OWNER'S MANUAL

One Thing Your Performance Reviews Are Missing

You might be measuring your employees against every metric under the sun... but here's one you're probably forgetting.
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Where employee evaluations are concerned, many companies follow a more-is-better approach, measuring performance across a broad--often too broad--range of qualities, skills, and proficiencies.

Even so, one crucial element is almost always missing:

Sales skills.

Salespeople need sales skills. You need sales skills. (Every successful person does, in fact, and here's why.)

But every employee can and should play a role in generating sales, especially in a small business--no matter what job they perform.

It's Part of the Job

Here's a great example. A HVAC technician came to our house to do scheduled maintenance on our heat pumps. I showed him where the different units are. My nose was running so I kept taking out a tissue to blow my nose.

After my third, "Excuse me," he said, "Do you have a cold?"

"No," I replied, "I just have allergies or something. I get like this every winter."

"Ah, that's too bad," he said. No big deal. Normal conversation. Off he went to service the units.

About an hour later he came back and said, "I'm all finished. Everything is good to go."

As I was signing the work order he said, "While I was servicing your units I thought about your sinus problems, so I measured the humidity level in your house. It's unusually low even for this time of year. Since your air is that dry that could be what causes your sinus problems."

I had never thought about that; to me, air is air. So he showed me how his meter worked and we talked about humidity.

"Your problem is really easy to fix," he said. "You can add moisture to the air by installing humidifiers on each inside unit. Then all you'll have to do is change the filters every month or so; the rest is automatic. And luckily both your inside units have water pipes nearby so your installation will be easy and less expensive than it is for most people."

We talked more. He knew specs, knew prices, and knew the pros and cons of only installing a humidifier on the upstairs unit and how that would impact overall humidity levels in the entire house.

Anything that might help me escape from nose-blowing city sounded good to me, and I was definitely interested, so he used his iPad to check inventory and installation timelines. In about five minutes he had my appointment on their master schedule.

Five minutes. Sold.

And he's a service technician, not a salesperson.

Why was a technician still able to "sell" me?

He didn't say, "Do you want fries with that?"

He identified a specific problem and need.

He provided detailed information on the spot.

He described the humidity levels in my house, explained how the installation would go, knew he had units in stock, etc. He explained, in detail, how he could solve my problem.

He had the tools to close the sale.

He gave me a quote and was even able to schedule the appointment, eliminating the, "Maybe I should think about this a while...?" black hole potential sales often fall into.

Best of all, he didn't bring in a salesperson.

Do you like being shifted over to a salesperson after you've established rapport with someone else? I don't either.

A few days after our humidifiers were installed the owner of the business called to make sure we were happy. I told him we were and I told him how impressed I was by the way his technician took initiative and how easy he made the process.

"Well, thanks," he said, "But that's really not initiative. It's his job to look for ways to help customers. And it's definitely our job to give him the tools so he can make it happen."

It's your job, too.

Identify specific ways your employees can solve problems or provide additional benefits--in short, generate additional sales and revenue--and give them the tools to complete those sales on their own.

Then add "sales performance" to your employee evaluations. That way you can measure and, more importantly, reward the employees who generate additional revenue--even if they aren't salespeople.

Last updated: Jun 27, 2012

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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