I spent yesterday lunch time with a client and she told me an interesting story about her younger brother Tom who is 19 years old and who has just started his career in telesales.

The UK, like much of the US and the rest of Europe, has experienced some pretty brutal winter conditions in the last few weeks. On the worst days, people have been unable to get to work and businesses have suffered a great deal of disruption as a result. One such business was a local newspaper in York, here in the north of England. The Advertising Sales Manager, upon realising that most of his staff were struggling to make it into work, asked staff if they would be prepared to work from home (or whether they would prefer to take the days as holiday).

Four of his sales people (including Tom) opted to work from home, the rest took the days as vacation.

The guys who worked from home did not have access to the main sales database in the office (prior to the blizzards no one envisaged that they would need it) and were selling to their customers on their mobile phones and home lines. They had no sales data with them and they had to dig out the customers’ contact details from Yellow Pages and from other local business directories on line. Hardly ideal conditions, but the sales manager reasoned that this was better than nothing.

Curiously, when the sales manager reviewed the sales figures for the days that the Fantastic Four had worked from home, he found that each of them had delivered sales roughly three and a half times greater than they had in the office. This was in spite of having only limited access to sales resources and client lists.

So what is going on here, and what can entrepreneurs learn about their own sales performance?

Here are a few of my own theories;-

By asking the sales team to make a choice between working from home and taking the days as vacation, the Sales Manager has effectively identified who his top sales people are (at least in terms of attitude) The four most motivated people on the team had a whole marketplace to themselves.

The sales team were able to work free from daily administrative duties. They were unable to input each call they made into their CRM system or to follow up on the many administrations that are required to publish adverts in newspapers. All they did was sell, keep a note of their progress and then phone all the results in at the end of the day.

There were no distractions- they may not have appreciated this at the time, but having even a few hours of uninterrupted sales time is a real luxury. They were able to move straight from one call to another without the need to spend time on their CRM system or explaining their call to a colleague or being diverted into another conversation. This actually means that they can quickly get into “the zone” -that state where we feel confident, articulate and capable and the lessons learned on one call are easily transferred to the next.

The sales people didn’t have access to all their usual sales tools and resources, perhaps the fact that they had to really think about everything they said to customers produced a more authentic sales experience.

Finally, they may have succeeded simply because they weren’t being over managed, . They had proven that they had the initiative and drive to work under their own steam by volunteering to work from home and their manager had little option but to trust them to get on with the job.

What can entrepreneurs learn from this?

Make sure you create a dedicated time to talk to your customers, a time without distraction or administration. (you can always write up your CRM notes later). The only way to get good a selling is to be selling. Don’t try to fit in a few calls around other jobs. You will never get round to them.
When you hire sales people, hire attitude first and foremost. Sales skills can be taught, hire the people who want to be selling and who find themselves somewhat frustrated and irritated by the admin.
Don’t let your CRM rule the roost, the job of a sales manager is to increase the quantity and quality of sales output. Let the CRM system serve you, not the other way round.
If you find a really great sales person, get out of their way! trust them and they will reward you by using their initiative and tenacity to deliver the results you need.
And remember, selling is just talking to customers. Sales brochures, websites, research documents and presentations all help the process, but none of them are absolutely necessary. Never let the lack of one of these things become a reason not to pick up the phone.