The national sales team were struggling to maintain or increase shelf space and wallet share within their retail outlets across the UK. They were selling high quality gardening accessories like wellington boots, gloves, outdoor clocks, weather-vanes and hand tools into large garden centres like Notcutts. The leadership team were unclear of the reasons and unsure how to improve the situation. The sales-force were based all over the UK and not coming together for regular sales meetings. Communication was not strong and turnover of team members was too high and based on achievement or otherwise of sales figures
We worked with the leadership team to create a survey to put out to the sales team to gather their feedback on how to improve sales. We also asked the leadership to position this exercise with the sales team as a positive step in engaging all of them in the design of meaningful development interaction. Having collated the responses (100% return) and setting them alongside the views of the leadership team, we took our first action which was the creation of an online communications “hub” for the team. A fun, informative, open hub through which to share news, developments, competitor information, new product developments, important dates, a shared calendar, a suggestions box, a group address for sharing queries, successes, challenges etc. The hub included a simple performance league table, a head office person of the month nomination and a sales team member of the month award. Secondly, we responded to heavily repeated feedback from across the team suggesting that they lacked basic rapport building, sales, presentation, negotiation and closing skills and were often faced with bad tempered buyers or managers with no time for them. We brought the team together for a three day development workshop. We engaged a professional actor with significant experience of owning and managing an equestrian supplies outlet, we worked with the leadership team to fully brief him in how he might and should behave and we dressed him in typical garden centre manager attire – the check shirt and fleece top! On day 1 we delivered a fun interactive workshop providing solid sales skills, starting from first impressions and rapport building and ending with effective closing techniques. On day 2 we worked on presentation and negotiation skills and finally on day 3 we divided the team into two groups – one to interact with our actor and one to observe, comment and learn. We call this directed role-play and it allows ourselves and delegates to stop and start the action and control the content and direction. This activity inspires full engagement and involvement with people saying things like “no, we would never say it like that” or “yes, that’s exactly how Mr Jones in Cardiff reacts to me, why does he behave like that?”.
A new beginning for the sales team. An opening up of communication channels. A new culture of sharing ideas and challenges through a central hub and by phone and e-mail. An agreed frequency for face to face sales meetings with no need for an actor or coach, but applying the same approach to role-play and refreshing the skills learned on our course.