Final word: Tom Rodda

Tom Rodda, Associate Director, P1 Training and Development, talks about how sales people love a bit of guidance every now and then.


Why does a UK premier league footballer play on average 180 minutes per week and yet train for 720 minutes per week? Why does a pro golfer hit 1,000 balls per day yet only takes 70 odd shots in a round? I guess you are thinking the answer is absolutely obvious; after all, how many gold medals would Mo Farah have won if he ate burgers and just rocked up in his shorts for the Olympics?

Well, it may sound obvious but ask yourself when was the last time any of your staff were trained (and I don’t mean in the gym)? Traditional office supplies are a declining market but many businesses expect their salesforce to go and sell into new areas without any help or guidance. 

Everyone is talking about the opportunities in new adjacent product categories like jan/san and MRO and safety but are you giving your people the best chance to capitalise on these? After all, it’s not the players in a football team that set the strategy for the match, it’s the coach. The players are working to instruction. If they don’t, then and only then do they get the legendary ‘hairdryer treatment’ famously employed by Manchester United’s former boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

One comment I hear regularly is “my sales team struggles to sell new products”. The answer why that’s the case is simple – look above – they need a coach and they need to be taught. There was a time when they could not sell OP and they were taught or learnt to do that.

One model commonly used is the Ansoff product/ market matrix (see diagram). At my company we use this simple yet proven model to guide and coach people into focusing on the areas most likely to deliver success. I feel that it’s always easier to sell to existing customers than to new ones, so for the purpose of this piece I will be focusing on product development and new products into existing customers.

In my experience salespeople love guidance and fresh conversations to have with their customers. Do all of your customers buy your full range from paper, EOS and jan/san over furniture, data storage and archiving to shredders? Sit down with your salesperson and work through the above list. Train them to think about these areas as second nature but beware. Not all customers will have a need for all of the above. Do not try to sell them something they do not need; after all the relationship is key and that will be your USP above
 all else.

Many of the questions that need to be asked should be done in a training environment which includes you (coach) and the salesperson. Will the new category undermine the business I currently enjoy? Which customers should I sell to? How do I sell it? If I don’t do it, might somebody else?

Set the team small but realistic targets such as finding five new customers from their existing customer base for shredding and stay focused on them meeting these  targets – salespeople will love to tell you what is just around the corner.

There are multiple ways to grow your sales but the easiest is product development. Know where there is an opportunity, equip your salesperson to ask the right questions, set achievable short-term targets and review what they have done. 

And when it works for the first time, trust me the feeling is infectious!