September 2011 | Click links (>>) below to read articles
  • What is Sales Development? by Mark Hunter "The Sales Hunter" >>
  • Know What Your Sales Reps Say on the Phone by Suzanne Paling >>
  • Your Best Investment By Eric Slife >>

What is Sales Development?
by Mark Hunter "The Sales Hunter"

For many companies, sales development is the process of getting more sales and, on the surface, this is correct. However, sales development is really much more than that. If a company only wants to increase sales, they can do things such as offering steep discounts, shorter delivery times and increased customer support. The problem with each of these is that they all involve the loss of profit.

In reality, sales development should be a lifestyle for a company. A company that actively practices sales development is going to be engaged in activities at every level that are all designed to increase sales. It encompasses everything from research and development to marketing and sales.

From a sales perspective, sales development is a formalization of how the team reaches their customers with their products or services. It is all about ensuring that the method used to reach new prospects is cost-efficient and effective in terms of producing the right type of long-term customers.

During the sales call itself, sales development includes how well the marketing materials being used by the sales team support the questions they’re asking and the benefits the customer is identifying. Finally, it is all about how the company interacts with the customer during the buying process and everyday thereafter.

It’s imperative to remember that sales development extends into all departments of a business. Not only is it the cornerstone of what sales does, but it is also the foundation of any company. In order for any corporation to implement sales development effectively, they have to be very clear about their mission statement and their “go-to-market” sales strategy. In addition, they have to have the perseverance and strength to do the things necessary to close the sale.

Finally, if a company believes their sales development strategy is solid because of work they did five years ago, they are setting themselves up for failure. There is not a market out there that has not gone through significant change in recent years, and that is a key reason why a sales development plan must be continually reviewed and upgraded. Although the document may be continuously evolving, the measuring and benchmarking process should still be regularly implemented.

Mark Hunter, The Sales Hunter, is a consultative selling expert committed to helping individuals and companies identify better prospects, close more sales, and profitably build more long-term customer relationships. To find out more, visit

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Know What Your Sales Reps Say on the Phone
by Suzanne Paling

A reader writes, "One day I called my company's Sales department and pretended to be a prospect.  (I'm the company president.)  The rep taking my call sounded so disinterested. I was astonished. She did little to engage me, asking only a few perfunctory questions. I requested some information and gave her my friend's email address. My friend told me she never received anything. I get madder and madder the more I think about this. What do I do?"

Inspect what you expect. Never is that more applicable than being aware of how sales reps conduct themselves on the phone with potential new customers.

All Reps

Before doing anything, get a feel for how the entire sales staff handles inbound customer inquiries. Do they all seem bored? Are some better than others at relating to the caller and moving the conversation forward? Do they send the requested information?

As for the rep in question, ask a friend or colleague to call them at least two more times. Try to determine whether they were having an off day or always treat potential new customers this way.


Many organizations invest significant resources in generating inbound leads, so your sales staff should deal with incoming calls professionally and effectively. To support that effort, the Sales department should put a procedure in place for speaking with, sending information to, and following up with potential customers.

This should include a mandatory:

  • List of qualifying questions such as "How did you hear about our company?" or "What prompted your interest in that particular product?"
  • Methodology for logging the call and their action (for example, sending information or a sample)
  • Time-frame in which to follow-up with the caller

Do you have the ability to listen to the calls your reps take /  make? Does anyone in your organization audit the sales staff's efforts in this area? When? How often? This is a regular practice in retail, where "secret shoppers" assess how they are treated.

Solving the Problem

If a formal procedure existed previously and has fallen by the wayside, make sure it becomes common practice again. Review it with all the reps. Spend extra time with any recently hired salespeople.

When no process exists, meet with the reps and discuss the situation. Without naming names, tell them about your experience when you called in. Open up a dialogue about best practices for dealing with potential customers calling in to the company. Come up with a list of useful questions to ask. Determine a procedure for sending information and following-up. Track progress.

A Great Idea

My friend and colleague Chris Mullins, The Phone Sales Doctor, suggests letting sales staff members place mystery calls to one another. She says, "Let them experience first hand how other reps handle calls. This will get them involved in the process and keep sales top of mind."

Chris adds, "Record your reps phone calls on an ongoing basis. Make no secret of what you're doing. Tell your team you're recording calls to help them improve their book of business as well as to confirm customer needs and wants. Always be sure to check the laws for recording calls in your state."

The Offending Rep

After investigating this situation further, you may find that your reps generally handle incoming prospect calls well and follow company sales procedures. The problem occurs with this particular sales rep.

Speak to her candidly about what you and others have experienced. She'll likely hotly deny any charges, so come armed with the facts. Provide dates and times. Mention sales information that was never received. Tell her that she must follow the stated sales procedures going forward.

Mishandling the incoming calls of potential paying customers costs your company money. Most reps would be only too happy to receive such calls, viewing them as potential closable sales. After a period of time, if this salesperson won't rise to the occasion, consider whether or not she should be part of your organization going forward.

About The Author:

Suzanne Paling is the principal and founder of Sales Management Services. She has over twenty years of experience in sales consulting, sales management, and sales for both field and inside sales organizations. Ms. Paling founded Sales Management Services in 1998 to provide practical advice to business executives, owners, and entrepreneurs seeking to increase their revenue and improve their sales organization’s performance.

Sales Management Services’ roster of clients includes companies in the software, construction, medical, telecommunications, manufacturing, delivery, pest control, and the recruiting industries.

Previously, at Thomson Corporation’s Warren, Gorham & Lamont and RIA Group business units, Suzanne managed high-performance teams selling information services to banking, real estate, and law professionals. Her accomplishments included reorganizing and turning around several underperforming sales groups.

For more details visit her website at:

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Your Best Investment
By Eric Slife

Insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”
Albert Einstein

Does sales training pay? Too many companies were fat and happy during good economic times, and concluded that if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Sales people’s deficiencies were masked because they were simply order takers during prosperous economic times. As the economy turned downward, so have many company’s sales.

I recently spoke to a small business owner whose sales have dipped over 30% - unfortunately this is becoming normal!

Most companies will tell you their greatest asset is their employees. However, their actions don’t support their words. One of the last things companies spend money on is training, and it’s one of the first things companies cut.

I’m sure you’re reading this saying, “Well, you’re a training company, so of course your view is biased.” It certainly is. Well trained employees are more efficient and productive. Poorly trained employees not only get less done, but typically they cost you money and additional manpower to fix their mistakes.

Think about your own experiences in dealing with customer service departments. Over a year ago I discontinued using our Internet and cable provider in large part because of their customer support staff. That’s over $1200 in lost revenue for them in just one year from one client. That doesn’t include my mom who also switched based on my recommendation and lost revenue from subsequent years.

However, don’t take my word that training pays for itself. Bassi Investments, Inc. is a money management firm that invests in companies that invest in their people. They specifically develop recommended portfolios of firms that make significant investments in employee learning because those company’s stocks consistently outperform those that don’t put a priority on training.

The problem is too many companies view training as an expense, and don’t consider the long term benefits. Here are just a few tangible and intangible benefits of training:

  1. Reduced Turnover – High turnover is devastating when you consider the expense incurred to hire someone and the amount of sales lost when someone leaves.
  2. Improved Morale – When employees are happy they are more productive and efficient; not to mention less likely to bring a lawsuit against your company.
  3. New Customers – Your salespeople are the first, and maybe only, impression prospects have regarding your company. Now, more than ever, your team needs to stand out from your competition.
  4. Fewer Lost Sales – If each person brought in just 10% more sales, or retained 10% more of their current customers, how much would that improve your bottom line?
  5. Higher Profits Margins – Top salespeople not only sell more, but they also sell at higher margins. Simple negotiating tactics can instantly result in thousands of dollars lost or gained in the blink of an eye.

These are just 5 benefits that can easily result in six digits swings for smaller companies and considerably more for larger companies.

Finally, if you still don’t think sales training is one of the best investments you can make, take 60 seconds to use our return on investment calculator. You will be amazed of the impact just a 2.5% increase in sales or increase in profit margin can positively effect your company.

Investing in your employees and yourself is considerably less volatile than other investments, and more often than not will produce your greatest return.

About The Author: Eric Slife, is president of Slife Sales Training, Inc. He provides companies a comprehensive sales and sales management training program called Team Training. Team Training gives companies unlimited, on demand access to North America’s premier sales and sales management trainers.

Visit for more information.

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