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Refresher Course: Building the MPS Sales Force

30 Aug, 2012 By: Kim D. Ward & Tom Cooke

It is always good to re-examine credible information that remains the cornerstone of implementing a viable process of conducting business. Thus, our "Refresher Course" review of PMSG's Tom Cooke and Kim D. Ward's "Building the (MPS) Sales Force (Now and for the Future)." Read on.

In the document imaging industry, we consistently leverage data and technology to establish benchmarks and best practices to effectively help our customers and prospects improve, manage, and control their print environments.  And yet the question must be asked, “Are company leaders utilizing and leveraging available information and technology to build the sales force of the future?”

We must ask ourselves, are we hiring and training MPS consultative sales professionals based on experiences, criteria, or possibly perspectives from the past? The reality of change in our industry is no longer an issue of choice or perception. The experts agree that transitioning your organization from the sales model of the past to a more contemporary, productive, and customer centric Managed Print Services go-to-market plan is not an option but a necessity of survival and growth. And yet many leaders today are struggling with developing a clear snapshot of what their future business environments, management processes and sales professional profiles should look like. Now for the good news… the technology and information for connecting the dots and addressing potential gaps in a dealer growth development plan for building the sales force of the future already exists.

Consulting groups, including Print Management Solutions Group/ Learning Outsource Group who has partnership with other sales improvement companies like the Chally Group Organization, utilize comprehensive research, information, and technologies to create what should be considered to be the:
1. Top  Priorities for Leading Sales Organizations
2.  MPS Consultative Sales Competency Predictive Profile
3. Specific, Observable and Measurable MPS Sales Behaviors and Activities

According to the most recent research by the Chally Group, customers are sure of what they want, need and expect from today’s salespeople and supplier organizations. Chally’s World Class Sales Force Benchmark Study, involving interviews with over 2500 decision makers involving thousands of individual salespeople resulted in the creation of the following list of customer expectations regarding the salespeople that call on their businesses:

Specifically customers say that salespeople should:
1. Be personally accountable for customer desired results
(A real partner who takes joint ownership of the outcomes)
2. Understand the customer’s business
(Goals, challenges, opportunities and culture)
3. Be on the customer’s side
(A customer advocate inside their own vendor organization)
4. Design the right applications
(Think well beyond product features remembering applications equals value)
5. Be easily accessible and solve customer problems
(Connected, available – diagnosis, prescribes, resolves issues – a solutions approach)
6. Be creative in responding to changing customer needs
(Always in search of business and process improvements)

You may be asking, so what does this information specifically mean to growing my MPS business model, and how do I use this data to my advantage, especially when hiring and developing my only sustainable competitive advantage…my salespeople?

By looking at the specific knowledge, skills, behaviors, work ethic, and motivations required to become a highly successful MPS sales professional, and linking this “DNA” to the Chally World Class Sales Excellence Research, the following MPS sales competency profile was established. These competencies are those attributes that will most predict success in this given role, but by no means, not every characteristic that hiring managers should evaluate. (We should always look at normal criteria such as professional appearance, financially motivated, maturity, track record, ability to work under pressure, etc). Dealers who are using this technology for testing and assessing both internal and external candidates for MPS positions are significantly improving the quality of those decisions, resulting in faster ramp time, focused training, improved sales performance, lower turnover, and bottom line improvement. This specific MPS sales competency profile is referenced below:

MPS Salesperson Competency Predictive Profile:
1. Develops and uncovers sales leads and opportunities
(Gathers essential information to uncover desired customer benefits)
2. Qualifies opportunities
(Uses formula and/or questions to determine the customer-solution fit)
3. Makes persuasive presentations
(Excites the customer with an enthusiastic style which demonstrates relevant value and benefit)
4. Commits time and effort to ensure success
(Willing to commit to and remain focused on goal achievement without distraction)
5. Maximizes results as a customer advocate
(Understands the customer’s business and problems then develops effective solutions)
6. Adapts approach to buyer motivations
(Willing to adjust selling approach to match individual customer motivations)
7. Promotes customer retention by soliciting feedback
(Solicits feedback to develop future applications & improve the customer’s condition)
8. Increases business through continuous customer contact
(Takes a consistent proactive approach to customer contact and communication)
9. Develops product knowledge to be a credible resource
(Comprehensive knowledge of products, applications and return customer benefits)
10. Effectively manages a complex buying team
(Understands & works effectively with all decision influencers to produce positive outcomes)

And finally, senior sales leadership in the dealer environment today must ensure that today’s sales winner’s remain consistent with a customer focused, consultative, and solutions driven approach on every sales call. In order to best support these priorities, managers and leaders should focus their efforts on teaching, coaching and improving the following specific, observable and measurable behaviors and activities.

Specific, Observable and Measurable MPS Salesperson Behaviors and Activities:
1. Focuses on and works toward continuous personal selling improvement
(Looking for daily opportunities to improve personal selling abilities and possesses the willingness to change for better results)
2. Follows a proven and quantifiable MPS selling process
(Is willing to follow the company approved selling process and continuously works toward process improvement)
3. Reports relevant customer information and strategizes with the manager
(Consistently reports customer and call information and is willing to leverage with the sales manager to improve selling results)
4. Develop solutions which best fits the customer company and all buying team members
(Identifies the decision criteria for all buying team members and develops solutions which promote sales and satisfaction)
5. Maintains the highest levels of business integrity when liaising between customer and company
(Provides honest and useful information to both parties in an effort to solidify and nurture an ongoing mutually beneficial relationship)

Not only does the information and technology for developing a more natural fit between supplier and customer exist; but implementing, developing and coaching salespeople to act on these customer stated priorities offers companies the opportunity to truly differentiate themselves as well.

If you are a leader or manager of any company who is focused on moving your company into the new future, there has never been a bigger need for assessing candidates and effectively training today’s sales professionals. Customers have told us what their expectations and demands are. So the question must be asked, “Are you utilizing and leveraging available information and technology to build the sales force of the future?”

Tom Cooke is the Managing Principal of Print Management Solutions Group and the Founder and President of Learning Outsource Group and Kim D. Ward is the Director of Training & Development for Print Management Solutions Group, Inc. (FL) and who co-authored “Selling Managed Print Services–The Print Partnering Process.” PMSG is dedicated to supporting MPS initiatives and provide a comprehensive suite of resources to the office imaging market.  

For more information: 
(800) 403-9379.

About the Author: Kim D. Ward & Tom Cooke

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