At waste management company Cleanaway UK, strategic sales training has more than doubled productivity and significantly boosted profits. Sales and marketing director Paul Jackson explains how the training was delivered.
Beating the system
Designed by: Stirling Training Consultants, Park Royal Road London W3 6XA
Phone: 020 8993 6663
Fax: 020 8993 6664
Would you invest your personal money in training if it didn’t bring an immediate benefit? No way – and many companies feel the same. So how can training boost profits, motivate staff and move the business forward? At Cleanaway UK, our answer has been to link training directly to a business objective, so the results prove what can be achieved.
We needed to focus our sales activity so that our service became more streamlined while the salesforce became more productive. When I joined the company at the end of 2002, it had a decentralised sales function and the various UK regions had developed their own systems and procedures. In essence, we had been chasing high-revenue customers and missing the opportunities presented in other areas of the market.
What we needed was more volume, so that when our trucks went out they had more customers to service. It was a question of the salesforce changing their emphasis, so that they were not just chasing the large businesses wherever they happened to be, but rather competing for a balanced portfolio, providing both operational efficiency and good margins. Training was central to this strategy.
The key for us during 2003 was to increase the number of visits the area sales consultants were making. Before the strategy was implemented, they were averaging around nine customer visits per week. The new target was 21. So how could they make this change?
One of the first steps was working with the specialist sales consultancy, STC. I knew their strength in performance training and their excellent record with field sales teams. So with the help of STC’s MD, Rob Cram, we developed a plan to get the team from where it was to where we wanted it.
The strategy we designed began with a ‘kick-off’ conference, where Rob Cram explained the need for a new culture, outlined the business targets and highlighted the way forward for the sales team. He helped it take ownership of the change, and also showed how training would provide people with the tools to enable them to meet their targets and make their life easier.
The training was entitled ‘5-5-3’, and is all about prospecting, planning, and ensuring that sales staff have a regular supply of appointments.
There are two stages to the process – setting up the system and knowing how to maintain it. Setting up requires a new attitude and new approach from sales people to organising their appointments over the phone and categorising their prospects. Maintaining the system requires them to know how to generate a regular pipeline of new appointments. It is a simple, rolling system, which ensures that sales consultants never run out of people to see. It also provides structure and discipline, and sales people thrive on it.
Now of course some people had initial concerns. ‘It won’t work in my area’, and ‘My customers won’t make appointments over the phone’, were two common objections.
But this approach works, and it quickly became apparent that those who adopted it generated immediate improvements. It helped them become more successful, and started to take the angst out of their lives.
The results have been stunning. We hit our sales projections, but that doesn’t even begin to tell the story.
We have focused on gross margin business and have managed to achieve substantial increases in written contracts where our bottom line profit is higher. This improvement is a direct result of the rise in appointments that the area sales consultants are making. Not only are they meeting new appointment targets, but their conversion rates are improving too. They are making sales in about one in four cases, and the figure is still climbing.
This initiative has shown exactly what training can do when it is focused on the business and understood and applied by those who receive it.
We need to sustain our performance, and with STC we are currently looking at improving ‘skills in the sale’. As part of this approach, we have been helping sales consultants to self-assess, to see what training will give them most value. Some of the topics they have come up with include customer needs analysis, fact-finding and advanced questioning skills, and we will be running workshops on these areas. Again, this is about giving people a sense of ownership. If they can recognise which they are good at and what skills they need to develop, then it reinforces the initial training.
And STC has also been providing executive coaching to all sales managers, focusing on the ways in which they can boost their teams’ performances. This is what we want from our training partner. It needs to be able to shape its offering and be flexible enough to adapt its material to business requirements. In this respect, STC has become a part of our team.
Right on the ball
This training provided Cleanaway sales staff with practical prospecting and planning systems and skills which allowed them to achieve new business targets.
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