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A Standardized Company Sales Plan – Good Idea or Bad?

I came across an article today that explains how companies can successfully implement a company-mandated sales plan and be sure that all of the salespeople are following it.

I found the advice given in that article to be deeply disturbing to me, especially since it is new and not from a twenty-year-old book from the old school of selling.

The essence of the article is this: Companies that intend to implement a new sales plan must make it mandatory, must hold the salespeople accountable for following it, must let the salespeople know that managers will inspect to make sure the new plan is being followed, and that role plays should be done in training sessions to teach salespeople how to use the new sales plan.

I felt shivers down my spine when I read the part about how managers will hold salespeople accountable, and will inspect to be sure that the plan is being followed. I immediately got the picture of the stereotypical raving lunatic, “little dictator” sales manager who terrorizes his or her salespeople through micro-management and blunt orders.

Is this the kind of organization good salespeople would want to work for? I’m amazed that this kind advice is still being given in this day and age.

I also have a major problem with mandated role playing in training sessions. I hate role plays. I always have and always will. I think they’re stupid and a complete waste of time. They’re absolutely BANNED from my training programs. The biggest problem with role plays is that they’re NEVER realistic. In fact, if you train a salesperson through role plays, he will be completely blind sided and blown out when meeting with real prospects who have real problems and real objections. All of the example sales dialogues I use in my programs have come from REAL sales appointments, those carried out by either myself or other salespeople I know and trust.

When I was in sales, I was almost always a top performer. The only times I was not a top performer was while working at companies that had a mandated sales process that I was required to follow. It always baffled me as to why companies that forced us to follow their plan would hire experienced sales reps. Why not hire inexperienced people right out of college? They won’t have any pre-conceived notions of how to sell, won’t have any prior experience or training, and therefore will blindly follow the company’s system, no questions asked.

Here are a couple of realities that managers and sales directors must face up to:

  1. f you want an experienced sales force with a proven track record, you must understand that they already know how to sell. How else could they possibly have a great track record? Attempting to force them to learn a new system and follow it negates their talent and experience and will immediately destroy their top producer status. Proven salespeople excel and perform at their very best when treated like independent contractors.
  2. If you really want to implement and mandate a company sales plan, the only way to do that successfully and with little turnover is to hire people with no experience right out of school. And even then, you’d still be much better off with sticking to option 1.

If you want a successful organization, hire the best and place your trust in them that they know how to sell. They’ve done it before and can do it again for you. Don’t derail their performance and undermine everyone’s success by forcing something on them that is totally unnecessary.

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