When Tony Pontin took over as CEO of the Dymo Corporation for the United Kingdom, they had 18 salesmen and were in danger of folding. These young men (average age 22) were tasked to sell plastic alphabet guns to stationers. These guns distorted adhesive vinyl tape so they produced sticky labels. It was a great idea. Unfortunately, few people in the United Kingdom at the time were using labels. These salesmen typically gave notice at the end of three weeks.

Thanks to Tony Pontin's successor, Reg Melluish, who had been the fantastically charismatic sales manager of Remington Typewriters, Dymo was able to replace these salesmen with other youngsters of incredible quality. Tony Pontin introduced a number of changes that extended the life cycle of the sales force to nine weeks.

After 18 months of a still fraught existence, Tony Pontin took a brave step. He hired a 37-year-old (who wasn't a particularly good salesman) to train his youngsters. Initially this was on a catch-as-catch-can basis. Everyone thought Tony was mad, but learning quickly by experience, they soon developed a training system whereby every new salesman got a week's full training before he hit the road. He then had three days working in tandem with a more experienced man and three further days by himself. He then came back for three days' further training and then went out for two weeks and had a day's training refresher.

These trained salesmen soon began to make headway and being successful, they stayed. Within two years they were selling more Dymo tools and tape in the United Kingdom than the entire American sales force were in North America. Tony was promoted to senior vice president of Dymo Europe. Within 15 months Dymo Europe was accounting for more sales than the rest of the world combined.

While I could cite numerous examples of similar successes, sales training is not as widely used by software houses as it deserves to be. So plan a training course for your salespeople while the program is being developed. It is one of the few areas where resource and method can replace the need for money. Sales training takes the knowledge already within a company to create a multiplier effect. Selling techniques are long established, so you can read how other companies have turned sales around by every technique from teleselling to personal, face-to-face visits.

There are two ways to overcome initial resistance: by pulling or pushing. Push sales kick in when advertising and other marketing devices are employed to drive customers into phoning or e-mailing you, possibly by filling in a coupon expressing an interest or by circling a box in a magazine for further details or calling the phone number given in the ad. Pull selling is when you approach potential customers cold. Once a product becomes established, sales teams inevitably end up using both. Either way, you must know the following:

♦ Who the customers are likely to be

♦ The main things they will want to know

♦ The strengths and weaknesses of competition

♦ Typical hurdles that have to be surmounted

♦ Financing options

♦ What the fallback position is if the customer says "No"

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