Getting Up To Speed

By Carolee Boyles

How you get up to speed on a territory depends on how many accounts there are and how large the territory is geographically, says Don Cooper of the Stemnock Group. If it’s a small territory, go see your new customers.

“The best way would be to drive around and see each and every account,” Cooper says. “There’s no substitute for personal contact.” If your new territory is too large to see in one trip, Cooper says, sit down and divide your territory into smaller, more manageable areas.

As the size of the territory grows and face-to-face contact becomes more difficult, the use of email increases in importance.

“First, send a blast email that announces you’re taking over the territory,” Cooper says. “Then one of the best things to do to get up to speed is to ask the clients some questions. One of the best questions you can ask is: What did you like most about my predecessor?” The follow-up questions to that one are: What would you like me to do differently? How can I help you?

Expect the responses you get to be all over the board. “Some suggestions will be very practical, while others will be so outrageous you can’t possibly do them,” Cooper says. “The true value of the question isn’t necessarily the answers, but the image you project by asking them. Many people perceive salespeople in general as being shallow, self-centered and only interested in making the sale. When you ask questions, such as – How can I help you? How can I be of assistance? – you’re saying you care about their business.”

The answers you get also will tell you a great deal about the personalities of the customers you’ve just inherited. You’ll know how businesslike they are, how personal they are and if they’re standoffish or warm or have other distinctive personality traits.

Despite how much most businesses depend on email today, you may have a few customers who still haven’t realized the value of email. To introduce yourself to these clients you’ll have to return to faxes and telephone calls. Ask the same questions you did of the clients you emailed.

After you’ve met with each of your new customers, take the time to write down the answers each customer gave you to your questions.

“Too many salespeople don’t keep good records on their customers,” Cooper says. “But creating customer profiles is very important, and it’s definitely worth making the time to do it.”

The more information you have, the faster you’ll get up to speed servicing your new accounts – and the more rapidly they’ll come to see you as a part of their team.