This is part one of a multiple-part series on improving the performance of your field salespeople.
Salespeople are essential to the success of any building materials company. However, we’re past the days of staffing the sales department with as many people as you can afford.
Salespeople have become more efficient. They now cover larger territories than ever. With the help of sales tech, they can focus their efforts on the most promising opportunities and ignore the ones that will send them chasing after the wrong customers.
You can do more with fewer salespeople now, but only if you give your salespeople the support they need. Making the most of your smaller sales team will require you to set them up for success so they can convert more customers with a lot less time and effort.
Here are a few ways to do that.
Analyzing and Recapping Sales Performance
Your salespeople are a lot like professional athletes. To succeed, they need a clear goal, persistence and the ability to think on their feet.
They also need training, coaching and time to analyze their performance so they’re ready for the next big opportunity.
It’s that last one that tends to fall by the wayside. As sales teams are getting leaner and salespeople handle more customers, they’re less likely to set aside time to carefully analyze their successes and failures.
That kind of analysis might not seem like a top priority, not when there are calls to return, emails to answer and accounts to nurture. But it’s critical to their long-term performance. Analyzing failures is how salespeople identify the obstacle that cost them the sale – and whether they can turn that obstacle into an opportunity. Going over their wins will help them understand what made a sales call successful so they can replicate it. It’s also how they move from relying on lucky breaks to crafting an effective sales strategy.
Improved Sales Training
Ongoing sales training is also critical to your team’s success. Your salespeople know how to sell and they’re good at what they do – but they can always get better.
Sales also changes over time. There’s new technology to master, shifting customer expectations and best practices that stop working and need to be updated. If your salespeople stay the same year after year, they’ll only be falling further and further behind.
Training is essential, then. But it has to be the right kind of training.
Most companies focus on product training at the expense of customer and market training. That’s a mistake. Customers expect salespeople to know the product they’re selling, of course, but they’re only moved to buy from salespeople who also actually understand them and the problems they face.
Your goal is to have a sales team that knows more about your customer’s businesses than your competitors do. If they sell to architects, they should be able to give clear, confident answers to questions like these:
- What are the biggest challenges facing architects today?
- Are their billings and projects increasing or decreasing?
- What types of projects are growing?
- What questions are the architects’ clients asking them?
The same thing applies to other types of customers and markets. If your most important markets are hotels and the hospitality industry, your salespeople should know more about the needs and trends in this industry than other salespeople.
Artificial Intelligence Is Your New Secret Weapon
Understanding customers and markets takes a lot of work. There is one tool, however, that could help you shave down the amount of time salespeople spend researching customers and the market.
I’m sure you’ve heard of ChatGPT by now. It’s an artificial intelligence chatbot that provides impressively detailed answers to even the simplest questions.
It’s a fun tool and you can easily waste an hour asking it questions and follow-ups. But it can also be a powerful asset to your salespeople.
I took it for a spin and here’s the unedited response I got when I asked ChatGPT “What are the biggest challenges that architects are facing today?”
- Sustainability and Climate Change: Architects are increasingly being called upon to design buildings and spaces that are environmentally sustainable, energy-efficient, and resilient to the impacts of climate change. This includes incorporating renewable energy sources, using sustainable materials, designing for natural daylight and ventilation, and considering the long-term environmental impact of buildings.
- Technological Advancements: The rapid pace of technological advancements is transforming the field of architecture, and architects need to stay updated with the latest tools, software, and technologies such as Building Information Modeling (BIM), virtual reality (VR), and 3D printing. Incorporating these technologies into their workflows and keeping up with the pace of innovation can be a challenge.
- Changing Demographics and Urbanization: Population growth, changing demographics, and increasing urbanization are affecting the way architects design buildings and spaces. Architects need to consider factors such as affordability, accessibility, and inclusivity, as well as designing for multi-generational living and accommodating diverse cultural needs in urban environments.
- Globalization and Cultural Context: Architects are often involved in projects around the world, and working in different cultural contexts can present challenges in terms of understanding local customs, regulations, and building practices. Architects need to navigate cultural nuances, local regulations, and construction practices while delivering designs that meet the needs of the local community.
- Economic Constraints and Budgets: Economic constraints and budgets are significant challenges for architects. Clients and stakeholders may have budget limitations that impact design choices, material selections, and construction methods. Architects need to find creative solutions to balance design aspirations with budgetary constraints while maintaining the integrity and functionality of the design.
- Social and Humanitarian Issues: Architects are increasingly being called upon to address social and humanitarian issues, such as designing affordable housing, disaster-resistant structures, and spaces that promote health and well-being. These issues require architects to consider the social impact of their designs and collaborate with diverse stakeholders to create meaningful solutions.
- Regulations and Codes: Architects need to comply with a wide range of regulations and codes related to building safety, accessibility, fire protection, and environmental standards. Keeping up with changing regulations and codes, obtaining necessary permits, and ensuring compliance throughout the design and construction process can be complex and time-consuming.
- Project Delivery and Collaboration: Successful architecture projects require effective collaboration among various stakeholders, including architects, clients, contractors, and other design professionals. Managing complex projects, coordinating with different teams, and ensuring timely communication and decision-making can be challenging.
- Ethics and Professional Responsibility: Architects are bound by professional ethics and responsibilities, including considerations of sustainability, social impact, and the well-being of end-users. Making ethical decisions, balancing competing interests, and upholding professional integrity can be challenging in the face of complex project requirements and stakeholder expectations.
These are some of the significant challenges that architects may face in today’s rapidly evolving world. Overcoming these challenges requires architects to stay informed, adapt to changing contexts, collaborate effectively, and incorporate innovative and sustainable solutions in their designs.
And when I asked ChatGPT about the biggest challenges hotels are facing today, here’s what it told me.
- Pandemic: The pandemic has significantly impacted the hospitality industry, including hotels. Hotels have faced challenges such as reduced occupancy rates, increased health and safety regulations, changing travel restrictions, and shifts in guest preferences and behaviors. Adapting to the evolving landscape of the pandemic and implementing measures to ensure guest safety and comply with regulations has been a significant challenge for hotels.
- Changing Guest Preferences: Guest preferences and expectations are constantly evolving, and hotels need to adapt to meet these changing demands. Guests today seek unique experiences, personalized services, and enhanced digital connectivity. Meeting these changing preferences while staying competitive in a crowded market can be challenging for hotels.
- Competition and Pricing Pressures: The hotel industry is highly competitive, with various accommodation options available, including traditional hotels, home-sharing platforms, and alternative lodging options. Hotels face pricing pressures and the need to offer value for money while maintaining profitability. Balancing room rates, revenue management, and pricing strategies to attract guests while maximizing revenue can be a challenge.
- Staffing and Labor Shortages: Hotels often face challenges in recruiting and retaining skilled staff, especially during peak seasons or in locations with limited labor availability. Labor shortages can affect the quality of service, impact operational efficiency, and increase labor costs. Hotels need to find creative solutions to attract, train, and retain qualified staff in a competitive labor market.
- Technological Disruption: Technology is rapidly transforming the hospitality industry, and hotels need to keep up with the latest advancements to stay relevant. Implementing and integrating new technologies, such as property management systems (PMS), customer relationship management (CRM) tools, and digital marketing platforms, while ensuring data security and guest privacy can be complex and challenging.
- Sustainability and Environmental Concerns: Sustainability and environmental concerns are increasingly important to guests, and hotels are facing pressure to implement eco-friendly practices and reduce their environmental impact. This includes initiatives such as energy and water conservation, waste reduction, and sustainable sourcing of materials. Implementing sustainable practices while managing costs and maintaining guest satisfaction can be challenging for hotels.
- Regulations and Compliance: Hotels are subject to various local, regional, and international regulations related to safety, health, labor, taxation, and accessibility. Complying with these regulations and ensuring that the hotel is operating within legal frameworks can be complex and time-consuming, requiring ongoing efforts to stay updated and maintain compliance.
- Guest Experience and Online Reviews: Online reviews and social media have a significant impact on a hotel’s reputation and guest bookings. Managing guest experiences, addressing guest complaints or negative reviews, and maintaining a positive online presence can be challenging for hotels, as it requires constant monitoring, engagement, and responsiveness.
- Geopolitical and Economic Factors: Geopolitical factors such as political instability, economic downturns, trade disputes, and changing exchange rates can impact the hotel industry’s performance. Hotels need to be prepared to navigate these external factors that may affect tourism demand, travel patterns, and guest preferences.
These are some of the significant challenges that hotels may face in today’s hospitality industry. Overcoming these challenges requires hotels to be adaptable, customer-centric, technologically savvy, and responsive to changing market dynamics while maintaining high standards of service and guest satisfaction.
Is ChatGPT a perfect tool? No, not yet. There are still kinks to work out and some people have reported getting inaccurate responses to their prompts. It can’t do all of your salespeople’s homework for them – they’ll still need to double check the information before relying on it.
That being said, it can do a lot of the heavy lifting for them. I know a thing or two about the building materials industry, so I can tell you that every item in the responses I got about architects and hotels is spot on. These are real issues they face and ChatGPT spit out those lists in a fraction of the time it would take your salespeople to gather the information themselves.
If nothing else, it’s a great starting point. ChatGPT can give your salespeople a head start in their research and set them on the right track. It can also give them great talking points they can bring up with customers or ask about on social media to drum up engagement.
If you’re not already using artificial intelligence to help your salespeople yet, you should be. Your competitors are brainstorming ways to use tools like ChatGPT. If you start now, you can beat them to the punch.
Succeed with a Lean Sales Team
You don’t need a bigger sales team to grow your sales. You need a sales team that understands your customers better than other salespeople do.
One salesperson who really knows a customer’s needs and problems is better than three who don’t, no matter how much product training they have.
Instead of wishing you could hire more salespeople, help the ones you have become more successful. Give them the right training, the right tools and help them adopt new technology before your competitors do.
To make your sales team more effective, you need to be creative and think outside the box. Improving the performance sales people is one of the many important issues we will be covering at the upcoming Whizard Summit.
There are still a few open spots. If you want help improving your sales, join me and other industry experts on May 1st and 2nd in Austin, Texas.