Your profits: Sales
While listening to a local radio sports program the other day, I was struck by the attention to detail and strategy that Division 1 college coaches put into building an effective recruiting program. As I thought about how difficult it is for coaches to persuade talented recruits to come to their schools, it occurred to me that strong recruiting programs are essentially based on effective sales programs. And we, as sales organizations, can learn from them.
For example, the head coach of a major college sports program must have a highly detailed, multi-year recruiting plan with specific geographic areas and prospect classification that each assistant is responsible for. Knowing their short- and long-term needs, the staff adjusts as necessary to build and maintain a strong lineup. The recruiters know their school's strengths and weaknesses; they know their competitors; and they tailor their presentations and prioritize targets accordingly.
The coaching staff assesses prospective athletes and determines which athletes to pursue. Once they have scouted and prioritized those athletes, staff use mail, telephone, in-home visits and campus visits to stay in touch with the athlete, his family, his high school coach and others who influence him. Often, the head coach will ‘close the deal.’ After signing the athlete, the staff stays in touch, pushes the athlete to get good grades and test scores, urges him to keep his personal life together, and eventually helps him adjust to college life. While on campus, the coaching staff works to get the most out of the athlete, push him academically and help him plan for the future.
Of course, the staff loses out on some recruits and picks up others it didn’t anticipate. Sometimes, the highly touted recruits don’t pan out, while less attractive athletes blossom.
The long-term key to recruiting success is a staff that builds strong relationships with everyone it comes in contact with. Meticulous planning, constant contact, and regular follow-up and progress reports are the hallmarks of a successful recruiting program.
Strong sales programs share these characteristics.
The strong sales program
Everyone sells in a strong sales program, including the owner. The company has a highly detailed, multi-year plan with specific geographic areas and product specialties that each associate is responsible for. The business refocuses and reprioritizes its product/service line-up as sales grow or decline over time, or as the economy or sales conditions change. A knowledgeable sales staff knows its strengths and weaknesses and those of its competitors, and tailors its pitch and calls accordingly.
Sales associates assess relationships with targets they choose to pursue. Once they research and prioritize potential customers, the staff uses mail, email, telephone, in-office or in-home visits, etc., to build strong relationships and influence their target’s decisions about the company’s product/service offerings. Maybe, the sales manager or owner ‘closes the deal’ when pursuing a project or cementing a relationship. After the sale is made, staff members continue to work with the client to make sure everything goes well, thereby strengthening the relationship.
Of course, they don't always get the sale. And sometimes, luck brings unexpected business their way.
Like the great recruiting programs, successful sales programs rely on building strong relationships with everyone the staff comes in contact with. Sales success might come, or it might take a while; but meticulous planning, constant positive contact with clients, and regular follow-up before, during and after the sale are hallmarks of the successful sales program.