revenue, closing ratio goals, and forecast how many self-generated leads each rep plans to create. The process must be collaborative; if management and sales don’t agree, it won’t work.
For Messerle at Chipman, goal setting only works if there are “monthly one-on-one sales and pipeline reviews. Salespeople need and want to be aware of their production, good or bad, and it is important to provide that information to promote success.” At VIP, goal setting and motivation go hand-in-glove. “We share the top sales 15 leaders each month”, according to Johnson. “The success of teammates inspires and motivates our reps to set and reach their goals.” “At Crown”, Ferrante explains, “We like to structure goals with monetary rewards. It’s nice to have projections and a good CRM database, but, at the end of the day, it’s the commission check that measures sales success.”
What if it’s time to look for a new sales rep. Here’s what our experts have to say about the characteristics of great salespeople.
Top Sales Characteristics. Komorous looks for people who are “self-motivated and willing to ‘hunt’ for business. Good character is also critical because sales reps are the face of our company.” “Great listening skills are just as important as intelligence,” according to Johnson, “it helps to have a great personality too!” Ferrante wants “A hunger to succeed and a level of intelligence that appeals to our customer base.” Messerle seeks candidates with a “willingness to learn and grow. What’s important is regularly improving sales skills – sharpen your axe! – to meet the challenges and take advantage of opportunities.”
Now, who wants a savory frog?