It was my very first pharmaceutical sales job, and I was scared to death to fail. I had no idea what to expect, and I hadn't met with much success in past outside sales jobs.
I entered this industry the very first month that a new policy was passed across the industry. It was known as Pharma code, and it eliminated all of the extravagant gifts and trips to which both pharmaceutical sales reps and their doctors had become accustomed.
Bottom line: I was going to have to learn how to actually sell if I was going to make impact in my territory. Gone were the days of being able to throw money at, or give gifts to, physicians in order to generate business.
Fortunately, the director of training at this company fully understood the situation, and prepared us with the skills we needed to think like an entrepreneur, and sell better than any of our competitors in the marketplace.
The selling skills imparted during training were amazing. We walked out of that experience prepared for everything we would ever face in the field. However, it was the mindset of an entrepreneur that allowed me to take a territory that had never seen significant growth, and turn it into one of the most respected success stories in the company.
As I work with business owners, CEOs, Sales VPs and sales managers across the country, to help them achieve ongoing, sustainable sales growth, the question I get the most is:
"How can I get my sales professionals off of the sales roller coaster and on to creating consistent sales results that exceed our revenue goals?"
In most situations, the solution starts with helping the sales professionals embrace and develop the mindset of an entrepreneur.
"Hold up, Duane, I don't want my employees thinking like entrepreneurs! They'll go rogue, they'll go off on their own and become my competitors." I get that a lot. The reality, however, is that most of them will not take that leap. They may talk and think about it, but they'll never actually pull that trigger. Why? They can't/won't take the risk. They know where their bread is buttered, and they don't want the headache of running a startup. They want more commission.
However, for that 1-5% of your sales professionals who might jump ship to start their own business in your industry, wouldn't it be better to have them as strategic partners rather than outright competitors? But I digress . . .
Here are 5 essential principles you can begin to instill in your sales professionals, that will help them approach their territories, and their sales efforts, as an entrepreneur would his/her very own business. These come straight from the content I teach in my Selling With I.N.F.L.U.E.N.C.E. workshops and seminars. They will help you develop and grow your sales professionals into selling machines that will embrace the vision and revenue goals you've set forth, all while making them better, more committed employees for your company.
1. Own it. Just as the CEO and director of training at my first pharmaceutical company did, the mindset of an entrepreneur starts with you verbally giving them permission to have that mindset. You must cast the vision for them. People will rise to your expectations of them. Simply start and facilitate a conversation with yourself sales professionals about what it means to be an entrepreneur, and let their own wisdom come forth.
2. WIIFT? Obviously a spin off of the old "what's in it for me" (WIIFM) that we are always asking our sales professionals to think about when they're working with customers. You have to help them see the vision and the value of thinking like an entrepreneur as your employee. However, don't just tell them what to think. Ask questions that get them talking about what the benefit and value is. When you tell them, it becomes your goal, when they tell you, they own it.
3. Ownership. Now facilitate a conversation about what it means to own their territories. Reinforce with them that your company is a resource and support system for them running their own business. However, get them to self-discover that until they're willing to hustle, put in the effort, do the work and own the results, they still aren't thinking like entrepreneurs.
4. Take risks. As a business owner, CEO, vice president of sales, or sales manager, it can be very scary to tell your sales professionals that they need to take risks. However, until they're willing to stretch themselves, leave their comfort zones and think like an innovator, no substantial growth or results will transpire. To help you and them manage the risks they're taking, sit down and have a conversation with them about guidelines, expectations and non-negotiable's. Once they understand where the rails are, they will take care to not run the train off the track in their efforts to innovate and take educated risks.
5. Leadership. As my mentor John Maxwell is known for saying,"Everything rises and falls with leadership." A sales career fueled by an entrepreneurial mindset is no different. It is imperative that your sales professionals approach their territories, their coworkers, your vendors, and everyone else that interacts with your brand with the spirit of leadership and a servant mindset. The foremost responsibility of a leader in a sales role is to add value to others in order to influence outcomes.
This means that they have to put others before themselves, understand what they already value, and help them to get that which they value. This allows your sales professionals to solve problems, create solutions and partner with the people they need to achieve those outcomes.
Obviously this is a short list, but a solid foundation with which you can begin to create a culture that encourages an entrepreneurial a mindset. Take one of these principles into each of your next five sales meetings, and lay a foundation for lasting change, and ongoing sustainable sales growth.