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Selling is New for Some of Our Salespeople

I started my business three years ago. The typical phone call I get from a potential new client is, “Can you teach my salespeople how to sell and stop being order takers?”

Owners, managers and company leaders, we have done a disservice to our sales teams for the last two decades with poor sales and business development decisions we have made:

  • We call some salespeople “salespeople” when many are truly “account managers”  

  • These “account managers” are used to handling inbound leads and have never attempted an outbound new business call their entire career

  • Lead distribution has fooled these “account managers” into thinking they have been “selling” all this time

  • We have become reliant on external venues and third-party websites to provide leads and have forgotten how to find new business

  • Leads are expected. Leads should not be expected. I call leads GIFTS.

  • What we considered selling in “our day” is different than what happens today

Sure, salespeople and account managers need to be skilled in relationship building, listening, knowing their product and understanding their client’s needs. That type of selling is very important and I am not minimizing it. I love when salespeople take a $50,000 client and turn that client into a $250,000 client. That is an imperative expectation of individual sales growth. However, that doesn’t mean they have been fulfilling your expectation of selling; they have been nurturing and growing existing business.

Once we return to planning gatherings over 10 guests, we need to recognize something; the phone ain’t going to be ringing as much as it did for the last 11 years. We need to get our hustle back on.


When we all return to the office post-COVID-19, your sales team should have more time to sell. I bet some have never done this before. I can actually guarantee this, as I have owned my business for three years and have worked with several salespeople who have told me as such. This is a skill set that needs to be taught, re-taught, audited and developed. Do not assume your team knows how to sell. Provide them the tools and coaching to make them comfortable as many need to start at square one.

Seven initial ideas for leadership coaching:

  • Have honest, individual dialogues with each one of your team members

  • Ask them if they have ever called on a new client

    • What made them feel good? What made them feel bad?

  • Define your actual expectation for what a “call” is

    • Phone vs. Email?

    • Is tackling your stagnant client base a good start?

  • Look at a sample outbound email to see how they introduce themselves

  • Look at what collateral materials are readily available following the initial call

    • Be prepared for immediate follow up

  • Pretend to be the potential customer so the salesperson can practice

    • Ask questions back/email responses back

  • Provide resources for research

    • Stagnant- Invoice Reports, Revenue History

    • New Biz- Trade Publications, LinkedIn, Google Alerts

As a former catering salesperson, the luckiest thing that happened to me was not being at the “big dog” company. I had to be scrappy and creative to find new business. I had to have guts to call on previously proposed lost business. Have that mindset now no matter what your company’s size and resources. Everyone is in the same doghouse now.

Jennifer Perna

Jennifer Perna

Owner, Fulton Market Consulting, Chicago, IL
Jennifer Perna started Fulton Market Consulting in May 2017 after developing an event experience and sales management experience portfolio for over 25 years in the downtown Chicago catering and special events industry. Jennifer presently works with owners, managers and all team players at hospitality-related companies on increasing sales and creating business development strategies, streamlining processes for operations and event production and developing best practices for human resources and administrative management. This is especially imperative as we continue to manage a diverse and young talented pool of employees today. Jennifer brings a dynamic, approachable and relatable communication style to all levels and members...