August 08, 2006

Life of a Sales Person

The life’s blood of every enterprise is sales. How much do you know about the sales professionals that keep our economy alive? Accountants say they spend too much on expenses. Marketing says they are just order takers. Engineering says the product sells itself. Management thinks they are little more than a shoeshine and a smile.

Sales professionals provide both the fuel and the lubrication that keeps our economy running smoothly. They create wealth and then make the adjustments needed to go to the next level. They take the hits and keep things moving. They are the eyes and ears of every business. You have to make the time to work in the field to appreciate the skill required to produce the top line of an income statement. Here are some of the things you will discover.

All days begin early. Sales people are morning people first and foremost. Even in trades that begin later in the day, they work the details till the customers can see them. They also work late in the day, because the customers do so as well. Physical stamina is a job requirement. They often beat the commuter traffic by being ahead of it in the morning and after it in the evening.

Appointments are made on the run. Calls are returned and problems solved or addressed between meetings. Notes are always scribbled. Paperwork is always late, so that they are always on time. They have no need to consult a database for information. It’s all there in short term memory and in great detail. Sale professionals know more about their customer’s business than the customers do themselves. Most of what they know should not be entered in the customer’s records.

What kind of person can do this job? Those that don’t play well with others are often a good fit. Sales is a lonesome business. Self reliance in the face of adversity is a requirement. Selling is not a team sport. It is one on one, with no group showers at the end of the day. It is not a game for the faint at heart because the box score is published for all to see each week, month and quarter. These are the people that actually make the quarters.

Why Incentives
Why must sales professionals be paid on incentives? High risk must earn high rewards. How would you like it if ninety five percent of everything you did every day didn’t work? That’s a good day for someone in sales. Mental toughness is a given, big or small, male or female, it comes with the territory.

If all this is true, what should be done to manage this function? First, do no harm. Second, realize that everything possible should be done to support the process of bringing in business. Rules must be flexible within reason. Truth and ethics are absolutes, but policies and procedures are not. What will it take, is the question? Get the business first and work out the details second. To manage the people who manage this is not easy. A sound night’s sleep is not part of a sales manager’s job.

Is it any wonder that sales is not understood by cubical dwellers? Sales is outside of all organizational norms by necessity. Sales is in the world of the customer. The rules are different in each situation. The sales professional must first learn the rules both written and unwritten for each customer and then must take the products and services they bring to market and some how, some way, get things to work together for the benefit of all, while making the numbers profitably.

Challenges
The toughest competitor faced by all sales people is an international concern named Status Quo Inc. How do you get things to move? How do you get those reluctant to change, to change? How do you get someone to take the next step? What should be the next step? Too small a step will take forever. Too big a step will stop the process. Step by step, account-by-account, day-by-day, each situation must be moved forward or all human progress will grind to a halt. This is the field the shakers and movers must play on. There is no school for all of this. The lessons are taught and learned face to face with suspects that must be qualified to prospects that must be converted to customers.

Working with the best of the best in the field, makes all this self-evident. One sales professional in a previous career spent ten years as a professional football player in the NFL. He said that the hits he took as a linebacker were less frequent and less severe than the hits he takes each business day of the year in sales. He says this with a knowing smile and a quick glance down reveals a shoeshine like glass!

 

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