Fitness Industry Education had a problem. When they checked sales income, it had dropped dramatically. Their new sales consultant just wasn't working out. But rather than replace him with a 'better' sales person, they decided to give him some support and see if it would help.

The first question I asked: "How do you know that sales performance has dropped?". The answer was interesting, to say the least.

 "Well, he's just not busy. The previous sales consultant was always on the phone, she was really bubbly, always busy."

So, like many small businesses, they judged sales performance by two factors:

1. The amount of money in the bank account

2. The amount of noise made by the sales people

The first thing I did was put in place some sales metrics. Simple measurements, such as number of incoming calls, number of call backs, conversion rate, sales order value and so on.

One interesting point that came out of this was that the previous consultant closed most buyers so that they paid in full over the phone, however the new consultant seemed to be relying on an instalment plan which was great for the customer, but very, very bad for cashflow.

I observed the sales consultant for a few hours and noticed a few, very simple, tactical changes that he could make to his sales process. For example, instead of taking the caller's details at the end of the call, when the prospect already had what they wanted and didn't want to give their contact details, I had him ask at the start of the call. Superficially, this means that he now has their details and can call them back at a later date when they have 'thought about it'. Looking beneath the surface, though, something far more important has happened; he has shifted the balance of power within the relationship. The original process is: Prospect calls consultant to ask questions, consultant answers questions. This puts the sales consultant in a passive role, and makes it almost impossible for them to steer the conversation from information-gathering to a sales discussion.

A few more simple tweaks like this, and the next step was to brief the MD on how best to manage the sales consultant, with a sales review every morning and the right questions to ask to focus on delivering the right outcomes.

Two very interesting things came out of this process. Firstly, it revealed a problem that the company owners knew nothing about - that incoming enquiries had dropped dramatically. They revisited their marketing campaigns to fix that problem.

Secondly, given the reduced number of incoming enquiries, it turned out that the new, quiet, methodical sales consultant in fact significantly outsold the previous noisy, gregarious, chatty sales consultant. Why did the owners think she was a great sales person? Because they didn't know that she was simply getting lots of calls.

Your best sales people aren't the ones who can win orders when those orders are coming in thick and fast. Your best sales people are the ones who can make every conversation count when times are hard.