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Sales Tip - A Checklist of Best Practices

Selling is probably the most important contributor to business health, even more important than products and services. It's a difficult art to master. So it pays to develop good mechanisms to support and guide the sales effort. Here are five "Best Practices" that can help sales managers and their staffs:

Create an Ideal Customer Profile
Develop this profile on customers with whom you have had success in the past. Detail not only the facts (demographics, company size, annual revenues, SIC codes), but the qualitative characteristics as well, those elements that represent the value they seek when doing business with your company.

Set Clear Expectations
Give your salespeople clear and quantifiable performance expectations for all stages of the sales process. Don't simply throw a quota and a territory map at them. Tell them you expect them to convert so many leads to suspects, suspects to prospects, prospects to contracts, contracts to repeat business. And follow up with them.

Track Performance and Share the Data
Stop managing your sales force by anecdote, those traditional sales meetings where each salesperson fills up time telling about why this or that deal hasn't closed yet. Instead, focus on collective performance against those expectations you laid out above. Build sales meetings around a review of the data. Now you're dealing with facts.

Work on the Process to Improve Results
If sales are down this month, don't panic. Instead, examine the underlying processes to see where the slowdown occurred and why. Maybe sales are down because there's an operational glitch, or an unexpected trend in the local market.

Give Great Support
Everybody likes nice bosses better than mean bosses, but great sales support means more than that. It means removing obstacles to performance wherever possible, smoothing the way, and leaving people alone when that's appropriate.

Source: Ellen Bristol, president of Bristol Strategy Group